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.
HOW WE TRAVEL
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 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.
WHERE WE WENT
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.
WHERE THE MONEY WENT
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.
WHAT FUTURE TRAVELERS NEED TO KNOW
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.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO HAVE SPENT $63,000 TRAVELING?
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.
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?