Here are my monthly expenses during my 6-month bike tour. February includes the cost of my new Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike along with panniers, racks, etc; July includes a $130 flight from Panama City to Cartagena; and August includes my $150 return flight from Bogota to Orlando (with a $60 charge for my bike). Oh, and I had my camera stolen twice in June (the first time on a bus in Guatemala, and the second time in the mail), which cost about $250.
As you can see, bike touring is cheap!
I was in the US in March and April, and in May I entered Mexico and continued South. In June and July, I was passing through Central America, and in August, I was in Colombia.
In the US, I didn’t pay for any accommodation. We either stealth camped, camped at church grounds, or found a host through CouchSurfing.org or WarmShowers.org. In Mexico, I was hosted by a lot of CouchSurfers, but those opportunities dwindled in Central America. However, motel-like accommodation in Central America (residencias) were super cheap — mostly about $5 per night for a private room with a fan. And I stealth camped when I was in a pinch.
Food is expensive in the US, so we ate camp food (mac & cheese, instant mashed potatoes, baked beans) a lot, but many times we benefited from the kindness of our hosts. But we would sometimes get a gift from a stranger. I remember one time in Louisiana, I was hanging out outside a post office waiting for Ryan and an older Cajun Indian man asked me about what we were doing. After I told him our plans to cycle to Panama, he handed me a $20. I tried to refuse, but he wanted me to take it, “Lunch is on me. I like supporting with these kinds of things.”
In Mexico, Central America, and Colombia, prepared food was very inexpensive. Actually, I found that the cost of buying food at the grocery store was about the same as buying a prepared meal at a family-run restaurant. So it was an easy choice for me — I ate at small restaurants the entire time. This was great for two reasons: (1) I got rid of my camping cookware to cut down on bulk, and (2) eating local food is an important cultural experience.
So in summary, food was definitely the largest expense. It’s interesting to see in the monthly cost breakdown that my expenses in the US were similar to when I was in Latin America. It speaks to the high food prices in the US as we never paid for accommodation and many times we were fed by our hosts. In Latin America, I paid for most of my food and accommodation, yet my expenses weren’t significantly higher. I loved being hosted as my favorite memories are from meeting people along the way, but the flexibility of being able roll into a town at the end of the day and finding a cheap place to stay was great.