Sailing the Caribbean on a budget

Sailing the Caribbean while short or tight on funds? This can certainly be a huge adventure alone without money thoughts. Consider this: will our budget allow us to do everything we want when we get there?

Here’s what to expect from sailing the Caribbean on a budget

You’ll Be On a Budget: Even if we were planning on ending up in the Caribbean no matter what, we would still need to seriously consider whether our budget could afford it.

The thought of sailing the Caribbean is often quite romantic for those who haven’t been there, but as soon as real life sets in this may quickly change.

In fact, many people who have sailed the Caribbean have reported that they wish they hadn’t done so because of their limited funds available during their time spent there.

Charter Boats if You Don’t Have a Boat

If you’ve been living from paycheck to paycheck or only getting a small amount every month from your savings account, how will you be able to take the trip? Let’s figure that out in one article! Other sailors around the world travel via sailing on virtually nothing more than their wit and a compass or sailing watch.

One: Chartering a boat is certainly an option but COST

There are regular charter boats all over the Caribbean, so you’ll have to do your research before you get there. You may even be able to rent or know someone with a smaller boat that will allow you to take it out for half of the week if not more (if it’s safe enough).

This might require some time on researching options, but it could help give you the pirate ship experience while keeping costs down.

A nice alternative might be finding sailors who don’t want their boat used one day per week and trading work on their boat for use of the boat on another day (of course this would vary according to what exactly they need done on board).

Boats to consider given weather and wind

-Sailing catamaran

You may want to take a catamaran with you as they have great features such as the ability to move quickly, are easy to handle, and are generally considered safer than other types of boats. But this would again take money as you’ll have to pay the boat owner just for the privilege of using their vessel.


Trawler boats are a personal favorite because they have an abundance of features. They have the ability to go to many different places, are usually available for chartering, and can carry a boatload of people or gear with them.

  • Private motor yacht (this could be quite pricey)
  • Dinghy with outboard motor (on the smaller side)

Two: Traveling by other means

You can also consider traveling by plane, but that will increase your costs if you aren’t in a location that is close to an airport.

It might be more economical to simply get closer to where you want to go from land before you get on the boat of your choice.   Still, this may require some planning and perhaps a few phone calls.

Three: Destinations

In addition, there are certainly ways around chartering boats if it turns out not possible for your particular island destinations all throughout the trip or renting a boat of any kind is not possible.

You may need to take a plane or bus to an island where you can meet up with friends who have their own boat and are willing to give you passage at least part of the time, if not the whole trip.

Expectations of Incurring Sailing Costs: Part of the trip

Outside of mooring fees, you will and should expect sailing costs from boat maintenance and time sailing. Moreover, there is food to be bought, which will affect your bottom line. While the trip is ongoing , you should expect these factors to incur costs.

Own Sailboat versus getting a Large Boat

The ideal sized boat for sailing on a budget is a 12-13 meter max. On a boat this size, you are able to save money on not only gasoline but also marina fees.

Not to mention you will be able to carry enough food supplies for months at a time compared to having a bigger boat that needs gas more often and requires restocking of stores more frequently.

When it comes to owning your own boat, you will want to be sure it is in good condition and has all the required safety equipment on board.

If you lack the expertise or do not feel comfortable fixing engine issues then maybe a bigger boat is something that might interest you more.

Are you a boat owner? Insurance Costs

If you are one of the lucky few who own a boat, do not forget about sailboat insurance costs. If you don’t have it already, get with your carrier and see what kind of options they have available for covering your boat while overseas in different countries.

Remember! Find out if you need an international permit before leaving your country of residence.

For example, if there is no transit visa or time limit to which you must remain within a certain country’s borders, you may want to consider staying with the boat during the trip. It will obviously be cheaper than booking hotels each night.

Just remember that some places require permits for boats coming in from other areas so check on this before considering it.

What are some sailboat insurance cost?

Sailboat insurance costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per month for those under 30 years old and from $900 to $2,000+ a month for those who are age 40+.

Some offer only coverage until your next port of call or within a certain distance from the home port, so be sure to check before planning your Caribbean adventure.

In addition, some require you to have a certain amount of experience at the helm before they will insure you for a longer voyage.

If you are young and have been involved in boating or sailing for quite some time, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue and will likely help your premiums go down.

Four: Boat speeds!

is the fact that you can travel on a budget of sorts by choosing slower speeds for your boat, which in turn costs less per mile to operate.

If you are going to be out there for a while, this must be considered when planning it all out

Five: Consider getting a crew

Do you have friends who will travel with you? This would be helpful if they knew how to do some of the work on board.

If not, there are companies out there that will provide crews for your boat at a rate of around $150 per day. Of course this is not really an option for those who are going out alone, but can be a great help to those who do have a crew. Boat maintenance is always an additional cost i.e. repair costs from things that just come up.

Six: Straight up planning

In addition, the cost of travel by plane or bus must also be considered when thinking about what it will all cost. Be prepared for this and plan accordingly.

Seven: Overnight trips!

If you wish to make overnight trips, you will need to think about the cost of fuel and the fact that you will be limited in your range. You may have to take various boats, use a local sim card, have your meals onboard all in the name of saving up to make the trip.

Though there are some people who do this on a regular basis on smaller boats, it is not always advisable if your boat is not well equipped for it.

List of Islands Available to Visit:

Caribbean Islands

The Caribbean Islands are within reach if you’re sailing on a budget. There are many free or low-cost activities that you can enjoy while down there such as:

Island hopping, making new friends, snorkeling, swimming and of course drinking rum cocktails all contribute to a low-cost Caribbean sailing trip.

Sample Costs: A new boat with equipment and gear needs to be around $30,000+

Food for one month costs $300 – $500

Travel by plane – $1,000 – $2,000

There are many other factors that affect the overall cost of your sailing trip, these few items should help get you started. Take time to carefully plan this out and start enjoying your new life on the seas!

Virgin Islands

The Virgin Islands are far from free of cost. Here’s are sample costs of visiting the Virgin Islands:

One-way flight from the USA – $50 – $300+

Food for one month costs around $500 to $1,000

Boat with equipment and gear needs to be around $30,000+

St. Martin–Sint Maarten

The island of St. Martin is a very popular destination for people sailing on a budget. They also have phenomenal food. The island of St. Maarten is expensive and this tends to be the more upscale area with higher prices than the French side where you can find many free or low-cost activities.

Here’s are sample costs of visiting St. Martin:

One-way flight from USA – $100 – $400+

Food for one month costs around $500 to $1,000′

Boat with equipment and gear needs to be around $30,000+

There’s an old saying: “The best things in life are free.” Well that may not exactly apply when it comes to sailing on a budget.

Canary Islands

The gorgeous Canary Islands may be out of reach for lower budget travelers. Here is a sample cost of visiting:

One-way flight from the USA – $400+

Food for one month costs around $1,000 to $2,000+

Boat with equipment and gear needs to be around $30,000+ to $60,000+

Some of these may look like big numbers however it is all about where you go and what you do. With a little research and creativity, you can find free or low-cost activities while visiting the Caribbean Islands on a budget.

Needing a Local Cell Phone Plan aka Mobile Phone

Mobile phones with a sim card can run away with your wallet so it’s best to be prepared for the cost. While there are many affordable cell phone plans available, you need to do some research before leaving home.

It might not be a bad idea to consider purchasing a SIM card when you land in your chosen location this will save you time and money later on if it is indeed an unlocked phone.

Tipping fair amount

Here’s an interesting fact: Tipping is not something that people in the Caribbean do. Even though you may come across a service person who accepts tips, it is generally frowned up and not expected.

If you feel like someone has provided exceptional service then perhaps a small gift or bonus can be given as a token of appreciation.

Boat maintenance can be done on the cheap by using Craigslist and asking fellow sailors to share their advice, but it is nearly impossible to escape this need entirely. The rigors of sailing can take a toll on your boat, sails especially.

You should expect costs post-trip to be similar or slightly more than your costs of sailing. Saving money at every leg of this trip should be a thought on every sailors mind.

Here is a Checklist for Everyone Sailing the Caribbean


Where will you get it and how much before it spoils/goes bad.


Where will you get it and how much before it goes bad.


How long can it last before needing maintenance or replacement?


A big concern once your boat is anchored for a few days, the batteries die very quickly.

Shore Power:

Where will you plug in and for how many hours? How much is an electrician to get this done?


Will your electronics be charged while on anchor or dock/port?


What does the underside of the boat look like, do you need a bottom job before hitting the ocean again?


How to cook without electricity, what about food storage?


What will you do with your group when it is rainy or gloomy out. Most people vary depending on how much of a great job y’all did planning prior!

Money and/or budget:

  • What budget items would you add to the list? Save money – specifically cash on hand.
  • What budget items would you remove from the list?

Remember this is a sample of a cost breakdown and not meant as a definitive guide.

Sailing the Caribbean on virtually no funds is possible but it takes some planning and patience, remember that we too were once newbies!

There are many ways to stretch out your hard earned dollars while still having fun exploring this beautiful region of the world. If you’re the first person to set sail on an adventure such as this then the only way you’ll know if you can do it is to do it.

Sailing Post-trip Expectations: A Great Idea Traveling Home

Some people will consider it extravagant to fly home after sailing around the Caribbean on a budget. You can kick the local bus to the curb on this one, you’ve earned it. If you’re feeling up to it and over the cheaper side of travel, you could also rent a pond hopper to take you back towards home country from the smaller islands.

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