Central/South America- La Cuenta

Question. How much did the travel through Central and South America cost?

I like to count and account. I left Australia on 25 May 2014 and returned on 7 February 2015. This is 37 weeks. Lauren travelled for 31 weeks, Alex for 30 weeks and Lucas for 32 weeks. In total that is 910 person days of travel, mostly in Central and South America.

I took 37 flights and the rest of the family 30. We all caught many buses, a few trains and a few ferries. We set foot in 19 different countries and spent 12 weeks on purchased tours.

Each night we stayed, principally, in hotels. Their quality ranged from 5 star to shared rooms in hostals. We had 20 nights in rented apartments and four nights on a luxurious cruise boat in Patagonia. Our median experience was probably 2 star and our average, perhaps 2.5 stars.

We ate at restaurants almost entirely. We only cooked for ourselves when we rented apartments and even then not all the time. We were insured and inoculated for all circumstances.

We enjoyed skiing and many entertainments which included World Cup tickets.

The answer to the question sits below the poor quality image that reminds of the travel locations.



The answer to the question also sits below three comparator holidays.

A visit by four of us to Burma for 14 days in 2014 cost $339 per person day.

A week in Bali for the four of us in 2013 was $392 per person day.

Ten days riding my motorbike from Melbourne to Perth in March 2014 cost $390 per person day (only one person in this instance).

ANSWER: 910 person days of travel mostly in Central/South America cost $170,000, about $187 per person day.

Relative to other holidays, it was very good value. The previous ninety posts on this blog illustrate the experiences purchased. Relative to those experiences, it was the goodest of good value.




Central/South America- Cheeseburger Index

Is travelling in Central and South America cheap? If it is cheap, how cheap is it? Which is the cheapest country and how cheap is it relative to Australia?

To travel with the family Lauren missed the last six months of Year Ten. To temper her joy at missing school and to help ensure she looked, and listened, we set her three projects relevant to the trip. The three projects were Coffee, the Mayans and Glaciers. For mathematics she helped us answer the questions above.

The Economist magazine produces a McDonalds Big Mac index that compares the price of that homogenous and ubiquitous product. Lauren created a family holiday price index of each country we visited.

Its purpose was to be our price index, as visitors. The difficulty was which goods and services should we choose? We wanted them to be the same in each country which pointed us towards global brands. We wanted to reflect that not all goods are of equal importance and so we weighted the five goods to produce a weighted shopping trolley.

Finally, we translated the basket into Australian dollars at the rate we had received in the country at the time of our visit.

The goods we chose were:

1. Kellogg’s cornflakes 340 grams. Weighting .5

2. Petrol 95 octane 1 litre . Weighting 10

3. Coca Cola can 335ml. Weighting 5

4. Bottled water with gas 2 litres. Weighting 3

5. McDonalds single cheeseburger. Weighting 7

There were some variables at play that impacted our index. Firstly, the Australian dollar weakened by 15 % against the USD over the period of our travels. Secondly, the price of oil halved over that same time period. Thirdly, while we were in Switzerland the Swiss franc strengthened by 15% against the AUD in one day, a  Thursday. We translated our basket prior to that when the swiss franc was “weak”!!(er)

The results in the chronological order in which we visited the countries from July 2014 to February 2015 are below. I have added The Economist’s January 2015 USD data for a BigMac.

.                                                               Weighted Basket    BigMac(USD)

1. USA                                                           AUD 31.93                4.79

2. Mexico                                                     AUD 31.27                 3.35

3. Belize                                                        AUD 52.56                 N/A

4. Guatamala                                               AUD 29.93                 N/A

5. Honduras                                                 AUD 34.24                 N/A

6. Nicaragua                                                AUD 32.22                 N/A

7. Costa Rica                                                AUD 42.39                 4.01

8. Panama                                                    AUD 26.97                 N/A

9. Colombia                                                 AUD 40.69                 3.34

10 Ecuador                                                   AUD 21.52                 N/A

11. Brazil                                                        AUD 46.25                 5.21

12 Argentina                                                 AUD 28.29                 3.25

13. Uruguay                                                  AUD 49.0                   4.63

14. Chile                                                         AUD 31.6                  3.35

15. Bolivia                                                      AUD 31.72                 N/A

16.UK                                                              AUD 44.2                  4.37

17. Switzerland                                              AUD 57.26                7.57

18. Andorra                                                    AUD 41.79                 N/A

19. Germany                                                   AUD 49.53                4.25

20. Australia                                                   AUD 31.62                4.32

The lowest cost country was Ecuador, where petrol is A$62 cents a litre.

The most expensive is Switzerland where a cheeseburger costs A$4.20,  compared to Chile where it is A$60 cents.

Before we arrived in Belize we were warned that everything is imported and we would find it expensive. And so it was.

Finally, I was surprised that our handcrafted index flagged Australia and the US as relatively cheap locations. If we had priced the Australian basket at the start of the trip (when petrol was more expensive), the Australian basket  would have been about $36.




Germany- Munich, Neuschwanstein

I had always wanted to see Neuschwanstein. I am not sure why. It may have been because I was told it was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. Although, a rational assessment of this statement would probably have had the reverse effect on my motivation to visit. Without clear identifiable cause, the effect was that we hopped off our Singapore Airlines flight to Melbourne to spend two nights in Munich. At eight in the morning and my weather app indicating minus 9 degrees we set off for the castle.

We had signed up to be guided. The guide leading us on one two hour train journey, one ten minute bus ride and then one 45 minute walk up the hill to the castle. The guide also providing us historical information.

The first story from the guide related to her niece and how disappointed her niece had been with her trip to the castle. An unusual opening story from the guide. However, we listened along and we were invited to guess the reason for the childs disappointment. One person nailed it………….”No Princess”. Phew, was that all? I tried again to recall the reason I had wanted to visit Neuschwanstein and I am certain it wasn’t the possibility of meeting a Princess.

Neuschwanstein as viewed from the approach road.

Neuschwanstein as viewed from the approach road.

Neuschwanstein as viewed from the bridge over the ravine behind the castle.

Neuschwanstein as viewed from the bridge over the ravine behind the castle.

The castle looks magnificent. It looks old. But it isn’t. Building work halted in 1886. The castle wasn’t finished and it still isn’t finished. In 1886 King Ludwig 2 was found floating face down in the lake and the projects he was sponsoring braked. Technically, he probably wasn’t King Ludwig 2 on that day as he had been recently deposed as King for reasons of insanity. History has labelled him Mad King Ludwig. Possibly a little unfair, but he did seem to annoy everyone. He refused to do what was expected of him (breed), and his inclination was to spend as much money as possible on building projects. He apparently had lots more castles on the drawing board to follow up Neuschwanstein, and that is where they remained.

Mad King Ludwig certainly built better castles than his relative. But his relatives did also build nice castles.

Mad King Ludwig certainly built better castles than his relatives. But his relatives did also build nice castles and this is one.

The five impressions of Neuschwanstein are:

1. The stone is very white and very clean. The castle translates as new swan stone so maybe that’s the reason.

2. The castle is more unfinished than I had imagined. Visitors were allowed into only five rooms with the explanation that none of the others were sufficiently complete.

3. The guided tour is an exercise in German efficiency, leaving at ten minute intervals and racing you around in 35 minutes. Questions, not welcomed.

4. The placement is delightful. The views from within, and of the castle from without, are magnificent. Ludwig knew a thing or two about castle placement.

5. There is a restaurant about 400 metres from the castle on the road to the castle. I had expected tiny luncheon portions to be served to me at great expense. Instead, the daily special was a very large portion at a very reasonable nine euros.

Neuschwanstein from the lookout.

Neuschwanstein from the lookout.

I was pleased we stopped off and visited. Lucas was pleased we stopped off and visited. I think the reason I was keen to visit was the quirky architecture, a fondness for a folly and to learn stories of poor old Ludwig. Ludwig had ideas of what it was to be a King. Those ideas were not aligned with the ideas of kingliness held by the notkings.

We enjoyed the visit.

We enjoyed the visit.

Even if it was a very cold day.

Even if it was a very cold day.