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A Little RTW Budget … Costs to Travel Around the World for a Year

travel budgetThe single most frequently asked question I get about my travels concerns the cost of budgeting for a solo round the world trip. While understanding how I pay for it all tops the list of questions, the actually cost of traveling for a year around the world is the big unknown. I had no idea how much my RTW trip would cost when I left–some people reported around $10,000 (which seemed absurdly low) while others have spent upwards of $40K to travel a bit more luxuriously. I feel in between (but really closer to the $10K).

And I tracked every single dollar I spent on the road.

Which I will share here. My full tally is complete and I traveled around the world for for 328 days (11 months) through 15 countries and tracked what I spent, what each and every country cost, and where I could have done better.

Just want the cold hard figures? Navigate the Google spreadsheet by the countries listed at the bottom of my full RTW Travel Budget.

Many people have asked me, “How can you afford to travel around the world?!”

I have answered incarnations of this question dozens of times and what people are really saying is: “Traveling the world is super expensive, how could you have possibly afforded it.”

Well, as any regular A Little Adrift readers have surmised, I do not live off of a trust fund but instead I budgeted for the trip, sold my possessions, worked on freelance SEO from the road, and I came to the same conclusions as those backpackers who have adventurously gone before me: RTW travel is cheaper than you think!

I’m quite meticulous and I documented every single expense from my initial year-long RTW trip. My almost OCD obsession with accurately tracking my expenses is epic but in the three years since I originally posted this breakdown, other backpackers have loved the precise and exact breakdown of just how much I spent throughout a year of active world travel.

The total cost of my RTW trip: $17,985

You’re shocked right now, I know, I sprang it on you out of nowhere! Close the gaping jaw.

That’s it?!

Round the World Travel Planning Budget

I tracked my RTW budget in this mini-calendar!

Yes. Fully and completely inclusive of everything from getting jabbed in the arm for my Yellow Fever vaccine to buying all of my pre-travel gear, all of my plane flights, bus rides, camel safaris, surfing lessons, zip-lining adventures in the Laos jungle, and straight through to my first delicious sub back on home soil when I passed through Philly on my final layover of the trip.

What does this not include? Personal choices that upped the price bit: an external hard drive for photo storage, new camera (old one was waterlogged in Australia), and I rented a car alone in Ireland (most backpacker budgets wouldn’t allow for this so I included my car’s petrol to approximate the cost of public transportation for three weeks). My personal total, inclusive of all of that, was just under $19,000 … so it’s still a bargain considering I was on the road for nearly an entire year.

How Did I Keep my RTW Budget in Check?

Four deceptively simple travel tips:

  • Consider staying in a hostel to keep your budget in check.  They’re a great place to meet new people (and private rooms mean they work for couples and families too). I love the self catering facilities offered at most, and pretty much always dig a free breakfast. I used hostels throughout Europe and Australia and found the guesthouses in Asia were incredibly budget-friendly (both then and since I tend to love the privacy of guesthouses and the local planning help you can get from the guesthouse owners!)
  • Keep a budget spreadsheet for all of your expenses! Seriously, while I think you should splurge and enjoy throughout your RTW, if you are truly budgeting then know where your money goes. Download the RTW budget spreadsheet I designed for other travelers; it’s formatted, blank, and editable.
  • Limit time in the Western world. Developing countries cost significantly more for travelers, so structure your time so you don’t wipe out your savings by staying too long in Europe, Australia, or the US.
  • Travel slowly and overland. Avoid purchasing too many plane tickets and take local transportation–better stories and a better insight into local cultures is the upside!

Now, the following tables and charts will further outline my RTW budget including some of the country-by-country expenses. And because I just had to go that extra mile, my complete-down-to-the penny budget is available for viewing; the budget spreadsheet includes every single expense itemized out in an absolutely gorgeous Google spreadsheet if I can toot my own horn for a moment!

Also, don’t forget to check out the well-loved RTW FAQ and Travel Planning Guide as well as our blank, formatted spreadsheet as a downloadable excel file to log your own RTW travel budget (you can also access it as a Google Doc and save to your own Drive)!

RTW Travel Budget Breakdown

Total Costs for Each Category of Expenses

RTW Budget by Listed by Category of Expense and Amount Spent

**Lodging: All accommodation with some couchsurfing and a few contacts along the way.
**Food: Snacks, meals, and my chocolate obsession.
**Entertainment: Going out on the town – this will be higher if you drink often.
**Activities: Includes my volunteer program and all tour, trips, and group adventures.
**Transportation: Excluding flights and all intra-country transportation.
**Misc: Shipping things home, gifts, and toiletries along the way.
**Interent: I work from the road and paid a lot for internet at times – lower if you’re not taking a laptop!
**Flights: Includes MANY puddle-jumper little flights. Did not use a RTW ticket, booked along the way (and still happy I did it that way!)

Average Daily Costs per Country for my RTW Budget

My Average Daily Budget for Each Country on my RTW Trip

Total Costs of Each Country and Number of Travel Days

RTW Expenses, Listed by Country and Number of Days

**These totals do not include flights, travel gear, and other misc pre-trip expenditures, only my actual on-the-road costs.

Resources Mentioned in the Post:

Other Longterm RTW Budgets You Should Check Out

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  • ZeroCapital

    Im 17 years old and I want to travel too.So I need some advise.I m going to become a game designer and if not then a programmer.When I’ll become one I will be 23 years old.I will need to save up for my journey wich will take me 2-4 years depending my salary.Howerver
    when I’ll be done with my travel budget I will be 25-27 years old and after I depart for my journey I will be unable to work so I will have to quit my job.The journy will take 2-4 years and when I’ll return I will be 27-31 and unemployed.This kind of plan seems realy risky to me because I may end up an unsuccesfull person without anything left since I abandoned my whole normal and comfortable life in order to make my foolish dreams come true.So to conclude can someone give me some advise about a better plan or how to make one?

    • http://alittleadrift.com/ Shannon O’Donnell

      That seems like a lot of things you are holding as firm truths where there is actually flexibility and unknown in all of that. It may seem certain that this is your path — and it might be! — but you dictate what your future will look like, not some unknown path that says that it will take you this amount of time and that when you come back you will be “behind” others or in a risky place. Those are assumptions, not truths.

      The world and the future are great unknowns. There is every reason to think that you could travel, find synergies and work for some of the largest Asian-based gaming firms in the world just as a matter of making connections on your trip. That is just as likely to happen as the scenario you laid out. Neither is a more a truth than the other, they are both open possibilities for your future. You are choosing to see one as an obstacle or the only way it could shake down if you travel.

      The savings part is negotiable as well — I bartended throughout college and managed to save up enough for what would have been a 3-6 month trip through Southeast Asia, just in a single summer living at home with my parents (I instead chose to spend it on 2 months in Europe, but the savings was the same and could have fostered either trip). Every person’s situation is different, has different levels of support and opportunities, but I come from a low scoio-economic bracket and made it work. All you have to do is believe it’s possible and is something you want — open your mind to the possibilities that this trip is 1) something you can make happen and 2) something that doesn’t necessarily predicate career failure, but rather could open new doors you can’t even imagine right now.

      Best of luck, here if you ever need help planning that long-term trip. :)

      • ZeroCapital

        Someone said that the only thing that gets between yourself and your goal is the obstacles that you put there by yourself.Thank you for reminding me that.

        • Matías R

          Hi there,
          Sorry to jump into the discussion! ZeroCapital, if your plan is to be a sofware/videogame developer, you shouldn’t worry too much. Today it’s rather easy to work remotely, every day more and more companies allow their employees to do that.
          You can of course create your own video games or be a consultant, which you can do from anywhere in the world.
          So don’t worry too much, your skill will be in high demand in the future!

  • cameraandcarryon

    I love how you break down the cost of travel, because ultimately that’s what people are looking for when considering a crazy idea like traveling for 6 months (but are just too afraid to ask). We did a full budget, too, before leaving our cushy jobs in NYC — planned, saved, leaving room for a little ‘extra’ for emergencies — and managed to stick to it and came in $100 under budget after our 6 month adventure. Imagine that ;) We hope you check out our video recap of our journey and share this with your followers (we’re pretty proud of it!). In some small way, we hope to help inspire others to get out there and live out their dreams and explore all this awesome world has to offer. http://www.cameraandcarryon.com/2014/07/video-traveling-and-living-dreams/

    • http://alittleadrift.com/ Shannon O’Donnell

      Thanks for sharing the video of your journey, I will have a look now. Underbudget is a great place to be on the flip side of your trip and it’s likely a testament to the careful research it sounds like you did before you left! Safe travels :)

      • cameraandcarryon

        Thanks, Shannon! (I’m a Shannon, too… hehe)

        I want to say we were lucky to come in under budget, but I think careful purchases and recording our expenses along the way was key to sticking to the ‘plan’. Careful consideration of how much money you’re comfortable spending, while being realistic about expectations of the experience you’ll have, is one of the most important factors in successful extended travel IMO.

        We love your writing, tips, and information. Thanks for being a great resource and voice!!!

  • dannyrock1981 .

    First of all I just want to say how much I love this website, so thank you! And secondly I have been looking all over the web for an actual breakdown of costs for a RTW trip like this. I have travelled a lot in the past but I am currently saving and planning for a long trip starting late next year, North America for a few weeks then Central and South America will be my main focus after that and possibly back over to Europe and Asia. I’m just at the budgeting and route planning stage. I will keep reading through your blogs for any other advice and once again, thank you.
    Danny

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  • http://alittleadrift.com/ Shannon O’Donnell

    Thanks for sharing your iPhone app link Matias! Tracking your budget on the road is an important part of the travel process, I’ll definitely check out your app! :)

  • Rosa Sophie Renn

    Most interesting european countries for travelling are missing: France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Replaced by visiting poor countries most europeans don’t want to travel: Bosnia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Croatia… So sad i loved france and the others so much.

    • http://alittleadrift.com/ Shannon O’Donnell

      I agree those are great countries and I have loved visiting each one of them. On a round the world though, there is compromise between the very expensive countries and the less expensive ones. And, as an American I have to factor in that I only have three months in the Schengen zone — on my trip I chose to spend it in the Netherlands, UK, Scotland and Ireland. You could definitely switch those out on yours. Safe travels.

  • ShannonOD

    You're most welcome! Thanks for popping in :-) I look forward to reading some of your more “fights” :-)

  • ShannonOD

    All hostels in the developed countries and guest houses in Asia – never the “absolute cheapest” though! I like a little clean at least! :-)