Has the travel bug bit you yet? Do you read all the articles about the people tossing in the towel at work and hitting the road? Do you think ‘f*ck it! I’mma do it!’ and then have the cold hard reality of cost wash away all those wanderlust dreams? You’re not alone.
Traveling costs money. Transportation, visas, shots, insurance, beds, food, doing almost anything of interest all add up really quick when you’re on the road. It can be daunting; a deal breaker. The money has to be there. No one, ever, travels for completely free (even the people who advertise their free-wheeling jaunts around the world are often churning those free flights from tens-of-thousands already spent on previous flights and credit card purchases).
One Redditor cut through all the wanderlust and cut right to the chase by asking, “I know there is a wealth of individual trips on here but thought it would be great to get a general conversation going on the subject. What were your costs…?”
Reddit nomads responded with honest reflections and raw numbers about how much they’re actually spending on the road, and how they can pull off dropping $20,000 (a very rough average from responders) on a round the world trip.
Travelers started by responding with straight talk about how much they spent per day and where that money went.
My wife and I did Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico for 8 months. I believe we spent about 200 Canadian (approx. $150 USD) per day between the two of us.
I believe we spent $6000 on activities in NZ. Even the cheap countries were expensive because we just did cooler stuff. Cranked out 70 scuba dives for example.
Another traveler spent nearly a year on the road and came close to spending what is a year’s salary for some.
In 2009/2010, I traveled for 11 months. SE Asia & China & Nepal/India & Egypt/Syria/Lebanon/Jordan/Israel & Kenya/Rwanda/Uganda/South Africa/Mozambique. Great trip and did most of it solo as well. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost and I don’t know if I ever really full accounted for everything but I think it came out to around 25,000 Canadian (approx. $19,000 USD).
The $20,000 price tag became the mean number throughout the posts. The real variation came in where it was that money was coming from and what costs could be avoided.
I did a 333-day RTW trip two years ago. Total of 26 non-US countries. Cost was approximately $20k/person (went with my girlfriend-at-the-time, now ex). That’s all-inclusive, with flights and also some pre-trip supplies like a new laptop and travel packs.
One big cost-saver was using travel hacking to accumulate miles before the trip (see /r/churning). The main tickets were round-the-world tickets with 15 international stops. It was just $550/person, which was purely taxes and airport fees – the rest was paid on points.
I was also fortunate enough to have a flexible job that let me work while on-the-go. I worked 10-15 hours/week doing programming work. This was enough income that I barely had to dip into savings.
There was a fair amount of travelers pointing out their daily totals — which is super enticing when you think about a number that’s very low. But even for these travelers their yearly total is still $22,958.50…
I’ve been traveling non-stop for 2 years now. My GF Just finished our year-end expense report and we came to a total of $31.45 per day including all planes/trains/hotels/food… everything. We didn’t live cheaply, we eat out three times a day stay in 2-3 star hotels and go on adventures twice a week. It’s a matter of using Credit Card miles wisely, hotel deals/ points, couchsurfing occasionally and choosing budget friendly locations. We especially loved eastern europe and south east asia for their mix of ease and value. It doesn’t take much money to do this if you’re smart, but it does take work to find the best deals and stay this low.
It became clear that, as with all things, you get what you are willing to pay for.
I did 6 months in 2008. Went through Africa, the Middle East, a little bit in Europe, southeast Asia, and New Zealand. I think it was around $25,000. It could have been done cheaper, but I splurged on some things. I don’t want to discourage someone who wants to do a similar trip but has nowhere near the savings.
There was a telling direct response positing what it is you can actually do in some places if you’re only spending pennies per day to be there…
You make an important point. I met a bunch of people who loved to brag about how cheaply they had done it. I met a guy in Zambia who loved to tell everyone he was living on less than $10 a day. Good for him but he isn’t seeing or doing anything other than eating bread and smoking weed.
A little advice and price check was offered from someone currently on the road and how they were making it happen — the last paragraph being a crucial morsel of information.
We’re 8 months in to 13 months total. So far (in order) – Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica (friend wedding), Thailand, Philippines, Bali, Singapore, Kuala Lampur, Thailand again, and now currently in Vietnam. We have just a couple more weeks, then headed to Dubai and finishing up our last few months in Europe.
We are on a $175/day budget. That does NOT include airfare, buses, or trains that get us from one place to another. I spent A LOT of time researching budget before leaving. This is definitely a higher budget than most from what I research but so far we are 8 months in and very close to our budget.
For some perspective, my wife and I are 31 and 32. We had saved for the trip but I also have a side business that has been taking off so we’re making solid money on the road. I also had a high paying job prior to leaving.
Finally one intrepid traveler broke down his philosophy for pricing out his trips section by section. He also points out that our tastes and desires in why we travel in the first place change as we grow and mature. Overall, it’s a good reminder of where and how to start.
A month in Europe as a 19 year old cost me less than $1000 because I would sleep anywhere and was more about partying than even going to the Louvre. I literally went to Paris and didn’t even go to the Louvre cause I didn’t care. I would rather drink a beer in front of the Eiffel Tower than climb the thing back then. A month in Europe as an adult though costs me at least twice that.
I’m going to be heading out for a 6 month trip through East Africa and into Jordan and Israel and my budget is about $35,000 for 2 of us. If I compare this to my last trip to Africa though where I spend about 1/3 of that though I’m planning on about 5 times as many activities. We’re going to do basically whatever we want and that part of the world has expensive activities.
First things first you gotta figure out airfare. Google’s flight matrix is the best way to do this but also subscribe to some of the newsletters out there from people who do some serious airfare deal hunting.
Next you gotta figure out your visa costs. You’re most likely going to want to leave home with this in cash, some of your visas already in your passport, plus some passport photos. You might want to factor in the cost of your passport as well. If you’re a dual national factor in the costs to renew both and protip it’s way cheaper to renew a passport in the country of origin. I just renewed my European passport in South America and it cost 5x as much. It would have made more sense to renew the passport 2 years early.
Then start figuring that you’re going to need on average at least $50-$60/day for accommodation, food, and transportation. The world is a big place so in some places this will also take care of activities but in others you gotta tack on an activities budget. If you want to scuba dive anywhere in the world that’s going to cost you $100 a day for example and an open water course is $400.
You might need to factor in immunizations. In the US they rob you blind for some of the required shots. Yellow fever almost cost me ~$270 but the pharmacist who gave me the shot fudged it somehow with my insurance company. I found out later though that you can get the shot for free in many places. My girlfriend got it for free at the Bogota Airport for example. Anti-malarials I’ve always found to be cheaper on route. Basically everything is cheaper outside of the US for healthcare so watch your costs here.
Travel insurance is another expense. It’s totally worth it. You’re almost guaranteed to use it on a long trip. I’ve needed it every time but in most cases was too lazy to file the paperwork for $100 but on this last trip I did since the bill was more than my premium and it made sense.
There’s so many variables. I probably wouldn’t even begin to look at a RTW trip without having at least a couple thousand dollars for airfare, a thousand dollars for visas, the funds for travel insurance, whatever it costs you for a physical and immunizations, plus $50/day. I then add on funds for the big ticket activities. Then you should have a slush fund for emergencies. This might just mean having a credit card with you. At least for me I generally have a budget but come home with money left over. Some countries, like Laos, will cost you less than $1000 per month. Others like Norway will cost you 3 times that.
Ironically, he could have gotten into the Louvre for free when he was 19…