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.

Consider Visiting the Sinai Peninsula- It has Mysteries in the Desert

Still want to visit Egypt but afraid of the political situation?  Then consider visiting the Sinai Peninsula.  There are many resorts and upscale accommodations in the seaside town of Sharm El Sheikh that cater to westerners.  But the main reason I would recommend the Sinai is the chance to visit St. Catherine’s Monastery.

It is said that this is where Moses received the Ten Commandments.  It is also where all three religions (Judaism, Islam & Christianity)are recognized and is at least represented within the monastery.  Besides the history and beautiful artifacts, you can also stay there.  The accommodations are simple and clean and are available for $15 per night.

One favorite pastime for guests is to climb Mt. Sinai in the early morning hours to where Moses received the 10 commandments and watch the sun rise.  This is a great destination even for those of us not especially religious…but for those that appreciate history and the accomplishments of man.

When visiting this region, do your homework before hand regarding the best way to reach the monastery.   Keep in mind, in this region tipping is expected for simple services and conservative dress, outside of the resort areas, is highly recommended. 

 Here are more photos of the monastery and Sinai.

Making it to Male

We sailed eleven days in our thirty-five foot sloop from Thailand to reach our destination, the Maldives.  Discreetly nestled in the Indian Ocean, this island nation is roughly 450 miles Southwest of Sri Lanka.  This archipelago has over 1,100 flat, coral-crushed islands with only 200 of the atolls inhabited.

As we approached Male, the capital and only bustling city of the Maldives, we noticed tall pastel colored buildings stacked side by side like dominos.  We didn’t know what we would find in Male but I had read that most of the Maldives’ population resides here–about 75,000 people.  I knew the city’s citizens were 100% Muslim and to walk the circumference of this small atoll would take a little over an hour.

With its buildings and narrow streets, a satellite image of Male gives it the appearance of a Mini-Manhattan.  There are very little natural resources here.  Most of the items to buy here are imported in.  With the lack of raw materials, the main revenue generated is from its healthy tourism industry.

Most of the visitors to the Maldives escape to one of the atolls where high-end hotels spoil guests with every hedonistic pleasure available to man.  Sadly the resorts attract many tourists that rarely get the chance to interact with the locals in their environment.  An opportunity is lost on many tourists but for the culture seeking traveler go to the heart of the Maldives.  Go to Male to get the true vibe of its people.


Know the List of Don’ts  

This was our first country where the official religion is Islam and practice of any other religion is against the law.  Even bringing religious icons, symbols or books to shore was forbidden.  We were informed of these laws as we checked into the country.  No alcohol, pork products or live pigs (we left ours in Thailand) were allowed on shore.  But keeping these items on our boat was okay.  I was grateful the customs agents didn’t confiscate our wine.

If we wanted to purchase these items from a supplier on shore we could.  But an expensive permit is required.  That is how the resorts are allowed to have these items.  It seems like the resorts on all the other atolls have more freedom and choices than the locals on Male.  After reading these laws, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we ventured on land.  I wondered what the people were like.


Walking Around Male

 We dressed in conservative clothing.  My husband wore kaki pants and a buttoned up short-sleeved shirt.  I wore pants, a short sleeved shirt and brought along a long sleeve linen shirt just in case I needed to cover my arms.  I chose not to bring a head scarf since I do not practice Islam and I did not read in any laws of this land that I required to do so.

When encountering a new culture, we are careful observers.  Getting to know our surroundings and trying to read people.  Maldivians are reserved but respectfully pleasant.

The women vary in their dress.  Some wore the burqa, completely covered with their faces exposed; the younger females either wore a hijab which only covers the head, or nothing to cover their hair.

Young women promoting their company

It was on a Friday that we first walked the streets of Male.  Friday is the equivalent of a Sunday in the States.  Not many shops were open.  As we walked past the mosques, hundreds of shoes lined the entrance.

When we returned the next day, the streets were alive with commerce.


What to Do

The oldest mosque is called the Friday Mosque or Hukur Miskiiy.  It was built in 1656 and is still used on special ceremonies to this day.  The minaret is white with blue Arabic print.  Gray aged headstones within the grounds are protected by a shoulder height wall.  If you want a visit the inside of this mosque, you will need a permit.

To experience the inside of a mosque, visit the Islamic Center.  It can hold up to 5000 worshipers and is open to all visitors, but not photography allowed.

If you like museums, the National Museum of Maldives contains a collection of pre-Islamic artifacts.  The grounds of the museum were known as the Sultan’s Palace which dated back to the 17th century.

A strip of sandy beach for swimming in aqua waters
A strip of sandy beach for swimming in aqua waters

For the adventurous type, there is a surf break.  If you have a surfboard or prefer body surfing, the local “artificial” beach is for you.  Located just north of the airport ferry pier, you will find fully clothed swimmers and surfers enjoying the aqua blue waves–a perfect place to meet locals.

There are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops for dinning.  My favorite was Jade Bistro, near the ferry piers.  It had wireless available and decent pastries to complement coffee.

The Local Commute

Getting around on the atoll, most people walk or use scooters.  There are cars and trucks here too, but don’t seem to dominate the roads.

There are ferries to get around from atoll to atoll.  The atoll next to Male, about a mile in distance, is Hulhumale which is a twenty minute ferry ride and costs around $1 (USD).  The airport is here along with a new community of sky-high apartment buildings.  There is a restaurant above the ferry terminal and other services are sprouting up so it might be worth a quick visit.

                     Male Ferry

A Pleasant Surprise

After spending a couple of days around Male and Hulhumale, we felt at ease with the people yet kept in mind the restrictions placed on us. The restrictions were to only visit atolls that were approved by the government and adhere to their curfews to be off the atolls (not Male) by 6:00PM.

The pleasant surprise came from the locals.  They were reserved but pleasant people…even generous.  At seeing the price of imported water, we inquired where the locals obtained their drinking water.  Finding out that the Mosques provided desalinated drinking water, we went to the Hulhumale Mosque to check it out.

On the grounds was a white tiled structure with a water spigot.  With our empty jerry cans, we started filling up our containers.  As a local came up with his empty water containers, we were a bit nervous.  What would he think of us taking water from the Mosque?  We stopped filling our jerry container and let him take water.  When he was finished, he took our container and started to fill it up.

There were no words exchanged, just an act of kindness.  Those are the things we travelers leave with when visiting a country.  The local landmarks and national treasures fade overtime, but the one guy that helped us fill our water tanks will always remain in our memories and hearts.



5 Things to Know When Eating Street Food

When traveling abroad one of the most memorable experiences is the local cuisine.  To get the local fare, make sure to go beyond the tourist sites and find where the natives eat which may mean eating Street Food.

1.       It’s Authentic Cuisine

No one is catering to your foreign tastes like tourist hotels do.  Instead these street vendors are making the tasty food to satisfy their customers which are the locals.

2.       The Price is Right

The price will not be grossly inflated.

3.       You are Mixing with the Locals

This is one way to strike up a conversation with the locals.  Even if you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, in my experience I have found one or two fellow customers wanting to engage in a conversation.

4.       It Supports Local Business

Your business will help support the local economy.

5.  Chances are You Won’t get Sick

If you pick a vendor that looks busy and appears to be hygiene conscious like wearing a hat to hold in hair or has their cold food cold and their hot food hot, you should be okay.  At least that has been my experience when eating Street Food.  If the local guy is getting his customer’s sick, he would be out of business.



Tips for Tinkling in Toilets Around the World

Be Prepared When Tinkling in Toilets Around the World

We use toilets all the time and don’t think about the potential complications of that function when traveling.  But when it comes to using foreign facilities, the traveler needs to be prepared.

This topic is a tad crude and I will try to be delicate.  But you will need to think of this as practical and necessary advice.  Since “doing your business” in relative comfort while trekking to various destinations throughout the world or even within your own country will make your trip more pleasant.

Like here in the States, I was forced to use my “potty survival” skills last week.  Faced with a rest stop’s facility which lacked toilet paper and paper towels, or ass gaskets (those disposable paper toilet seat covers) to place over the filthy bowl.  I won’t even get into the smells that permeated from the building.  Did I still use the facility?  Yes, because I was desperate.

So below are a few of my tips. Hope you find them useful.

Kelly Girl’s Potty Survival Tips

  • Learn How to Squat – Before leaving on your trip try a few squats over your toilet at home.  This will build up your thigh muscles and teach you to balance while you get the job done.  Also get your derriere as low as you can go.  You may be using a hole in the ground.
  • Know the Word for Toilet– Most places catering to tourists will have the word “toilet” posted, but don’t count on it.  Know how they spell it and say it in those countries.
  • Be Prepared to Pay– Even if you are paying for the use of a toilet, don’t expect it to be equipped and clean.
  • Never Forget to Pack Your Own Toilet Paper (TP) & Baby Wipes– This is a must.  I like to put my toilet supplies in a zip lock baggie because carrying a roll of TP around is bulky.
  • Sometimes there is a horrific smell– I don’t have a tip for this one since nothing can prepare you for that.