In tribute to a similar post by Kyle and Briana over at RollGlobal, I’ve decided to share with you how much it cost my wife and I to travel in Asia for 11 months. If you’re the impatient type, it cost €36.11 per person per day for absolutely every single thing. That includes the initial expenditure before the trip like flights out and back, travel insurance, and all that fun stuff. If you only look at the costs of being on the road, excluding those initial costs, flights, and one-off expenditures like replacement electronics, it works out at €29.58. Broken out by the countries that we spent a lot of time in, the cost per day looks like this:
We were in each of those countries for at least three weeks so they should be a reasonable average. In case you think Russia is cheap, bear in mind that we were staying with family while there which makes a huge difference.
Here’s a breakdown of the other costs of travelling for a year averaged out per person per day, as they are significant and for the most part unavoidable.
Other: Skype payments, Google Drive payments (back up your photos!!!), cash that we left Ireland with, etc.
Flights during the trip: flights between countries while on the trip.
Electronics: Replacing broken, lost, or stolen electronics (in our case a Kindle that I knelt on and a laptop that caught fire while plugged in to the Indian mains supply)
Insurance: travel and medical insurance
Now all of this doesn’t really help you budget without having some idea of how we were travelling, so here’s the gist of how we spent our money. In terms of accommodation we always had our own room with double bed (no dorms) and the majority of the time we also had hot water and air conditioning as well. We did CouchSurf every so often (about 15-20% of the total time), mainly in Burma, China and Vietnam as we were getting tired of waking up in hotels for the previous 9 months…. it’s much nicer and more fun to stay with somebody who lives in the area and knows it well. We ate where and when we wanted (from street food to gourmet restaurants), which most of the time meant a local restaurant. We drank bottled water for health reasons, and had a few beers whenever it was typical to do so in the local culture. Transport-wise, we took 2nd and 3rd class trains most of the time for long distances, and tuktuks (rickshaws) or taxis for short hops. We didn’t take much public transport within cities as it was pretty tough to figure out where exactly buses where heading. Also, one experience on a subway in India during rush hour and you’ll bever step foot in the underground again. Lastly, we haggled whenever it was normal to do so…which is most of the time in Asia. So that means bargaining at markets for food and souvenirs, when hiring a rickshaw or taxi, when looking at a room, etc. If you don’t get used to that aspect of travelling in the developing world it’s going to cost significantly more.
You could travel around Asia a lot more cheaply or more expensively than we did if you wanted. Overall though I think we strode the line between discomfort (but usually a more genuine experience) and comfort (but often isolating from the local culture) pretty well. Whenever we felt like splashing out, we did. That included a couple of stays in five star hotels, a night on our own private house-boat in Kerala, some scuba-diving, a meal in a gourmet restaurant whenever there was one around, one first class train journey per country, and so on. If you take those kind of experiences out you can probably knock ~€3 per person per day off the cost. I would budget for some treats though because if you can’t do the things you want when you are there it’s not really worth going, is it? It’s better to travel for a few less weeks than to miss out on something you’ve always wanted to do.
One other point to note is that we bought a lot of clothes in China as it was so much cheaper than Ireland. Also, everything that we had with us was in tatters by the end of the trip. We actually ended up buying about 25kg of clothes (!) for around €1500, so taking that out would also knock off another ~€2 per person per day.
Now I’m not going to say that €24,000 is a small chunk of change for anyone, but it works out to be less than what we would typically spend when living in Ireland over the same period. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be a millionaire to travel the world. Of course, most people don’t have the luxury (and the associated hassle) of working while travelling, but if you do then it’s not difficult to disappear off into the sunset for a year. And bear in mind that even if you’re not working while on the road, if you choose to travel across two tax years from July to July, then the tax you get back for both years can actually pay for a very large chunk of the trip. Trust me, if you can manage to make the leap and go, you won’t regret it. At the end of the day I can’t put a price on the memories I have from doing this: