VanLife and the Myth of High Cost World Travel

How To Go From #VanLife to Cheap World Travel

van life in antofagasta chile
There were so many vans parked along this shore…

Bienvenidos from Chile!

Dusty and I are still on operation “Travel South America By Bus” and it got me thinking about how we view travel in North America.

For most people living in Vans or RVs in the U.S., they think that travel is out of the question for them because of how damn expensive it can be, but we have found that simply isn’t the case at all.

In fact, Dusty and I have been on a mission to TRAVEL CHEAP in South America since May, to Save Money.

vanlife paracas peru
This dude knows what’s up…


Like you, we are not millionaires.

We don’t have 120k to spend on a brand new van.

We park on the streets and BLM land to avoid fees.

We don’t buy unnecessary stuff.

And we certainly aren’t big, fancy software engineers or web developers.

We are just normal people in our late 30’s trying to grab a bit of happiness wherever we can. By heading out of the country every now and again, we are able to save on our yearly expenses.

van life iquique
And if you aren’t driving your van, you are free to take photos of shit like this.

The United States Can Be Expensive

Looking at our finances in the United States, if we are scrimping we spend about $1,100 a month between food, gas, propane, insurance and all the other stuff.

That is the tight estimate.

The “Oh shit, let’s not spend anything and really rough it” estimate.

Compare that to the $500 a month we sent in Peru last month and you’ll really start to understand just how much we overpay for stuff in the U.S.

rv and van life ballestas islands
That scenery tho!

Now, I’m certainly not saying that South America is a perfect paradise. It’s not. And no place is, but it is filled with a rich history, wonderful people, and AMAZING food.

Food Can Be Much Cheaper in Other Countries

cheap food in south america van life
There is no part of me that thought this would be good, but I was pleasantly surprised.
cheap vanlife food peru
Did you know Peru has like, 3,600 different varieties of potatoes?


Let’s compare two meals:

Meal #1 was in the Houston airport before we left. It was one plate of nachos with no meat, and two beers. It came to $31 plus tip. And let me tell you, it was some of the worst food I’ve ever had in my life. I have always been of the thought that no one could screw up nachos, I now know this is wrong.

Meal #2 was in Arequipa Peru. We had two glasses of wine, two bruschetta appetizers, a giant slab of pesto lasagna for me, and some plate of seafood spaghetti for Dust.

Oh, and two pieces of chocolate cake for dessert.

For $7 bucks.


Tip included.

And it was delicious!

You just can’t get stuff like that in the states.

mcdonalds south america
I hate to promote anything westernized when traveling, but “crack” flavor? Does that mean what I think it does?

You Don’t Have To Stay in an Expensive Hotel When You Travel

If you’re like me, the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word “hostel” is that scene in the movie “Hostel” where that dude has to cut that chick’s eye off because it’s popping out of her head.

It’s horrifying and kept me out of real hostels for a while because I was terrified. That is until Dusty talked some sense into me and made me stay at a few last time we were in Costa Rica.

Not only are 99% of them not filled with murderous psychopaths, but they aren’t as party oriented as you would think.

I assumed American College Students wasted at all hours, but what I saw was polite people from all over the world sharing a simple living space.

And you can always get a private room if you’re an introvert like me.

dogs in south american hostels
Some hostels even come with complimentary dogs which I think is great!

Still unsure about the whole hostel thing? Well, this is probably an obvious one, but Airbnb exists for a reason. It connects people with spare bedrooms to people who need spare bedrooms.

Again, in the U.S., Airbnb’s can get pricey, but in Chile and Peru, we pay on average of $8-$15 a night, and a lot of them include breakfast.

Not too shabby considering the average cost of a stay in the U.S. is $123 USD a night (source).

Ready To Take Your Van or RV Life Abroad?

If South America isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you hate tropical locations or just think good food is icky, there are tons of places you can explore without breaking the bank.

According to Nomadic Matt, some of the best places to go for budget travel include Central America, Cambodia, Portugal, and Thailand. 

So if you live in a Van or Rv in the U.S. and you’re on a budget, check out some of these locations. You might just find yourself spending less than if you stayed at home.

rv life paracas
The view from our $11 dollar a night private balcony in Paracas


Van Life and the Myth of High Cost Travel