instagram: @johnandmandifacebook: johnandmandiRss FeedContact Us

John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road


Before we set off on our journey we were planning for some time, even though we didn't know we'd be driving the Pan-American highway.  We scrimped, saved, worked two jobs and just hunkered down the good old fashioned American way the 7 years prior to starting our trip. It was difficult to adjust to the bank account going in the opposite direction after working so hard to build it up. Knowing our trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity is where we took solace.

The cost for a trip such as the Pan-Am varies as widely as the vehicles used. We asked many current and previous overlanders what we should have realistically planned and the majority of the responses came in at $60-$80 per day. No matter how we sliced it, we'd be broke when we finished. There were places that did cost considerably less so extending our stays in those countries did help a little. We were able to travel for much longer by slowing down and spreading the fuel costs out but at any point, one major event could have sent us home.

We were OK with that.

We were very fortunate to be able to take the trip we did. Throwing our chips in the wind was just that. We really didn't know how far or how long our journey would be. We only knew how much we had and when it would have been just enough to get home, hopefully before we had to beg for some help. Many overlanders we followed provided budget recaps on their websites for each country so we did the same. A pay it forward of sorts.

The Figures

We tracked every penny we spent and reported almost every single one of them. We did not include a few expenditures that are specific to keeping professional licenses or weren't related to travel. They didn't amount to much but weren't useful to disclose either. Things like the $15 annual cost for our domain name, we don't include it since we'd be using it anyway and not everyone keeps a blog. It was a hard line to draw, we feel we did a pretty good job of it. We also converted all monies to US dollars. It was a pain in the ass when dealing with cash withdrawals at different rates, required to know exactly what was being spent.

It was also decided to break up costs over the places we were. For example, our vehicle insurance payments are assigned to the location we were in when they were paid. Our US vehicle insurance policy covered Canada but it wasn't accurate to charge all of it to the US. For prepayments, we divided them by the number of months to distribute them properly. It wasn't an exact science, it did seem to work out in the end though.

The following is a summary listing of our expenses by location. The expanded breakouts are in our blog and accessible from the location links below. If you are in the planning stages, our Pan-Am Planning - Budgeting post might be helpful.

Country Total # days per day
Canada $3,421.89 27 $126.74
Alaska $6,073.80 45 $134.97
Lower 48 $18,664.99 138 $135.25
Baja Mexico $2,501.10 59 $42.39
Mainland Mexico $9,692.29 119 $81.45
Belize May/June $2,708.81 27 $100.33
Belize September $2,777.65 27 $102.88
Guatemala $10,995.29 163 $67.46
El Salvador $1,591.35 32 $49.73
Honduras $3,144.13 30 $104.80
Nicaragua $2,179.36 26 $83.82
Florida Visit $4,464.46 48 $93.01
Costa Rica $6,538.56 80 $81.73
Panama $3,134.60 37 $84.72
Mexico & Central America $45,263.14 600 $75.44
Colombia $10,278.83 163 $63.06
Ecuador $4,275.03 66 $64.77
Galapagos $12,239.75 14 $874.27
Peru $8,071.14 127 $63.55
Bolivia $2,162.96 31 $69.77
Chile $4,296.54 60 $71.61
Argentina $5,607.19 69 $81.26
Uruguay (incl. return) $7,091.50 29 $244.53
South America $54,022.94 559 $96.64
Pan-American $131,911.22 1,417 $93.09
© 2001 - 2023