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How Much Does it Really Cost to Travel the World

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How much does it really cost to travel the world? I’m asked this question often, and I’m always forced to shrug my shoulders and say that a traveler’s expense sheet is based more on their comfort threshold, travel methods, drinking habits, and site-seeing ambitions than on the basic costs of just about any country. It is possible to travel any country on $10 per day, just as it is possible to drop 100s of bucks daily anywhere on this planet.

If you’re bicycling or walking, camping on the sly, abstaining from bars, and getting food in local markets and cooking it yourself, no country in the world is expensive. If you want to go to every tourist attraction, stay in nice hotels, take first class transportation each day, get drunk in bars, and eat in middle class restaurants no country is going to be cheap.

The above map is a global survey of estimated travel expenses for 2012.  The blue countries can be traveled for under $20 per day, the brown ones for $20 to $40, and the red ones for over $40. The countries that are left blank I either do not have personal experience traveling in or not enough data to make an estimate. All prices are quoted in US dollars.

As this site is about vagabond travel, I assume that you are interested in traveling as cheaply as possible — which demands a certain amount of discipline. This means:

  • Only occasionally drinking to excess in bars.
  • Sleeping in dorm rooms in hostels or camping.
  • Taking local transport and avoiding first class buses and trains.
  • Traveling slowly (changing locations less once or twice per week).
  • Eating where the locals do or preparing your own food.
  • Only occasionally going to tourist attractions.
  • Are able to find enough entertainment in free, simple activities.

If you want to add excesses to the estimated prices above, then plan accordingly.

The above map does not provide estimates for extreme vagabond travel, as any country can be traveled for very little money if you’re providing your own transportation and shelter.

(Read about how to travel in expensive countries cheaply.)

Speed of travel is important for calculating budget

A general rule of traveler’s thumb is the slower you go the cheaper travel will be, the faster the more expensive. Transportation is one the three essential travel expenses, but apart from food and shelter, it’s one that you don’t need everyday. By staying in places for a week or two at a time you will lower your travel expenses exponentially. The prices in the map above are calibrated for changing locations once or twice per week, but are generally estimates for travelers who have a lot of time to stick around and really soak up their travel destinations.

Price estimates are for travelers

The price estimates above are for travelers who are generally interested in seeing places for what they are, hanging out in the streets, and watching the great show of life unfold before them. There is really no way to generally calculate travel expenses if someone wishes to link tours across the world. The estimates above are for travelers who only occasionally go on paid tours and engage in the excesses of tourism.

Airfare not included in estimates

Airfare is not calculated into the prices above. This is due to the fact that the amount of times that a traveler will fly per year/ during the course of a given trip varies greatly: some travelers will only fly once a year, while some seem to fly nearly every month. Some travelers don’t fly at all. Apart from regional budget airline flights, getting on a plane is the single biggest expense for every modern traveler — and the amount of times any of us flies is going to drastically affect our budgets. Next week’s Around the World Travel article will focus on planning flight paths around the globe.

Travel expenses map conclusion

By staying in the blue countries, peaking into the brown ones, and working or all out avoiding the red ones a traveler can blaze a trail across the world for the minimum about of money possible. The less money travelers spends the farther and longer they can travel. Money is not only a monetary measurement for a traveler but a temporal measurement as well. Your savings plus your earnings divided by your daily budget is how many days you can spend on the road. If your fractions are constant you can travel forever.

(Read more Budget Travel Tips on VagabondJourney.com.)

This article is part of a series called Around the World Travel. This series of articles will provide tips on how to take a trip around the world or travel the globe perpetually. 

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Filed under: Budget Travel, Perpetual Travel

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Polis, Republic of CyprusMap