Trying Out the Travel Budget

A favorite meal in Buenos Aires was empanadas at El Sanjuanino, located just a couple of blocks away from our apartment. We each had two empanadas, a glass of wine filled to the rim, and shared a flan with dulce de leche for dessert, all for just $16US.

Buenos Aires has been a very affordable city, especially when it comes to food costs, and even more especially when it comes to dining out. Our host told us not long after we arrived that it was practically cheaper to go out to a restaurant here than it was to buy food at the market and prepare it ourselves! The low cost of food here combined with recent devaluation of the Argentine peso has meant we’ve had a fairly easy time of sticking to the budget we worked out before we left Kaua’i.

Brett has faithfully been maintaining a spreadsheet of our daily spending. He asks for a receipt from any place where we spend, and tracks our daily average to make sure things are not spinning out of control. So far we’ve been able to stay slightly under our daily budget of $40US that we alloted for our time in Argentina and Uruguay. Beyond food/dining costs our daily expenses have included items like tours, taxis, subway fares, tips, etc. for the time we’ve been here. Because of the lower price of food we’ve had some leeway that we’re probably not going to have when we arrive in Europe – we’re going to have to be far more careful there. I’m positive we’ll be having far fewer meals and such out in town than we’ve been able to enjoy here.

We’ve eaten breakfast at our apartment every morning.

As food is typically our biggest daily expense, our very first outing in Buenos Aires was to a nearby supermarket, and we have prepared most of our meals here in our apartment. We’ve had breakfast “at home” every morning, usually yogurt topped with fruit and granola that we brought along with us, along with orange juice and coffee. A few times we’ve eaten “Argentinian style,” enjoying coffee, juice and a couple of mezzaluna (croissant). The mezzaluna here are a bit smaller than the croissant we get back in the U.S. and are not as flaky; they are also brushed with egg whites and topped with a sprinkle of sugar . . . and completely delicious and satisfying!

Bakeries in Buenos Aires have provided affordable treats. We picked up a strawberry tart, a huge palmier, two churros, two fruit danish, and four mezzaluna the other day just $5US.

We’ve skipped lunch most days and instead stopped at a coffee shop in the mid-afternoon for a beverage and a shared pastry. I discovered that fresh fruit juices are often on the menu here, and have sometimes enjoyed having a glass of juice instead of coffee in the afternoon. My favorite so far was a combination of strawberry, mango and orange – very refreshing!

Beef is what you eat in Argentina, so we went out for dinner one evening at Fervor, another nearby restaurant. Brett had a perfectly cooked 12 oz. beef tenderloin brochette, I had longostino and we shared a plate of grilled vegetables. Each of us had a BIG glass of wine, and we shared a dessert. Total cost for everything, including a tip, was half of what we would have paid in the U.S. for the same meal (apologies for the pictures’ dim lighting – I blame the beautiful restaurant ambiance).

In the early evening, we’ve usually relaxed in our apartment with a glass of wine along with some local cheese and crackers. Good wine is ridiculously cheap here: a bottle of decent chardonnay can be had for as little as $2.50, and a big glass (like filled up to the rim) of quality wine at a restaurant goes for around $3.65. We’ve gone out for dinner just twice; all other evenings we’ve eaten dinner in the apartment. Dinners out were for empanadas one time and for a fabulous meal of Argentinian beef and seafood. In all cases, whether we’ve cooked our own meals or picked up something from a bakery or eaten at a restaurant, the cost has usually been half or less than half of what we would have paid in the U.S. for a comparable meal.

Brett had a classic Argentinian grilled ham and cheese sandwich for lunch one day at La Biela while I had a simple cheese pizza and fresh strawberry juice. La Biela is an old, famous restaurant in our neighborhood, and going for lunch versus dinner kept it affordable.

One big thing we’ve noticed here is that other than buying food, neither of us has been tempted in the least to purchase anything else, quite a difference from how we travelled in the past. The old version of Brett and Laura would have been drawn into countless shops and rationalized buying something no matter how much further traveling we were going to be doing or how the budget was holding up. These days we stand and look in windows and admire, and then remind ourselves there’s no room in the suitcases or the budget and go on our way!

Buenos Aires has been a great place to test our ability to stay within our daily limits, but with food costs so low we’re not sure how our experience here will extrapolate to future destinations.  We’re on our way to Uruguay tomorrow, where the peso has a stronger exchange rate with the dollar. We have also set a higher daily budget for our time in Europe, but whether it will be enough remains to be seen.

4 thoughts on “Trying Out the Travel Budget

  1. Laurel Hill says:

    The food looks great and the prices are really amazing.

    We never check bags anymore, so needing to make everything fit in my suitcase really keeps the shopping down. I did buy a few things that I was able to wear or carry home, but overall, not that much. Of course, with all the travel you have ahead of you, it’s another story completely. 🙂

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    • Laura says:

      We’re leaving tomorrow and still can’t quite believe the prices for food here. It’s all been very good too.

      We did see a couple of things that we probably would have bought in the past but found it easy to walk away this time. A carry-on has never held me back from buying stuff. I was asked by an airline employee in Japan once to “please do not buy anymore things” (I did though – more KitKats).

      We’re going to start looking for gifts for the girls for Christmas once we get to Europe, small things we can easily tuck into our bags.

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  2. Janette says:

    Save a little here, spend more there! It is a way of life.
    The food looks amazing and the tours- excellent. Cannot believe you are already moving on!

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    • Laura says:

      We’ve had a wonderful 10 days here and want to come back!

      Brett tallied up the figures today for Argentina and our daily average was just slightly above $35/day. We never once felt like we were missing out on anything, or scrimping to get by to stay on budget. I hope it goes as well in Europe!

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