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-   -   How much is enough for a South American adventure? (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/travellers-questions-dont-fit-anywhere/how-much-enough-south-american-58304)

AHShelto 20 Jul 2011 20:42

How much is enough for a South American adventure?
Howdy All,

Im wondering if anyone can shed some insight on how much my upcoming USA to TDF trip may cost. Ideally I will be leaving in six weeks (around September 1st 2011) from Denver CO and have 6 months to ride to and tour South America. Ive saved 3k (USD) so far but plan on leaving with a total of 6k in my pocket.

Do any experts think I can keep to a 1K/month budget for 6 months of touring in the Central and Southern Americas?

Here are some personal specs:

-Setting off on a 2008 KLR650 with 6000 miles on it.

- Im no expert bike mechanic but can do/learn to do intermediate level in difficulty repairs myself.

-Im 24 and really just looking for an adventure.

- I am planning on camping every night. Cheap hostels and guest houses when I cannot.

- I enjoy my jeiger but only when I am under budget.

- Dont care much for touristy attractions (rafting, parasailing, etc.).

-Not set on making it to the TDF but would certainly like to.

-Not willing to pay to have a bike shipped home so I will either make it a round trip or sell my bike and use that money for a plane ticket home.

I appreciate any bits of advice. Been set on this trip for over a year... Its finally within sight!


ta-rider 20 Jul 2011 21:12


The usage of the money depends on the speed you travel and the vehicle you are using. Just calculate the consum of your bike per kilometer and make your own decision how far you want to go per month.

The second expensiv thing in africa where the visa but as far as i know the visa in south america are not as expensive and can get at the boarder.

The third expensive thing is shiping the vehicle and using farrys. The gap between north and south america seems to be expensive:

My Bike Adventure | Ondrej Jurik

Sleeping and Food is the last thing. Of course hotels are expensive but if you try to camp as much as possible you will still be able to affourd your jeiger

For my opinion 6k should be plenty even if 1k gets used to by the bike.

Have fun, Tobi

brclarke 20 Jul 2011 23:37

There have been a couple recent threads on this very subject, so you might want to search them out.

IIRC... the consensus seemed to be that you can tour around SA for about $50 US/day, but that's with tenting and hosteling. If you spend $75/day you can spend some time in modest hotels, play tourist, and eat a bit fancier, while for $100/day you can be pretty comfortable.

So... if these comments were right, you will be very hard-pressed to get by on only $1000/month. Maybe your plan should be to just head south until you spend half your money, then start working your way back home again.

Personally I don't think $6000 leaves you much room for emergencies. What if you get your bike stolen, or you need to fly home for an emergency, etc..? Do you have a separate fund for such an event?

realmc26 21 Jul 2011 01:56

Have you factored in the cost of crossing the Darien Gap for you and your bike?
Your 6k is then closer to 5K and as the previous poster stated $50 U.S per day seems to be the lowest figure most people can travel on in S.A

HendiKaf 26 Jul 2011 23:52

maybe worthit to ship the bike to BA then drive to terra del Fuego , and go down to colombia, like that if you are short on cash you can ship the bike for pretty cheap directly to the US and skip Central America for next time.

Shibby! 4 Aug 2011 20:22

I have considered my costs quite extensively and figured I could live for 50$/day going down central america. This includes cost of fuel, food, accomidation (cheap hostels/camping), and a few bucks for "entertainment" that can be blended or stock piled. I'm not much of a drinker but I'm sure the environment controls that a bit.

Additional items like wear items, oil changes, etc was on top of these costs, but the trip would start with enough spares (less oil) to do most of the trip provided no issues (extra chain, sprockets, filters, bearings)

I plan on leaving this fall as well and hope to make it as cheap as possible. I'm looking for adventure and to experience the cultures and scenery. If I start running low on money, I'll turn around or fly back. Depending on mileage on the bike, I'm willing to strip the expensive parts off the bike and leave it there to sell.. or come back to one day and continue on. Pretty open ended.

Best answer to your question I think is to just go. Live by your means and enjoy it while it lasts. Maybe we'll bump into eachother along the way.

PocketHead 4 Aug 2011 22:20

I think you will need more than $1k a month and you're better off saving longer than ending your trip early... Don't forget you may have bike issues or be buying girls drinks etc, in my opinion take the minimum and add some luxury overheads too it.

Bigfoot 5 Aug 2011 02:04

Bit of Advice
Don't bother carrying chains and sprockets. It is just extra weight. I carry a 6 inch section of chain with two connectors. The wear out of the chain will be visible way in advance. If it does go bang then stitch in the joiners to get you to the next bike shop. I had no trouble buying sprockets. Had trouble with filters, so take them.

Cheers Ben.

AndyT 5 Aug 2011 04:04

$6k sounds a little light to me. i did a similar trip in 2006, and I spent ~$11,500 in 25 weeks. That includes flying the bike and myself across the gap, and shipping the bike home by sea, and flying myself home from BsAs. Shipping myself and the bike was nearly 1/3 of my total expenditure. Several people offered to buy my bike in Argentina, but keep in mind this will be an illegal sale, and if you ever envision going back, will probably cause trouble then, since you will not have cleared your temporary import permit.

Figure $1000 across the gap, 400 gallons of fuel $1200(?) and a few hundred in border fees, and you are down to $3500 for six months of daily expenses. $3500/180 days= $20/day. People have done it, but it must be a pretty monk like existence. I spent $65/day with shipping averaged in, and I thought I was living modestly. Sure I could have spent less, but half? I doubt it. This doesn't even address getting home at the end of the trip, or any potential bike trouble, and for sure you will buy a couple tires.

pelau 16 Aug 2011 23:36

Cutting it close
Hello A,
This past winter I took my '07 KLR 650 down from Canada to Venezuela. For the Central and South American countries, I think I averaged about $2,200 USD a month. Mind you that was with no camping. But in Central America, the cost differential between camping and hosteling is small.

This did not include air transport (via Girag Air Cargo) across the Gap, which ran $750 for the bike and $400 for me (could have been only $200 for me, had I booked sooner).

Some riders we know took a private yacht across the Gap and paid dearly for it: extensive salt corrosion of the 5 day sea crossing wreaked pure havoc on their bikes. :(

I agree with Andy T -- don't underestimate the grief involved in selling the bike after you have declared in your passport that you would not. It can be done of course, but to bet your entire return airfare on it ... hmmm...

So, after all that, the short answer is, in my opinion, ".. more than you have".
I too suggest you plan on travelling south until you've spent $3k and turn around. You'll still have an awesome trip!

Cheers and good luck!

Sjoerd Bakker 17 Aug 2011 00:42


Originally Posted by AHShelto (Post 343195)
Howdy All,.........Ive saved 3k (USD) so far but plan on leaving with a total of 6k in my pocket.


I hope this is just a figure of speach pocket .
Do not set off with all your money in cash on your person and on the bike.I hope you are smart enough to realize what a crime magnet you will become . Especially if jeigerstarts to loosen your tongue.Never fails.
Have your money arranged in one or more bank accounts at home and carry the bank cards so that you can withdraw as the need arises along the way.
If you currently have only 3000 bucks and expect to have the added 3000 by your depart date you must be working at a pretty goood job. Perhaps you might be wise to postpone the ride for a year by which time you should have saved scads more loot and so free yourself of all the worry about such a tight budget, and you could spend that time building your mechanical knowledge and skills to maintain and repair your bike. 24 aint that old.Your thirst for "adventure" might cause you to do something silly or take pointless risks .

brclarke 17 Aug 2011 18:04

There's an old saying about packing for a trip:
- Put the bare minimum of the clothing and money you think you will need on a table.
- Then, pack half the clothes and twice the money, and you will be about right.

John Downs 20 Aug 2011 05:17

I rode 9600 miles to Panama and back last year. I left with 3000 dollars and got back with 727.00. Of the 2273.00 spent, 400.00 went to the dentist in Guatemala where I got my aging teeth buffed out after not visiting the dentist in 20 years, and I spent 150 bucks on toll freeways on the last 1500 mile leg through Mexico which I would not have done if I had been low on cash. I was gone 34 days. So minus dentist and tolls I could have done the trip for under two grand. Included is about 200.00 total for border crossings and 45.00 for mandatory insurance in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. And I bought a rear tire and tube in Panama for 100.00. Mind you, I was staying in cheap motels and hostels, eating out of grocery stores and roadside stands to save money and riding a fuel effecient 250 Super Sherpa. I think 50 bucks a day for food, gas, shelter, welding repairs, tires, etc is as low as you can go on a KLR with current high gas prices. 10 grand for a frugal 6 month ride to Tierra del Fuego seems about right. But for 3 grand you can make it Panama and back even if the bike blows up and you have to catch a chicken bus home. Heck, I was just going to Guatemala to get some inexpensive dental work done and ended up riding to Panama.

I say go now and see how much money it costs to get to Panama. Who cares how far you make it. That's what epic adventures are all about. If you knew where you would end up, what would the fun be? Life has a way of narrowing your travel opportunities in your 30s and 40s when family obligations oftentimes enter the picture and taking off 6 months isn't an option. The time to go is now while you are young and still relatively free.

Kindest regards,
John Downs

AHShelto 17 Feb 2013 23:24

Howdy all,

Just realized I never thanked you all for the advice! It was all very useful.

I ended up making it down to Ushuia last march. Got down to just about nothing there at the end but made it on my 1k per month budget. Actually would not have had enough for the plane ticket home had I not sold the wheels in Punta Arenas.

Yea it was a frugal f@#king existence but wouldnt trade it for anything.

Thanks again for bringing things up I would have not thought about,

MyOwnWay 18 Feb 2013 01:11

Great to know that you took the decision and made it. Now you may be able to answer your own question about how much it cost you, for how long with your type of travelling and give an idea to others.:scooter:

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