What Travel for 1 Year Costs: 2012

What Travel for 1 Year Costs: 2012


How much does it cost to travel the world for a year? Between $26,821-36,534 for two people*.  In 2012 we spent $26,821**.  In 2011 we spent $36,534***.

As always, the devil is in the details, those asterisks that terrorize our lives…those evil symbols that advertisers have trained us to recognize as “it’s possible, but only for a hypothetical person that we’ve never actually met, who managed to work through our very convoluted systems that our programmers assured us wasn’t possible”.  Our numbers though are real, it’s what we’ve actually spent, visiting countries as expensive as Japan and Australia, and as cheap as Vietnam and Sri Lanka.  This is every dollar we’ve spent traveling hundreds of thousands of miles.  The asterisks are because everyone travels differently, these differences are the details that determine how much it would actually cost you.


We travel to see the sights, meet the people, taste the foods and try new things.  We keep a budget as a guide, not as a limiter.  Our costs reflect the following decisions:

– The length of our trip has never been a goal, we aren’t trying to stretch our time abroad by staying places for extended periods or saving money.

– We spend money on experiences.  We didn’t hesitate to spend $600 per day to visit North Korea, $50 for the “world’s best” pizza in Sao Paulo, or $1000 hiking in New Zealand.

– We travel overland whenever possible.  Grueling at times, overland travel has given us the opportunity to see more of countries, savor the local foods and interact with locals the way they travel.  How else would you experience this!?!

We met Amit by overland traveling in India.
Later he showed us Israel, this “Amit” tour was one of our 2012 highlights.

– Hostels and Couchsurfing are home.  We stay in dorms when private rooms cost substantially more.  We only Couchsurf when we can connect with a host, not just to save money.

– We average a new city every four days. We set off with the goal of seeing whatever interested us in the world, having visited over 200 cities we learned that a lot of the world interested us.  Moving costs money as shown by transportation (ground and air) being our largest area of spending.

– We didn’t visit Europe or North America. Our costs reflect a vast majority of time spent in the developing world, which is substantially cheaper than Europe, the USA or Canada.  We set off with very few goals, but number one was to see the rapidly changing developing world, we have keep true to this mission.

These are the things that affect our spending, for everyone it is different.  We’ve met people that are comfortable spending $20/day and people that couldn’t possibly be comfortable for less than $1000/day.


Following up our epic 2011 in Asia was a task that we feared would let us down in 2012.  We couldn’t have been more wrong…2012 blew away our expectations.

Cross that off the bucket list

We rang in the New Years in Australia, exploring the East Coast and Tasmania before flying south to New Zealand.  From New Zealand we made a stopover to visit family in Singapore before diving headfirst into India.  Our five months in India featured a two-month hiking break in Nepal.  We exited India by flying down to stunningly beautiful Sri Lanka.  From there we ventured into the Middle East, exploring Petra in Jordan, walking the Bible in Israel and following the Pharaohs through Egypt.  A 1500 mile road trip through Turkey showed us more than we ever expected.  We said goodbye to the year in Buenos Aires.  (Click on a country’s name to learn about where we went and how much a beer costs.)

We find per-day spending to be the most useful information for comparison and planning.  Figures such as this allowed us to plan how long to stay in a country.  These on-the-ground costs exclude airfare between countries and non-country specific expenditres such as travel insurance.  Big asterisks on these: we Couchsurfed almost all of Australia and New Zealand, saving us $30-50 per day (or more) in accommodation costs.  We stayed with our wonderful Israeli friends throughout Israel

If you are interested in details about our 2011 spending through Asia, click here.


Getting there, getting fed and sightseeing.  So that’s where my money went!  That’s not surprising given we set out to see the world and we have big appetites, but there’s one surprise…see it?

Getting to all these places requires a lot of energy, fueling our bodies, planes, trains and buses are our biggest costs.  Unsurprisingly the costs are similar year-to-year, but in 2012 we spent substantially less on tours.  Almost our entire difference in price was due to the minimal entrance costs of sights to see in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka compared with East Asia.

Remember, these numbers are for two people.

We’re seriously averaging $8.60 a night on hotels!?!?  WTF. Here’s the deal: in expensive countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, UAE and Taiwan we Couchsurfed almost every night.  In Nepal we didn’t pay for hotels because they are free for independent hikers who eat their meals there.  In Turkey we stayed in luxurious accommodations made possible only by the steep off-season discounts and a very European “subsidy program” funded by my parents.  Let’s not forget we stayed for free among $30 million houses in Singapore.  Add these nights to the ridiculously inexpensive lodging throughout Asia and you get the laughable average we’re at.


Travel can be inexpensive.  $70-100 a day for two people?  That’s less than we spent at home for our housing and transport alone!  I think it’s important that everyone who is interested in seeing the world know it’s possible to do on a budget.


It’s hard to fathom the sum of our spending.  Each $8 hotel room and $5 meal somehow added up to over $63,000.  I can’t put that number into perspective because it’s so intangible.  Even when the money was in our bank accounts it didn’t seem real.  The number is big, but not when I look back on what we’ve done.  There is not a dollar I regret spending, though I regret the things we didn’t do.

This is not a trip that a financial adviser would recommend, but every person over 60 we’ve met supported it. At the time I didn’t fully understand the all things they told me, but I’m getting closer.  Making a dream come true, taking it from an idea to reality, has permanently changed my idea of what is possible.  Stretching my limits, trying new things, seeing people’s similarities and discerning their differences has taught me more than I may have gained in a lifetime at home.


Click here to learn more lessons I learned from traveling around the world indefinitely.


YOUR TURN: What do you think about this?  Did this cost us more or less than you’d expect?  Do you think a trip like this is worth the money?

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» Gerard ~ GQtrippin :
Feb 4, 2013

Wow. your numbers are very impressive guys! We added up how much we spent for our year of travels in 2012 and it added up to $45K for the both of us. Couchsurfing definitely helped out a lot.

» Cole @ FourJandals.com :
Feb 4, 2013

Great breakdown and well done keeping the records! Guess it’s not hard once you start :) Has made me pull out my diary to check our costs from 1 month in Italy. And now I am also looking at the trekking in Nepal. Great advice!

» AK :
Feb 5, 2013

Glad to see you found my country second most affordable :-)

» amy&andrew :
Feb 7, 2013

Great cost breakdown guys. We are just about to leave for our trip and are going a bit crazy trying to figure out how much we might spend in each country – so this is really helpful info. In general, we’re just trying to get our heads around the fact that at the end of the day any budget we do make will probably go out of the window once we get on the road!

» Jordy Clements :
Feb 13, 2013

Don’t forget to include the opportunity cost of lost investments, multiplied by the prevailing….hahaha, kidding! OF COURSE, every dollar was worth it. No one will ever be able to take these experiences away from you. Great post — I’m impressed with how thoroughly you budget — and probably very helpful for the sedentary types wondering, “Can I afford this?”

» Owen :
Jan 25, 2014

The world is a book, and if you do not travel you read only one page… So yes, it definitely sounds worth it !

LOCAVORista Reply:

Agreed Owen, thanks for the comment- continue writing the pages of your travel journey!

» Lynette :
May 26, 2014

MMMmmmmmm interesting – I am playing with this idea – I am one of those 60 + peeps u mentioned. I have spent most of the last 10 yrs living a gypsy lifestyle. Today I was thinking Mmmmmm still a few places and experiences on my bucket this. And WHEN?? will I go there?
So I started exploring daily budgets online for longterm travellers. I can’t see myself doing shared dorms every night. So that would blow my budget out a little – still I appreciate your costing as a starting point. Thx guys – and I AGREE – you will never ever regret the money you have invested in these magical life experiences. Really a small price to pay in the scheme of a lifetime. Ciao Lynette

» www.rebelmouse.com :
Oct 8, 2014

It is appropriate tiume to make some plans for the fufure and it’s time to be happy.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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