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Central and South America 305  Central and South America 306

Always on a quest for Giants fans . . . Found her in a Costa Rican jungle, Manuel Antonio Park (February 2012)

I did quite a bit of research about airfare cost prior to booking with AirTreks.  To the novice, buying a round the world (RTW) plane ticket can be a daunting process.  Who do you go to? How much will it cost?  Unlike buying a simple one-way or round-trip ticket, you can’t plug in Priceline or Expedia and click the “Everywhere” tab.  Umm, good luck finding such a thing, because it doesn’t exist. 

Consequently, after hours and hours of trial and error, I settled on Airtrek, which you can check out at this link:

http://www.airtreks.com/

Ironically, my first search had nothing to do with a RTW trip.  I wanted to go back to South America and explore more of that continent.  I was planning on flying to Montevideo, Uruguay, then make my way overland to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.  I set aside approximately a month and a half for visiting those countries.  I’ve always wanted to see New Zealand as well, so the initial plan was to take a “hop” from Santiago, Chile to Auckland, New Zealand, where I would spend approximately a month exploring that country before heading back to Denver.  However, I was surprised to find out that the typical airfare cost for the adventure I outlined above was over $5500.00. Wow!  I went to multiple sites and essentially, the cost was the same. I wondered why.

What I discovered was that when you fly out of Santiago, Chile, you don’t go directly to Auckland, New Zealand. Rather, you “double back” to the United States to pick people up in Los Angeles, then head onto New Zealand.  Obviously, a lot more fuel is expended and of course, costs go up exponentially as well.  Hmm.

For “shit and giggles,” I decided to determine the cost of airfare for a RTW trip, with most of the stops I am going on now.  I think I initially had indicated Japan, but I decided to scratch that country and add Thailand; not because of the airfare cost, but because of the significant day to day costs of Japanese hotels, food, and tours.  I also had India on my itinerary, which I removed because of the convoluted and expensive Visa requirements, which must be accomplished via a 3rd party.

I was flabbergasted to find out that the cost was over a thousand dollars less then my initial South America and New Zealand adventure, ultimately coming in at $4291.00 for my RTW trip.  Exit South America and New Zealand trip . . . Hello round the world trip!  Again, as I said earlier, I found AirTrek to be the least expensive and the one with the most positive recommendations, so I selected them.

However, this is only part of the equation. Specifically, how much would my day to day expenses be?  I asked myself questions such as . . .

1. Would I stay in hostels for my entire RTW trip? Hostel dorm or private room?

2. A mix of hostels and hotels?

3. Hotels, bed and breakfasts or as the New Zealanders call them, “homestays and farmstays?”

4. How about tours that included boarding?

5. Museums and day trip tours?

6. I also wondered about food?  I couldn’t exactly live on Top Ramen Cup of noodles and mustard packets for the entire trip.

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Restaurant in Panama City, Panama (January 2012)

All of the aforementioned questions crossed my mind, but I didn’t dwell on them too long.  Why not?  In general, I remembered my earlier trip this year to Central and South America; as well as my RV trip with a friend a few years back, where we visited most of the Western States and British Columbia, Canada.  The costs were manageable and ironically, my investment, checking and saving accounts all increased while I was away on these trips. In no way did I have to be frugal the entire time I was away.  This is the attitude I am taking on my RTW trip.

Sure, I did stay in hostels on occasion while in Latin America, albeit, sans the dorm room experience.  Hostels are a great way to meet people as I said in another thread post, so I purposefully would select to stay at a hostel occasionally for this reason.  I also would treat myself to a nice hotel or bed and breakfast when the mood or need struck.  Or, I would rent a cabana, with a kitchen, where I would cut costs by buying groceries and cooking for myself.  Also, if at all possible GO TO A HOTEL OR HOSTEL WEBSITE versus Expedia, Orbitz or any of the other travel sites. Why? Simply because they will charge you anywhere from 15-25% extra.  This is a rip off which shouldn’t be supported by anyone.  I always try to book with the hotel directly, sometimes showing up at their front desk and negotiating (politely) with them for a reduced rate.  Believe me, you will always get a better deal by booking with the hotel or hostel directly.

Similarly, when I saw a tour or day trip that I wanted to go on, I didn’t think about the cost.  Why wouldn’t I? Simply because THIS IS MY DREAM COME TRUE . . . WHY WOULD I DENY MYSELF AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME THAT I MAY NEVER COME ACROSS AGAIN?  In short, I remembered what Dennis, my step dad, said many years ago, “When you go on vacation, have a good time and don’t cut corners or count pennies. You are on vacation, so don’t worry about the cost.”  My mom and him go on a cruise at least twice a year and they always go first class.  This doesn’t mean waste money or be ostentatious.  It absolutely does mean ensuring you are having a good time.

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Quito, Ecuador hotel atrium/lobby area I stayed at (March 2012)

So, what are the daily costs?  A ball park figure would probably be around $50-150 dollars per day, factoring in the general costs of each individual country.  For example, Nepal and Thailand will be significantly less than Australia, France, and New Zealand will be.  During my C and S America trip, I probably spent $50-75 dollars a day.  In total, I am expecting this trip to cost at least $12.5k and probably closer to $15-20k.  I have set aside $12.5k in a money market account for emergencies that I can transfer to my checking account via the internet and draw on any ATM in the world.  Ironically, my biggest monthly expense will be my monthly mortgage payment at home.  HA!

Because my credit union and one of my credit cards place a daily limit on how much cash ($200) I can withdraw per day, I sometimes had to think out a big purchase like a hotel, hostel room or tour.  Why not pay with a credit card? It depends on the quality of the business. If it was a very nice hotel, then yes, a credit card is preferable. My point being that I didn’t want to “expose” my credit card to too many restaurant, tour, hostel, or even, hotel proprietors, for fear that my credit card ID information would be stolen.  Consequently, on several occasions I would withdrew money 2-3 days in a row so that I would have adequate cash in hand to purchase whatever I needed the money for.

Personally, I prefer to use my credit union debit card while I am traveling.  The fee for withdrawing cash is significantly lower than my credit card.  I believe it’s 2 dollars for each withdrawal when using my credit union debit card.  As I said above, they only allow a maximum of $200 for each withdrawal.  For my Visa and American Express cards, they charge approximately $13 for each withdrawal, regardless of how much you withdraw.  Consequently, you might want to withdraw more, since they are going to charge you the $13 anyway.

While in Costa Rica earlier this year, I had my credit union debit card “eaten” by an ATM machine.  For some reason, I didn’t notice this at the time, i.e., I think I was distracted and forgot that in Costa Rica, unlike Panama, their ATM machines will take your card, then expose it for 5 seconds after the completion of your transaction . . . In those 5 seconds, you must grab it, or it is “eaten.”  Fast forward to Panama a week later, I went into panic mode when I visited an ATM machine and discovered the card was missing from my wallet.  Yes, I made a bee line to the nearest internet cafe, praying to God my credit union account hadn’t been cleaned out and personal identity stolen.  I was so relieved when I discovered all my money still in my account and eventually, I figured out what had happened.  I contacted my credit union and explained that a Costa Rican bank had my card and could they cancel that particular card and send a new one to my home address.  Mission accomplished.  Of course, this didn’t help me in Central America, but fortunately I still had 2 credit cards that I could utilize for cash withdrawals, albeit, with higher fees.

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Beach I visited in Quepos, Costa Rica (February 2012)

Insofar as paying my bills at home, I now have everything on auto pay.  In fact, just this morning, I contacted my mortgage company and took care of one of the few bills I still was paying by the U.S. Postal Service or “snail mail” as it’s sometimes called.  A couple of days ago, I did the same thing with my condo HOA monthly dues.  You also need to anticipate bills that will need to be paid during the time you are gone.  For example, a couple of weeks ago, my home insurance was due, but I had some issues with the company I was with at the time.  Karla, my insurance agent, was a sweetheart and made sure that was all taken care of expeditiously, without me having to worry about that during my trip.  Similarly, my tax accountant, Bill, is requesting a tax extension for me, so I don’t have to worry about the mid April deadline.  By the by, if you need excellent home, auto, or tax advice, at a reasonable price, send me a private email and I will forward your request to them.

Have I covered every detail in RTW cost?  No.  There are a myriad of details I have not covered, but in general, these are the most significant.  Likewise, this is ONLY my ball park figure of what I expect my trip to cost.  After I return from my trip, I will update this post and tell you what the actual costs were.  The cost will be different for everyone, if only because you will probably fly with another carrier, stay at different hotels, book different tours, and eat at different restaurants.

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