Round the World Travel Budgets Revealed: The Real Costs of 11 Real Trips

Want more tips for planning your trip?
Want more tips for planning your trip?

Time and time again, whether it’s by trying to debunk RTW myths, highlighting expensive countries and offering tips on how to travel cheaply in them, or putting together a list of budget destinations in Europe to add to your list, we’ve tried to inform all you dreamers out there that RTW travel is possible for anyone.

Now it’s time to take it a step further. Instead of just writing about it and telling you that RTW travel can be for anyone, it’s now time to show you. We gathered 11 RTW travelers and asked them the ins and outs of their budget. We have exact numbers for you that show where people went, how they traveled, how long they were gone, and most importantly, how much they spent. These are real budgets from real travelers, and as you’ll see, there’s all types of different ways to travel. Some spent two or three times more than others. Some really scrimped and you’ll be shocked at how little they spent.

Browsing other’s budgets gives those thinking about a RTW trip something tangible to strive for. It will finally give you some real numbers to break down. Take a look at the countries these travelers visited, see how they traveled, and try to find someone who might fit in line with the way you travel. Being able to connect with real people and see real-life examples of other’s trips makes your RTW dreams seem more possible.

In addition to the overall costs of each person’s/couple’s trip, I broke down the airline cost and specified if the traveler(s) bought a RTW plane ticket or point to point. I also mentioned the most and least expensive countries along with a per day cost. Then I asked each traveler to offer their top budgeting tips for an extended trip. All costs are in US dollars.

349 days, 11 countries = $40,300 ($57/day/person)

Since I’ve talked so much in this column about the trip I took with my wife, I figured I might as well start off with it. We traveled around South America, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and India during our near year-long trip around the world. We decided to go the point to point route for our plane tickets, largely because we wanted the freedom to go where we want when we wanted, but honestly, we pretty much stuck to the estimated route we talked about before leaving, so it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. Our trip was in 2008-2009, when airfare was at its lowest in years, so we got some pretty good deals.

By the numbers

  • We spent $8100 on plane tickets throughout the course of our trip.
  • The most expensive country we visited was New Zealand at $180/day for two of us.
  • The least expensive country we visited was Laos at $55/day for two of us.

Budgeting tips

  • The best tip I can give is to do what makes you happiest. I was obsessed with our budget and staying on track for our first month in Peru, and it was difficult. We ended up bypassing too many things because they were too expensive. We finally realized that one of the main reasons we were taking this trip was to experience all these new things, and by skipping so many of them because of cost, we felt as though we were doing ourselves a disservice.
  • You always have to be cognizant of what you’re spending (we wrote down every penny we spent on a daily basis), but there is a balance between being psycho about your budget and saying “Screw it” all the time. The key is finding the balance that works for you.

326 Days, 14 Countries = $48,004 ($73/day/person)

Gillian and Jason, who run the site One Giant Step, set off in 2009 for about 11 months on a trip through South America, Europe, parts of the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. They did not buy a RTW plane ticket but decided to go the point to point route.

By the numbers

  • They spent $8775 on plane tickets throughout the course of their trip.
  • The most expensive country they visited was Brazil, coming in at $164/day for two people.
  • The least expensive country visited was Vietnam at $76/day for both.

Budgeting tips

  • “Track what you spend! It doesn’t have to be as detailed as the spreadsheet we kept while traveling but you should know how much you’re spending daily or weekly. It may be the trip of a lifetime but there are still decisions and sacrifices that have to be made due to budget and, without knowing where you’re at, you may overspend or, alternately, decide not to do something that maybe you could actually afford.”
  • “Keep a small notebook with you and simply write down what you’re spending – it’s much easier to adjust spending in small increments than finding out that large changes in spending have to be made later on. Just like at home, having control of your money means having control of your life!”

386 days, 12 countries = $66,000 ($85/day/person)

Akila and Patrick run the travel blog The Road Forks and have been on the road off and on for the past few years. Their first foray into RTW travel saw them visit Australia and New Zealand, India, a few countries in Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea, China, and parts of Africa. Akila and Patrick’s trip was a bit different as they had a few dogs they left behind in the States. Since they couldn’t bear to leave them for an entire year, they decided to fly home 4 different times throughout the course of their trip. Some airline miles were used for this purpose.

By the numbers

  • They spent $10,440 on plane tickets throughout the course of their trip.
  • The most expensive country they visited was Japan, coming in at $115/day for two people.
  • The least expensive country visited was Cambodia at $40/day for both.

Budgeting tips

  • “Budget about 20% more than you think you’ll actually need.”
  • “Remember that travel is flexible — we went over budget in Japan, so we headed to China for the next month.”
  • “In general, the price of accommodation multiplied by 2 (or 3 depending on how much you want to do in a particular country) will give you a rough estimate of how much you will spend there.”

318 days, 16 countries = $110,000 ($69.18/day/person)

You may be a bit confused by that large total number above followed by the small per day number. The reason for this is because Mike Cooney traveled with his family of 5, including his wife Catrell and 3 teenage sons. The Cooney’s now run a full service travel agency called Cooney World Adventures. This family took off in 2008 for a year long trip around the world, visiting Central and South America, parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji before heading back home to Florida. They decided to go with a RTW plane ticket since they thought it would be simpler traveling with five people.

By the numbers

  • The Cooney’s spent about $25,000 on all five RTW plane tickets.
  • The most expensive country the Cooney’s visited was a tie between South Africa and Australia at $47/person/day.
  • The least expensive countries were Vietnam and Cambodia at $27/person/day.

Budgeting tips

  • “Not including Southeast Asia, we cooked our own meals about 80-percent of the time – especially in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. That was for two reasons 1) to save money and 2) because Catrell, Morgan and Zach are vegetarian and Harrison is Vegan, and thank God they were. I cannot imagine how much more it would have cost if we had consumed meat the way we did before April 2008, which was five months before we left. I ate some occasionally, but mostly ate what they ate.”
  • “Certainly finding an apartment that we could rent for several days or a house for a week or more really helped keep costs down. Driving through Southern Africa was a real budget buster. Originally we thought we could use buses, but that did not work. I should have shopped around for a better price, but kept the same van for nearly two months.”
  • “We should have done more research on the cost of using ATMs and charge cards. The fees really added up.”
  • “We were fortunate to have sponsors – Travel Country (www.travelcountry.com) in Altamonte Springs (just north of Orlando) gave us all of our gear, Berlitz Orlando put together a Spanish language class just for the five of us and Chaco (before they were bought by Wolverine), gave us all of our footwear for both legs of the trek. In exchange I wrote blogs about them and their products and services. That saved us about $5,000. I tried for more, but still believe we were the most successful out of all the other families that were traveling at the same time we were.”

150 days, 24 countries = $35,000 ($116/day/person)

Justin Troupe is a writer, photographer, and vagabond on a mission to visit every country in the world and writes at The Endless Weekend. Justin’s trip was a little more unusual than some as he jetted around rather quickly with his wife, trying to cover as much ground as possible in his 5 month trip. He was fortunate to have some airline miles built up, which he used for his first flight to Europe. They explored 15 countries throughout Europe before hopping on a RTW flight that took them to Asia and the South Pacific. After coming back to the States on their RTW ticket, they used more miles to go explore the Caribbean for a month.

By the numbers

  • Justin spent $5000 on plane tickets throughout the course of his trip, but he did use miles to get to Europe and then from the US to the Caribbean and back.
  • The most expensive country they visited was Bora Bora, coming in at $400/day for two people.
  • The least expensive country visited was India at $100/day.

Budgeting tips

  • “Stay in condos or or if possible a hostel with a kitchen so you can keep your food cost lower.”
  • “Slow the pace down, my trip was quite expensive because we did 26 countries in 4 months. It was expensive if you look at the cost per day, but not it you look at it from a per country point of view. $30,000 divided by 26 countries works out to $1250 per country, which is not bad.”
  • “The craziest part of Round the World Travel is that so many people think it is out of reach for them. Yet people waste money constantly on things that don’t make them happy. In life, you can buy things or you can buy experiences. I have found that experiences make me much happier. For the cost of a used car, you can actually go see the world. All it takes is the courage to dream big and then set goals and make it happen.”

92 days, 3 countries = $6946.71 ($75/day/person)

Katie of Katie Going Global is in the middle of her RTW trip as you are reading this. Her trip is quite unique in that she is going to be visiting all the former countries of the Soviet Union. Katie began her trip in Finland before heading over to Estonia and Russia, where she has spent the past few weeks traveling the Trans-Siberian railway. She had some airline miles built up, so her initial flight to Finland cost less than $100. She also spent a little over $600 on warm clothes once arriving in Russia and Christmas gifts to send home to her family.

By the numbers

  • She spent $330 on her flights so far.
  • Since Katie has only visited 3 countries, here’s the cost breakdown for each country she has visited:
    • Finland: $80/day for one person
    • Estonia: $62/day
    • Russia: $61/day

Budgeting tips

  • “I would advise people not to forget about budgeting for the intangibles – buying new toiletries, cold medicine, kleenex, repairing or replacing things that might break, etc. – I’ve dealt with all of those things so far.
  • “I researched and budgeted for my transport between cities, I didn’t account for intracity transportation. In St. Petersburg and Moscow, I easily dropped a couple dollars a day just getting around because it simply wasn’t possible to walk everywhere I wanted to go. Also, chances are you will need to spend money getting to your accommodations from the airport/bus station/train station. Little things like that can add up.”

335 days, 19 countries = $62,247 ($93/day/person)

Keith and Amy run the site Green Around the Globe, and they departed in the summer of 2009 to fulfill their dreams of traveling the world. They had another goal of keeping worldwide sustainability in mind when they traveled to 18 countries on 5 continents. Keith and Amy traveled around the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, and the US and Canada before returning back to Philadelphia. They did not buy a RTW plane ticket for their trip.

By the numbers

  • They spent $9691 on plane tickets during their trip.
  • The most expensive country they visited was Bhutan, topping out at $490/day for both of them.
  • The least expensive country they visited was Laos at $82/day.

Budgeting tips

  • “Set up a tracking system that works for you to regularly track your spending a small booklet worked for us.”
  • “Double or triple all Lonely Planet budget estimates.”
  • “Maintain a cushion to account for the unexpected inluding: death/sickness in the family, theft, technology breakage.”
  • From their website: “Looking back, we probably should have realized long ago that we weren’t cut out for the low-budget backpacking scene. We’ve never been thrilled when staying in a hostel with “backpacker” in its name, and given our age, the amount of electronic gear we’re carrying and our proclivity for tour guides it should have been obvious. I suppose we all must pass through denial – i.e. that we are no longer twenty-two and willing to sleep (or pass out) anywhere – before reaching acceptance. We are flashpackers, flashpacking around the world, hopping from one wifi enabled hostel to the next on this well-guided and technologically connected adventure.”

328 days, 15 countries = $18,588.39 ($56/day/person)

Shannon, who runs the site A Little Adrift, has been on the road since 2008. Her initial RTW trip saw here visit many of the countries that first time RTW travelers visit, including Australia, Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, and much of Europe. Shannon hasn’t stopped since, and she kept impeccable records of her spending on her first solo trip around the world. Like many of our RTW travelers, she chose to buy point to point plane tickets instead of a RTW ticket.

By the numbers

  • Shannon spent $3557.40 on flights during her trip.
  • The most expensive country Shannon visited was Italy at $90/day for one person.
  • The least expensive country she visited was India, coming in at $18/day.

Budgeting tips

  • “Enjoy yourself and splurge when it’s needed; don’t get too bogged down in the budgeting (which it is so easy to do!).”
  •  “If you’re in a once-in-a-lifetime spot and have a unique opportunity, do it. In fact, enjoy the heck out of it, and then finagle the finances by cutting back on hotel room luxuries if necessary–you’ll remember the experiences from your RTW far more than any specific hotel room!”

152 days, 8 countries = $16,653 ($109/day/person)

Jeremy runs the site Living the Dream and went on a 5 month trip around Asia, visiting Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. He traveled solo for the majority of his trip, though he did pay for his fiance to come meet up with him in Thailand for 12 days, where they stayed at luxury resorts the entire time, thus upping the overall budget of his trip. Ryan bought his flights as he went instead of going with a RTW ticket.

By the numbers

  • Jeremy spent $2665 on his flights.
  • The most expensive country he visited was Japan, which topped out at $97/day for one person.
  • The least expensive country he visited was Malaysia, which only cost $40/day for one person.

Budget tips

  • “A good understanding of prices is necessary to save the proper amount, including room for inflation and over spending. The internet is a valuable tool to seeing what prices are like right this very minute for everything you want to do, so using rough numbers for a country like ‘Thailand is $50/day’ is not the best way to do it. You may spend $20/day in Chiang Mai but $200/day on Railay Beach and end up only averaging $40/day total. You don’t have to go crazy in understanding these prices, but the more you know and the more your trip savings accounts for such things the less room for surprise you’ll have later.”
  • “No matter how good you plan you’ll always end up spending more than you anticipated. One extra beer at dinner, a nicer hostel, a great souvenir. Even if you do factor in this spending a few dollars here or there really starts to eat into your account, and those going on a budget could lose theirs quickly without logging their spending, even if it is just a daily summary. By having something to look back on you can see how your spending is behaving over the previous weeks and months to see if modifications for the future itinerary will be necessary. Of course, there are always times to say screw the budget for the experience, and I am a good example of doing that one several times over!”

249 days, 17 countries = $41,616 ($83/day/person)

Rachel and Logan are in the midst of a 14 month trip, where they focus on unique regional food at Boots in the Oven. They left in March of 2011 and have traveled through much of Central and South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Like most of our other participants, Rachel and Logan went with the less restrictive point to point option of flights.

By the numbers

  • Rachel and Logan have spent $8500 on their flights so far.
  • The most expensive country they visited was Turkey at $222/day for 2 people.
  • The least expensive country was Ethiopia at $70/day for both.

Budget Tips

  • “We are traveling with a specific focus on unique regional food so we eat as local as possible. Mainly restaurants, cafes, street food, etc.”
  • “We have mainly stayed at hostels and guest houses, opting for private double rooms with en suite bathroom when possible. We often end up sharing a bath though…We also have utilized peer-to-peer home rental sites like Airbnb and Homeaway.”

396 days, 11 countries = $28,826 ($34/day/person)

I saved Warren and Betsy’s story for last because even though I’ve talked to them myself, seen their spreadsheets, and read their posts over on RTW Expenses, I still can’t believe how they have managed to do it, especially given the fact that they spent much of the year in Western Europe. Add to the fact that this couple is married and in their 40’s, not some straight out of college couple backpacking around the world, staying in scummy hostels, and eating one meal a day, and it’s even more impressive how little they’ve managed to spend. They are true budgeting gurus, and their trip through South America, Western Europe, and Thailand on well under $30k for both of them is just damn impressive. Be sure to pay attention to their budgeting tips below.

By the numbers

  • Warren and Betsy have spent $1100 on airfare (they used miles for 2 long flights and took a boat from South America to England).
  • The most expensive country they have visited was France, coming in at $149/day for both Warren and Betsy.
  • The least expensive country was Ecuador at $39/day for the couple.

Budgeting tips

  • “Pick a daily expense figure based on how you travel. This should be an average amount per day you will live on. You need to create this based on your style of travel. Plan your budget on a daily basis, and then calculate your monthly/annual expenses.”
  • “Take 2-3 minutes each day to track your expenses for the day. It will help you to know how much you are spending, but more importantly what you have left.”

As you can see, budgets vary wildly depending on each RTW travelers’ traveling style and where they go. You can be like Warren and Betsy and spend a paltry $34/day traveling the world, or you can do move faster, see more, and have a little more luxury like Justin, who spent about $116/day on his trip. It’s all personal preference and how you prefer to travel and see the world.

If you are on the fence about taking a RTW trip, do these budgets help make your decision easier? If you’ve taken a long-term trip before, what are your top budgeting tips for a trip like this? Comment below to share your thoughts.

For more budgeting tips and advice, be sure to read the following articles:

Adam Seper and his wife, Megan, decided that 50+ hour workweeks with 2 weeks of vacation a year simply wasn’t going to cut it.  So they decided to take a leap of faith and put The American Dream on hold.  In October 2008, they took off on an epic, year-long adventure, traversing the globe and traveling to 89 cities and 11 countries across 4 continents, never to be the same again.

Now Adam is going to tell you how you can plan your own epic adventure. Every week, on “Round the World Wednesday” he’ll share tips for planning, budgeting and selecting a route, plus advice on where to go and what to see and do all around the world.

Photo Credits: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, all other pictures belong to the author.





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