The 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 actual 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 spent upwards of $40K to travel a bit more luxuriously. So I thought of it as a grand adventure. How much will it cost, and how long can I keep going with my freelance income?
Over that year, I tracked every single dollar I spent on the road.
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.
How did I save for around the world travel?
I have answered incarnations of this question dozens of times. The real question is this: “Traveling the world is expensive, how could you have possibly afforded it?”
It’s not as expensive as you assume, and most anyone reading this post has the ability to save for travel if it’s a true priority. As regular A Little Adrift readers have surmised, I don’t live off of a trust fund. My family is quite poor and I made it through college on merit-based scholarships. Instead of counting on help from family, I budgeted for the trip. I sold my couch, my clothes, my cups. I sold my car too, and I saved ruthlessly in the countdown months. I took on side-work to sock away money, and then, I worked on freelance SEO from the road for the entire year. And through all that, I came to the same conclusions as those backpackers who have adventurously gone before me: RTW travel is cheaper than you think!
I am not saying it’s dirt cheap, but compared to my life in LA with $1200+ going to rent and bills each month, I used that same online income to travel the world, and I dug into my small savings to pay for the long-haul flights.
Traveling the world is a mental obstacle as much as a financial one. Every situation is different, but I truly believe that if you are ready to truly prioritize travel, then it’s possible to plan and execute a round the world trip. The problem is, there’s crappy information out there about how to make it happen. Many bloggers have shared posts with a handful of tips about saving for travel, but they don’t break down the long slog that it takes for some travelers to eliminate and save for a big dream, like travel. Even more, although I’m about to share the cost of my yearlong backpacking trip, it’s hard to know if your own travels would cost the same.
For that reason, I wrote an entire guide about saving and budgeting for world travel. It gives comprehensive and thoroughly practical advice about how to save for travel. Even more, the budget section is a full treatise on how to estimate what your dream trip will cost and includes case studies from other long-term travelers who tracked their trip budgets.
I spent nearly a year talking with other travelers and using the aggregate of their knowledge and experience to outline a road-map to taking a long-term trip. I wrote this guide to empower travelers and travel dreamers anywhere in the world with the tools to plan their trip. The guide is available on PDF, Kindle, or ePub (or order on Kindle via Amazon). It’s priced low to ensure you can save extra funds for travel. There is no obstacle to starting — right now — with your dream of world travel.
Cost of My One Year Round the World Trip
Now, onto my travel budget!
I documented every single expense from my initial year-long RTW trip with meticulous care. My obsession with accurately tracking my expenses is epic but in the five 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. And five years later, even with rising global food costs, they are still traveling strong on similar budgets.
Total: USD $17,985
You’re shocked right now, I know, I sprang it on you out of nowhere! Close the gaping jaw.
Travel was my bootcamp for life. This trip was the single best investment in both my personal growth and my career. Throughout life we are presented with a series of choices — each has the ability to help us create the life we want to have lived. I am forever glad I chose to travel this big beautiful world.
What does that number 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. And again, I stress, this is thousands less than my annual expenses living in Los Angeles, California.
But lest you think it’s an anomaly, know that I have tracked cost of living around the world. If you’re considering a slow trip, I documented how I lived in places like Thailand for less than $600 per month, and Mexico for under $800.
How Did I Keep my RTW Budget in Check?
Five deceptively simple travel tips:
- Consider staying in a hostel to keep your budget in check. They’re a great place to meet new people (and private rooms mean they work for couples and families too). I love the self catering facilities offered at most, and pretty much always dig a free breakfast. I used HI or Hostelworld hostels throughout Europe and Australia. And in Asia, the guesthouses are very budget-friendly. I love the privacy of guesthouses and the local planning help you can get from the guesthouse owners!).
- Keep a budget spreadsheet for all of your expenses! Seriously, while I think you should splurge and enjoy throughout your RTW, if you are truly budgeting then know where your money goes. Access the RTW budget spreadsheet I designed for other travelers; it’s formatted, blank, and editable.
Now, the following tables and charts will further outline my RTW budget including some of the country-by-country expenses. And because I just had to go that extra mile, my complete-down-to-the penny budget is available for viewing; the budget spreadsheet includes every single expense itemized out in an absolutely gorgeous Google spreadsheet if I can toot my own horn for a moment!
RTW Travel Budget Breakdown
Total Costs to Travel the World for a Year
|Travel Expense||Cost (USD$)|
|Activities + Entertainment||$3,613.18|
|Misc (internet, gifts, extra gear, etc)||$1,753.67|
|Pre-Trip Travel Gear||$484.50|
* Lodging: Includes all accommodation; I couchsurfed in a few countries and stayed with friends a couple of times.
* Food: Includes everything from three meals a day, to snacks, and funding my chocolate obsession.
* Entertainment: Going out on the town, sharing beers with friends — this will be much higher if you drink often. My budget was for drinking on average once a week.
* Activities: Includes my volunteer program and all tours, trips, and group adventures. Everything from diving to ziplining to visiting temples and museums.
* Transportation: This total excludes flights, but covers all intra-country transportation like buses, trains, taxis and tuk-tuks.
* Misc: A large portion is the internet, it was pricey to make sure I had a strong connection for my work. Also includes shipping things home, gifts, and toiletries along the way.
* Flights: Includes many puddle-jumper little flights between countries in the same region. I did not use a RTW ticket, but instead booked along the way.
RTW Budget Daily Costs & Total Costs Per Country
**These totals do not include flights, travel gear, and other misc pre-trip expenditures, only my actual on-the-road costs.
You’re Inspired to Travel. So, What Should You Do Now?
It’s easy to see the numbers, be inspired for a bit and then never take action. If you’re actively planning your RTW — fantastic! There are a few more essential resources below that will help you plan your trip. If you’re currently working, studying, or just dreaming of traveling, I have resources for you as well.
Helpful A Little Adrift Resources:
- So you’re planning a trip, what next?
- My full RTW budget as a Google Document that will open in your browser and a clean spreadsheet to track your own expenses as you travel around the world.
- A practical guide to saving and budgeting for travel (Kindle or PDF).
- Essential tips on packing for a RTW trip.
- Detailed travel planning resources and travel guides.
How to Plan Your RTW Trip
- How Much Will Your Dream RTW Trip Cost? (PDF or Amazon Kindle) This guide provides the most comprehensive advice you’ll find on how to save for travel, and how to anticipate exactly how much money you need for your dream trip. It goes far beyond the light savings and budgeting advice out there elsewhere, and instead deep-dives into all of the nitty-gritties. It includes travel budget case studies, detailed worksheets, as well as specific averages for the daily budget in dozens of countries around the world (updated Fall 2016).
- How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: My friend Matt wrote this book, now in its second edition. It’s an ideal guide for new budget travelers with hacks and tips for saving money on the road with travel cards, points, etc.
- Navigating travel sickness, solo female travel safety, & loneliness.
Keep the Dream Alive & Save for Your Travels
Nearly $20k is a huge sum for most people, but it’s a doable sum too. It really is. I come from a poor family and managed to save some and work online for the rest. I made it on my initial RTW trip because of help from friends and family coupled with a desire to pour all of my extra cash into my travel fund. Here’s some links and resources that will get you on your way.
- Money is a huge factor for a lot of people, so read more about finding freelance, remote-based work and making extra income from side-hustles.
- If you’re stuck on how you make that big decision to pack up life and travel, read this post on how you know it’s the right time to travel.
- Dream, Save, Do: Long-term travelers share how to create a solid and working action plan for reaching your dream — be it saving for a RTW trip or planning some other big quest.