This is a guest post by Geena Truman of Beyond The Bucketlist.
All photos are by Lindsay.
It’s been all the rage on social media. Instagram influencers, digital nomads, and travel bloggers all celebrating their freedom and boldly announcing that “they quit their 9-5 to travel the world“.
I craved the freedom of long-term travel, but before I up and left my stable corporate job, I needed to know… exactly how much money should I have in the bank before I quit my job to travel the world?
Unfortunately, it’s not the same figure for everyone. Travel is personal and the amount you spend abroad depends on your travel style.
You could spend as little as $7000 for an entire year of travel if you stick to one continent, couch surf, eat only street food, and commit to only free activities. But that’s not the way most people want to travel. It’s definitely not what I wanted from my year abroad.
I wanted adventure, unique experiences, amazing food, and to sleep in a comfortable bed on most nights. And the truth is, the more comfortable you want to be when you travel, the more money you’ll need to budget for your travels.
The cost of traveling comfortably – across several continents, with a mixture of local food, clean hostels, and the ability to do every bucket list activity you dreamed of from home – is a bit more. But still very manageable on a smaller budget.
Determining Your Travel Style
So how much money do you need to travel the world?
First, you have to ask yourself some questions:
- How long are you planning to travel?
- Are you trying to make this a permanent lifestyle or just a year of freedom abroad?
- Where do you plan on traveling predominantly? Europe or Asia? (Note: The cost of travel in Europe is much more expensive than in Asia)
- What kind of traveler are you? You have to know yourself. Budget travel takes commitment. Especially long-term. Frugality can drain you. It is possible to scrape by on $20 per day in many destinations around the world but that’s only if you’re willing to stay in the cheapest hostels and guesthouses and eat street food for many of your meals.
Now that you’ve answered the important questions, let’s take a look at the numbers.
How Much I Saved for One Year Abroad (Which Turned Into 2)
I’ll break down how you can determine your very own personalized travel budget, but if math gives you a headache or you have no intention of planning where this world adventure will take you, then you can just rely on my budget for a rough estimate.
You can comfortably travel the world on about $50 per day as a couple, and on about $30/day as a solo traveler. It seems scary embarking across the world with such a low budget, but I found that I was spending far less than I had calculated.
Even in destinations deemed “too expensive for backpackers” I often spent far less than my proposed daily limit. For example, in the ultra-modern and notoriously pricey metropolis of Singapore, I spent $30 per day.
When I settled into my window seat bound for Bali, I had $18,000 in my bank account and my fiance had an equal lump sum. We hoped that money would carry us through one year with enough to get home at the end of it all. That money ended up being enough to fund two years of travel abroad.
How? Because long-term travel is cheap. Cheaper than I thought. When time is no longer a pressing factor, some days you will be too exhausted to do anything other than eat. Other days you’ll be on a 14-hour train to a new city. Slow travel is cheap travel. I could have left home with $12,000 and been able to make that last for a year.
But for all the obsessive planners out there like me, here’s how you can determine your magic number.
READ MORE: 5 Months In Southeast Asia: What I Spent
Determining Your Budget
If you want to figure out how much money you need to travel the world, you’re going to have to do some budgeting.
First thing’s first, are you traveling alone? As a couple? With a small group?
Solo travelers will be responsible for all the trip costs themselves, while couples can get away with spending a little less. As a couple or small group, you can opt to split the price of cheap single or group rooms in guesthouses, share food that always seems to come in massive portions, and split the costs of private transportation.
Next, whip out your map and make a list of all the countries you plan on visiting.
Then you’ll need to do some research and determine how much you can expect to spend in each of those countries. If you’re having trouble finding that information, here’s a neat trick: search for accommodation on a website like Booking.com, find the cheapest option there, and multiply by 4. In my experience, I’ve found this to be a semi-accurate estimate of how much you’re likely to spend in that location per day.
READ MORE: A Year In Australia: What I Spent
Some of my estimated budgets:
- Mexico: $40
- Indonesia: $25
- Thailand: $30
- India: $25
- Sri Lanka: $30
- Colombia: $35
The easiest way to calculate your trip cost is by using an average daily budget.
For example, if I spend a month in Myanmar averaging $25 per day and a month in France averaging $75 per day my overall average is still $50 per day.
Take a look at your list of country averages and find the mean. This will be your average daily budget for the entire trip.
This calculation is easy if you plan to spend about the same amount of time in each country, but if you’re not then you might need to brush off your middle school math skills and incorporate the number of days when you calculate your average daily budget.
- Ireland: ($55/day x 14 days) = $770
- Cambodia: ($30/day x 21 days) = $630
- Sri Lanka:($30/day x 24 days) = $720
- Indonesia: ($25/day x 60 days) = $1500
- Australia: ($60/day x 63 days) = $3780
- Average: $7400/182 days = $40/day budget
Want to travel for longer than this? Just take this average daily budget and multiply it by how long you would like your trip to last. Obviously the more numbers you have to work with, the more accurate your budgeting will be – but if you’ve only got the first segment of your trip planned out, you can use this daily average to budget for the remainder of your trip.
$40 X 365 days = $14,600
READ MORE: Budget Travel in Colombia: What I Spent
But we’re not quite done yet – we have to calculate some extra expenses, such as:
- Your big bucket list activities – e.g. Getting scuba certified, Hiking to Everest Base Camp, Trekking with Orangutans in the Sumatran Jungle, or riding the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway… all the activities you know you want to do on this trip
- Any long haul flights (e.g. if your route takes you between continents, like from Europe to Asia)
- Money set aside for returning home (i.e. flight home + living expenses for your first month or two back home)
This money for extra expenses should remain separate from your daily budget.
$600 (Flight home) + $750 (One month rent upon returning home) + $600 (Everest Base Camp) + $450 (Scuba Diving Course) = $2,400
How much money do you need to travel the world?
Now add those two numbers together (Daily Costs + Extra Expenses) and voila! You’ll have a very accurate idea of the cost of a round the world trip, and thus – how much money you need to save before you quit your job to travel.
$14,600 (Daily Costs) + $2,400 (Extras) = $17,000 Total For One Year of Round the World Travel
$17,000 will let you travel the world comfortably for a year… and odds are, you’ll end up spending less than this.
READ MORE: 35 Ways To Save Money In Australia
Apps That Help You Keep Track of Money
My biggest money saving tip is to track your expenses. This is very important, I cannot stress this enough. I know it’s obnoxious to whip out your phone and record every penny you spend but it’s the only way you’ll hold yourself accountable and be able to keep track of where your money goes.
This free app made tracking my expenses SO EASY. You can record expenses in any currency so you don’t even have to bother with conversions. You can see your daily average, average by country, or average by category (accommodation, food, activities).
If you download one app for your round-the-world trip, make it this one. There are plenty of other expense tracking apps out there, so if you hate the layout of TripCoin, find one that is easy for you to use (note: Lindsay uses Trail Wallet).
Other Tips for Budget Travel
If you’re worried about not being able to save enough money to travel, or find yourself spending more money than you thought you would once you’re on the road, you can get creative and cut down on travel expenses without sacrificing the best parts of your trip.
- You can housesit. Trusted Housesitters, MindMyHouse, and Aussie Housesitters help you find a house in your desired location where you can live in a house or apartment rent-free in exchange for caring for the owner’s pets. This is an incredible way to cut down on accommodation expenses as you travel, and works well if you want to stay in one place long-term.
- You can CouchSurf. CouchSurfing opened up a whole new world of travel for me. It’s a free community of fellow travelers and locals who often offer travelers a night on their couch or a spare bedroom for free! This is another great way to save money on accommodation, while also learning about a new city or culture directly from a local.
- You can volunteer or do a work exchange. Workaway and HelpX have volunteer opportunities all over the globe. Animals shelters, farms, wineries – there are plenty of opportunities and they typically come with free accommodation, food, and many have low time commitments.
You can also check out my guide on how to save more money for travel for all my tips on how to boost your bank account before the big trip.
The truth is you can travel abroad with as little as $7000 in the bank. If there’s a will, we travelers will find a way. But $40-$50 per day will let you travel comfortably all over the world. So, just book the plane ticket already, keep saving, start planning your dream trip, and get ready to spend 2021 abroad!