Americas 36 days trip expense report- 6 countries in 2.35 lakhs INR

I am back from my longest personal trip- 36 days, 6 countries trip, about which I had detailed here earlier. I had budgeted a possible spend of up to 3 lakh rupees for this trip, but happy to announce that I spent 20% less than estimated and have wrapped up the trip in about 2.35 lakhs INR.

Below is a quick snapshot of budgeted vs actual spend
Below is a detailed break down by city and expense category.
Converted at 1 USD=70 INR. 1-2% variation possible on actual bank charges, currency rate prevailing at the time of transaction etc.
  • Bogota was the cheapest city to visit- low rentals, cheaper food, not so expensive travel.
  • Spent maximum money on stay at Miami (on a per night basis)- this was because I had early morning flights, so had to stay closer to airport, to avoid having to spend a lots of money on airport taxi.
  • Most expensive site seeing trip was to Grand Canyon in Vegas- 104 USD
Note: Flight expense assigned at my discretion. Didn't fly in and out of a city exclusively- it was a multi city hop (refer flight map below)
Cities where stay expense was Zero were where I stayed with friends/relatives. Thus my other expenses like food/site-seeing/travel were also lot lower for these cities.

If you're wondering how such a long trip involving several countries so far from India could be completed in such low budget, here are the reasons.

Below are what helped me save some precious dollars
1. Walking and Public transport
During the entire 36 day trip, didn't hire taxi even once. All the travel was done using public transportation or sheer walking. I've walked roughly 15 kms a day on an average. This has helped save lots of dollars. To give an example, if my hostel is say 15 kms from airport, airport taxi ride could easily cost 50-75$, whereas a bus ride may cost 2-5$. Over 30 days, even 2 taxi rides per day at 20-30$ per day would have cost me 600-900 $. This is lots of money as tiny drops make mighty ocean.
I could walk, use public transport because I didn't have heavy check-in bag, was comfortable and reasonably fit walking several kms and put some effort to understand a city's public transport systems and how to use them effectively.

2. Stay with friends and relatives
Of the 34 days, about 14 days were spent with friends/relatives. During these days my stay expense was zero, on many days friends/relatives took me around, bought me food etc so I had near zero expense. One friend thoughtfully gifted me a bag full of ready to eat stuff- dry fruits pouches, cookies, energy bars- this helped me save on meal expense while traveling.

On some of the days I had planned and budgeted to explore on my own, but generous friends and relatives insisted to take me around, or drop me off or give me packed lunch. Very kind of them. I could possibly put a monetary value to the gas, tickets and other expenses they incurred, but can't put a value to their time and affection shown.

All these ensured that my actual cash expenditure was very less on the days I stayed with friends/relatives. My rough estimate is that during those 14 days my friends/relatives would have incurred a total expense anywhere around 500-600 dollars- on gas, on entry tickets, food etc. If I were to do it on my own it would have costed me more. This amount is not included in above total.

3. Savings on food: Hostels with kitchen access
My Vancouver food expense was reduced due to stay in a hostel that had kitchen access. I visited nearby Walmart/supermarket, got some rice, curd, pickle and other stuff for about 30-40 dollars and could have my meals for 4-5 days. Otherwise, each meal would typically cost 10-15 CAD minimum and I would have spent about 10 CAD * 3 meals a day * 5 days= 150 dollars or 4-5 times more.

In other cities where I didn't have kitchen access or access to Indian groceries, I tried to keep food expense minimum, by having only 1 full meals per day and other two times with fruits, bread items or other light food that cost only a few dollars.

Few friends gave me packed lunch when I headed out, one friend gave dry fruits and energy bars etc

I had anticipated I might have to spend about 25$ a day on food, but managed in under 10$ due to above reasons.

4. Avoided expensive tours
In all cities I visited, there were 100s of tour options to chose from. But selecting organized tours would have shot up my budget. Most day trips cost anywhere between 80-200 dollars- they are convenient- usually involve hotel pickup, a guide and so on, but I figured reaching a destination using public transportation on my own is far more cheaper, though not convenient. During the entire trip, the most expensive day trip was to Grand Canyon West Rim for which I paid 104 USD. Did buy few entry tickets that cost between 20-50 USD in some places, but at least didn't spend a lot for rest of the tour.

To give an idea, Vancouver 24 hours Hop on Hop off ticket costs about 60 CAD. (departs from 8.45 AM only, covers some 24 spots) whereas a full day pass on Translink is only 10.25 CAD from early morning till late night all around their network including skytrain, sea bus, and bus network. You're saving 50 CAD outright, get much broader coverage in terms of area and time- just that you've to figure out how to reach your destination- which is super easy with Google Maps.

5. High Flexibility
I didn't have any specific agenda or targets that I have to visit a place or do something at any cost. I went wherever I got cheap tickets, focused on activities that are free

6. Didn't need most of contingency fund
I had budgeted about 20000 INR for any unplanned expenditure- like a missed flight or such eventualities. But didn't need most of it.

7. Existing Visa
I already had US and Canada visa so there was no extra spending on Visa. Visited only those countries that would give free Visa on Arrival for Indians with US Visa. Even Global sim card was existing from previous trips. Used free WiFi to the max anyways. Else these things could have costed another 20-25k more.

8. No major disruptions
Fortunately I didn't face any issues- extreme weather, airport closures, law and order issues, natural disasters and things like that which could have got me stranded or disrupted my schedule. I had very little buffer and contingency for such things.

The cost of extreme cost cutting:
While I did complete the trip in low budget, below were some of the sacrifices made
1. Too tired:
Excessive walking meant I wanted to hit the bed once I reach hostel. If I had spent on taxi I could have saved some time and energy which could have been spent on exploring more places or do something more productive- like may be write a blog post. Most of the days I slept after reaching hostel, so couldn't blog much during the trip.

2. Sacrificed experiences:
Helicopter ride at the Grand Canyon was tempting- but it was like 400 USD + for a short 10 min ride. So I decided to skip it and save money. Similarly, skipped many museums and attractions which were heavily priced- may be they were worth it- I don't know. Every city has 100s of things on which tourists can spend money- I always evaluated each one for its worth, potential cheaper alternatives (like Jetski rentals/watersports are lot cheaper in Asia) etc.

3. Too much buffer:
I couldn't risk missing a flight- as one missed flight could throw my schedule off-track and overrun my budget. At the same time I didn't want to spend on airport taxi. This meant keeping lots of buffer while reaching airport using public transport. I arrived few hours earlier in most cases- just in case I miss the bus or arrive at wrong terminal or such possibilities.[Things that can go wrong while using public transportation ]

4. Compromised food:
If I was to have 3 proper meals a day at regular restaurants, it would have easily costed me 50$ a day. Most days I managed with lot cheaper alternatives- like sometimes on banana+ apple+cucumber+coffee - Not the best meal to have but was quick, cheap and kept me going for the day. If you're particular about food, this may not always be viable.

5. Early morning flights
Most cheap flights were for very early morning-this meant I had to get up too early and rush to airport- less sleep, but did get more time at destination.

6. More time for everything
While I could have taken a taxi for 10-15$ to reach destination in 15-20 mins, I might have spent 60-90 mins to reach same place trying to use public transport.

Now that I am back, standby for more posts.

Few already published ones-Speedboat driving experience in Austin * Bonefish Pond, Bahamas * Bogota street art pictures * My packing for America trip * Washington Cherry Blossom pics * Things to do at Google's HQ * Grouse Grind hiking experience, Vancouver *

Also read: Japan on  budget * New Zealand on budget * Vietnam on budget  * 

15 comments:

  1. Wow ! That's a perfectly planned and executed trip. I love the way you detail your trips. I surely couldn't have stayed on the things you ate :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. If you are non vegetarian you will have more options

      Delete
  2. This is perfectly planned trip and happy to see it went well.loved detailed post and cost bifurcation for fair idea.This is an insight who want to visit USA and nearby countries.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I feel for such planning & with so much sacrifices, no one can beat you.You are par excellence as far as touring is concerned.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for sharing both sides to the story! An honest and refreshing read

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very nice article and well executed Trip! Congrats

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great, Thanks a lot for useful tips :)
    Congratulations :)

    ReplyDelete

Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days.Use Anonymous option if you don't wish to leave your name/ID behind- Shrinidhi

Powered by Blogger.