World Cruising Budget – How much does it cost?

One question we are asked frequently is, “What kind of budget did you have for your four year voyage?”  We hear this question from other people planning to cruise like we did.

What it cost us will be different from others because the answer depends on the person(s) cruising, the type (length & make) of the boat and the cruising destination(s).  These variables will determine the amount of money spent on a voyage.

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DIY Hair Cuts


Like living on land a cruising lifestyle can be frugal or extravagant. How you choose to live on a boat and cruising to various locations will depend on you.  But here are some things to consider when deciphering your budget by examining each category…

Person(s) – Do you prefer…

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Eating street food has many pleasant surprises & local cuisine
  • Living on the hook (cheap) or dockside at a marina (expensive)
  • Eating out every night (expensive) or dining in (cheaper)
  • Buying trinkets or souvenirs at every location or just enjoying the moment
  • Do you take a taxi (expensive), bus (less expensive) or walk (dirt-cheap) when you reach land
  • When you reach a destination, are you hiring a guide to show you around or trekking about the area to make your own discoveries?

Boat – The type of boat can cost you more…

Boat Maintenance
  • The larger the boat, the more it costs to operate it.  A bigger boat exponentially increases the cost to moor it, store it & possibly clear it into a country
  • A bigger boat can cost more to maintain and outfit.  For example larger sails, winches, line and even requires more equipment  etc..
  • Do you own the boat or are you making payments?
  • Are you required to carry boat insurance?
  • Consider fuel consumption.  Do you sail in light winds or motor just to get to your destination?
  • Is your boat decked out in the latest technology or do you have what you need to get by?  Keep in mind, technology can fail and need replacing.  We had to replace our ham radio.
  • Where do you plan to haul out your boat for hull painting and maintenance?  We found it to be more expensive outside of the States.
  • Regardless of the age of your boat, even if it’s a new boat, you will be spending money on unexpected repairs and replacements.  So be ready for that expense.
  • Can you make the repairs yourself (DIY projects are economical) or do you have to hire someone (your shelling out the big bucks)?

Destinations – Where are you cruising?

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Inexpensive food at markets
  • Check-in fees in third world countries can cost more than in developed countries, but cruising in them can make up for the initial cost.  Groceries, dining, services, fuel, and attractions can cost less.  For example.. When we cruised (2005-2009) the cost of diesel in the Mediterranean was $9/gallon and in Venezuela it was $.11/gallon.
  • If your cruising destination is in  popular tourist locations, you will be paying more for the services provided on shore.
  • Are you leaving your boat for land excursions?
  • Are you required to renew your visa if you stay too long in one country?  You may have to leave the country for the visa renewal.
  • You also might be hit up for a bribe or asked to give a gift to a government official.  Negotiate the price if this happens.

After reviewing the above questions examine how you currently spend money on land.  This may help you evaluate your potential cruising budget for the following.  

Adult Beverages
Eating Out

For example, you might plan a food budget of $300 per month.  But this amount may not cover your food expenses if you’re frequently dinning out and have drinks.  Some people say, “I’ll eat rice and beans.”  That’s great if you do eat rice and beans on land.  If you don’t, I can’t imagine this drastic shift in your meals, so be realistic.

Fuel (Diesel, Dinghy Gas, Propane)

While boating in home waters, do you motor-sail or sail?  The more you motor the more you will need fuel.

Now consider the following?

Insurance (boat, health, dental)
Replacement Parts (bilge pumps, fuel filters, toilet kits, for some ideas)
Clearance Cost in the countries you want to visit
Do you have land-based monthly bills?
Budget for some fun like tours, attractions, and trinkets



We cruised on less than many of our fellow-cruisers did.  How?  We had a 35 foot, bare-bones boat.We ate out,but in affordable places.

If you’re interested our voyage and what it cost us, we’ve shared our expenses in our book, Sailing The Waterhouse South Until the Butter Melts. 

Some people don’t like our style of travel, but this lifestyle was not a sacrifice to us.  We are used to it…our lifestyle on shore is fiscally conservative.  We don’t have car payments (we drive old cars), we rarely eat out (I like to cook awesome meals), our entertainment is watching DVDs, hiking, playing disk-golf, reading, basically living inexpensively.  We do this so we can afford to go out on a boat and travel the world again.

So do what you can afford, it will vary from person to person.

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Roti Island-Indonesia- Locals checking out our bikes

If you want more information on how to cruise on a tight budget, read, “Cost Conscious Cruiser” by Lin & Larry Pardey.   They can give you insight on how to do it on the cheap, because it’s easy to spend money if you have it.