How I spent $950 flight included to travel to Chile for two weeks

…and how you can too.

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A $15 view – from my hostel window

I often get asked by new travelers how much it costs to travel abroad. The answer is not as much as you think. If you are willing to stay at hostels, cook your own meals instead of dining out three meals a day and be open to destinations with killer flight deals, you can travel for less — and for longer. Some destinations are also cheaper than others so those on a budget may consider the exchange rate and the cost of daily expenses before booking a ticket. Guidebooks like Lonely Planet give an estimate of how much a meal or a cup of coffee cost around the word.

In Chile, 1 Chilean Peso equals 0.0014 USD.

The main travel expense was my flight, which I snagged via The Flight Deal from Chicago O’Hare to Santiago for $345…round trip! It included a layover both ways in Panama (outbound 20 hours – inbound 10), which I viewed as a fun way to see a new country.

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The rest of the expenses (travel, meals, hostels, booze, fun) came out to $37 per day. This included a trip to several national parks, dining out most days, a bed to sleep in at night and more fancy wine than I typically drink in a year. The wine was one of the best bonuses of Chile. I was thrilled a bottle was $2.50 to $3.50 for the nice ones.

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Staying at hostels, cooking saves you money, and most hostels have kitchens. If you’re traveling solo and are friendly, you may get invited to partake in a group meal where everybody helps with the cooking duties and throws in a few dollars. It’s nice to dine with others when you are traveling by yourself and avoid leftovers.

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Another thing that is inexpensive in Chile is the transit systems within, and connecting, cities. A Metro ride was $1 in Santiago. To get from the airport to downtown Santiago, it’s a comfortable $2.25 ride on a coach bus. Rural buses running between cities cost $0.70 and up, depending on how far you are traveling. The longest rural bus ride I took was one hour to the Huerquehue National Park and was $5 round trip. The bus from Pucón to Santiago, a nearly 500-mile journey on the Pan-American Highway, was to $21.50. If you are planning on going south from Santiago (you should!), take a plane down and take a bus back like I did. My flight was $80 from Santiago to Puerto Montt. Puerto Varas and Pucón split up the journey back north and I spent a week between the two cities.

IMG_7329Most of Chile for me was exploring the outdoors and hiking. Aside from a national park fee, the rest of the adventures were free of cost. Many of the touristy things I did, like a penguin tour, were 5000 Pesos, or $7. To see the penguins and bike through the countryside, I rented a bike at the hostel in Ancud for 10000 Pesos, or about $14.

Like I mentioned with the wine, this trip was not one of meager indulgences. I failed to mention that I climbed a volcano and spent a pretty penny on the climb. That’s not factored in my costs. However, when you, dear traveler, encounter the opportunity to climb a volcano, you’re not going to be thinking of your finances either. When you come across anything while traveling that you’re not sure if you’re going to be able do again, you should do it.

Gallery: Saving Money on Food

Here’s a detailed breakdown of my expenses:
$200 Hostels
$145 Food/Dining
$35 Drinks (5 bottles of wine, 6 beers)
$50 Things to Do
$345 Flight ORD to SCL (round trip!)
$80 Flight to Puerto Montt
$95 Bus Transit