La Carretera Alta: The Budget


For those who might be interested in embarking on a South American overlanding/climbing adventure of their own, this document will provide a comprehensive list of our expenses. We’ll start by detailing the pre-trip outlays, as well as a prediction of costs for big ticket items throughout the trip. Once underway, we’ll update this document on a monthly basis.

A few additional points:

  • All costs are in $AUD
  • All costs are given as a total for the expedition, regardless of whether they were incurred by an individual or by both participants
  • Estimates are given for a 12 month period
  • For insurance, we’ll be giving scant detail apart from the cost of each individual policy. Morag has written an exhaustively researched article on climbing insurance for Australians, which you can find here.
  • For climbing equipment, we’re assuming that anyone putting together a trip like this would be in a similar boat to us, which is to say that they are already in possession of most the necessary gear but would need to make a handful of additional purchases. We’ll eventually get around to compiling a comprehensive gear list as well
  • If you have any questions regarding more intricate details (daily expenses, fuel mileage etc), feel free to get in touch with us directly
  • Food costs include beer, because beer is food.

Estimates:

  • Food/Drinks – $11,000
  • Fuel – $4300
  • Shipping from Houston, TX to Cartagena, Colombia – $3000

Pre-Trip Expenses:

  • 2004 Toyota Hiace Van plus accessories – $10,000
  • Notebook Laptop – $325
  • Storage in Australia – $1200
  • Vaccinations – $1960
  • Promotional Magnets – $100
  • First Aid Kit and Medication – $300
  • New Passport – $300
  • ESTA (USA Visa) – $28
  • Flights from Melbourne, Australia to Las Vegas, NV – $2800
  • New climbing equipment purchases – $3000

Total: $20,013

Insurance:

  • Search and Rescue – $1280
  • Medical – $2426
  • Baggage/Equipment – $530
  • Travel Insurance (USA) – $174
  • Comprehensive Auto – $927

Total: $5,337

February:

A short period, but a fairly heavy spend because of the various equipment outlays and transit costs.

  • Taxis – $89.16
  • Rental Car – $224
  • Laundry – $6.45
  • Food/Drink – $110.50
  • Equipment – $147.20
  • Misc – $6.45

Total: $583.76

March:

Another fairly heavy spending month, mainly in regard to the partially expected costs of new tyres and batteries for the van, which formed roughly a quarter of our monthly budget. Spending most of our time in Mexico helped ameliorate these costs, and we came under budget for food at $12.35 per person per day.

  • Fuel $496.45
  • Food/Drink $764.76
  • Accomodation $114.50
  • Gas $29.36
  • Equipment $66.50
  • EPC Guidebook $52
  • Tolls $43
  • Visas $86
  • CTP Insurance $160
  • 4x Tyres $582
  • 2x Batteries $350
  • Laundry $20
  • Misc $34

Total: $2798.57

April:

The big one… Shipping and transport costs were massive for this month, but this will be our largest expenditure by far. On the other hand, our daily budget is running awesomely with food a mere $8.80 per person per day!

  • Food/Drink $526.86
  • Equipment $45.35
  • Accomodation $848.52
  • Spanish School $680
  • Flights $911.86
  • Shipping – $3719.92
  • Insurance $72.09
  • Tolls $122.92
  • Fuel $291.62
  • Gas $15
  • Guidebook $25
  • Taxi/Bus $375.75
  • Misc $72.78

Total: $7707.67

May:
Our spend went right down as predicted, but we still had one massive expense – Macchu Picchu cost us big on fees, accommodation and transport. At the end of the day, I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t do it again. Food costs were surprisingly good considering we dined out far more than often, still way under budget at $11.48 per person per day.

  • Food/Drink $712.31
  • Fuel $352.20
  • Accomodation $421.70
  • Tolls $32.90
  • Equipment $39.67
  • Visas/Fees $16.20
  • Macchu Picchu entry $188.60
  • Laundry $12.30
  • Transport $206.80
  • Mechanic $15.60
  • Parking $91.25
  • Misc $31.75

Total: $2121.28

June:
We’ve spent a heap more time in the boonies this month on mountaineering expeditions, and our costs have dropped as a result. Park permits and mule fees add to the expense, but here’s a hot tip for saving money… contract a stomach bug and don’t eat for 3 or 4 days! It worked for us. Daily food budget came in at $9.55 per person per day.

  • Food/Drink $573
  • Fuel $336
  • Accomodation $64
  • Tolls $37
  • Equipment $176
  • Park Permit $125
  • Mules $100
  • Laundry $22
  • Insurance (SOAT) $55
  • Mechanical $166
  • Misc $73

Total: $1727.50

July
Another pretty thrifty month at a shade over $800 per person. You couldn’t even cover the rent in Australia with that amount! Daily food budget was a little higher than last month at $11.25 per person per day, probably because we needed extra sustenance after some hard alpine missions!

  • Food/Drink $698
  • Fuel $120
  • Accomodation $189
  • Equipment $276
  • Park Permit $125
  • Mules $70
  • Laundry $38
  • Parking $25
  • Transport $93

Total: $1636.00

August
Another pretty cheap month considering our fuel prices were comparatively massive with travelling from Peru to Chile in the latter half of the month. Food went back down to $9.18 per person per day, but I expect this to increase dramatically now that we have moved further south.

  • Food/Drink $569.20
  • Fuel $553.70
  • Accomodation $184
  • Tolls $70.30
  • Equipment $49.20
  • Park Permits $110.40
  • Visas $120
  • Laundry $41.20
  • Transport $24
  • Mechanical $44
  • Misc $44.20
  • Gear Sold +$214

Total: $1596.2

September
Despite a heap of driving, we seem to have made it through this month in good shape. This is particularly spectacular given we had a major car repair job that was fixed for a surprisingly small amount… that said, we did spend more than double on tolls (damn you, Chile!!). Food and drinks were also pretty tame at $10.56 per person per day.

  • Food/Drink $633.95
  • Fuel $857.70
  • Accomodation $13.45
  • Tolls $155.90
  • Equipment $94.35
  • Laundry $16.45
  • Mechanical $113.50
  • Misc $47.65

Total: $1932.55

October
After stocking up big in Brazil, we spent a lot less on food this month, coming in at $7.62 per person per day. And a good thing too, because we had a catastrophic drivetrain failure that resulted in a big mechanics bill. In the end, it evened out and we came out about the same as any other month.

  • Food/Drink $472.99
  • Fuel $653.50
  • Accomodation $7.70
  • Tolls $48.20
  • Park Permits $50
  • Mechanical $675
  • Gas $9.60
  • Misc $38

Total: $1955.01

November
Well, we must be doing something right, because this was the cheapest month yet. It’s meant to get more expensive the further south we go! Anyway, not having a massive mechanical bill probably has something to do with it. Food came in at $8.75 per person per day.

  • Food/Drink $524.95
  • Fuel $222.60
  • Accomodation $72
  • Laundry $47
  • Equipment $54.45
  • Misc $41

Total: $962

December
This month we got hit with an increase in mechanical costs and a descrease in the value of our currency. Who knew that the Dollarydoo would be just as unstable as the Argentine peso!? We’ve spent most of the month in El Chalten, so less driving means less fuel costs, but the food is more expensive coming in at $11.43 per person per day.

  • Food/Drink $708.90
  • Fuel $352
  • Accomodation $7
  • Park Permits $22.25
  • Mechanical $290
  • Laundry $37
  • Equipment $21.90
  • Misc $106.95

Total: $1546

January
We’re wrapping this bad boy up and that means a few more mechanical bills to get La Tortuga ready for the next adventure. Apart from those costs, it’s been an average month with food coming in at $9.15 per person per day.

  • Food/Drink $567.50
  • Fuel $365.70
  • Accomodation $7.35
  • Park Permits $15
  • Mechanical $543.15
  • Laundry $19
  • Equipment $23.50
  • Gas $10.15
  • Misc $81.25

Total: $1632.60

February
And that’s a wrap! A few big ticket costs surrounding flights and baggage, but very cheap otherwise. We were pretty thrifty with the food, came in at $6.30 per person per day.

  • Food/Drink $201.65
  • Fuel $130
  • Accomodation $77.65
  • Transport $91.10
  • Flights $382
  • Excess Baggage $290
  • Mechanical $74.20
  • Laundry $18.55
  • Equipment $6.75
  • Misc $23.80
  • Gear Sold + $150

Total: $1145.70

Van Sale:
$8450

GRAND TOTAL:  $42,646.64

Reality vs Estimates:
Here’s the final sums to see how we did with the estimates we made before the trip.

Food Total: $7064.57 (originally estimated at $11000)
Fuel Total: $4064.10 (originally estimated at $4300)
Shipping Total: $3719.92 (originally estimated at $3000)

Final version as of March 2019
by Ryan Siacci and Morag Stewart

 

Thoughts? Opinions? Cries of dissent?

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