The rise of the transatlantic budget airline – WOW, Norwegian & Level compared

The rise of the transatlantic budget airline – WOW, Norwegian & Level compared

The cost of travelling from Europe to the United States and Canada (or vice-versa) is going down. The suggestion that budget airlines could start operating transatlantic flights has been around for a while but it’s only in the past year or so that we’ve seen a real breakthrough. Crucially there are now several low-cost airlines operating similar routes which is helping drive prices down, even on the more established airlines and for budget-minded travellers at least, there has never been a better time to take a little trip across the Atlantic.

What are the flights like?

There are differences between the airlines featured below, which are explained in the article but essentially the on-board service they offer is quite similar. If you opt for cheapest ticket option, in terms of legroom, you’re likely to get a little more than you might on a typical budget flight in Europe but it can still feel a bit cramped given the length of the journey. Seats with extra-legroom, like almost everything else can be purchased for a fee and that essentially is where they differ from the more traditional long-haul airlines. Everything from food and drinks to wifi and checked luggage comes at a cost and often a great one!

Budget flights from Europe to the Americas – WOW, Norwegian & Level compared


Norwegian


Who are they?

The rapid recent growth of Norwegian is one of the best things to happen to the aviation industry this century. They’ve established themselves in Europe with low-cost fares and a large network whilst offering a much better all-round experience and more pleasant customer service than a certain Irish budget airline. In the past few years they’ve started adding more destinations further-afield and they are the market leader in terms of low-cost travel from Europe to the United States.

Where do they fly?

Norwegian currently flies from Europe to 12 different airports in the US. If you’re heading the other way, there are many direct options while Norwegian’s extensive European network allows for easy connections for just about anywhere you need to go and it shouldn’t add much to the base cost of your ticket.

The US airports currently served are Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle out West, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando in Florida plus New York (JFK & Newark, Newburgh), Boston, Providence and Windsor Locks in the Northeast. The list is growing though with Las Vegas, Chicago and Austin soon to be added while they are also set to start operating direct flights from London to Buenos Aires in 2018.

Costs

At the time of research the cheapest one-way flights booked 1-2 months in advance from London Gatwick to Boston were £135, Fort Lauderdale £140 while somewhat curiously there were cheaper flights to Oakland (30 mins out of San Francisco) at £140 than New York £150.

Flights from Oslo to New York started at €133 while Copenhagen to JFK was €155. These are all just example fares and it’s not that hard to find this kind of value from any of the main Western or Northern European nations.

Fares the other way looked roughly similar with some cracking last-minute deals available such as New York to Belfast for £83, flying the following week. Overall though it’s still advisable to book at least a few weeks in advance.

Baggage & Additional charges

One piece of hand baggage and one personal item (combined weight 10kg) can be carried on-board for free. No checked baggage is included with their ‘LowFares’ and one piece of hold luggage costs £40 for direct flights and a hefty £80 if you are taking an international connecting flight (e.g. Hamburg-Oslo-Los Angeles).

Pre-ordered meals can be added for £25 per person one-way or you can just purchase snacks and meals onboard. Alcoholic drinks are available for £6-13. Even blankets and headsets come at a cost.

Full details of baggage fees and extra charges on Norwegian.

Pros & Cons

One major advantage on the other two is that they don’t just operate out of one base. Norway is their home and they have direct flights to both coasts of the US from Oslo while the East Coast can be reached from Bergen. However they actually have more direct transatlantic flights out of London (Gatwick) while you can also fly direct to the US from Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Barcelona, Paris (CDG), Copenhagen and Stockholm. That helps cut down the connections and the amount of time spent travelling.

The additional fees are hefty though particularly the baggage which can add up-to £160 return for just one piece of checked luggage if you’re flying return and taking a connecting flight. Unless you’re literally going for months, try your utmost to squeeze everything into one backpack and take it on board with you for free.

Norwegian Air reviewed

Norwegian plane via Karendesuyo, CC BY 2.0


WOW air


Who are they?

WOW air are an Icelandic low-cost carrier founded in 2011 and they started flying to the United States in 2015. They now operate many budget flights to North America and Europe from their Reykjavík base. Iceland is just about the only place that is conveniently located as a transit stop between the two continents and they’ve taken advantage of that by offering a free stopover in Iceland, which is a fantastic place to visit in its own right. (Note you have to book a return trip from Europe to North America to be eligible for this, for one-way tickets you can only transfer in the airport).

Where do they fly?

WOW are very different from Norwegian in that all their flights are either to/from Reykjavík’s Keflavík International Airport so it’s impossible to fly direct from mainland Europe or the UK to North America with them. They do though have a more extensive choice of North American destinations. Unlike Norwegian, they fly to Canada, serving Montreal and Toronto. Their US destinations at the time of writing (October 2017) were Boston, New York, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, St Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Their European network isn’t quite as extensive though with flights to Reykjavik from 19 cities including Bristol, London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Berlin, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Brussels, Barcelona, Paris, Milan and Warsaw. They also have a service from Iceland to Tel Aviv in Israel.

Costs

WOW it seems are more geared towards targeting Americans wanting to visit Europe than the other way around and they do have some great deals. At the time of research, you could fly the following month from Chicago to Amsterdam and even Tel Aviv for just $149.99 one-way with the WOW Basic fare (ticket + one personal item of hand luggage) although most flights were roughly $50 more. Similar fares were available at relatively short notice for many routes such as New York-Paris and LA-London while flights from Dallas to London, Paris, Amsterdam or Berlin started at $199.99. Some of the cheapest fares seemed to be from Miami (Dublin from $119 for example).

It is worth noting with WOW and other airlines for that matter, that while you can often bag one great deal such as that, finding a convenient return flight for the same price can be more challenging. With WOW, it should be doable for around $350-400 return from North America to Europe or vice-versa for many of their routes if you’re flexible on time but you may need to search around a bit.

Baggage & Additional charges

You can take one personal item on board for free (upto 10kg). This essentially matches what Norwegian offer although the terminology is different and it has to be in one bag. An additional bag can be taken on board at a cost.

Their additional costs vary depending on the route – Check yours here. As a rough guide checking in one 20kg bag costs $59.99 for London Gatwick to Toronto (do it at the time of booking to avoid an even steeper fee). Their food isn’t cheap either – scrambled eggs with tomato salad for $13 anyone? However given the stopover limits the length of each flight, you can probably just hold out and get something nicer and more filling at Keflavík Airport.

Pros & Cons

If it’s the very cheapest fares for flying from USA to Europe or vice-versa than WOW is tough to beat and if you’re not checking in baggage, you can find some incredible deals. The ability to stopover in Iceland is another major draw if time is no barrier to you. It would be pretty easy to spend several days or more there and then continue your journey, effectively getting two trips for the price of one. If you’re considering this, check out our article on the cost of travel in Iceland!

However if that doesn’t appeal or you’re travelling for a specific purpose, the lack of direct flights offered by WOW is a drawback. Timewise it shouldn’t add a great deal of time on as many airlines fly in that direction anyway when they cross the Atlantic but having to transfer is a bit of a hassle.

Using two shorter flights instead of one long one to cross the Atlantic also allows WOW to act more like a short-haul budget airline and thus cut-down on the leg-room and offer no in-flight entertainment (bring your own entertainment if you want to avoid hours of boredom – they do at least have a universal plug socket under each seat). In terms of the in-flight experience and comfort they are the worst of the three airlines featured in this article.

WOW, Norwegian & Level compared

Beautiful Iceland via Giuseppe Milo, CC BY 2.0


Level


Who are they?

Level are the new kids on the block with their first flights taking off only in June 2017. Right now they are very small-time compared to the other two and they only have two airplanes! However given they are owned by IAG, who own both British Airways and Iberia, there is big potential for expansion. The fact they have taken the trouble to start a low-cost transatlantic carrier suggests that this new age of cheap travel across the Atlantic is here to stay.

Where do they fly?

Right now they only fly four routes, all from Barcelona to Los Angeles, Oakland, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) and most interestingly Buenos Aires.

Costs

Level made a splash by promising flights from Europe to the United States for under €100 when they first launched and now they are saying you can fly to LA & Oakland (for San Francisco) from €149, Buenos Aires from €269 and Punta Cana from €369.

At the time of research (mid-October 2017) it was pretty easy to find flights to Oakland in the region of €150-200 one-way for the following month but flying back there seemed to be considerably fewer cheap options. The LA flights appeared to be ceasing for the winter.

There was nothing under €500 to Buenos Aires though so the initial excitement about the possibility of finally getting cheap flights from Europe to South America looks a little short-lived although prices should fall when the competition increases and Norwegian starts flying direct to the Argentine capital on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Baggage & Additional charges

Like the other airlines, there are additional charges for just about everything, although the in-flight entertainment on the screen in front of you is free (as is the case with Norwegian). A checked bag when booked online is €40/$44, which although still a bit of a rip-off, compares favourably to the other two airlines. With their cheapest fare option, a hot meal costs a ridiculous €35 but snacks and sandwiches can be purchased on-board by pressing some buttons on your screen at any time for much less. WIFI is available for a fee but again doesn’t come cheap with both hourly and data limits.

Full list of Level Additional Charges

Pros & Cons

The free in-flight entertainment and general comfort level is certainly better than you get on WOW and rivals that of Norwegian. The airline has basically been set up to rival Norwegian who were taking customers of BA and Iberia so it offers a similar service.

However the lack of routes is a major drawback as is the fact you have to get to Barcelona first if you are heading Stateside. It would though be easy to use that as an excuse to have a short break in Barcelona (there are worse places to be stuck for a few days!).

For now at least, the flights to Buenos Aires and Punta Cana don’t really offer any great savings on other airlines so the LA and Oakland routes are the only ones that could seriously be considered budget and given the distance involved, the fares are very reasonable indeed.

cheap flights to San Francisco

San Francisco – A short train ride from Oakland Airport, served by Level.

Have you flown with any of these airlines? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! 


This article was published in October 2017.


 

Backpacking Route for Mexico

latin america routes


Mexico Backpacking Route

Our backpacking route for Mexico takes in the best the South of the country has to offer. If you follow it, you’ll travel from the tranquil seas of the Caribbean to the giant waves of the Pacific via a host of a ancient Maya cities, jungle ruins and pleasant mountain towns. The route then cuts through Mexico’s cultural heartland before ending up in the enormous capital city, one of the largest and liveliest on the planet.


TIME NEEDED – 5 weeks

If you’re not that fussed with beaches or not that interested in the Maya ruins, you could probably do this route in a month or less by spending less than the suggested amount of time at some of the destinations. Overall though about 5 weeks would be a suitable time-span.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1000 | €1100 | US$1250 | 23,000 Mexican Pesos

Mexico is really good value on the whole and if you’re heading here from the States, immediately you will appreciate how much more you can get for your money. However heading North from Central America, it may seem slightly more expensive.

This budget doesn’t include the cost of getting to/from Mexico or any other pre-trip expenses. It is based on July 2017 prices and exchange rates. Read our more detailed Backpacking Budget for Mexico, which includes typical travel costs.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR MEXICO

Mexico is pretty chilled when it comes to entry requirements. There’s no long questioning or waits at the border like you often get trying to enter the United States. Visitors from EU countries, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and most Latin American countries can get a generous 180 days visa-free. You can use our visa-check tool to confirm whether or not you need a visa.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel insurance is always advisable, not just because of Mexico’s perceived dangers. We recommend World Nomads, who specialise in covering backpacking trips.


Backpacking route for Mexico

Our Mexico travel itinerary is convenient in that it starts in Cancun and ends in Mexico City, which are home to the two busiest airports in the country and the ones with by far the greatest options in terms of international flights. One of the problems with travel in Mexico is that domestic flights can be quite pricey so if you just head off with no real plan, it’s quite possible you’ll end up somewhere quite isolated. That could leave you having to fork out a considerable amount just to fly somewhere with an international airport or alternatively having to backtrack on a long bus journey.

Mexico is deceptively big and to put that into some perspective, a direct flight from Cancun in the South-east to Tijuana in the North-West on the US border takes around 5 hours. Therefore unless you have months to spare, it’s best to base your trip around one or two parts of the country rather than attempting to go everywhere. The Mexico backpacker trail primarily focuses on the South of the country, which is home to most of the more popular travel destinations and is generally considered to be safer than the North.

This route summarises a typical path travellers in the country take and you could easily just do it in reverse and there may be something to be said for ending your trip with some relaxed days on Mexico’s Caribbean coastline.


Cancun

(1 day)

If you’ve had a long flight in then you may wish to book a hotel for a night in Cancun to get some rest but there are nicer places further South, that are generally much more to the liking of backpackers and budget travellers.


Playa del Carmen

(3-4 days)

Playa del Carmen is a fun place to hang out for a few days. Yes it’s touristy but it’s nowhere near as trashy or expensive as Cancun and there are many hostels catering to backpackers. The beaches are great and the nightlife is pumping with many bars and clubs offering excellent drinks deals. The nearby island of Cozumel is also a nice option if you want some additional beach time.


Tulum

Caribbean beach Mexico

image via Pascal under CC BY 2.0

(2-3 days)

There are two main reasons why travellers head to Tulum. The first is its gorgeous beach, which is among the best on the Riviera Maya and that is saying something. It is also home to the well preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan city so you can get a dose of culture and history too before cooling off in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. At night, it’s nowhere near as lively as Playa del Carmen and is a much quieter destination overall, with yoga retreats recently cropping up on its cliffs.


Chichen Itza

(1/2 a day)

One of Mexico’s most famous sites. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan ruins, with the enormous pyramid known as El Castillo, its centrepiece. There are limited budget accommodation options nearby so it’s probably best to just stop here for an afternoon to break up the journey between Tulum and Merida.


Merida

(2-4 days)

The state capital of Yucatán, Merida is one of the biggest cities on this route, but by no means overwhelming with around 750,000 residents. It’s a fascinating cultural destination, founded by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Merida is a city of plazas, palaces, cathedrals and museums. While it may only take a couple of days to discover the city, there’s plenty to see and do around the town with nearby Maya ruins, a wildlife refuge and the famous cenotes.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Hostal La Ermita, Merida

This is a great hostel which ticks pretty much all the boxes. The staff are friendly, the price is reasonable, breakfast is included and there’s a nice pool and patio area to chill in.


Campeche

(1-2 days)

In some respects, Campeche is not dissimilar to Merida. It’s a bit smaller but is another city with Spanish origins and its colonial old town has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The nearest maya ruins are at Edzna, a relatively small site around an hour away.


Palenque

budget travel in Mexico

(1-2 days)

Palenque is a large site that was once home to an ancient Maya city. Its ruins are some of the best preserved in the whole region, largely thanks to the jungle which offers natural shelter. It could take the whole day to explore the site but there’s little to do in the nearby modern-day town itself. You can either stay there or find somewhere on the edge of the national park near the Maya site.


San Cristobal de las Casas

(2 days)

Arguably the prettiest town on the route, San Cristobal de las Casas is full of colourful buildings and cobblestone streets. Its highland location offers a pleasant break from the heat and it can get quite chilly at night. Just strolling around the town is enjoyable enough and if you fancy a longer stay there are volunteering opportunities as well as host of reasonably priced Spanish language schools.


Zipolite & Mazunte

backpackers in Mexico

(3-4 days)

Zipolite and Mazunte are two beach villages on Mexico’s rugged Oaxaca Coast. It takes only about 10 minutes and costs only a few pesos to travel from one to the other in a colectivo so you can choose to base yourself in one and visit the other or spend a couple of days in each.

Zipolite is the livelier of the two although that’s only a relative concept. Both places are very small and although there’s only a limited amount of things to do, it’s about the only place in Mexico where you can still find a cheap bungalow/hut on the beach and fall asleep accompanied by the sounds of Pacific Ocean waves crashing into the shore. Zipolite is also Mexico’s only beach where you can go nude, while Mazunte has a growing reputation for impromptu live music. Like many destinations on this route, the ease of getting marijuana is an appeal to some travellers.


Puerto Escondido

(2-3 days)

A bit further up the coast, you reach the much larger Puerto Escondido, which is popular with both domestic and international travellers. It’s a big surfing destination with some seriously large waves, which make swimming virtually impossible. There’s also a turtle conservation programme and you can assist every day at 5pm when baby turtles are released into the sea.


Oaxaxa

(2-3 days)

The city of Oaxaca is the capital of the state of the same name but it’s slow ride up from Puerto Escondido, which can take as long as 8 hours by road. It’s the state’s main cultural centre with a couple of interesting museums and a walkable city-centre. Nearby Monte Alban is another UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most impressive ruins sites in Latin America. Every Thursday and Saturday, trips run to the nearby village of Teotitlán del Valle by the non-profit Fundacion en Via and it’s a good opportunity to meet locals and make a positive contribution to fighting poverty in the region, whilst also having an interesting experience.


Huautla de Jimenez

(1-3 days)

One of the most curious destinations on the route. Huautla de Jimenez is a remote mountain town that was popular with the hippies in the 1960’s and the extremely strong psilocybe mushrooms that grow here during the wet season still attract some foreigners. Shamanic rituals still take place during this period but visitors also come to explore the stunning mountain range that surrounds the town and it’s a funky little place to hang around for a while.


Puebla

(2-3 days)

Many travellers visit Pubela as a day-trip from the capital but given it’s en-route, it’s well worth stopping off here for a few nights to catch your breath before heading to Mexico City. Puebla is a city of around 1.5million people so it’s a pretty big place with lots of beautiful buildings and interesting landmarks, not to mention lots of tasty and cheap street-food. It’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains and volcanoes so it’s also well worth heading out of town and exploring the natural surroundings for a final dose of fresh air before the smog of the capital.


Mexico City & Around

Mexico City on a budget

(3-5 days)

Mexico City is enormous! First-time visitors often find visiting an overwhelming experience and it’s not easy to know where to base yourself or where to begin. Like any large city it has its hassles but the tourist areas are not considered dangerous and there is a heavy police presence in the old city. The giant Zócalo, the city’s main plaza and one of the largest squares in the world is a good starting point and there are many interesting museums and cultural sites nearby that document various periods of Mexican history. For a more modern-day experience take in a football match at the giant Estadio Azteca or get to grips with the entertaining world of lucha libre, a Mexican form of professional wrestling (live shows take place every Friday at 20:30).

There are also a number of day-trips that can be done from Mexico City. A visit to the vast archaeological site at Teotihuacan, Northeast of the city is one of the most popular. Nature and adventure sports lovers would be wise to check out Valle de Bravo and/or the Desert of the Lions National Park. Meanwhile new-age Tepoztlan is reportedly a UFO hotspot with a large number of the town’s residents having reported seeing one!


MFT RECOMMENDS – Mexico City Hostel

Location is key when booking a hostel in Mexico City and it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s in the heart of the old city and although there are no fancy extras, it does the basics well for a good price.



Extending your trip

This Mexico backpacking route only covers the bottom third of the country, where a lot of the travel highlights are located. It could be considered loosely speaking the most typical backpacker trail in Mexico although it’s not rigidly followed by everyone by any means. Perhaps more common these days is for backpackers to head South to Guatemala rather than North. You can easily combine some of this with our backpacking route for Central America, which does just that and carries on all the way down to Panama.

If you want to see more of Mexico then there’s plenty more cool places to go but the best destinations are quite spread out so be prepared for some more long bus journeys or consider forking out for a flight or two. Highlights further North include Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, which are reasonably easy to get to from Mexico City and could quite easily be added onto this route although you’ll most likely have to backtrack to the capital for an onward flight.

Baja California is another popular coastal region, great for surfing and you can even head all the way North to the US-Mexico border and continue your adventure in California. Alternatively you can take Mexico’s most famous train ride and head to the stunning and very remote Copper Canyon, which feels a world away from the tourist resorts of the city or the madness of Mexico City.

Cartagena in Colombia, where our South America backpacking route starts, isn’t a million miles away either so if you’ve got the time, you could certainly do plenty more travelling in the region.


Budget Accommodation in Mexico

Getting budget accommodation in Mexico is pretty straight-forward unless you’re travelling in peak tourist season (exact time varies from place to place) or during a national holiday. In most towns on this route, you can just show up and find a room or bed, with prices negotiable in a lot of cases, especially during low season. In the bigger towns it’s probably still advisable to book something in advance as the hostels and main backpacker options are often spread out across town.


Is Mexico Dangerous?

Mexico gets a lot of bad press and certainly is perceived as a dangerous country by many. However don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear from a certain president. If you’re sensible and avoid a handful of places, mostly in the North, well away from the stops on this route, you should have no trouble. Rates of violent crime are high but this is massively skewed by drug-related violence and rarely effects visitors.

 


This article was published in July 2017.


USA Backpacking Budget

USA backpacking budget

(Map of USA from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in the USA on a Shoestring Budget

US$65

Much of the advice we gave in our Canada budget applies here too. Like Canada it is a very large country but with considerably more places of interest so your expenses really depend on how ambitious you want to be. Focusing on just one area of the country for example California or the North-East then our USA backpacking budget of $65/day is realistic enough. However if you want to visit several different parts of the country in say a month or less then you might want to check out the budget below and perhaps still add a bit more.

On an every day level, USA is perhaps slightly cheaper than most of Western Europe or countries like Japan and Australia. Food is pretty good value when you consider the enormous portions and one meal can leave you pretty full for the day while alcohol is also quite cheap compared to most of Europe.

However aside from the cost of covering large distances, which isn’t that great by bus, what makes USA a bit more expensive for the shoestring traveller is the relative lack of real budget accommodation. Whereas in other parts of the world you will find plenty of hostels with dorms in even the smallest towns, that isn’t really the case in the US. The biggest cities do of course have them but not that many and given the lack of competition they are not that cheap and therefore accommodation costs tend to take up quite a big chunk of your budget.

See where USA ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.


More Comfortable USA Backpacker Budget

US$85

You can easily end up spending $30 or more a night on accommodation in the United States, perhaps more than half our previous budget so it doesn’t leave you a lot left over for anything else. Therefore adding another $20 on is probably a good idea if your trip is a short one of say a few weeks and you want to see as much as you can. This will give you a bit of room to take a few domestic flights that will allow you to see more of the country.

It is also worth noting that travelling with a few friends will generally cut your costs somewhat. If you are a group of 4 or 5 then renting a car might prove more cost effective and will certainly give you more flexibility and that should be easy to fit into this budget, especially if you spend a few nights on the road and manage to save on accommodation that way.


Sample Prices in USA

Flight from New York to Miami (3 hours) – $80 (when booked in advance) + baggage

Bus from San Francisco to LA (8 hours) – around $35

Meal in an inexpensive restaurant – $12-15

Large local beer in a bar or restaurant – $4

Dorm Bed in Chicago – from $22/night

Dorm Bed in New York – from $35/night

Private Double or Twin room in New York – from $70/night

Private Double or Twin room in New Orleans – from $45/night


Money

Currency – US Dollars

£1 = $1.44

€1 = $1.14

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)


MFT Recommends

Accommodation is the big budget killer in the United States so couchsurfing really is a very good option here and even if you’ve never done it before, there’s not a better place to try it for the first time.


street art in New York City

street art in New York, USA (via Rodrigo BernalCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve travelled in the USA recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016.


Mexico Backpacking Budget

Mexico backpacking budget

(Map of Mexico from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


Daily Travel Costs in Mexico on a Shoestring Budget

US$35 | 650 Mexican Pesos

Mexico is a large and generally fairly cheap country to travel in although there are a few notable exceptions. These are mostly the tourist resorts such as Cancun, where prices for almost everything are significantly higher than you’ll find in the rest of the country. If you avoid them then there is no reason why you can’t get by on something like $35/day and still have a really good time.

It is a country with lots of excellent local dishes and drinks so eating and drinking out is one of the highlights of a visit to Mexico and is generally very good value as even the fussiest of eaters won’t struggle to find something that grabs their fancy. Travelling around is reasonably priced if you can put up with long hours on buses but if you do want to visit the North as well as the South then you might want to allow for a bit more than this as it’s a lot of miles you will need to cover. Flying between destinations is considerably more expensive in Mexico with few budget airlines running domestic routes.

Accommodation though is very cheap particularly if you’re willing to stick to dorms and won’t take up a large chunk of this budget leaving you with plenty left over for other things.

See where Mexico ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in Central America


More Comfortable Mexico Backpacker Budget

US$45 | 850 Pesos

Adding $10 will give you a bit more freedom to take trips or try a few more different activities out. You afford to do quite a bit of partying even on our shoestring Mexico backpacking budget and an extra $10 could go towards that if you so wished although nights out aren’t particularly expensive if you avoid the swankier places and in the more traveller-orientated towns girls can often get free entry and free drinks in many nightspots.

If you want to see most of the country as opposed to sticking in one region for a longer period of time then US$45 might be a better budget particularly if you are restricted by time more than money.

Check out our backpacking route for Mexico, for a suggested itinerary.


Sample Prices in Mexico

Flight from Mexico City to Cancun (2 hours 15 mins) – from 1200 Pesos ($65)

Bus from Playa del Carmen to Chetumal (4 hours) – from 175 Pesos ($9.50)

Meal at an inexpensive local restaurant – 80 Pesos ($4.50)

Local beer at a non-touristy bar or restaurant – 20 Pesos ($1)

Dorm bed in Mexico City or San Cristobal – from 80 Pesos ($4.50)

Dorm bed in Playa del Carmen or Tulum – from 140 Pesos ($7.50)

Budget private double or twin room in Mexico City – from 170 Pesos ($9)

Entrance to Chichén Itzá – 200 Pesos (including tax) ($11)


Money

Currency – Mexican Peso

£1 = 26.74 Pesos

€1 = 21.06 Pesos

US$1 = 18.56 Pesos

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)

Some businesses in tourist destinations like Cancun may still accept US Dollars despite a law aimed at banishing the Dollar from the Mexican economy. However it is still advantageous to pay for things in Mexican Pesos and in most parts of the country Dollars are not accepted.


MFT Recommends

Be sure to visit Tulum which is one of the few places that both those interested in Mexico’s archaeological wonders and wonderful beaches will enjoy. The Hostal Chalupa is one of the best places to stay on a budget.


street art in mexico

street art in Oaxaca, Mexico (via Jen WlltonCC BY-NC 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Mexico recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016


Canada Backpacking Budget

Canada Backpacking Budget

(Map of Canada regions from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 2.5)


Daily Travel Costs in Canada on a Shoestring Budget

US$60 | 80 Canadian Dollars

Canada is one of the hardest places to give an accurate budget for mostly because it is enormous. Our other budgets are generally based on trying to visit all the main destinations in the country and a few things in-between but in Canada that will either involve covering in excess of 5,000km by land or taking a domestic flight that is as long and expensive as a cross-continental one. Montreal is roughly the same distance away from Vancouver as it is from London for example.

So our Canada backpacking budget of 80 Canadian Dollars is primarily based on picking one area of the country (for example Southern Ontario & Quebec) and sticking too it. If you want to visit another part of the country, treat the cost of a flight as extra. In terms of daily expenses Canada is not cheap by any means and is pretty much in line with what you might expect in Western Europe although you should find it slightly cheaper than the UK or France.

Although it is so big, there isn’t a huge amount of regional variation in terms of prices although Vancouver is generally considered to be slightly more expensive than the cities in the East such as Montreal or Toronto.

See where Canada ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.


More Comfortable Canada Backpacker Budget

US$75 | 100 Canadian Dollars

Again it’s tough to give an accurate figure as people tend to come to Canada for specific reasons rather than just to travel around and take each day as it comes. If you are planning on doing a lot of winter sports then you can certainly expect to spend considerably more than this but there do tend to be quite a lot of ways to work in Canada that will help fund all that. If you want to spend a long time in the country but don’t have enormous funds, consider applying for a job at one of the ski resorts during the ski-season and using it as a base to travel.


Sample Prices in Canada

Toronto to Montreal bus (7 hours) – from 35 CAD

Vancouver to Toronto flight (4 hours 30 mins) – 300+ CAD

Dorm bed in Vancouver – from 25 CAD/night

Dorm bed in Montreal – from 20 CAD/night

Budget private double/twin room in Montreal or Toronto – from 45 CAD/night

Meal in a cheap restaurant – 15 CAD

Large local beer in bar/restaurant – 6 CAD

Entrance to Canadian Museum of History – 15 CAD (11 for students)

Compare Canada prices with the cost of travel in USA.


Money

Currency – Canadian Dollars

£1 = 1.91 CAD

€1 = 1.45 CAD

US$1 = 1.30 CAD

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)


MFT Recommends

Go to Montreal and stay at the Auberge Saint Paul. Excellent hostel with best value beds in town.


street art in Montreal

street art in Montreal, Quebec (via AV DezignCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Canada recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉


This article was published in June 2016.