Budgeting for Round the World Travel

rtw-budgetHow much does it actually cost to travel around the world? How is it possible to save enough money to travel for an entire year or longer? How can I figure out a travel budget for my next destination?

These are all common questions that people have when it comes to extended travel. In fact, the single most common question that people have asked me after having spent a year and a half seeing the world is how I was able to afford it.

The first answer: smart savings and smart budgeting. The second: international travel doesn’t have to be expensive.

So how much was my trip around the world? Roughly $15,000 per person including airfare and $12,000 without it. That’s only $33 a day (airfare excluded). For a whole article on the breakdown of our airfare costs click here.

Think about your personal monthly expenses. A daily expense of $33 adds up to about $1,000 a month. Think about how much you spend on your rent/mortgage, car payments, utility and cell phone bills every month. How does that compare to the cost of seeing four continents, sampling food in 20 different countries and waking up every day to explore the new culture that surrounds you?

For comparison’s sake I have put together a chart of the daily expenses I had in the various destinations on my round-the-world trip. The costs are all in nominal US dollars for the year between February 2010 and January 2011 so keep that in mind in terms of inflation and currency differences. (Click the graph to see it full size.)


One major thing you’ll notice on the graph is the huge variation in cost by destination. We were able to stay in countries in South East Asia for under $20 a day while European destinations generally cost around $34 (with one exception). In Asia the costs included a private room for two people and generally three meals a day eaten out. In Europe we instead stayed with friends, couchsurfed and camped and only rarely treated ourselves to a sit-down dinner in a restaurant.

You’ll probably also notice that huge red column in the center of the graph. Oops. That was our bike tour in Belgium and it clocked in at $70 per person per day. The major reason it was so expensive was that we ended up paying for accommodation more than in other places. On two nights, bike tour mishaps lead us to expensive hotel rooms and on the other nights we paid for relatively pricey campsites. You can read about the adventures here and here. In addition, that leg of the trip was all about tasting delicious Belgian beers that are not cheap. Going into the Belgian bike tour we knew it would be comparatively expensive but the experience was something we really wanted so we budgeted accordingly.

For further reading check out these country-specific budgeting posts (more to come!):

Thailand– Rock climbing on Ton Sai

Bali– Yoga in Ubud

Greece – Rock Climbing on Kalymnos

In the end your personal costs will depend entirely on what you do and where you go. If you stay in cheaper countries is it possible to get by on half of what we spent. You can also save money by spending longer periods of time in each destination and limiting air travel.

The most important thing that I hope you take from this is that international travel is not some exotic luxury available only to super rich people. In fact, with a little savings and a lot of budgeting diligence you too can see the world!

3 Responses to “Budgeting for Round the World Travel”

  1. Jelle said:

    Glad I could assist, albeit slightly, in pushing down your Belgian costs as much as possible. :-) Very interesting article, might come in handy when I go traveling myself, soon. Thank you, Briana!

    December 15th, 2011 at 9:31 am

  2. Briana said:

    Thanks, Jelle! That Belgium leg was quite a spike, eh? It certainly would have been higher were it not for you taking us in!

    December 15th, 2011 at 9:33 am

  3. ryan said:

    Wanna go to China next? 😉

    December 15th, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Leave a Reply

  • (required)
  • (required)(will not be published)