$7,035.57 = How much it costs to travel around the world through nine countries over five and a half months

atm_cash

 

Since I get a lot of questions about how much it actually costs to travel, I thought I might go through what my trip around the world (across Asia to Europe and back to the US, click here for the rough map) cost according to my bank statements.

Cost is obviously one of the most important factors in deciding where and when to travel. Before beginning, I should say that a lot of my trip was in the low season for many places (that is, not summer), and I would almost always travel in the cheapest class of transportation available. I also hitchhiked quite a bit, utilized Couchsurfing, ate basic food, and wasn't afraid of camping. If you have higher standards for when you travel, you can expect it to cost that much more.

So I'll break this down into three groups: flights, visas, and on-the-ground costs. All of my purchase history is online through my bank, so I went back through the information to determine how much my trip cost. Also, if you don't have travel equipment you have to factor the price of that in; you can see what I pack at this link.

 

 

Flights: $1613.95

For all of my flights between countries, I used ITA Matrix Airfare Search (now owned by Google) to find the cheapest flights. It is by far the most handy tool I have found for searching airfares since it has the ability to search prices over an entire month and airports within a huge radius. The latter feature is incredible if you are flexible about where you want to fly into or out of. I know there are better tools for intra-European flights like RyanAir or airlines like Southwest in the US that aren't covered by the ITA Matrix, but I didn't do any of those routes. Airfare from the US to China was $528.36, from Kazakhstan to Georgia was $270.71, and from Romania to the US was $715.27. There was also a short flight within Georgia for $45 and within China for $53 (didn't use ITA for these, used eLong.com for Chinese flight).

 

Visas: $427.24

I covered the process of getting Russian and Chinese visas in this post before I left, so I won't go very in depth about those. This cost doesn't include the visas that I got while traveling (Kazakh: $60, Armenian: $8, Turkish: $20), but those costs are instead factored into the on-the-ground costs.

 

On-the-ground: $4994.38, or $908.07 per month, or $227.02 per week

This includes everything outside of visas and airfare, like transportation, food/drinks, housing, and entertainment/culture. This can obviously vary widely depending on the country. For the whole trip, I took out money (never more than $400 at a time) with my ATM card and had $80 in fees since my bank didn't have ATMs around the world, obviously. The prices you see for the countries below aren't exact since I may have had leftover money in a given country and changed it in the next country, but the rough amounts should give you an idea.

Also, the different ways that I traveled in each country (i.e. using hostels vs. Couchsurfing) significantly changed how much it costed compared to if I did it differently, so only interpret the costs per day in light of my comments on how I traveled in each country. For example, Kazakhstan looks really cheap, but it's actually quite an expensive country. It was cheap for me because I Couchsurfed, stayed with a friend's family, and didn't move around a lot due to visa/immigration issues.

Under each country I've included a link to a previous post so you can get an idea about what I did there and how I traveled. Also, I should say that I never did any long-term guided tours, just local ones they seemed cost effective. That is, essentially all of my trip was planned an organized myself. For information as to where to go/what to do, I either got it from Wikitravel (and then contributed afterwards, since that's what Wikitravel depends on), talked to other travelers, or had the odd pirated guidebook PDF to fill in the gaps. A combination of Wikitravel, hostelworld.com, my tent, and just turning up pretty much took care of finding places to sleep.

 

China: $1256.46, or about $29 per day

How I got around: Trains, hard sleeper class (cheapest) if it was overnight.

Where I slept: In hostels, which are incredibly cheap and a great value in China.

What I ate/drank: A lot of street food, basic restaurants.

Comments: The real punishers in China are the entrance fees to parks and monuments.

To get an idea: Cruising down the Yangtze River and Three Gorges

 

Mongolia: $518.46, or about $58 per day

How I got around: Train to get in and out of the country via the capital Ulaanbataar, but had to hire a guide to visit the countryside due to the weather and there not really being roads in Mongolia. This caused it to be quite expensive.

Where I slept: In the capital, in the cheap guesthouse of my guide. In the countryside, you have to pay to stay in a nomadic yer, which was usually like $20 per night including food.

What I ate/drank: In the capital, basic retaurant food. Food provided by families in countryside.

Comments: Pricy since I had to hire a guide for a good trip in a short time. Would have been cheaper if I had split the price of a guide.

To get an idea: A taste of the nomadic life in Mongolia

 

Russia: $613.16, or about $29 per day

How I got around: Trains, cheaper since it was the low season, always 3rd (platskart) class. Hitchhiked a good stretch from Novosibirsk to Omsk (recommended if it's warm out and you want to save cash).

Where I slept: Entirely Couchsurfing. Russians are good hosts, friendly, curious, and there aren't really hostels where I was in Siberia.

What I ate/drank: Food from supermarkets, basic street food.

Comments: Overall a pretty pricey country, luckily I was able to Couchsurf and take 3rd class trains.

To get an idea: Siberia Pt. 3: From wild to domesticated in 50 years, the incredible fox farm experiment in Novosibirsk

 

Kazakhstan: $212.67, or about $11 per day

How I got around: Trains, 3rd class.

Where I slept: Couchsurfing, stayed with a friend's family.

What I ate/drank: Supermarket food and basic restaurants, and my friend's family insisted on feeding me while I stayed with them which cut down on costs.

Comments: It was so cheap in Kazakhstan since I was held stationary in Almaty for a while working out visa troubles, with a place to sleep and food entirely taken care of by the generous family I stayed with. If I had traveled around more, it would definitely have been more expensive, though Couchsurfing was abundantly available.

To get an idea: Kazakhstan Pt. 2: Astana, WTF? Diagnosis: major inferiority complex

 

Georgia: $380.59, or about $27 per day

How I got around: Minibuses.

Where I slept: Hostels (provided breakfast) and guesthouses (provided breakfast + dinner) in countryside.

What I ate/drank: Basic street/restaurant or supermarket food.

Comments: Overall pretty affordable considering the amount of moving around we did, and never Couchsurfed.

To get an idea: (The Republic of) Georgia: So beautiful it makes me angry

 

Armenia: $412, or about $41 per day

How I got around: Minibuses.

Where I slept: Hostels (provided breakfast) and guesthouses (provided breakfast + dinner) in countryside.

What I ate/drank: Basic street/restaurant or supermarket food.

Comments: Prices are a more expensive than in Georgia, but you get basically the same thing.

To get an idea: Armenia: F*%k, another alphabet to not learn

 

Turkey: $963.38, or about $34 per day

How I got around: Almost entirely hitchhiking between cities, occasional minibus to get out of city. Only one overnight bus, no trains.

Where I slept: Hostels (provide breakfast usually) and camping (cheap or free).

What I ate/drank: Basic street/restaurant food.

Comments: Beer is expensive due to taxes, and some cultural sites are really high-priced if they are located in a touristy area. If we didn't hitchhike, which many times was faster (though not necessarily easier) than taking a bus, it would have easily been double the price per day to travel here.

To get an idea: Lessons from a Kurdish-Swede rapper about Kurdistan, and finally getting my hands on an AK-47

 

Bulgaria: $405.57, or about $34 per day

How I got around: Hitchhiking, cheap trains.

Where I slept: Hostels (provide breakfast, moderately priced) and camping (free).

What I ate/drank: Basic steert/restaurant food. Food is really affordable here.

Comments: Would have been less expensive, but I was making up for all the beer I didn't drink in Turkey. Cultural sites are very affordable, and trains are cheap.

To get an idea: Bulgaria: Nice cities, tipped off about an isolated beach, and getting perspective from a prostitute's cigarette burns

 

Romania: $152.12, or about $25 per day

How I got around: Hitchhiking, cheap trains.

Where I slept: Hostels in cities, stayed on a farm for free in exchange for work and food through WWOOF.

What I ate/drank: Basic street/restaurant food in cities, food for free on farm.

Comments: I payed a small fee, like $15, to get hooked up with a farm, so that took care of housing and food for a while. In cities, cultural stuff was cheap, and so was food and drinks.

To get an idea: Romania: WWOOFing in Transylvania and back to the US

 

Of course, if something like a trip around the world like this is out of your budget, you can easily do something for just as long and less than half of the money if you travel to cheaper countries (like Latin America). If you are coming from the US, a trip around South America would mean much cheaper airfare, no visa fees, and in general lower per day costs than Asia/Eastern Europe. If you are willing to eat basic food, stay in hostels, and camp, you can easily have an epic trip without spending too much money.

Let me know if there are any questions or things that people might want me to add!

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Comments  

 
-3 #1 C-Check 2011-08-03 04:31
Don't forget the opportunity cost of not having gainful employment during that time.
 
 
+2 #2 Tyler Cole 2011-08-03 18:06
But that's a tricky thing to address. Say, for example, that you are employed and making an amount equal to what it costs to live. In that case, there wouldn't really be a monetary opportunity cost to traveling, just the cost of dipping into your savings. Also, you may be discounting the opportunity cost of not traveling, since for any given person the value of travel may be greater than the value of being in a given employment situation, and that's not necessarily speaking in terms of money.

In any case, that's a good point that is worth meditating on, and ultimately I think it depends on the person.
 
 
+3 #3 Tyler Cole 2011-08-03 18:09
Also, traveling may open you up to new ideas and push you into a path that you wouldn't have otherwise gone down, leading to long-term greater payback that far outsizes the initial opportunity cost.
 
 
+1 #4 Darren 2011-08-05 14:17
thanks so much for this post, currently planning a 8 month RTW trip to start next summer and this is a great baseline for costs. Will be going over your archives for other good nuggets :)
 
 
+1 #5 Tihomir 2011-08-24 00:07
Nice! Here is my budget of 4,102 EUR for 103 days in Trukey-Nepal-Tibet-China-Mongolia-Russia-Finland-Åland-Sweden-Denmark-Faroe Islands-Iceland

TRANSPORT, VISAS, INSURANCE
Insurance - 70 euro
Russian visa - 75 euro
Mongolian visa - 50 euro

Sofia-Istanbul - 25 euro.
Istanbul - Kathmandu - 180 euro.
Kathmandu - Lhasa (tour including accommodation, sightseeing and breakfast)
450 euro
Lhasa - Chengdu - 550
Chengdu - UB - 183
Mongolia (ten day "all inclusive" trip 165 euro
UB - Irkutsk 47 euro.
Irkutsk - Kazan (with a side trip to Tuva and an expensive cupe train due to last minute booking) 360 euro
Kazan - Moskva 30 euro
Moskva - STP 45 euro.
STP- Tallinn 20 euro
Tallinn - Helsinki 25 euro.
Helsinki - Turku 30 euro.
Turku - åland 17 euro.
Åland - Sthlm 10 euro.
Sthlm - Gbg 34 euro.
Gbg - Hirtshals 35 euro.
Denmark-Faroe Islands-Iceland 170 euro
--------------------------------------------------
2071 euro


Nepal. 450 euro. 19 days
Tibet and china. (Tibet accommodation included in the above, in China mostly with friends) 200 euro. 14 days
Mongolia (camping for ten days) 200 euro 17 days
Russia. (mostly couchsurfing) 575 euro 27 days
Scandinavia (couchsurfing and staying with friends) 606 euro 26 days
_______________ ______
2031 euro
 
 
0 #6 James 2011-08-26 03:38
That's very helpful as I'm planning for a three month RTW next year.
 

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