How to Build Your RTW Route
Editor’s note: Planning an extended trip takes a lot of work, and something many first time planners do is obsess over their route and where they’re going to go. One suggestion we offer is to build a route that offers flexibility – that perfect blend of planning vs. spontaneity, which you can do with this base route. In addition to being easily customizable, flying in and out of hub cities like these will help keep those airfare costs down! As you’ll see below, this trip can be done in a number of ways – as a shorter 3 or 4 week trip, or as part of a longer trip that can easily last up to a year (or more).
Customizing this route to make it your own
The beauty of multi-stop routes is that you can take any sample route you see and use them as inspiration for your own.
This particular trip takes you to some incredibly diverse places with lots of opportunities for exciting side trips at each destination. If you wanted to do it exactly how we have it constructed here, we recommend a least a month. If you want to go big, though, it can easily be stretched to a year or more by planning plenty of time in between flights and traveling overland within each region to explore further.
- World capital cities
- Well-connected to other destinations
- Suited to short or long trips
- A good mix of cultures and developed/developing destinations
- More touristy
- Starkly different climates
- Visiting larger cities means budgeting more money
Unique to this route
- English is widely spoken in all destinations on this route.
- Because of the large capital cities on this route, it’s possible to see so much more by traveling overland and only using these 5 flights.
This is a great trip for a short RTW expedition, but if you really want to get to know the culture of all these cities and countries, take your time with this route as part of a longer trip, utilizing overland travel and/or cheap regional flights.
All destinations are great hubs to visit the parts of each country.
- From NYC it’s easy to visit Boston, Philly, DC, and other parts of the American Northeast.
- London is obviously a great base from which to see the rest of the UK. Plus, you can always find cheap airfare to visit cities all around Europe.
- From Delhi it’s easy to get to Agra and see the Taj Mahal. If you have even more time, go north to Rishikesh for yoga, further north into the Indian Himalayas for trekking, or west to Rajasthan.
- From Bangkok, it’s easy to travel overland all throughout SE Asia, hitting up various points within Thailand plus Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. There are also cheap regional flights (like AirAsia) to get around the region.
For this trip, the weather is probably the biggest deciding factor in deciding when to go. Summer travel is convenient for many, but Delhi and Bangkok have rainy seasons that run roughly from May through October. Keep in mind, though, that
“rainy season” doesn’t always mean days upon days of rain. Often you only get rain for an hour or so in the afternoon around otherwise good weather. Traveling in the rainy season may work out, but it’s always going to be risky.
March seems to be a sweet spot in all four cities (and considered low season in the two most expensive, New York and London).
February and November are ideal months for these two cities, but you run the risk of awful weather in London and New York – rain, or worse, snow. Expect some cold snaps. March seems to be a sweet spot in all four cities (and considered low season in the two most expensive, New York and London).
Find out more about planning your RTW route
Flight times (direct)
- New York – London – 7 hours, usually overnight flights
- London – Delhi – 8 hours 40 minutes, usually overnight flights
- Delhi – Bangkok – 4 hours, usually middle-of-night flights
- Bangkok – New York – 23 hours (1 stop), usually very early morning flights
Studies have shown that flying “with” the sun – east to west– is generally considered best to avoid jet lag. That said, first-time RTW trippers may want to dip their feet into the more familiar waters of London before diving headlong into a place like Bangkok.
New York GMT-5; London GMT; Delhi GMT+5.5; Bangkok GMT+7.
When it is noon in New York, it’s 5 pm in London, 10.30 pm in Delhi, and midnight in Bangkok.
Shots & visas
Consult your local embassy or consulate for visa information.
You may need shots depending on a variety of factors, including your immunization history, your medical history, and which countries you plan on visiting in what order. Consult the CDC website and your doctor for vaccination information.
Because of the diverse climate of each city, you’re going to need to be creative to get through the whole trip with one wardrobe. Layers are your friend on a trip like this. You’re most likely to need long sleeves and a jacket in London and New York if you are traveling outside of summer (June – August), but shorts, skirts, and short sleeves are the norm in Delhi and Bangkok.
Taking our March “sweet-spot,” if you’re traveling west-to-east, you can ship or ditch your warmer clothes before leaving London. If you’re traveling east-to-west, you can always pick up warmer clothes in London. Otherwise, temp-cool clothing and layers are your best bet. However, make sure you have something that covers you fully for visiting temples in Thailand and India.
5 Highlights on this RTW Trip:
- See a Broadway show in New York – the TKTS kiosk in Times Square has discount tickets for day-of performances.
- Check out a Muay Thai kickboxing match in Bangkok, a football match in London, and/or a cricket match in Delhi.
- Visit the Damnoen Saduak floating market when in Bangkok.
- Watch a Bollywood film at the Regal Theatre in Delhi.
- Skulk around Highgate Cemetery in London.
- In the summer, take the ferry to Governer’s Island in New York Harbor.
- Montauk, Long Island
- Philadelphia can be “done” in a day.
- DC and Boston are also close destinations that can easily be visited by train or bus.
New York City
On the cheap:
A shared room at a hostel will be about $35-40USD/night. There are plenty of cheap places to eat, and gastro pubs have cheaper small dishes. Plan on budgeting at least $70USD per day.
A hotel room in Manhattan is not cheap – your run-of-the-mill chain can run you $180. Brooklyn’s about $150. Anyplace else, and you’ll be spending your savings (and valuable time) on transportation. Your best bet is a private room in a hip hostel – they run about $60. That’s better! You could get away with $100 a day, but you’d be more comfortable at $125.
New York’s mass transit system is excellent, efficient, and will get you where you want to go in the 5 boroughs. For $29 a week you can ride the subway and buses as often as you’d like, which is great savings – those yellow taxis are iconic, but you could easily go through $29 a day (or sometimes on one trip), so stick with the MTA.
- Ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza or Central Park in the winter
- A great meal at a hot restaurant
- A sporting event or concert at Madison Square Garden
5 NYC food experiences:
- Check out all the ethnic possibilities in Astoria in Queens
- Eat a slice at Lombardi’s (supposedly the first pizzeria in the US)
- Have some dim sum in Chinatown for lunch
- Eat a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli (or any number of delis located in and around NYC.
- For breakfast, it’s essential to try a bagel with cream cheese and lox
Check out our New York City Travel Guide
On the cheap:
Hostels can run you $15 per night for a bed in a huge dorm room to $35 for a single. So let’s split the difference and say $25 per night. “Cheap and cheerful” restaurants could be about $20 for a full meal, but there are plenty of fast food and prepared food options that are cheaper. Getting a 7-day Travelcard can halve your public transportation costs. Count on at least $60/day to “do” London on the cheap.
A decent three-star hotel is about $110 per night. Eating one small meal and one larger meal per day would be about $30 if you’re careful. For a mid-range budget, you’re looking at about $160 per day. Look into a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and combined entrance ticket deals to cut costs.
Public transportation is the way to go in London – those black taxis may be iconic, but you pay for the experience. It’s crucial to get a Travelcard for maximum savings – as said above, it can halve your costs.
- The famous site, Stonehenge, about 90 miles southwest of London
- See Britain’s oldest university in Oxford or visit another university town, Cambridge
- One of the oldest tourist locations in England, Bath
- Brighton, a seaside resort town, is about 52 mile south of London
- Chunnel ride to Paris. Because then you can say, “And then we had lunch in Paris.”
5 free things to do in London:
- All of London’s major museums are free (special exhibitions charge a fee)
- Hang out in Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, St. Jame’s Park, or Kensington Gardens
- See the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
- Street markets – head to Camden, Portobello, Greenwich, or any number of open-air markets
- Visit Trafalgar Square and see Nelson’s Column and the (free) National Gallery
Check out our London Travel Guide
On the cheap:
The Main Bazaar is budget central, with private rooms with baths going for about $10. A decent meal can be had for $2 (or less). You can do just fine in Delhi on $25 a day.
Perfectly good three-star hotels will cost you around $45 per night. One of India’s best restaurants, Bukhara at the Maurya Sheraton, costs about $40 per person (to give you context on food prices). Around $60/day is an honorable mid-range budget.
As chaotic as the streets of Delhi (and their buses) are, the Delhi Metro makes up for them with efficiency. And, the metro is air-conditioned. There are hop-on, hop-off buses for sightseeing that are also air-conditioned and modern. Radio taxis are available as well – get a few numbers from a trusted hotel or restaurant employee. There are also auto-rickshaws (Delhi’s version of the tuk-tuk) that can take you around. Be prepared to haggle for the price of autos or pre-pay for your ride at police-run stands throughout the city. A rickshaw can take you through the back alleys of Old Delhi. Again, agree on a price before getting in and taking off.
- Taj Mahal and Agra (best as an overnight stay – it can be as long as 6 hours away depending on your mode of transportation and the traffic)
- If you have more time, head north to the yoga capital of the world, Rishikesh (which is also a base for trekking in the Indian Himalayas)
- Again, if you want to extend this trip, the state of Rajasthan is west of Delhi and easily reachable by train, and is a popular area for travelers in India
- Getting a tailored suit and/or other clothing made
- A guided food tour
5 easy ways to get Delhi belly:
- Eat at a street food stand with no other people at it
- Eat the “mystery meat” being offered at the bus stop
- Drink any water that isn’t bottled (you may want to avoid ice, too)
- Eat a salad that you haven’t prepared yourself
- Eat street food that wasn’t cooked right in front of you
Check out our India Travel Guide
On the cheap:
You can get a private room at a guest house on Khao San Road, the backpacker’s paradise, for roughly $10-20 per night, or a bed in a dorm room for $5-10. Street food meals are literally less than a dollar. Traveling within the city, once you get the hang of it, is cheap. Free WiFi abounds. You could easily “do” Bangkok on $25-40 per day.
Four-star hotels can go for as little as $55 per night, and you could eat like royalty for $10. A $75/day budget will get you far in Bangkok, and allow you to do all the “perks” like daily massages, an elephant encounter, etc.
You name it, and Bangkok will put you in it and take you around. The mass transit system consists of the Skytrain and BMTA buses (above ground), the Metro (underground) and Express Boats (river and canals). There are also river taxis, car taxis, motorbike taxis, and the famed tuk-tuks. If taking a taxi, make them use the meter. If they refuse, get in the next one. If taking a tuk-tuk, agree on a price before getting in. Both are notorious for ripping off tourists. And for God’s sake, if a tuk-tuk driver tells you the Grand Palace is “closed today,” tell him to take you there anyway. He’s lying, and if you believe him, you’ll be on a “tour” and in his buddy’s rug/gem shop in no time.
- Kanchanaburi is the location of the Bridge over the River Kwai. (2 hours from Bangkok)
- Nakhon Pathom is Thailand’s oldest city (1 hour from Bangkok)
- A trip to the island of Koh Chang is an easy bus/ferry ride away and would be a great weekend trip from Bangkok
- For a longer trip, Bangkok is a great jumping off point for travel to Laos, Cambodia (and Angkor Wat), and Malaysia.
- A weekend on Phuket’s beaches. Grab a cheap flight from BKK and spend a couple of days looking at tropical beach screen saver pictures come to life.
- Get a custom suit made
- Head to a Thai Island and get certified to scuba dive
5 things you’ll never be able to unsee:
- The ping-pong ball show (if you’ve seen it, you know what we mean; if not, check it out)
- Creepy, old, white westerners arm in arm with way-too-young Thai girls
- Being propositioned by ladyboys
- A trip to Patpong, Nana Plaza, or Soi Cowboy
- Anything that happens on Khao San Road after midnight
Check out our Thailand Travel Guide