How Much Does it Cost to Travel Around the World?

I spent 2006 on the road.

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And I mean that in the capital letter sense. The Road. Over the course of a year, I traveled to 19 countries and fulfilled my dream of, well, “traveling around the world for a year.”

I’m not sure why that timeframe was always so alluring to me, but it was, and I did it. It was a wonderful adventures of highs and lows and things I’ll never forget.

(Blah Blah Blah).

To this day, though, the single most common question I get about that trip was how I afforded it. Again and again, I have been asked directly (sometimes laughingly, but more often not so much): Did you have a trust fund??

Um, no.

I did have a job. A really boring freelance job that paid me just enough to live. But it was pretty darn incredible given what it allowed me to do.

So how much did it all cost?

Here’s a glimpse at the math of my trip (rough numbers):

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (plus a crazy cheap Cruise to cross the Atlantic): $4,000

Food: $2,500

Lodging: $9,000

{To keep this number down and your lodging quality up, you’ve got to keep an itinerary heavily laden with cheaper countries. Get thee out of Europe. Stat.}

Other Stuff: $2,300

Total < $18,000

I came in at below $18,000 — but I was on the road about 10 months, not 12. My housing was also both more expensive and less. On some of my writing gigs I got to stay in great places for free, but at other times I had to shell out higher than hostel prices. Win some, lose some.

I also believe firmly this could be done for significantly less. You could spend a year in 10 cheap countries, say, renting an apartment for one month in each place, and could come at much lower than the number above. You could not fly as much as I did (with an itinerary that literally crossed the globe multiple times), and you’d be way better off.

I’m not saying $18,000 is cheap, by any means. But I am saying it’s possible with the right amount of planning, saving, and luck thrown in.

Like any dream, you can make it happen.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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32 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Travel Around the World?

  1. The only way to make a dream happen is to write out a timeline and plan of action, then take it one step at a time and follow through. A little luck doesn’t hurt either.

    Thanks for sharing


  2. I’m sure you can make the trip semi-economical but some countries are flat out expensive. There are places where you can stay for fairly cheap, but even then you might want to invest in something a bit more accomodating regardless.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I cannot imagine taking a year off to travel around the world. But it sure would be a fun thing to do. Now who would I bring along, or not? It would be romantic to jet about the globe with someone you love.

    • Here you go:

      Stand outs for me were New Zealand (but everyone says that :)), Koh Tao in Thailand (where I went to learn to dive for three days and stayed a couple of weeks), Bolivia, just because it surprised me so much, and Peru. The only country I struggled with was Venezuela, and that was entirely because of the money situation (the blog explains it).

      As for specific hotels/hostels; best: Loki Backpackers in Cusco, and a place called The Park in New Zealand (after doing the Tongariro Crossing Hike) which was easily the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed it. Worst was a hostel in Tabatinga, Brazil, on the Amazon. The staff were helpful but the place was like something out Midnight Express. The other bad experience was ironically in the most “touristy” place I visited, Cancun (a place I visited for nostalgia reasons – bad idea), in a relatively expensive hotel. Loathed it, felt treated like a sheep (and seriously ripped off).

  4. I did a similar trip at about the same time (2006-7). Rough cost was around 18K Sterling but I didn’t have to skimp on anything (and I did a lot of “adventure” stuff) and could usually treat myself to a night or two in a nice hotel once a month or so after hostels (which isn’t to say hostels are all rubbish; I stayed in some amazing ones and its by far the best way to meet people, but I stayed in a few hellholes as well).

  5. Hi Claire,
    This blog post is really timely as I will soon be traveling on a very tight budget

    I booked a ticket to Europe the other night. It was an impulse purchase so the plane ticket was expensive (plus it’s tourist season). I will be in Europe for a month, and hope to complete my entire trip for less than $3,500 . However, I’m not sure how realistic that goal is given travel to and within Europe combined would cost around $2,500. I am hoping to score some free stays through couchsurfing and also take advantage of cheap hostels to save on lodging.

    I would like to blog about this experience. Should I start a new blog or use my current blog? If I document this and actually invest some time into putting together a few high-quality posts, I think it might be helpful to other travelers who are looking to see Europe on a shoestring budget.

    In general, is having a topic-specific blog necessary to attract an engaged audience or can that be achieved by tagging my posts effectively with good keywords for SEO?

    Any thoughts? Thanks!!


  6. Hi Claire, Thanks for sharing about your travel budget and also Adam Shepherd’s travel memoir download. I think it’s sad that his journeys didn’t include one stop on the continent of Africa, which you certainly know from your travels is so impactful and meaningful to visit. I’ve just returned from Germany, and your blog post today encouraged me to make plans for even more travel. It’s difficult to explain just how it changes and grows you! But it’s definitely worth the time, money and effort!

  7. Hey Claire
    Thanks for sharing. Would you mind sharing your itinerary and other planning stuff with me? Might help include some more countries/states if I have planned not so well 😉


  8. I am planning to do a tour around the world…it’s my dream since im 13 (im 21 now), but age, college, and internships during summers have led me to “i’ll do it later on”.
    I would like to do it within the 5 next years though, so i can have time to earn money and plan it properly.
    Im from Spain, and unfortunately here we don’t have the “gap year” tradition; in fact its not very well seen, if you take it right before or after university its so hard to find a job..they go “why did you waste a year?” they see it as a not-wanting-to-do-any-effort during a whole year and have fun. But its not, at least not for me. I personally think that between 20-30 years, before getting married, settle down and start a family and fixed job its the time to travel and discover the world!
    So I admire the freedom and huge opportunity (of course with effort) that some of you have to travel across the globe, and wish I can do it one day!

    • I understand what you say. The same happens here in Portugal. I guess the answer to that question is: “I didn’t waste a year. I used it to know other countries, other cultures, other people and enrich myself as an individual. After all life is not just about studying and working”.

  9. Ended up spending $18k just in Switzerland and Paris over 12 days for a family of six! If you want to go around the world in under $18k then keep yourself below the equator. Visas are cheaper, acco is possible under $25 a day, food is cheap. Gotta have innards of steel though.

  10. Hi Claire,

    Really enjoy this topic. I think a different perspective – what kind of overhead did you have while on your trip? Did you have to make any payments?

    Also, how did this affect you in your profession? I think for me one of the biggest barriers is that I’m considering becoming a professional engineer – this requires 4 years of relevant experience before I can qualify and then requires continuing education and renewal every 2 years. This makes planning such a trip tricky to me.

  11. Thanks for sharing your travel year. I’m curious…which non-European countries would you consider cheap and like to experience, explore longer or revisit?

  12. I can say from experience that this is a First World Privilege.

    Well, it isnt as easy for an Indian. Being a US citizen, you don’t need to get VISA for every country that you plan to visit. We planned a trip to Europe last year, we had to book every hotel, train, flight in advance and then apply for VISA.

  13. It can definitely been done for quite a lot less, I would imagine.

    I’ve been abroad for about 14 months now, and I don’t think I’m at 18K yet – or just about right there.

    And, I was spending way too much when I first started my journey – getting custom made suits in Shanghai every week. Not that custom-made suits in China are expensive, it’s just that I wound up tossing most of them to avoid baggage fees anyway, so was kind of a waste…

    Also, a lot my expenses are business expenditures – at least a couple of grand anyway.

    • You’re right, William, that it can definitely be done for less. Honestly we didn’t economize much at all on our trip, and often went to nice places. Furthermore, in terms of economizing we spent WAY too much time in pricey countries;) It could be done much more simply.

  14. Traveling around the world is always fascinating, fun and adventurous. It really is a wonderful experience, no doubts about it. And Claire, which of the 19 countries did you visit and which is the most memorable one? Any beautiful scenic photographs to share with us? 😀