A lot of people have recently been asking me to do a price/ budget breakdown of how much Dexter and I have been spending whilst travelling. To be honest, I was also curious to see exactly how much we’ve spent but every time I thought about trawling through my credit cards and backtracking my expenses, I started to get a headache.
This was until I realised a few days ago, that since Dexter and I have been using Splitwise, and since we split ALL our expenses, I googled to see if I could just download the CSV/ excel file from Splitwise….. and I could!
This seriously saved me so much time and I could get comprehensive data on all our expenses. The following is a desktop screenshot but I highly recommend this app if you’re travelling with people.
In the following, I will also include what activities we did and my general experiences as well!
How we’ve been splitting our expenses when travelling:
Long story short, we split our costs 50/50. Since my credit card has a really bad exchange rate and charges me a fee every time I use a foreign currency (I know, I need to get a better credit card), I pay for big ticket items such flights, accommodation, language classes.
Dexter then pays for day to day expenses such as food and daily transport in the local currency. If any of us owes an amount by the end of the trip location, we roll over the amount to USD and continue with the new currency. At the very end of the trip, we do a bank transfer… or just perpetually continue this owing and repaying cycle forever.
Now to the juicy numbers part.
Europe (66 days) 14 July – 18 Sept 2019
In total, we travelled and stayed in 12 cities. This varied across cheaper locations like Berlin & Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary, Slovenia) whilst also staying in expensive countries like France & Austria. Spain lies somewhat in the middle of relatively cheap. So the costs kind of averaged out.
I’ve lumped expenses in Europe together instead of calculating individual countries because we didn’t travel in order and each stay was relatively short (except Spain). For example, we split up Berlin & Munich as well as Vienna & Salzburg during our trip.
Most of the time, we stayed in either Airbnbs or got a private room at a hostel because we still needed to work and needed privacy to take calls. It made sense for us because we can split the accommodation and it ends ups being a similar amount if we had stayed at a hostel bunk room.
The only time we stayed in an 8 bunk room at a hostel was in Salzburg because accommodation in Salzburg was THAT expensive. Out of our entire trip, that 8-bunk hostel was ironically the most expensive accommodation we spent on. I know, ridiculous.
This included our flight from Singapore to Berlin & flight between France and Spain, as well as all the long haul train rides. I realise if we had just picked a few locations to go to instead of going to so many cities, we could’ve saved a lot more money. But the total isn’t so bad considering we travelled across 7 countries and 12 cities!
We geared towards eating relatively inexpensively. We had a lot of kebabs across Europe because they were filling, cheap and readily available. We also bought our own vegetables, salads and fruits from supermarkets.
In Poland, we ate a lot of delicious vegan food and was pleasantly surprised by the affordability and variety. In France & Spain, we exclusively ate the cheap breakfast deals which included a croissant, coffee and juice for $2-4.
Here’s our food breakdown into our 5 main categories of consumption.
*Drinks includes all stand alone purchased liquids like coffee, Diet Coke, water and alcoholic beverages we consumed during the trip that’s not part of a meal.
*Activities: We did all the activities we wanted including free walking tours in virtually every city including learning about history at monumental sites like Auschwitz & Schindler’s Factory in Krakow.
We got cultural and watched a Mozart concert in Vienna, attended a Chopin concert and Vodka tour in Warsaw, frolicked in a bathhouse in Budapest, had an interesting naked sauna experience (LiquidRom) in Berlin and visited Versailles in Paris.
We also went to a variety of artist and musician museums like Chopin, Picasso and Cézanne as well as a salsa & bachata class in Madrid.
Total cost of per person over 66 days in Europe: US$5,149.02
Per day, we spent an average of US$78.02.
This means if we calculate our monthly expense to live in Europe, it would be US$2,340.46 per person.
Summary: I felt like during our Europe trip, we didn’t really have to compromise on quality of life. I’m not a fussy eater and don’t need expensive things. Most of our accommodation were entire apartments so we didn’t really have to share with anyone and we did all the historical and cultural experiences we wanted to see (to be fair, many are free). I even got my hair dyed back to black and a hair cut in Madrid so I’m pretty happy & pleasantly surprised with the amount we spent.
United States (14 days) 27 Sep – 10 Oct 2019
After I went back to Sydney for 6 days for my friend’s wedding and to visit family, Dexter and I met up again in San Francisco, land of the tech bros who dress like they’re homeless but actually millionaires. We also spent 4 days and 3 nights in Yosemite which was definitely an incredible highlight for me. During this time, we met with most of Dexter’s friends and previous work colleagues and we also spent a nice day with his parents.
We were super lucky to get our first 2 nights free stay in the Castro near Dolores Park in San Francisco where Dexter used to live with his room mate.
We then drove 3-4 hours west and stayed near Oakhurst, a town which borders Yosemite. Just from quickly looking at the map, I stupidly assumed it would be like a breezy 10 min drive to Yosemite. Oh how I was wrong. Turns out it was still another hour’s drive to the main entrance of Yosemite and then another hour to sights like Half Dome.
Once we got back to the Bay Area, actually renting a room in SF proved to be too out of our budget, so we opted to renting an Airbnb room in Oakland near Lake Merritt instead. Turned out to be an awesome choice, because that area is really beautiful and we had a really friendly host mum.
To get to San Francisco from Sydney, I paid for half my flight in points so it didn’t actually end up being too expensive! Dexter was also coming back from London so it ended up being a similar amount to my flight. We also rented a car for 6 days because of the long distance drives and used the Bart metro system and Uber for the remaining period we were there.
We ate a lot of free food. During the week, we met with friends who worked at tech companies like Linkedin and Dropbox where they get chefs to come in and cook gourmet lunches (so lucky right?!).
We attended Dexter’s family gathering where there was free food as well cooked by Chinese aunties. So this may be a bit of an inaccurate reflection if we were to actually live in San Francisco.
*Activities: included a week long pass into Yosemite, enjoying my First Friday experience in Oakland where there was a lot of dancing and drinking on the streets (with a street donation), finally watching Awkwafina’s movie The Farewell as well as spending a day at the beach in Santa Cruz and strawberry picking on the drive back!
Total cost per person over 14 days in the Bay Area & Yosemite: $1,280.81.
Per day, we spent an average of $91.49.
This means if we calculate our monthly expense to live in San Francisco/ Oakland area, it would be US$2,744.59 per person.
Summary: This is really sad but I knew the Bay Area was going to be expensive. This is the average amount we got even accounting 2 free nights stay, a couple of free lunches and no amenities since it was a short term stay. In terms of accommodation, we compromised by only renting a room in a more affordable area rather than the entire accommodation like we did in Europe to save money. If we were to live in a less compromised way, then it would easily be closer to US$3,500 per month per person or more.
Mexico (26 days) 10 Oct – 4 Nov 2019
Accommodation (25 nights)
We first landed in Mexico City on the 10th for an overnight stay before taking a 4 hour bus the next morning to a town called San Miguel de Allende.
We spent 3 days and 2 nights there celebrating one of Dexter’s college friend’s Indian & Mexican wedding! It was truly magical but Dexter’s classmates had pre-booked this giant mansion which cost a fortune. That’s why there’s an outlier amount of $110.20 per person per night. I balked when I saw that price because I haven’t paid anything more than $40 a night for a very long time.
Aside from that, Mexico’s accommodation is generally very affordable and average around $13 a night per person. The Airbnb we stayed at for 3 weeks in Mexico City was in between Roma and Condesa, which are very hip areas with a diverse range of street food, restaurants and cafes. It was also a 10 minute walking distance to our Spanish school.
You may be wondering why we have 28 nights when we only stayed in Mexico for 25 nights. After we’d already settled into Mexico City, we went on unplanned adventures with classmates and local friends and decided to stay a night near Teothihuacan to beat the crowds the next morning and spent a weekend in the Patzcuaro area with local friends to celebrate Day of the Dead! We just left all our luggage back at our long-term Airbnb.
When we travelled to other cities, we took a coach bus with a company called Primera Plus. I was so impressed by the quality of these buses. They have clean toilets at the back of each bus, cushy seats with a comfortable foot rest and a range of movie entertainment. We even got drinks and snacks for the road. All for the price of $20 for a 4-6 hour ride. No matter which company you go with, I think the quality is generally top-notch.
I love the food in Mexico City. Especially tacos and they were so cheap! My favourite are taco al pastors and they would sometimes sell them for 15 pesos for 2 which is US$0.30 per taco. My entire dinner would then be $1.20 if I bought 4 tacos.
We often balanced street food with going to more high-end healthy food stores – our favourite go-to being Ojo de Agua in Condesa. Even so, they were still only around $10 per meal.
During when we had classes from 10-2pm, we would end up skipping lunch and quickly buy some fruit from the street vendor outside our school during our break.
*Activities: The reason why our activities amount is quite high is because this mostly accounts for 40 hours (2 weeks) of Spanish classes at Frida Spanish School for the both of us (total $608.19).
It also includes entry tickets to Teothihuacan, all our expenses during Day of the Dead celebrations in Patzcuaro (where Coco was inspired) and other museum tickets like Museum of Anthropology and Frida Kahlo & Diego Riviera’s art studio.
We also got to ride on a canal cruise with friends at Xochimilco, the ancient Aztec river. As for free activities, there are many lush parks in Mexico City and I especially loved walking through Chapultepec, which apparently is twice the size of Central Park! We once saw a Tibetan monk and crowds of people sitting around him meditating to his deep chanting mantras and singing bowls.
Total cost per person over 26 days in Mexico: US$1,772.65.
Per day, we spent an average of $68.18.
This means if we calculate our monthly expense to live in Mexico City, it would be US$2,045.37 per person.
Summary: I feel like we had an optimal standard of living, even dishing out extra $$ on 2 expensive nights stay in San Miguel, as well as 3 extra nights outside of Mexico City. This also included language lessons, we had our own apartment complete with living room and bedroom in an ideal location.
All in all, over 106 days of travelling, I have spent US$8,202.48 which equates to an average cost of US$2,321.46/pm or AUD$3,384.79/pm.
Now, we just landed in Colombia for our first 2 days and currently most costs seem comparable to Mexico City. I’ll do another cost breakdown for South America with Colombia (including Spanish lessons in Medellin), Ecuador (including Quito, Galapagos & Amazon) and Chile (including Santiago & Patagonia) where we will be staying around 1 month in each country.
Hope you found this useful! Were these costs what you expected and did it help with your own budgeting in any way? Let me know in the comments below.