Adventure Budgeting: Introduction

Not many adventure travelers are all that great when it comes to accounting, but when you’re halfway around the world and carrying around a stash of cash in your sock in a third-world country without an ATM around the corner, it’s good to be able to budget. During a six month jaunt through Asia in 2004-2005 I had to try and make $6,000 last for half a year, and here was the kicker: The last month of our trip would take us through coastal China and Japan, where we would likely be paying western prices again. After a month of carefree spending in Thailand and northern India, I realized I needed to keep a closer eye on our finances to avoid panhandling in the streets of Beijing by the end of the journey. I recently found my daily bookkeeping of my spending on the trip and offer it to you here as a real-world example of the day-to-day costs of adventure travel (unadjusted for inflation).

Keep in mind, that many of the critical expenses like flights, travel insurance and gear were paid for in advance, but still included in that $6,000 figure. They included:

  • Flights (Package deal including 4 flights: San Fran-Bangkok/Bangkok-Delhi-Bangkok/Tokyo-San Fran) – $1,400
    Note: We traveled over land from Bangkok to Beijing and purchased a flight to Tokyo there.
  • Travel Insurance – $250
  • Gear (New backpack, water filter, quick-dry clothes) – $350

Also, I was traveling with my then girlfriend and current wife, which cuts down on lodging costs by sharing a room, groceries, etc..

I decided to start keeping track of daily expenses when we took a two-day camel safari in the Indian desert state of Rajahstan. The cost of the all-inclusive safari worked out to $30 per person per day. I wanted to find out how that compared to what we had been spending on our own. Thirty bucks a day seems like a steal almost anywhere, but it turns out that we were spending less on our own, and living higher on the hog. On Safari, we spent all day in the sun, ate basic meals that were cooked for us and slept on blankets laid out on a sand dune without a tent.

By comparison, here’s how we spent a total of $62 ($31 / person) on Christmas eve, 2004 in Udaipur, Rajahstan, a city known for its beautiful marble palaces and as the site where the 007 flick “Octopussy” was filmed:

  • Food: $1.50 (pancake breakfast)/$6.50 (holiday lunch w/ drinks @ swanky hotel) / $2 (vegetarian dinner) = $10
  • Lodging: A decent room with bathroom in a guesthouse with a view = $4
  • Transit: Taxis into town and to the holiday lunch = $3
  • Half-Day Indian Cooking Class = $31
  • Cover & Drinks @ Hindi Dance Club = $12
  • Internet Cafe = $2
    TOTAL = $62

Not too shabby, eh? Notice that half of our expenses that day were a splurge on a cooking class. India is easy on every budget. Next time: Beach Budgeting