Monday, August 13, 2012

Cost: Over Budget in Buenos Aires for 26-Days

We know that everyone spends differently, and a budget can be extremely variable; however, after leaving an area, we want to provide some perspective on the cost associated with staying there for anyone interested in doing a similar trip.  Our budget of $100 - $150/day is for 2 people and does not include the $10,000 round-the-world flights (plus trip insurance) already paid for.  The budget also does not account for the bills we are continuing to pay at home.  Our budget allows for a comfortable, low-to-mid-range lodging in hostels or budget hotels with private bath, meals/drinks, use of public transportation, and cost to do some sightseeing and/or activities.  As foodies, we are not depriving ourselves from eating and drinking whatever and whenever we want to, although we are usually focused on finding budget, local cuisine.  Most of the time, breakfast seems to be included in the cost of lodging, so we are paying for 1-2 meals/day. An article titled, "Set Your Daily Number" by the veteran travel bloggers from Married With Luggage confirms that a daily average is a simple strategy for setting and meeting a budget.  We've got in the habit of taking a few minutes to record our daily expenditure so we can make small adjustments along the way.

To end our South America adventures, we decided to spend about 3-weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Argentina was a really good deal for tourists about 5 to 7 years ago when the country began recovering from their 2002 debt crisis and currency collapse.  We discovered Buenos Aires is no longer the most economical place to hang out in South America, so we had to get creative with our finances.  Our initial sticker shock was at the airport before we even got out of immigration when they charged $160 "reciprocal fee" to US passport holders. Then, the $50 cab ride into the city, then ~$110+ for basic lodging with a shared bathroom.  Because we were staying put for 3-weeks, getting an apartment really helped us lower the cost of lodging and food expenses.

$1960 total or $75/day.  After staying in a hotel for a couple of nights, we secured an apartment through for $70/night.  We probably could have (and should have) rented a studio that cost less, but we really liked the spaciousness and location of the apartment we chose, and didn't regret spending a few more dollars!  On our last night, we moved closer to the airport and splurged at a $150/night hotel.  

$1077 total or $41/day.  We thought we would be able to save a lot more money by staying in and cooking, but we spent exactly the same on food as we did in Peru and Ecuador.  Perhaps the cost of food is more in Buenos Aires, although we thought we were getting excellent meal deals at ~$25 for a huge cut of Argentine steak and a bottle of wine.  

DRINKS (Coffee, Tea, Bottled Water, Alcohol)
$472 total or $18/day.  Although we were told it was safe to drink the tap water in Buenos Aires, we continued to buy bottled water.  The cost of wine was quite cheap in comparison to the States.  There were plenty of $5 bottles of decent Malbec and Torrontes wine in the grocery stores (which basically meant we drank more!).  A glass or "pinguino" (penguin shaped carafe) of house wine in restaurants was also reasonable.  A 1 liter bottle of Quilmes beer cost only $2.  

$299 total or $12/day.  We included the $160 "reciprocal fee" in this category, and aside from the taxi expense of going to and from the airport which cost us a total of $100, we barely spent any money on day-to-day transportation.  The subway system was very cheap at 50 cents/pp/ride and we walked a lot.  We considered taking the ferry across to Uruguay for a day trip but after finding out that it cost almost $150/pp to get on the ferry, we decided against incurring this expense.  Our transportation would have definitely skyrocketed if we chose to travel to Mendoza wine country, Iguazu Falls, or Patagonia.  

$12 total for a couple of haircuts and a shave!

$162 total or $6/day.  Again, postage for postcards is quite expensive at $2/stamp.  We sent quite a few postcards from Buenos Aires so that added up.  We also bought a few souvenirs that could easily fit into our backpacks.

$30 total or $1/day.  The only amenity that we didn't have at the apartment was a washer/dryer, but we didn't mind because there was a laundry service literally across the street.  It was also one of the cheapest that we came across in all of South America so we lucked out.

$58 total or $2.25/day.  We didn't go to any museums in Buenos Aires, although there are plenty!  We did pay admission to a jazz venue and a tango milonga.  We also bought the newest Lonely Planet Argentina online guide.

$38 or $1.50/day.  We wanted to watch some Olympics coverage but could only watch videos on our iPad using VPN, so we purchased more VPN data for this.  We also got charged to print out bus tickets, airplane boarding passes, etc. at the Internet Cafe.

$4175 total or $160/day.  We think we made the best of Buenos Aires on a budget but we still managed to run over by $10/day, which is not too bad for living in a big cosmopolitan city in a very trendy neighborhood!   We did manage to "lose" an extra $200 in cash when we discovered that no currency exchange house would trade our Argentine pesos. We didn't know what category to place this unexpected "expense".  Perhaps a new expense category titled "Gringos Getting Screwed".