Costs and Budgets

How much does a round the world trip cost?

This is the million dollar, unanswerable, question.  This trip can cost as much as you want to spend.  Seriously, if you want to spend $1000 a night for a hotel, there is a room for you in most places.  In reality, the question that probably should be asked is: how cheaply can you travel around the world?

This still is an unanswerable question.  Europe, North America, and Australia/NZ will cost you a lot more than South America and Asia.  Africa will cost you way more than it should.  Within continents the prices are radically different, you can live off $10 a day in Bolivia, but not in neighboring Chile and Peru.

We budgeted between $50-100 a day, including flights, insurance and miscellaneous large purchases.  This is for two people, which causes some costs to be higher and some to be lower.

I will assure you, that you can travel Asia and South America on $50 per day, per person and be very comfortable.  You can do Western Europe and North America for $75-100 a day per person and travel comfortably.  This is based on real-life experience,  I traveled South America on $15 a day and Western Europe on $30 a day several years ago.

You can definitely do this cheaper.  I would estimate that you can do $30-50 a day throughout the world, including flights on budget airlines.  I think the magic number, for one person is about $20,000 and a couple is $30,000 per year, to do a RTW trip.  I would give myself a 50% cushion on top of this.

Let’s put this in perspective: you spend at least $20,000-30,000 per year to live in the US, Australia or Western Europe.  This figure may sound like a lot, but you are probably spending this much annually sitting on your ass at home, so why not pack it up and spend your next year(s) in new places?

Top ways to save money while traveling:

  1. Fly budget airlines. Get to know the quirks and benefits of budget airways such as Ryan Air, Air Asia, Tiger Airways and Jet Star.  For example, we purchased AirAsia tickets from Bangkok to Yangon, Myanmar for $80 roundtrip (including taxes and bags).  We also purchased an AirAsia flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong, one-way, for $110 each.
  2. Lodging can be affordable, or not. Set your budget and look around until you find places within your budget.  This may mean dorms and/or shared bathrooms.  These are the sacrifices you may have to make in some places.
  3. Consider alternatives to tours. Tours can be terribly expensive and terrible.  Only take them when they go to out-of-the-way places and offer something you can’t get on your own for the same price.  Otherwise take public transit, rent a bike or motorcycle to get places.
  4. Buy a city map with bus routes on it. Having bus routes, along with other public transit will allow you to get around a town without paying for taxis or tours.
  5. Walk when possible. Taking public transit and walking 15-20 minutes can save you huge money compared to a taxi.  In Bangkok, taking the 15 bus to Siam Square from Khaosan Road saves you at least 93% versus a taxi (7THB versus 100+ THB)
  6. Give yourself time. The less time you have, the more it will cost you.  This is because you will be forced to take tours that hit the sights quickly and fly.  If you have more time to traverse a city by yourself or take a bus, you will save mega money.

To figure out how much to budget for your trip, decide the countries you want to go and a logical plan to get from place to place.  Then look around travel blogs to get a sense of costs for each country and attraction.  Using your estimated length of time in each place, you can get rough numbers on costs.  Add 50% to your estimate, so you are safe and not spending your trip worrying about running out of money.

Lastly, a round the world trip is the trip of a lifetime.  You will not get to do some of these things again, have the time to reflect on your life, or see all these places.  Make sure you have enough funds to do what you want, to enjoy the experience instead of bootstrapping.  One extra month at home, living with your parents is a small price to pay for what could be months extra on the road.

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NEXT: Logistics: Health, insurance and the nitty gritty ->

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The Living IF round-the-world travel Planning and Preparation section:

  1. Planning and Preparation Overview
  2. Saving Money: How we did it and how you can too!
  3. Worldly Possessions: What to sell and keep while you travel
  4. Cost and Budgeting: How much will do you need to save?
  5. Logistics: Health, insurance and the nitty gritty
  6. Packing Tips: What and why to pack it

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