The biggest fear that prevents people from long-term travel is not knowing how much everything is going to cost. Even with all the research in the world, it is a scary proposition to pack up your life into a backpack and hit the road.
In this guide, we feature a series of travelers who have not only been there and done it but have kept a detailed record of what they spent along the way. These people have different travel styles, come from different parts of the world, and traveled to a variety of destinations on their trip, so you should be able to relate.
In the following case studies, we show you exactly how much they spent on every facet of their trip, from the transport they used to the places they stayed and the food they ate. You will see that it is possible to travel on a budget of less than $50 USD a day if you really want it, but you will also see where people splurged.
As a solo female traveler, Evelien sets the standard. Not only did she set a budget but she managed to keep on track with her spending for a trip over a year long.
Those Belgians really know how to travel!
Yes and no, I had set a budget of 25,000 Euro (including everything – flights, transport, accommodation, food, attractions, vaccinations, gear, etc.) I still had to buy a new backpack, big and small, winter underwear, sleeping bag, camera.
This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I didn’t deny myself an experience simply to stick to the budget.
Yes, Canada was freaking expensive, and I stayed there the longest… I had to save money since the hostels were very expensive, even sleeping in huge dorms. (biggest one was 32 beds)
Mastercard if I had to pay online. My debit card (with Maestro) to get money out of an ATM. I was traveling with 3 cards, 2 Maestro and 1 Mastercard. I also had cash with me – US dollars, just as a backup.
Canada in general. I thought Australia and New Zealand would be more expensive but no.
I think that was Bolivia and second place Peru.
Number of days traveling: 373
Countries visited: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil
Total Spent: $21,477
Flights: $3,649 Euros
Other transport: $650 Euros (Greyhound bus, shuttle bus, maritime bus)
Travel insurance: $450 Euros (12-month policy)
Vaccinations: $295 Euros (Yellow fever, Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, Diptheria, Malaria tablets)
Gear: $600 Euros (Includes a trekking bag, daypack, sleeping bag & mat, head torch, mosquito net, and knife)
Accommodation: $2,266 Euros (Stayed in tents in South America and parts of New Zealand, otherwise hostels)
Tours & attractions: $10,067 Euros (Flying Kiwi tour, South America tour with Tucan Travel, Alaska tour with Grand America, Discovery Parks Canada pass)
Food & drink: $3,000 Euros
Miscellaneous: $500 Euros(Internet access, gifts, mail, etc.)
Will Hatton is one heck of an English explorer and our resident broke backpacker. He prides himself on taking the road less traveled and has a plethora of epic tales from his journeys abroad. Will’s philosophy is to travel on the cheap and he can make a few dollars last longer than most of us.
If you’ve got a few hours to spare, head on over to his blog www.thebrokebackpacker.com
My budget when traveling is $100 a week after flight costs. On this 6 month trip, I went over that, largely because of the high costs of buses in Colombia.
The airport departure tax in Venezuela, and difficulty hitching large distances in Colombia meaning I had to take buses.
I took dollars sewn into a belt to exchange on the black market in Venezuela
Number of days traveling: 182
Countries visited: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela
Total Spent: $6,044 USD
Flights: $1,021 USD
Other transport: $1,008 USD (including $550 to travel from Panama to Colombia by boat)
Travel insurance: $315 USD
Gear: $10 (bought a machete)
Accommodation: Under $500 USD for the entire six months (I mostly couchsurfed, camped, and stayed for free in hostels in exchange for work. Every now and again I would pay for a dorm)
Tours & attractions: $200 USD (I mostly stuck to free walking tours and free attractions, I frequently went on hikes and simply camped. I spent perhaps $200 in total over six months; mostly hiring surfboards
Food & drink: $3,000 USD
Gerard and Kieu are experienced travelers and foodies from California. Their journey took them to 20 different countries over almost an entire year. They consider themselves to be flashpackers, preferring to stay in a nice, private room and not skimping on activities.
You can read more about their adventures on their popular blog – www.GQtrippin.com
We did create a budget, it ranged anywhere from $30/day to $100/day for some countries. Overall we averaged out to $45/day excluding airfare. We luckily were able to stick to it for the most part. We underestimated the cost for some countries (New Zealand & Australia) and overestimated on some other countries (Japan & Eastern Europe).
The biggest unforeseen expense was our Canon s95 camera. This camera was put through a lot and eventually didn’t wake up after we dropped it one too many times in Thailand during Songkran. Luckily our next stop was China, so it was a good excuse to buy a newer version of the camera.
Cash was king in most of the countries we visited. You can pretty much expect that in most developing countries. Our one tip if you’re from the US, is to get a Charles Schwab debit card. That card is great because they reimburse all your ATM fees anywhere around the globe. For any credit card purchases, we used our Capital One card which had no international transaction fees.
This is a pretty well-known fact, but there’s no easy way to travel cheaply within Australia. The exchange rate really killed us during our time there also. We tried to save wherever we could, but even groceries were pricey!
The least expensive place we visited was India. We spent about $27 a day/person. That covered everything including food, transportation, accommodation, and activities!
If you’re interested in more details surrounding our budget, feel free to check out our RTW budget recap.
Number of days traveling: 312
Countries visited: New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Peru, Bolivia, United States, Czech Republic, Fiji
Total Spent: $50,977 USD
Flights: $9,955 USD
Other transport: $7,146 USD (Including trains, motorbikes, boats, rental cars, buses and even a camel)
Travel insurance: $732 USD
Vaccinations: $125 USD
Medical costs: $919 USD
Documents: $892 USD
Gear: $829 (Replaced their camera)
Accommodation: $10,261 USD (They stayed in hotels, hostels, apartments, and couchsurfing)
Tours & attractions: $6,122 USD (Including bungy jumping in New Zealand, snorkeling in Australia, Indonesia, and Hawaii, a camel safari, food tours, and the trek to Machu Picchu)
Food & drink: $12,474 USD(Being massive food lovers they ate very well, although they did share dishes at times)
Natalie and Robson are a Brazilian couple who love to party (doesn’t every Brazilian?). In 2014 they decided to quit their jobs, sell their stuff and travel the world.
To learn more about their travel story check out their blog – www.loveandroad.com
We set a budget of $50 USD per day, per person, including everything (accommodation, transport, food, attractions…) and managed to stick to the budget throughout the entire year. Some days we spent a little more, so the other day we tightened up to keep the balance.
The only unforeseen expense was Rob´s computer. We didn’t expect that his old one would die. So the price we paid for his Macbook was a big expense.
For daily expenses, we withdrew local currency from our debit card at the ATM. To buy flight tickets or book accommodation online we used our Brazilian credit card, which turned out to be really bad for us due to the additional fees we paid back home.
The Netherlands. The hostels and hotels were super expensive, we stayed in a shared room and we spent almost all our budget on accommodation alone.
Chiang Mai in Thailand. If you stay there for a long period of time your cost of living goes down considerably. The food is amazingly cheap, you can have a great life spending less than 50 dollars per day.
Number of days traveling: 365
Countries visited: Cambodia, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Thailand
Total Spent: $37,140 USD
Flights: $4,998 USD
Other transport: $4,174 USD (28 buses, 11 trains, 8 hitchhikes, 7 boats, 2 cars)
Travel insurance: $2,200 USD
Vaccinations: $0 USD (Yellow fever, rabies, tetanus – covered by healthcare)
Medical costs: $883 USD
Gear: $1,500 USD (Macbook laptop, GoPro, external hard drive)
Accommodation: $6,882 USD (Slept in the following: apartments, campervan, hotels, hostels, house sitting, tent, car, bus, boat, and a couple of nights in the airport)
Tours & attractions: $2,117 USD (Waterfalls and rafting in northern Thailand, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, snorkeling excursion in Koh Tao, and lots of free walking tours)
Food & drink: $8,891 USD
Family travel takes on a whole new meaning when you are on the road for an extended period of time. Jess, Jim, and their two young daughters set off on an adventure of a lifetime and kept a tight rein on their spending.
They show you that having kids doesn’t mean you need to stop seeing the world. Read more about their adventures at www.with2kidsintow.blogspot.ca
We had a loose budget: we basically aimed to spend $50 USD per day on meals, accommodation, local transport, and sightseeing. We had an overall figure of $35k that we expected to spend, which included all flights and pre-trip expenses like vaccinations etc.
We were over budget by $11, 678 overall; per day we spent about $67.70/day for just living costs.
Yes, a new DSLR camera a used laptop, and a trip to Canada at Christmas to see family ($8,096). Also, a new compact camera to replace one that was stolen (some insurance reimbursement but not all).
Overall, costs in SEA for rooms etc were generally higher than on previous visits.
We took money out from the ATM and booked flights on the internet with credit cards.
Number of days traveling: 363
Countries visited: Indonesia, Cambodia, Hong Kong (China), India, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada
Total Spent: $46,678 USD
Flights: $10,374 USD
Other transport: $1,307 USD (Includes taxi fares and hire cars)
Travel insurance: $1,406 USD
Vaccinations: $506 USD
Medical costs: $973 USD
Documents: $1,324 USD
Gear: $6,823 (Clothes, home decor, toiletries, electronics)
Accommodation: $6,697 USD (Mostly 1 – 2 star hotels with double rooms often sharing a bed or guesthouses)
Tours & attractions: $1,385 USD (Yala National Park Safari, scuba diving, Angkor Wat entrance)
Food & drink: $6,209 USD
Miscellaneous: $9,674 (Includes home insurance payments, home rates, and interest, gifts, internet)
It’s pretty plain to see that there isn’t one budget to fit everyone. It depends so much on where/when you travel, how long you are away, your travel style, and many other factors.
If you have been away for an extended trip and would like to be featured as a case study please send us a message.