What We Spent
From June to late December 2010, we saw the world. We rode bikes, trains, hot air balloons…you name it. We ate in fancy restaurants and in the gutters of India. We rode in style on luxury buses complete with tie-wearing attendants. We crammed in overloaded minibuses and raced across the Jordanian desert with semi-suicidal drivers.
Unfortunately, all of this required money, and to make sure we had enough, we kept track of every rupee, euro, and dinar in our little black book. Each night, we entered the day’s expense in our slick Excel spreadsheet. Our trip budget was $35,000 for a maximum of 10 months on the road, and we saved nearly $70,000 just in case. We are still unemployed and semi-traveling, so I’m glad we saved as much as we did.
- Expenses were recorded in local currency and converted to USD using a weighted average of exchange rates.
- Each expense was filed under one of ten categories: Clothing, Entertainment, Food, Laundry, Lodging, Personal, Sightseeing, Souvenirs, Supplies, and Transportation.
- With the single-currency Euro zone, it is difficult to determine total expenses by individual country given the organization of our spreadsheet. Instead, I have calculated total cost by currency used. With this method, all Euro-loving countries are lumped together. We visited 23 nations, so this tweak kept the tables a manageable size as well.
- All figures are for the two of us. If you plan to travel solo, divide each figure by two and add 25% to lodging. Double rooms are often only slightly more expensive than singles, so the 25% adjustment should correct much of the difference. We stayed in hostels almost exclusively in Europe, so the lodging cost will be fairly accurate for that region already.
- We also spent about $2,200 in Thailand on “post-trip” items such as tailored suits, Christmas gifts, pillow cases, etc. These items all were non-trip related and were purchased in Asia because they were cheaper than back home; therefore, all expenses tagged “post-trip” are excluded from the totals below. In a way, they can be considered a positive budget item because a $200 Thai suit purchase offsets a $600 suit in Chicago.
Categorized Expenses by Week:
We are still traveling a bit, so this calculation was difficult. If we limit the scope of the trip to early June 2010 to late December 2010, we come up with a total trip cost of $29,819. That’s 200 days abroad at about $150 per day ($75 per day/person). All things considered, that’s not bad.
Of that total, nearly 38% went to transportation, 22% was spent on food, and 27% covered lodging.
Daily Living and Transportation Expenses by Country:
This chart surprised me. Hungary was our most expensive country at $132 per day including transportation, and Latvia was our cheapest country at $38 per day (not surprising). India was a close second at $42 per day, but you get what you pay for. India is one of my favorite countries, but it is not for everyone.
Over the course of 75 days, we spent $131 per day in the Euro Zone including transportation costs. We skipped much of Western Europe save for Spain and Portugal, but we did visit Sweden which is one of the most expensive destinations in Europe.
This goes to show that you can visit Europe without breaking the bank…with a little effort. The secret: CouchSurfing!
NOTE: Flights are not included in this chart as to not skew the daily averages. If airfare were included, the Total Per Diem would be closer to $150. This chart should be used to estimate your expenses for intracity and intercity travel within a given country or region. See the section below for airfares.
Transportation Expenses by Country:
We had to purchase visas for India, Turkey, and Thailand. Every other nation did not charge for visas or visa-free travel was possible for Americans. As expected, air travel was our largest expense at a little over $6,000 for the two of us. We flew 12 times over the course of seven months with an average cost of $500 per segment ($250 per person). Costs per flight:
- Chicago to Riga, Latvia (via Copenhagen)–> $700
- Stockholm to Barcelona –> $513
- Porto, Portugal to Frankfurt –> $131
- Sarajevo to Zagreb to Sarajevo (round trip) –> $234 (solo trip for Clark to fix the computer)
- Sarajevo to Istanbul –> $522 (Cheaper before a $150 change fee due to the MacBook problem)
- Antalya, Turkey to Cyprus –> $165
- Larnaca, Cyprus to Cairo –> $329
- Cairo to Amman –> $479 (ouch!)
- Amman to Delhi –> $631
- Jodhpur, India to Singapore (via Delhi) –> $837
- Bangkok to Chicago (via Beijing) –> $1,547 + $300 for class upgrade
We chose not to buy a Eurorail pass, and our decision was a good one. We only spent $564 on train travel in the EU (excluding Hungary and Czech Rep.). Many Eastern European nations are not included in unlimited passes, so keep that in mind when making your decision. Want my advice? Buy as you go. A rail pass locks you into traveling by rail. Buses, hitching, and ride sharing are great alternatives to the train, and they are almost always cheaper.
Jordan isn’t so cheap. It is very difficult to avoid long, expensive cab rides while traveling in Jordan. We racked up a painful $237 in cab fare during our nine days in the country. Keep this in mind if you plan on doing extensive travel in the Middle East.
As you can tell, we kept a close eye on our budget, but we were not slaves to the numbers. We splurged on a few items, and I am glad we did. You can’t pinch pennies every single day, or you will drive yourself crazy and miss out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Also, budget for mishaps because there will be a few. Here are a few of our big ticket items:
- Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, Turkey –> $332
- Fancy Dinner in Hvar, Croatia –> $106 (our computer crashed the next day)
- MacBook Repairs –> $600 (parts, transportation, labor charges, flight change fees, etc.)
The Raw Data
Want to see how much socks cost in Konya, Turkey? Curious how many times we had gelato? Ever wondered how much face wash costs in Spain?
Great news! If you want a ready-made budget spreadsheet for your RTW trip or want to see every one of our 1,600 transactions, I have made our worksheet available to everyone!
Click here to download the actual Excel spreadsheet we used on our trip.
WARNING: This was created using Microsoft Office for Macintosh, so the PivotTables may not work properly in non-shitty Excel (a.k.a. Excel for Windows). User be warned.
How We Saved
For years now, we have been car-free. We have saved thousands on car payments, insurance, gasoline, maintenance, and parking. That alone almost paid for this trip. We also did many small things like saved coupons, ate out less often, and cut out trips to Starbucks. Kim even swore off pedicures for over a year!
Before leaving, we heavily researched average costs per day using travel blogs and other websites, and we made realistic assumptions about our acceptable level of comfort. Sure, we could save money by sleeping on the street, but who are we kidding? Make your money last by focusing on lower-cost regions of the world– Eastern Europe, India, and Asia are among the most budget-friendly. Cut lodging costs and have more fun by using CouchSurfing. Eat in local markets, packing sack lunches, and use hostel kitchens to save even more