How much does it cost? A sneak peek at two vagabonds’ budgets

If there’s one perennial topic that never seems to get completely answered here at vagablogging it’s inevitably the question of “how much” — how much money does it take to travel the world? Whether it’s your friends back home or strangers you meet on the road, just about everyone seems curious to know how much it “really costs” to travel the world.

The answer is, well, it depends. Your costs for a trip around the world depend on where you go and how you travel. That said, the average vagabond seems to get by on about $15-20,000 per year.

Of course averages aren’t as useful as cold, hard numbers. And while it might never occur to most people to keep track of these sorts of things, fortunately for us, some vagabonds do track their spending on the road.

Keep in mind of course that your budget might be considerably different than the following examples and fluctuations in currency can also have a dramatic effect on your travel costs. Still, if you’re in the planning stage of a round the world trip, hopefully these spreadsheets and travel expense numbers will prove helpful.

First up is David Lee’s handy Google Spreadsheet, which breaks down his travel expenses by country and includes a per day average for each country. Lee, who blogs at, spent just under $30,000 in 20 months of traveling (2007-2009).

Be sure to take a look at notes in the spreadsheet where Lee explains some things in more detail — like visa expenses for a failed trip to Tibet or purchasing a new digital camera in Thailand.

While those might not be the particular items that run up your budget, rest assured that something will. Also compare that spreadsheet with David’s initial, pre-trip estimates and you’ll see some of the unexpected expenses that can eat into your budget.

Another helpful set of real-world numbers comes from Megan, who has a very similar breakdown of country and daily expenses as well as notes about her budget. Megan ended up spending about $31,000 in 22 months of traveling.

As you can see both of these expense tracking vagabonds fall inside the sort of unofficial vagabond yearly expense estimate of $15-20,000 per year. Can you do it for less? Sure, but always leave yourself a little cushion, you never know when a bout of dysentery will trap you in an expensive capital city for longer than you planned or when that precious laptop battery will decided to crap out. Like you, your budget needs to be prepared for the unexpected when you’re on the road.

Posted by | Comments (11)  | August 18, 2009
Category: General

11 Responses to “How much does it cost? A sneak peek at two vagabonds’ budgets”

  1. Chris Says:

    Bill Gates and I have an average net worth of some 30 Billion dollars. Find what works for you. That’s all that matters 😉

  2. Dave Says:

    Thanks for the mention! Tracking and calculating my expenses for so long was a tedious exercise, though it was exactly the kind of data I wanted but couldn’t find before leaving on my RTW trip.

  3. Technomadia Says:

    This is a question we get a lot about our full time travels as well. While we’re not doing round the world quite yet.. we are traveling full time throughout the USA in a small solar powered travel trailer. For those interested in the cost of this style of travel, we share our monthly and typical costs here:

    – Cherie

  4. Paul Frolov Says:

    $15-30k? Not bad. I bet it can be less if you work and travel.Or if you have a blog of your adventures, that makes money while you travelling. I believe it can be cheaper.

  5. Says:

    You can probably spend less on travel if you’re willing to work in exchange for food and a place to stay. It’s up to each traveler how much he/she wants to spend to travel the world for 1 year. You could probably travel for less than $30k if you put your ‘thinking cap’ on and do a little research. You could always do a house exchange if you’re going to be in one area for an extended stay…Just takes a little thinking and creativity 🙂

  6. Cheap Traveler Says:

    It also depends a whole lot on WHERE you go. For what you spend in a month in Europe you can easily travel for three months in parts of Asia or Central America. In one of the examples above, she traveled 28 days in Laos for half of what it cost in just 15 days in Japan.

    Excuse the plug, but there’s a lot of good hard info with price comparisons for budgeting in my book The World’s Cheapest Destinations, a good companion to Vagabonding.

  7. Renato Says:

    Actually I am more concern in adding a little cushion – and how much – when I plan for short holidays, let’s say one week.

    For anything longer I simply add it because in the long term something unexpected will happen: thinking to travel one year without budgeting for at least one piece of equipment on the road (whatever a laptop battery or a stolen camera or a wet iPod or a new SD card) or a few extra nights in an expensive city is simply a gamble. One that you won’t win.

    What I mean is that I did not expect (and plan) to lose a €20 note last week in Finland (arghhh!), but on a year on the road I am sure sooner or later it would have happen…



  8. Me-go: Around-the-World » Vagablogging My Budget Says:

    […] you’d like to see the other RTW travel budgets he links to you can read the entire article here. The main reason I created my budget page was to provide a resource that didn’t exist when I […]

  9. » Tame your travel budget with Budget Your Trip :: Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] pointed to a few good, example budgets in the past and suggested that $14,000/year is a good average, but we recently stumbled across a […]

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