At the end of 2015 I went on a 3 week solo trip to Brazil and I’ve decided to write down absolutely all expenses I had while travelling in order to be able to share what my costs ended up being.
My trip to Brazil was exactly 22 days long and I’ve spent my time and money hopping around the country, rather than focusing on one specific region. These are the places I visited: Salvador, Chapada Diamantina, Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto, Mariana, Rio de Janeiro, Bonito and Iguazu Falls. You can see the map of my travels at the end of this article.
I’m gonna tell you straight off how much I’ve spent and then delve into the details of what exactly that got me and provide you with a complete breakdown as well. I also have an excel sheet detailing each expense, just let me know in the comments if that’s something you’d want to see included.
So the total cost for a solo backpacker traveling for 22 days stood at 1708USD / 6,526R$ or 77USD / 297R$ a day.
Do note that currency of course fluctuates and the exchange rate I’m providing here is the one I experienced when I was there, which was 3.82 on average.
If you’re travelling in similar style as a couple or in a group, you can expect the cost per person to be somewhat lower, as you get the benefits of sharing cabs, meals and accommodation. Although with private rooms you might end up spending more per person than I did staying in hostel dorms.
As I mentioned I was hopping around, which meant two internal flights from Salvador to Belo Horizonte and from Rio de Janeiro to Bonito. If I were to focus only on one region and exclude those two flights, my total spent would amount to 1400USD / 5,349R$ or 64$ a day.
The cost of my trip to Brazil
What kind of a traveler am I when it comes to spending?
Well that’s not that easy to compartmentalize. I’m most definitely not of the ultra low budget kind, nor do I travel in luxury either. The amount of money I spend on individual things can touch both of those categories however. I would say I’m somewhere between low cost and medium range, for whatever that might mean to different people :).
In general I look for the best rated places to sleep that fall within my budget (I was aiming at 10-12USD a night for Brazil). I eat out in affordable restaurants, with an occasional visit to a more upscale establishment and almost never prepare my own meals. While I don’t party much, I do enjoy my drink :). I look for interesting things to do, which are often of the active variety like hiking and snorkeling in this trip. I get around by using public transport, an occasional taxi (which is a sure way to ramp up your costs in Brazil and should be avoided if you’re trying to save money) and internal flights when needed. I almost never do any shopping.
Accommodation costs in Brazil
I always stayed in hostel dorms, as private rooms for one person immediately shot up to at least 30USD a night and I’m talking about the very cheapest available option. My aim was to spend around 10-12USD a night and in aggregate, the average came up to 13USD / 50R$. What I was looking for when you boil it down was: a clean place, hot water, convenient location and a communal atmosphere where I could meet other travelers.
As I usually don’t spend much time in a hotel room, I try keeping my accommodation costs low and prefer spending my money on food, activities and sightseeing.
I mostly kept within my budget, with the exception of Rio de Janeiro where I was paying 21USD / 80R$ a night.
Hostel/hotel prices by city:
The costs for a bed in a dorm with an included breakfast were surprisingly uniform throughout the country. I paid almost the same amount in six out of the eight places I stayed at. It is true that I was aiming at that price range, but it was still interesting to see just how similar it was everywhere. The only real exception to that rule was staying in the upscale neighborhood of Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, where I paid double.
Conveniently all the places I stayed at had breakfast included in the price, which means bread, ham and cheese throughout Brazil, with some fruits included.
And here are a couple of photos of the places I’ve stayed at to give you an idea of the standard of quality:
Food prices in Brazil
While Brazil is not exactly India or South East Asia when it comes to food prices, it is nevertheless quite affordable to eat out. My average daily expenditure stood at 18USD and I’ve never prepared my own food in hostels or anything like that. Some of the alcohol I drank is clubbed in with food costs as well, since I wasn’t always separating the two while I was noting down my costs.
An interesting thing in Brazil are the per kilo restaurants, where they charge you based on the amount of food you eat. It basically looks like a buffet, with dishes laid out and all costing the same. You pile up as much as you want or need on your plate and bring it to the cashier, who then weighs it and tells you the price. I often spent something like 4USD in such places for a satisfactory meal.
I wasn’t going to upscale restaurants much, maybe only a few times. I also had street food here and there and gallons of fresh coconut water, with which I fell in love with in Brazil. Never had the same quality since, not even in South India where I live now and have coconut palms basically on my door step.
Examples of food prices in Brazil
And here are some photos to give you and idea of what I was munching on:
A thing to note about Brazil is that they eat really heavy, fatty food and the consequences can be clearly seen, with overweight people accounting for more than 50% of the population and obesity rates standing at 17%. In fact, Brazil is on track to overtaking the US when it comes to obesity. You can stay clear of such foods quite easily if you opt to eat in the per kilo restaurants, as you don’t need to guess what you’re ordering, but instead clearly see what’s in front of you.
A good example of Brazil’s obsession with unhealthy food was when I went to a restaurant with a fellow traveler and she decided to just randomly pick something from the menu. Well, what she got was probably around 400g of shredded beef topped with another 200g of cheese! I truly don’t know how anybody can finish that or why they would want to.
Transportation costs in Brazil
Getting between different places in Brazil can quickly ramp up the total costs of your trip if you plan on visiting attractions that are spread out far in this enormous country. I did just that and hence why I spent so much on transport. If you were to choose a more confined geographical area to explore more in depth, you could easily cut those costs way, way down.
While internal flights are not terribly expensive, they aren’t cheap either and don’t expect low-cost air travel which you can get in Europe or Asia for example. There might be some destinations where you can get a bargain, but otherwise you’d do well to book far in advance and sacrifice a bit of spontaneity.
When it comes to overland travel, buses are the standard option. They are well kept, of good quality and the prices are reasonable. The quality of buses was about the same in my case and I never used any sleeper ones, since they weren’t available on my routes. A thing to note is that getting around in Bahia was far cheaper than for example my trip from Rio de Janeiro to Ouro Preto, although the distance was similar.
Examples of prices, distances and transport modes
Costs of Activities & Sightseeing in Brazil
I’ve spent quite a lot of money on organized tours and activities in my 3 weeks of travel, but I do have to say that I was constantly doing something. While a lot of these activities couldn’t be done independently there are a few that I could have easily have done on my own – like some of the sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro.
I guess I decided to do those on an organized tour, since it’s been a while since I’ve done solo traveling before my trip to Brazil and Rio was my very first destination. That, combined with quite a nasty reputation the city has, convinced me to be somewhat more careful than I usually am. I’m not saying anything bad would happen to me if I went on my own, but you really never know as the robbery and violent attack which happened to me once in India, illustrates.
You can find some examples of stuff I’ve done in the table below.
I have to point out that some of these organized activities were highly overpriced, especially a visit to a waterfall in the vicinity of Bonito. I mean seriously, 60USD to go see a waterfall and walk around the jungle for a bit?! The thing with Bonito is that while truly a beautiful area to visit, the problem is that all these sights lie one private land and these tycoons are overcharging like crazy. When you contrast that with the arguably the mightiest waterfall on Earth – Iguazu, which costs only USD 13 to see, it becomes even more ridiculous.
I can understand jungle river snorkeling being kind of expensive, but not a visit to a waterfall, jeez… While I’m talking about the river snorkeling, it really is a one of a kind experience and totally worth the money. If you’re short on it, still try squeezing at least one run into your budget, however since Bonito is really out of the way, you probably wont come here just for a one day excursion. Thing is, if you made it here in the first place, then just suck it up and spend some dough, you don’t get to snorkel in a jungle every day!
Chapada Diamantina was my favorite place in Brazil, as I’m a huge nature fan. What I found annoying however was that hiking trails were not marked anywhere and I had to hire a guide every time I wanted to go trekking anywhere. While the unofficial guide was quite a good bargain at 13USD per person (we got a group together), going through an actual agency was far more expensive at 40USD per person. While I don’t mind paying for a hiking guide if the terrain is difficult or the place hard to get to, this isn’t the case here.
So if you plan on doing it yourself without a guide, invest some time into researching the area, so you’ll be prepared before coming there. Maps.me proved to be a useful app while I was there as I met some travelers that introduced me to it. I’ve been happily using it on my travels ever since.
The city tours in Rio De Janerio were in my opinion quite a good way to see a lot of the famous sights, without the hassle of trying to figure out the public transport myself. The one that cost 52USD / 200R$ got me to Christ the Redeemer, Pau Azucar mountain, Lapa neighborhood, a cool looking church and some other places. While it was perhaps somewhat rushed, the price was not much higher than if I visited these sights on my own.
I also really loved the favela tour I went for in Rio and I just wouldn’t have ventured into that area on my own. Or even if I did, I would have never spent so much time in it or gotten to know all the intriguing details of how life it there. I definitely recommend you do it and if you’re looking for bragging rights of have gone there on your own, just do the tour after you’ve already visited the place solo or something like that ;).