We left Québec, Canada on September 4th which helped a lot reducing the costs since we were off season everywhere we went for the 2 months we spent in the country. We were also lucky because 2017 was the 150th Anniversary of Canada so the federal government made the National Park Pass free for all that year which also helped us a lot in reducing the costs of our travels.
Since the country is SO big, the main expense here was fuel (Diesel) for a total of 1400$ CAD for the 2 months we crossed the country from East (Québec) to West (Vancouver Island). I need to underline the fact that we did a LOT of zig-zagging through the country and we could have avoided some fuel fees by having a more direct itinerary but we believe it was part of our experience.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 2 months living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 47,50$ CAD per day per person here.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
We crossed in the USA with the ferry from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Port Angeles, Washington. We used Black Ball Ferry to make our journey South and this was 170$ CAD for the bus and us. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend a lot of time in Washington & Oregon because it was pouring rain when we there.
The sun was shinning again once we reached the state of California and we were so happy and keen to enjoy it as much as possible. We took the America the Beautiful Pass to save on all the National Parks and the Federal Recreational Lands entry fees. The pass cost is 80$ USD and is valid for a full year in all USA’s National Parks. We were able to visit nearly 10 National Parks and just before crossing into Mexico, we sold our pass online for 40$ USD since it was still valid for 11 months. Our best tip to visit USA National Parks on a budget ;).
The cost of mechanics and car maintenance is high in the USA since we bought 4 brand new tires for the bus, we have done an alignment on our car and we bought spair parts before crossing into Mexico since we knew it would be harder to find.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 1 month living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 60$ CAD per day per person here.
We crossed from San Diego, California USA to Tecate, Baja California MEX on December 23rd so we were right in high season there but we managed to save a lot of money on campings and restaurants since we were mostly camping on secluded beaches at none to negligeable costs and there were no dinning options around so we cooked all of our meal.
The main expenses in Mexico were the ferry from Baja California to the Mexican mainland (400$ CAD) and the car insurances which were more expensive for 6 months in Mexico than 1 full year in Canada for the same protection (!!!).
For the ferry from Baja California to the Mexican mainland, we took the TMC Ferry from La Paz, Baja Sur to Mazatlan, Sinaloa. There are two options for vehicle ferry from Baja California to the Mexican mainland. You have TMC Ferry that we took and you also have Baja Ferries. Baja Ferries is known to be the option for tourists & travelers and TMC Ferry is mostly for commercial trucks but is the cheapest option, the one which you can bring you pet on and the only one where you can sleep in your vehicle which made it the best option for us and our friends traveling with a dog.
Insurance wise we went with Baja Bound Insurance and we got an amazing service, in English from their office in San Diego. It was fast, easy, comprehensible but not cheap… We paid 350$ USD for 6 months and it was more expensive to take only 1 month or month per month. You have to understand here that NO insurance company from Canada or US will cover you passed the United States and that Mexican car insurances are MANDATORY so you need to take some type of coverage at some point. I believe we would have got cheaper but it was our first experience and went the easy way.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 4 months living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 26,75$ CAD per day per person here.
After spending 4 months in Mexico, crossing into Belize was a shock. First of all the population of Belize speaks English as a first language opposed to the rest of Central America who speaks Spanish pretty much everywhere you go.
Second, we heard Belize was more expensive before crossing but when we got there was when we realized who much more expensive it really was. In fact, Belize is independent from the neighbouring countries and the makes the prices much high since they produce very few products themselves and need to import from far away like Malaysia, Dominican Republic or Honduras.
Belize, formerly British Honduras, is independent from Great Britain only since 1981 and is a very small country, the size of the US State of Massachussets. Belize also has the lowest population density in Central America with a population of 387,879 (2017).
Belize is known to have the second largest Barrier Reef after Australia’s and we took advantage of it as scuba divers and went diving on the famous Blue Hole. This was our biggest expense on the 10 days we spent in Belize. In fact, it cost each of us 250$ USD (333$ CAD) for a 3 tanks dive day in the Blue Hole National Marine Park.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 10 days living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 70$ CAD per day per person here.
Crossing from Belize to Guatemala was a relief budgetly speaking and we were pleased with the culture, the environment and the diversity of this country. One of our biggest expense in this country is activities since we visted Mayan Ruins of Tikal, hiked 2 active volcanoes and went village hopping on Lake Atitlan.
Guatemala is a relatively affordable country to visit and there is so many things to do. We highly recommend visiting this part of Central America. We were also very happy to have a break from the heat while in Antigua Guatemala which is located 1550 meters from sea level.
Diesel was the cheapest we have encountered so far on this trip so that also made the total budget lower for this country.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 26 days living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 27,70$ CAD per day per person here.
El Salvador is known to be dangerous and have problems with gangs and drug cartels but while traveling in the country we noticed that it was the most welcoming and friendly people we have ever met on this trip. They call El Salvador the country of the smiling people and they are right. So many nice people there and we never felt any danger during our trip here.
By talking with locals we have realized that since the year 2000, Police is more active and less corrupted and the crime rate went down. Also, all the crime and murders are all related to cartels and gangs, tourists are never targeted and it is a relatively safe country for foreigners. We believe this country should be visited more since it has so much to offer.
Anyone who enjoys surfing or beach bumming will LOVE the Pacific coast and will also appreciate the fact that everything is really cheap in El Salvador.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 14 days living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 16,78$ CAD per day per person here.
Oh Nicaragua… where to start? I believe we left our hearts in Nicaragua when we left couple days ago since our temporary importation permit (TIP) ended. The country is authentic, the locals are smiling, friendly and welcoming us with arms wide open.
We were in Nicaragua in June before heading back to Canada for the summer and the socio-political climate was not the best. In fact, the country was facing a major revolution and the population was in the streets protesting against Daniel Ortega, the President.
Our experience this past month was totally different since protests were over, even though Ortega is still leading the government. The country was quiet, easy and the lifestyle was great but overall the locals were the highlight of our trip. We immediately felt right at home and were delighted by everything about Nicaragua.
The cost of living in Nicaragua is cheap and you can find pretty much everything you need in the local supermarkets. You get more variety near bigger towns like Rivas, Masaya, Granada and obviously Managua, the capital. We would suggest to stock up on groceries before heading to beach destinations in order to save big money.
During our month in Nicaragua we really splurged on all the good things and enjoyed more restaurants that we normally do since we just came back of 4 months of working really hard in Canada and we knew that Costa Rica & Panama would be much more expensive.
We also stocked up on canned & dry food, beer, rhum and different goodies before crossing the border since everything is much cheaper in Nicaragua compared to Costa Rica. In fact, we made a 160$ CAD grocery shopping the day we crossed to CR so that would put our global expenses down to 1595$ if we would take this off our Nica budget.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 30 days living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 29,25$ CAD per day per person here.
This was our 3rd time in Costa Rica and this is basically where we stored our bus for the months of June until October when we went back to Canada to work and save enough money to pursue our trip for another year.
Costa Rica is probably the most expensive country in all Central America so be prepared to pay similar prices to Canada or the USA. We knew and planned accordingly in order to save.
In fact, we did a huge grocery and bought 4 x 18 beers plus hard stuff before crossing into Costa Rica to avoid paying the much higher prices. We strongly recommend to anyone going through Nicaragua to do the same since it will save you A LOT !!
We were absolutely STOCKED by the beauty of the Caribbean cost with its cristal clear water and white sand beach. We totally recommend to make it all the way to Puerto Viejo and feel the vibe there.
Pura Vida !
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 2 weeks living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 16,67$ CAD per day per person here.
Panama is the last country we visited in Central America and we absolutely loved it. The country is well positioned, diversified and the proximity of the Pacific & Caribbean coasts make it an awesome destination.
Panama was the last country we could enter into by road since there is the Darien Gap National Park which stretches for 200 miles in between Central & South America and blocks any vehicle from crossing.
There is no ferry service or bridge to go across the Darien Region so the only option is to put your vehicle on a cargo ship either in a container, a flat rack or roll it directly on board.
We spent a bit more on ferry since we decided to cross the bus onto Bocas del Toro islands in the Caribbean but it was worth it after all since we saved on hotel, restaurant & transport once crossed.
We also spent more on restaurants since we were in Panama for Christmas & New Year Eve and we went out for good dinners and treated ourselves. We also went more in restaurants because of that time where we didn’t have the bus since it was on the cargo ship going to Colombia.
We needed to pay 25$ CAD of taxi as well as 95$ of hotel for the 3 days we stayed in Panama city without our campervan.
Overall we loved Panama and we are thinking of maybe going back to settle down there full time in a near future.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 1 month living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 27,58$ CAD per day per person here.
1 YEAR BUDGET SUMMARY
Here is our full year budget summary after spending a year on the road traveling from Canada until Panama. We wanted to make the exercice in order to understand our main cost drivers and have a better understanding of our expenses
As we can see here, Diesel has been our biggest expense this year since we crossed Canada from East to West, USA from North to South and we roamed i all over Mexico for 4 months. We estimate that we have done approximately 40 000 km on the road so far.
Grocery is our second biggest expense and we believe it is pretty reasonable for a full year for two person. For those who know us, you know we love to eat and we love to cook so we might be spending more than some of you on food. For us it is important to eat well in order to enjoy the journey.
The third biggest expense are activities for 2500$ but once again I believe it is fair and since we have most of our equipment on board we can do many activities by ourselves without paying any guide or transportation to get there.
We think every penny we spent on this trip was worth it and we are proud of our full year budget that respected the money we had put aside for this trip. It is for sure we could have spent less and we also could have spent more, it depends on everyone’s needs ad budgets.
*Please note that this is the total cost for the 2 of us for 1 FULL YEAR living in our campervan (bus). All the costs are in Canadian dollars. We are talking about 12 850$ CAD per person per year or 35,20$ CAD per day per person here.
Pat & Cat