August 18, 2015 - December 24, 2016
492 Days Abroad
I traveled through 221 cities in 39 countries over 5 continents. I called hundreds of places home. I slept in hammocks, in trains, in buses, in cars, on boats, in farmhouses, in teahouses, in hostels, in bed and breakfasts, in tents, on cots in the open dessert, in cheap guest-homes, in 5-star hotels, on couches, on a tile floor, on-top a chicken coop, on the ground next to a friendly German girl's bed in Mainz, in attics, et cetera, et cetera...
I took 7 overnight sleeper trains, 26 overnight buses, and 31 flights. I read 30 books and had 4 haircuts--although only 1 haircut was from a professional. The other 3 were from my darling. We ate 144 fast-food ice-cream cones, though most were consumed in our first 4 months while in South America. We bought dozens of new pieces of clothing and threw away/lost/mailed home a little less than that. We taught English in Vietnam, helped to rebuild an orphanage in rural Nepal, and worked on a vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina. We hiked quite a few mountain ranges--the largest being the Andes and the Himalayas.
Our Trip Route Divided into 4 Distinct Legs:
Leg 1: South America
Leg 2: Europe
Leg 3: Indian Subcontinent
Leg 4: Southeast Asia
We tried to keep records of all our 'mishaps' but I know we forgot most of them. At last count I had written down 20 of them. Here are some of them:
ATM card was eaten by machine in small town of Piura, Peru
Had food and supplies stolen from us by a clever monkey in the Bolivian Amazon
Nearly stranded at the Bolivian border
Had a collections (inaccurate) on my account and had to deal with that while traveling
My Barclay Master Card was hacked in RIO and had a new one overnighted to me in Lisbon
Got items confiscated at UAE airport and were 'reported' to authorities
Left Kindle behind in Delhi hostel - was later mailed to me in Jaipur, India
Sylvie and I both broke our phones
Electrical surge broke Macbook Air while in Borneo, had computer repaired by sending to Bangkok
Lost credit card/ID in Serbia
Lost Passport while en route to airport in Krabi - had mailed to me in Chiang Rai following week
Sylvie left Kindle behind in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar - RIP Kindle
With the exception of being extremely dehydrated for a day in Delhi I never 'really' got food poisoning or sick. There were times I felt a bit off and am not sure how sick I would have actually gotten but I just popped a very high dose of azithromycin and was fine in a few hours. I've been to India twice, every country (less the Philippines) in SE Asia, spent a month in Africa and have never had food poisoning. I eat uncooked street-food every opportunity I get. I even ate a raw, still-beating, snake heart while in Vietnam without getting even the slightest form of indigestion. There were 24 instances of being sick while on the trip (the vast majority of them revolving around dear Sylvie). Here is a tally:
Dehydrated - 1 time
Bed Bugs - 1 time
Common Cold - 1 time
TD - 2 times (took high dose azithromycin both times and warded off all symptoms in 4 hours)
Budget includes 2 people for the first 461 days and 1 person for the last 31 days.
When there was any uncertainty/fluctuation in exchange rates or prices I rounded up to give a higher than actual estimate to keep the budget extremely conservative.
Every expense was tracked in this budget, even those that are not related to travel. These expenses--such as the cost of website hosting, VPNs, etc.--were all captured under "Pre-Trip Expense".
The only expenses I had during my time abroad that are not included in this budget are my student loan payments
Though by American standards our type of travel is considered 'budget' we don't truly fit into that category by ex-USA standards. We met many travelers spending a fraction of what we did. We ate out most meals, stayed in hotels with a/c fridges and color TVs, and traveled around much more than most backpackers. Many budget travelers stayed in hostels and cooked their own food (think pasta and sauce). However we did take buses, trains, and ate at mostly budget-friendly restaurants or street-side carts. For budget travelers I would say that you can cut our food, lodging, and transportation costs in half.
I was happy snacking on fruit and buying little things from cheaper street-side stalls throughout the day. We always ate a nice meal for dinner though.
We are not big drinkers so most RTW travelers can expect to pay more on alcoholic beverages than we did.
We took many 'relatively' expensive trips during our RTW (Everest Base Camp, the 'W Trek', 3-day live-aboard SCUBA diving off Similan Islands, Bolivian Jungle trek, 21-day organized Colombian tour, Home-stays in Sapa, Trekking in Hsipaw, Northern Thai Yoga Retreat, excursion to Borneo w/ associated national park fees and flights, etc).
We also enjoyed splurges many budget travelers couldn't afford to take (We rented a houseboat for 3 days, Stayed at 5-star hotels, took some high class buses/trains, Rented a car for several days, rented a motorcycle for a couple months, got massages frequently, had clothing made, bought extremely rare beer, took cooking classes, went adventure caving, hired private drivers, had food delivery to our hotel room, went to cinemas, saw theatrical productions, indulged in many cafe cultures, etc.) These are just some of the things that many budget travelers would not consider worth their money.
We spent 3-4 weeks living with free lodging during our three separate workaways--Many budget travelers do less moving around and more workaways.
I've met single travelers living on less than $1,000 a month during their 12 month RTW trip.
I collected over several thousand dollars in sponsored products. I had most of the gear already but received newer/better products, thus I would not have needed to purchase any of these items. For this reason I have decided not to include these items in this budget.
I decided to break the budget into 4 sections.
Pre-Trip Costs - this includes gear, vaccines, insurance, memberships, transportation to/from US airports
During Trip Costs (Souvenirs) - this includes gifts/souvenirs, non-trip related purchases (non-essential clothing, cosmetics, etc.)
International Travel Costs - this includes travel between countries (mostly airfare but some busing)
Country Specific Costs - this includes all expenses relating to traveling/living within the specified country
1 - Pre-Trip Costs: The majority of Pre-Trip costs are not specific to this RTW trip. Vaccines, gear, and electronic equipment can/will be used beyond the scope of the trip. Vaccines and meds can be obtained while traveling and at a fraction of the cost here in the US. Likewise, gear can be found on Craigslist or during your trip much cheaper than buying new here in the US. Additionally, we paid nearly $1,500 for the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, which I would recommend against. For these reasons I am discounting this portion of the budget by 50% to get a better representation (we will be using all the gear for our next trip). Therefore I will be using $2,648 for this portion of the budget
2 - During Trip Costs: These purchases are non-essential and not related to travel and will be ignored when calculating the overall cost of our RTW.
3 - International Travel Costs: This portion of the budget shows how affordably one can travel around the world. Flights, trains, and buses starting and ending within the same country were excluded in this section. They can be found in the next section. We traveled through 39 countries, which is many more than most travelers. This portion of the budget can likely be reduced by traveling through fewer countries.
4 - Country Specific Costs: Once we arrived in a country any/all expenses we faced were placed in this section under the respective country. Flights and other modes of transportation starting and ending within the same country are found here. Phone/internet charges, travel-related medicines, visa fees, tours, etc. can be found in this section. This section is further divided into 8 categories:
So How Much Did It All Cost?
Putting it All Together
Pre-Trip Costs - $2,648
During Trip Costs (Souvenirs) - $0
International Travel Costs - $4,745
Country Specific Costs - $36,414
Total RTW Trip Cost = $43,807 ($89/day)
for less than $45/person/day we traveled very luxuriously around the world
Budget Deep Dive: An In-depth Analysis
Would you expect anything less than an in-depth analysis from a consultant (who is also an engineer)? Here we go!!
Costs by Country
Below is a table of all the countries we visited, the duration spent in each location, and the total spent. For simplicity we lumped countries in Western Europe together, as well as countries in Eastern Europe. A few notes on a per country basis:
Colombia - We were on an organized tour for the entire time while here.
Chile - Much of our time here was hiking through Patagonia
Argentina - We took expensive long-distance bus rides (38 hours), several internal flights, and several organized trips to various glaciers. Saved money during our 10-day stay working on Mendoza vineyard.
Brazil - Was not here long enough to offset high costs of visas (~$290)
Casablanca, Portugal, and Spain - Spent 14 of the 17 days with parents. They paid majority of expenses.
Western Europe - Ate out majority of meals & moved around often. Spent an average of $45/day on food & transportation. While lodging cost us an average of $27/day. We spent the most here, vs any other country, on alcohol ~ $4.50/day on mostly German and Belgium beer.
Eastern Europe - Used Airbnb more often. Spent an average of $22/day on lodging, $20/day on food, and $17.50/day on transportation.
UAE - Stayed at filthy dorms in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi that still cost us $25/day (and that's after $80 in Airbnb credit and refunds). Everything was expensive. Tried to eat cheap but still spent $25.50/day on food.
Nepal - Did not move around much. Spent 5 days rebuilding orphanage (paid $10/day). We trekking to Everest Base Camp (rented gear, paid for airfare, hired porter, etc.). Click here to see trip notes, budget, and planning for Everest Base Camp trek. Transportation, food, and supplies are higher than typical because of EBC.
India - Most of our activities involved visiting mosques, temples, and forts. Taj Mahal was relatively expensive. We hired a houseboat and a crew of 3 for 3 days in Kerala. We ate out a lot and not always at budget places. The food was amazing and we wanted to explore as much as we could.
Malaysia - Spent 1 week in Sabah, Borneo and 8 days in Sarawak, Borneo which required a handful of flights. Food was amazing in this country so we ate a lot. Adventure Caving and park fees increased our costs more than what you would expect for Malaysia.
Thailand - Spent a lot on SCBUA diving (see liveaboard trip) and ~$840 on a 4-day yoga retreat. Parents spent 2 weeks with us, which helped offset cost in this country. I spent my last 31 days renting only 2 places, which also reduced transportation costs in this country.
Vietnam - We slept for free during our workaway. I wanted to try Dog and Cat meat (as well as eat an entire snake in Snake Village outside of Hanoi), which were relatively expensive. We traveled to the far north, which required extensive transportation.
Myanmar - We spent more money that usual on activities. We had a private boat for a tour around Inle Lake. We hired a private driver while in Mandalay. There was a hefty fee to enter Bagan. We also paid to enter the oldest Buddhist temple in the world as well as hired a private guide to trek through the small villages near Hsipaw.
The first 4 months of travel consisted of many organized and expensive tours/excursions (+ remote travel and gear rental for Patagonia, see below). From January through March we were in Western and then Eastern Europe. During April we visited Everest Base Camp, which cost us ~$1,400 for just under 2 weeks. For the remainder of the trip, which we spent in India and SE Asia, we averaged $1,800/month. The month of August was relatively expensive due to our trip to Borneo, which required 4 flights each plus park/activity fees. During my last month, which I spent alone, I did not move around much, and took very few excursions, which is why I spent so little.
During November and December of 2015 we spend 24 days in Patagonia. We spend a total of $2,645, which is an average of $110/day. This includes all tours, supplies, and transportation (many long-distance buses and 3 flights each). For this calculation I took Santiago, Chile as our starting point and Buenos Aires, Argentina as our ending point.
Cumulative Total Spend
Below I re-posted the 4 sections I described above, this time including every dollar spent (even the non-trip related expenses)
Pre-Trip Costs $5,295 | During Trip Costs (Souvenirs) $4,708 | International Travel Costs $4,745 | Country Specific Costs $36,414
The country specific charges were the only expenses that were routine, normal, and able to be extrapolated. For this reason I held the other 3 segments flat and charted the cumulative amount for country-specific costs (see chart below). This allowed me to trend out/predict--using the slope--the rate of our spending throughout our travels.
You'll notice that the first portion of the chart shows a steep slope, which is due to our 21-day organized tour through Colombia. The last month flattens out as I slowed down my pace of travel.
Total Daily Spend and Cumulative Running Daily Average
Below is a chart with quite a bunch going on--though I'll walk you through it. The solid green line represents the money that we spent each day. The peaks show expensive activities/tours, visa fees, and other various splurges whereas the valleys are representative of days we spent very little. The dashed green line is a 4-week running daily average, which shows the average of the preceding 28 days. This line is helpful as it averages out the expensive and in-expensive days to yield a more stable line. Both of these green lines use the axis on the left.
The next two lines use the axis on the right of the chart. The solid red line represents the average daily cost of travel. Unlike the dashed green line the red line is a running cumulative average, which means all prior days are included. Our cumulative daily average starts relatively high and decreases with time due to our initial 3-week organized tour in Colombia as well as many of our SA excursions, which were all quite expensive. However you see that our cumulative running average steadily decreases with time as you would expect since we were spending ~$60 once we left Western Europe.
The Dashed orange line shows the average daily cost of travel by month.
Comparing Daily Costs of Select Countries with Overall Average
The budget I built allowed me to select, from a drop-down menu, the average daily expenses by category of 3 countries that I wished to compare. I also graphed the overall daily average using info from all countries. In the example provided below I selected Western Europe, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Along the left-hand side of the chart is a color-coded key indicating various categories.
In this example you can see that Lodging was our biggest expense in Western Europe while food was our largest expense in both Vietnam and Myanmar. Food and lodging alone cost us almost $50/day in Western Europe. Unlike Europe, Vietnam and Myanmar both required visas.
Budget Summary Page
Here is a the summary page for the budget I built. Please help yourself and download the budget tracker--I only ask for a small donation.