Around the world budget?
September 20, 2011 8:09 PM   Subscribe

How much money should a couple budget for one year's worth of travel?

How much would it cost for one couple to travel the world for a year with the following countries in mind:

hong kong
africa - unsure where else to go in Africa.

Would like to get to S. America but we can appreciate that may be unlikely given time and money.

We're Canadian 30 year old flashpackers. I don't want to break the bank but I also don't want to break out in hives due to bed bugs. We're thinking private room hostels or cheap hotels. 12 months for the entire trip. Any comments on whether you think we're cramming too much into a year would also be appreciated. Any one else who has done a trip like this and has a budget they would like to share would also be greatly appreciated. Any costs that you didn't budget for and then were surprised with later?

I know the answers to these budget questions is usually "depends on what type of traveller you are or what you want to do while you're there", but any info would be helpful. Thanks!
posted by grak88 to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
How are you going to travel? Foot or train or private sleeper? What are you going to eat? French fries or sandwiches or local specialties cooked with care? The more you move, the more you spend. I think with your itinerary you are reaching into the high 10s of thousands of USD, though I have not ever traveled for that long, or in any of those places (though I am not untraveled).

Also, when you get to month 8 (because it will be more expensive than you budget for) and have spent all of your money, what is your escape plan? I'm curious what other people say about this cuz I feel like you would have to be filthy rich to do this as a duo.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 8:33 PM on September 20, 2011

Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, India, Egypt & Morocco are all doable in reasonable "flashpacker" comfort for under US$25 per person per day on average (all inclusive once there: local ground transport, meals, sights, private 'no frills' rooms etc).

Of these, Morocco, Thailand & maybe Egypt would be the more expensive. $100/fortnight was always a good rule of thumb for me in India, but nowadays you'd want at least double that, triple if your idea is to have things like clean(ish) bathrooms or A/C.

Sub-Saharan Africa is surprisingly expensive, in my experience. At least $30-50 per day, expecially because there's little competition for hotels, few transport connections etc.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:41 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hahah...we're not rich hence the reason why I'm picking the hive's brain. We were thinking of buying a RTW ticket to hit the major spots and then travel between major spots either by bus, train or cheap flights. Food? Nothing special. Street food is just as good as table cloth dinners. I think we would probably like a decent dinner now and then but it wouldn't be the norm. We want to spend most of our time in the cheaper countries to make the money last. I know Africa will be super expensive because of the park fees and safari fees and SE Asia would be cheap. So I'm hoping things balance out in the end.

Didn't think of an escape plan. I guess if we had to pull the chute, we would just come back home to Canada.

We were thinking $100/day as a couple, but I think that might not be enough after looking at some other people's budgets online.
posted by grak88 at 8:42 PM on September 20, 2011

Not a couple, but I went to South America for 11 weeks. I spent $4k on the whole trip. In the same time in USA, big city, I would have spent close to $7k. I thought I was going to spend $3k.

Of the $4k, 25% was for lodging, 25% was for buses, trains and cabs, and 15% was on food, 10% and the rest was on partying. Do not underestimate partying.

I did meet two broke couples camping, hitchhiking and spending a TOTAL of $4,000 over a whole year, though.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:44 PM on September 20, 2011

For food and lodging, I only know Southeast Asia. When my wife and I travelled across Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, our combined daily budget was 35 dollars for all food, lodging, transportation, and entertainment. It was not difficult to stay in nice places and eat well on that budget. Our total budget for 4.5 months in those three countries including air fare was 5000 USD. This was in 2008, off-season.
posted by 2ghouls at 8:48 PM on September 20, 2011

Spent 3 months in NZ (meant to spend 2 months, stayed extra, moved there a year later - ha!) and spent $3 to $4 grand for 2 people, including airfare.

My understanding was that you could get seasonal work under the table (farm work) but we didn't do that.

Via your itinerary, I would budget $15,000 to $20,000 total and plan to fly home when the money/jobs ran out.
posted by jbenben at 9:14 PM on September 20, 2011

Some of the really awesome nature stuff to do in East Africa, like visiting the Serengeti in Tanzania, or Gorillas in Rwanda, is quite expensive - and for a reason - conservation costs a lot. I don't think you can do these sorts of thing by yourself either - you need to go with a guide.
posted by trialex at 10:46 PM on September 20, 2011

I spent around $8000 U.S. doing 3.5 months in Southern and Eastern Africa last year, but that was a mix of high priced things (World Cup, safaris, climbing Kiliminjaro) and slumming it (camping, hostels, 18+ hr bus rides, and hitchhiking). 8 years ago, I spent an entire year in India and spent about $3000 U.S. total (I'd double that figure now). Really, SE Asia is cheap, Africa is a little pricier (but very dependent on what you do), and South America is somewhere in between. If I were gonna take a year and your itinerary, I'd set aside about 10-15K for myself, and maybe bring my bike along....
posted by ch3ch2oh at 10:59 PM on September 20, 2011

we budgeted £1k per month of travel (not inclusive of flights) for two of us on our six month/13 country journey. in $Can, that'd be around $1500/mo. that included middle-of-the-road backpacking (mostly private hostel/cheap hotel rooms, bus travel overland). but that was also five years ago now, so would probably increase that a little bit.

some countries (SEA, China, S. America) came in way under budget and some countries (NZ, Aus, Costa Rica) cost significantly more, but they tended to balance each other out. for your itinerary, i'd guess $18k - $20k would be sufficient.
posted by wayward vagabond at 1:38 AM on September 21, 2011

Seconding the fact that travel in SE Asia may be the cheapest in the world once you factor in all of your expenses.

Think of Cambodia and Laos as being comparable (also, brin US dollars since those are preferred to the local currencies). You can get a clean, two-bedroom hotel room with AC and cable and maybe even a balcony view or a swimming pool for around 20-30 USD per night. Prices drop by half if you do a dormitory and a shared bathroom. Food is really cheap is you eat the local stuff (a huge stuffed meat-and-cheese baguette in Laos will run you about, oh, 1 USD and keep you fed almost all day). Like Africa, expect to pay more than you think for cultural treasures like Angkor Wat in Cambodia (25 USD per person per day) but still, I think you'd have a hard time spending a lot of money in those two countries unless you were looking to do some major shopping.

Vietnam will be more expensive, and I'd suggest you buy plane tickets for traveling within the country. The sleeper-buses are killers and you'll spend 12 hours traveling when you only need to spend 1. Still, if you look online clean and cheap hotels are easy to find.

Thailand will be more expensive than Vietnam but if you avoid tourist traps like Pattay and Phuket you can probably do things pretty cheap.

I've never been to China but it's no longer the budget paradise for foreigners that it used to be. Hell, an American, expect to pay 120-150 USD per person just for the tourist visa.

In fact, make sure you account for visa fees. They very widely from country to country (20 USD per person Laos and Cambodia, 85 USD per person for Vietnam).
posted by bardic at 3:30 AM on September 21, 2011

I'm in Romania, and have travelled a lot through the country, so will tell you about the situation here (and in Euros - that's kind of what I normally convert to).

In terms of lodgings: prices vary widely, but you can expect to find decent places for 15 - 20 Euro per room a night (this excludes Bucharest, which I would avoid, and probably some of hte major towns, which I wouldn't). For example, I have recently been to Olanesti (this is a spa in the mountains, with some amazing mountain hikes, scenic villages and monasteries tucked away in the mountains, and a lot of sulphorous water), and paid 10 EUro a night for a room with three beds - most, however, would be closer to 15 or even 20 Euro per room. In Herculane (again, spa with amazing scenery, mountains, a strange old spa center full of crumbling Austro-Hungarian architecture, I think quite possible a unique setting worldwide, redolent of faded glory and nostalgia) I paid 18 Euro for the room, inclusive of a 2.5 Euro voucher for breakfast. The hotel was very clean, but run down (they are going to up the prices when they rennovate). Cca 40 kilometers from Herculane are the Cazanele Dunarii (gorges on the Danube, spectacular, with Bulgaria on the other side of the river), and prices are similar. I live in an old Saxon town, probably one of the most touristy places in Romania, and you can find decent accommodation for cca 30 Euro per room (but more central, high-end places can be as much as 150 Euro per night). If you wanted to see some of the medieval Saxon fortified churches in the area (which I think are a bit of a must-see), you can stay in Biertan for cca 20 Euro a night (though there is a fancy place going for 50 - 60 Euro), and take long, lovely walks to surrounding villages.

Foodwise, you can probably live off 3 Euro a day each (modest, unpretentious food such as bean-stew, or polenta with cheese and cream, or sour soups, or from street vendors), or gorge on 10 - 15 Euros each a day (I suppose you could go even higher, but I am struggling to imagine anyone eating that much - in all but the most fancy restaurants you should be OK on that money). I've also lived on under 1 Euro a day, but this is during summer, when you can buy fresh products at the market (this is all seasonal vegetables and fruits, honey, nuts, cheese, milk, some meets, fish). Probably not one of your main options, though.

In terms of travel, hitchhiking is an option - most people would expect payment, but I'd advise you to ask around before you offer anything - you can easily end up paying way too much. You might also find that some drivers will refuse your money, but I wouldn't bank on it. Romania is relatively well connected by train or bus (I cannot give you figures there, though, unfortunately), but this kind of transport is frequently very slow and rickety to boot. Still, an experience. Also, quite a few of the most beautiful places can only be reached by car, or with lots of hiking.

Just one more thing - I see you have not included Turkey on your list - I suggest you try to take it in. It is stunning, can be largely done on a shoestring, has an incredible history which can be explored to this day, the people are amongst the loveliest I have seen anywhere (or were, cca 15 years ago, when I went, but more recent reports on this front are unanimous). Also, it is one of the places where many backpackers stop over to replenish their budgets - a lot of them end up working in caffees and hotels for a few months. And it's a great transition from Asia to Europe.

For any questions you have about Romania, do feel free to contact me. I think in many of these places a current local contact would be helpful.
posted by miorita at 6:18 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

The blog Married With Luggage saved up for two years to finance their round-the-world travel; right now they've been on the road for almost a year. They got so many questions about their travel expenses that they launched an entire site devoted to it. You can view all their monthly expenditures there.

They budgeted $100/day for at least four years of travel and are averaging $63.90/day. So far they've spent $21,344.
posted by anderjen at 10:46 AM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

My husband spent $10,000 ten years ago traveling to your destinations on the cheap. He guestimates $30,000 total for you now (now quite on the cheap).

I don't find India nearly as cheap as Thailand or Laos if you want to stay somewhere halfway decent and really hit many of the highlights there.

Have heard several bad reviews of Romania. Maybe do South America instead?
posted by n'muakolo at 4:37 PM on September 21, 2011

Sorry - meant to day he traveled for 18 months on$10000 but he was cheap and it was ten years ago and the biggest chunk was in super cheap (and wonderful) SE Asia.

Have a blast!
posted by n'muakolo at 4:41 PM on September 21, 2011

I don't find India nearly as cheap as Thailand or Laos if you want to stay somewhere halfway decent and really hit many of the highlights there.

Yeah, the Indians have bumped up entry fees for foreigners at most historical sites from an admittedly ridiculous 10 Rupees or thereabouts (around 20c) to usually a minimum of Rs250 ($5), sometimes Rs500 ($10) or more.

Paying $5-$10 isn't all that much for a cashed-up Westerner, but it throws things out of whack when there are multiple sites in a city you might want to visit, and one entry fee is the equivalent of an OK hotel room for the night, or a couple of days worth of pretty good meals.

It's still a great place to visit & I'd encourage you to go, but I feel it's really jumped the shark in terms of longer term shoestring travel. I'd agree that Thailand offers better value these days. Cleaner rooms, fresher food (and generally larger portions), comfier transport, better roads, better beaches, and much less hassle.

As an aside, have you considered Burma/Myanmar? If your stance on boycotting allows it, it's a fantastic place to visit, very much "unspoiled" by tourism.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:39 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

In a lot of places you're going to guesthouses are the cheap options and there aren't really hostels so you'll be saving money as a couple (except for the few places it was standard to charge you per person for the room, in which case I got a deal traveling alone).

I spent $35/day traveling alone but once I added in the money I spent pre and post-trip it was more like $50. Things like insurance, equipment/clothes etc. really add up if you're not careful. Unfortunately, you're going to have to either just budget for $100+ per day or set up a spreadsheet that takes details of budgets other people have published and modifies it to your trip. Going to see gorillas in Rwanda can add $500+ to one day so don't forget to budget for the expensive things you'll want to do.

For what it's worth (and my two RTW trips were back in 2004-05 and 2006-07) Eastern Africa was much more expensive than I'd expected, even without the safari and gorillas and I travel fairly cheap. Check you memail for a link to my budget.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:31 AM on September 23, 2011

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