Today marks the one year anniversary of my round the world trip! It’s been an incredible year with countless experiences I will never forget. But, one question I get often is: How much does a round the world cost?
So, how much does it really cost to travel the world for a year? It cost me $17,773; and here’s how I did it, how I funded it, how I saved money, and where did it take me… in detail.
Jumping out of the cubicle…
October 1st, 2011
I said goodbye to my life in New York City and started my RTW 9 months in advance and with less money saved than expected. I left with $16,000 in the bank, with credit card debt, and with student loans on my name. Yup, I have those too… My original plan was to leave in June 2012 with at least $24,000 and no credit card debt.
The $16K I left with were not just for traveling, they were also used responsibly to cover the monthly payments on any debt I had at the moment (and still have). But, the show must go on!
October to December
Countries: Puerto Rico, Belize, Guatemala, USA, Mexico
I admit that these three months were comfortable money-wise since the collaboration with the BTB helped me tremendously, and travel in the US and PR is very cheap for me thanks to family and friends.
Countries: Israel, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia
I flew from Belize to Israel to meet with a friend and we quickly hopped to Southeast Asia. Even though I was jumping through different countries, I managed to do Southeast Asia very cheaply.
Countries: Israel, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates
I was back in the Middle East to travel to Jordan, which was partially done in collaboration with Visit Jordan. Afterward I crossed to Egypt, and Israel again (for a longer time). I took the advantage of extending an Etihad flight layover in UAE for free, so I could visit the country for a few days. Of these countries, Israel was the most expensive and Egypt was the cheapest.
March and April
Countries: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa
Africa, baby! I started my African adventure in Uganda and made my way overland to South Africa using only trains and buses. It was a crazy experience and probably my favorite part so far in the whole RTW. Did a safari in Uganda and another one in Botswana, hiked Kilimanjaro and became a beach bum in Zanzibar, visited an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, walked with Lions in Zambia, bungee jumped at Victoria Falls and did Shark cage diving in Cape Town. Part of the reason Africa was relatively expensive was because I did two safaris and did Kilimanjaro with G Adventures (That one alone was $1,100).
May to Mid August
Countries: Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, France, Monaco, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Prague, Switzerland, Ukraine
After South Africa, I flew to Turkey (airfare only $430), where I spent two weeks in Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Ephesus. From Turkey, I started the crazy Eurail trip that took me to 24 countries in the next 3.5 months. From Greece, I crossed Eastern Europe and the Balkans, to Western Europe and Scandinavia. I finished my time in Europe living in Milan for a month (shared an apartment for $400 a month).
Collaborating with Eurail helped reduce the cost of the train tickets to just the reservation costs (which came around $200) and the collaboration with Visit Norway USA and Blogville Emilia Romagna were also a big help. The rest of Europe was all paid by in full by me, which was extremely noticeable in my bank account since I saw it going down, down, down (yes, Europe is expensive)… by necessity I started couchsurfing more often, staying with friends, and buying groceries to cook my meals. It helped significantly!
Mid August and September
Countries: India, Puerto Rico
From Romania, I flew to India for only $340! There’s no place cheaper than India. With an average budget of $18 I traveled India very smoothly. While I can’t say I loved India that much, I loved how it eased the spending. I spent a full month in India, costing me $603. Since I had it with India and was not in the mood to tolerate it for the original 3 months I intended to stay there, I cut my trip short to give myself a well-deserved (and relaxing!) vacation with family and friends back in Puerto Rico. But, the trip is not over yet!
October and forward…
At the moment I’m in Puerto Rico, my home country, but in a few days I fly to NYC, Belize, and soon head back to Milan, where I plan to spend a couple months before moving to the next destination (which looks like it’s going to be Southeast Asia again!).
I’m extending my RTW trip an indefinite time (maybe a couple months, maybe another year… who knows…). There are lots of places I still want to go, so I’ll keep you in the loop of what will happen.
Now the total cost of everything is a follows:
Airfare: $4,072 (34 flights)
Other Transportation: $1,300 approx.
Tours: $2,354 (mostly small day tours, the Kili hike, and two safaris)
Accommodation: $3,200 approx.
Travel Insurance: $417
And the rest…: $6,430 (I paid most things cash, so it’s a bit hard to allocate precisely the total amount of accommodation, food, and miscellaneous).
Total number of countries visited: 51
The total cost could have been lower if I was a bit more strict with some spending, but it could have also been much higher had I not collaborated with the tourism companies mentioned above. This brings my average monthly spending to $1,481, which is less than what I used to spend living in NYC (hell, when I moved to NYC I used to spend more than that JUST in rent!). Or we could tally it as $349 per country visited.
You might have noticed that the trip cost more than my original savings. Over a year ago I wrote a post on all the things I did to save an average of $1,000 per month. Well, in additional to my savings, I funded the trip with small architectural gigs (very small), where I did either small designs that didn’t require my full presence on the project or just did CAD drawings to help in any project.
Also, I earned some money through advertising on the site, and through commissions or affiliate marketing. Some of my recommendations on the site do earn me a small commission if someone acts upon them. But of course, anything that I’m recommending here is either something I love or something I’m currently using. A good sample is my Travel Gear page, where I list everything I’m carrying on this RTW. This income ranges between $1000 and $1500 per month, which helps offset most of my spending on the road.
For a while, I worked on additional niche sites (remember the Travel Niche Challenge where I created the travelinsuranceforbackpackers.net site?). These definitely helped me earn some money through Google Adsense and commissions, but in the end, the workload they required vs. the money vs. the time I wanted to spend on the actual road and not on the computer all the time, made me drop them as projects, for now. I’m still planning on picking up one or two niche sites and turn them into resourceful sites. But, that takes time.
Time permitting, I also earned a bit of income by travel hacking with Flightfox, a site that brings the best travel hackers to compete to find you the cheapest airfare possible (earning them a small commission if their flight is awarded). Note: I no longer travel hack for FlightFox, but I still do recommend them as a service to find cheap flights.
On saving money while on the road…
Travel Hacking is a great help when you want to save money. While Travel Hacking didn’t bring any money to my pocket, I can say that points/miles are also a form of currency.
Another form of travel hacking I’ve done, in addition to Flightfox, is using the Travel Hacking Cartel membership where they email me on a constant basis the current deals on gaining miles/points for doing silly stuff like filling up a survey (750 miles for that!), registering to “X” service, getting an new credit card (up to 100,000 miles for that!), or others. They even alert you on flights deals and other offers. The deals vary all the time, but now and then one comes up that does help add more miles significantly, without spending any money.
Another method of travel hacking I used (a lot!) was the free layover technique. Most airlines will allow you to extend a layover at their hub city from a couple days to a month. This allowed me to travel to the “hub country” in between destinations technically for free! Excellent airline examples are Iceland Air, Turkish Airlines, Aerosvit, and Etihad, among many others.
I made sure to have good travel credit cards (Citibank AAdvantage Visa for US dollar transactions and Capital One Venture for any other currency transactions, since they don’t charge a fee on foreign transactions). For each dollar I spend (on both cards) I earn 1 mile/point, which in turn becomes money to either get free flights or to pay the balance on any travel-related transaction I made. These cards have been very handy in saving money.
Ohh, another card that helped me save money is the Charles Schwab Checking account. This debit card doesn’t charge for any international ATM withdrawal, and if any foreign ATM charges you a fee, Schwab will refund it to you by the end of the month. How cool is that?!
When I planned on staying at one single place for a longer period, I rented/sublet a room since it tends to be cheaper than hostels. I’ve found Airbnb to be the best source when it comes to apartment/room rentals due to their extensive selection and prices.
Note: I have an exclusive link that gives you $35 off on your first reservation with Airbnb. Get your credit here.
Unless strictly necessary or logistically smart (money wise), I always traveled overland. Buses and trains in most parts of the world are very cheap, especially if they are the type of transportation that the locals use. I found myself many times being the only foreigner in a bus full of locals.
Food wise, I ate a lot of street food (except in India) and bought a lot of groceries. Many hostels did include breakfast and even dinner on their rate, so it’s good to check that out if you’re booking beforehand.
And, as I mentioned above, collaborations between the blog and travel companies or tourism boards did make a positive impact on saving money.
Well, I think this is pretty much the whole financial backdrop of my year of travel. The trip might have cost almost $18K, so far, but the lifetime memories and experience are simply… PRICELESS.
Here’s a quick video with a few RTW highlights. Hope you enjoy it and makes you GO around the world!