How much money does it cost to travel?
It is my impression that how much money you will need to travel for ten months is directly proportional to how and where you want to travel. Both extremes on the figures that you have previously received — $5 a day to $50 — are both accurate depending on your travel strategy and location.
The way I manage my travel funds is that I begin looking for work as soon as I get down under $5,000. But I travel perpetually, I do not have a home to return to, and have no plans on getting one. So keep in mind that you, too, do not have to go home — you can work too, and if you do then your budget can always be replenished to the point that how much you have before starting out becomes almost irrelevant. If you are traveling to a job then $100 may be adequate. But I will pose this response based on your parameter of how much it should cost to travel for 10 months without paid employment.
What I am about to say may run a little contrary to popular conception, but Western Europe in my opinion is one of the most difficult regions of the world to travel in. It is an extremely cost prohibitive continent first off, and the battle of living within your budget is probably the most difficult task in travel. If you have a million dollars then anywhere on the planet is easy for traveling, the challenge only comes in when you try to travel within very tight budgetary parameters.
The same mechanisms for traveling in Europe can be applied to anywhere in the world — buses, trains, planes, boats, and other forms of transport run more or less the same in Laos as they do in Mongolia as they do in El Salvador as they do in Portugal. The only difference is that most of the world is far easier and cheaper to travel in. If you have any budgetary constraints, I highly recommend not going back to Western Europe.
When I travel in Western Europe it is on a bicycle and I sleep in a tent out in the bush at night. I eat a diet of cheese and bread and tuna fish and fruit that I can find growing on trees or in markets. Or I work for accommodation in hostels. I would not go as far as to say that traveling in Europe is difficult, but it is exponentially MORE difficult than Central or South America, Southeast Asia, China, India, Morocco, or Eastern Europe. If there is one place in the world where travel experience is needed, it is in Europe.
The poorer the country, the easier it tends to be for traveling. I say this because it is the countries that rely on public transportation — not private cars — which are the ones that tend to have the most well connected, extensive, and least expensive public transport networks. If you can afford public transport, accommodation, and food without question, traveling becomes much easier. If you can just jump on a bus and go, jump off and find a room without excessive searching, stumble into a restaurant and order a plate of food, and have your daily budget not exceed $10, then traveling becomes almost too easy. You can’t do this in Western Europe.
To be honest, the more expensive the country, the more rugged my traveling style, and the more experience helps. In Japan, I hitchhiked all over and slept outside under a tarp; in Europe, I search for work and ride a bike; in the USA, I usually only travel in search of employment. All of this requires vastly more work and effort to get what I need to live and travel well.
If you do start your travels in Germany on a tight budget, it would be a good move to go east as fast as you can.
Though I would recommend thinking about going to Central or South America or Southeast Asia. The traveling infrastructures in these regions tend to be highly developed, the hotels are cheap, and the challenge of getting to where you want to go is not very high. There are a lot of backpackers in these regions as well, and soon after you land you will probably get the hang of everything without much of a struggle.
If you go to one of these regions for 10 months, pay for transportation and sleep in hotels and hostels, I would say that the total bill would probably realistically come to around $4,000 to $5,000. If you travel by bicycle, eat food from markets or on the street, and sleep in a tent, the expense of traveling drops to around $5 a day anywhere in the world — including Europe.
So I suppose the question of how much money it costs to travel depends on how you want move about the world and where you want to go to. Central and South America and Southeast Asia are backpacker hubs for a reason — they are relatively cheap and there is a vast traveler infrastructure — but Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and eastern Turkey and the Middle East are not that expensive either.
Though if you travel for work — teaching English, farming, trading work for accommodation etc — then the region of the world that you travel in becomes almost irrelevant when looked at through the lens of a budget. If you find a way to get paid while traveling, they you have found the key to perpetual travel. Getting TEFL (English teaching) certification and learning a few trades before you go could help immensely farther down the road.
Hope this helps. Please let us know how everything goes.
Original question about how much money it takes to travel
Hello Wade my name’s Chris, I stumbled across your site a few weeks ago while researching for a trip I hope to take abroad soon. I would first like to say I really enjoyed the articles you have written and have found quite a bit of good advice that I hope will come in handy when I take the trip. I started taking an interest in the idea of going abroad for a while after reading Rolf Potts’ books and have since been immersing myself in online blogs and sites to get some info on how to go about starting my travels.
I still have a few questions I cant seem to get straight answers for, one of which is how much money to save for the trip? I understand that it depends entirely on where I go but the info I find online all points in different directions. I have read some people who say that about 2500.00 is enough for a year and a half if your frugal enough, and others who have said I need 50 bucks a day to get by! If it helps this will be my first time traveling abroad this way, I was an exchange student in Germany twice although I was living with a family the whole time in one town going to school so I did not get a chance to travel other than to neighboring cities. Also I dont have any qualms about living out of a backpack or sacrificing most of the other personal comforts I otherwise might enjoy. I have good command of German so I was thinking of starting somewhere close to where I lived, or at least somewhere in a German speaking country to re-familiarize myself with traveling alone. Although Europe would be fun I want to go somewhere my money can go a little further, I was hoping maybe 10 months or so?
With that in mind, like I said it is my first solo extended trip abroad so I dont want to make it too difficult for myself by traveling to a country usually reserved for more experienced travelers. Might you have any suggestions for a starting point? Also as far as funding the trip I have considered WWOOF’ING and teaching English abroad and looked into getting a TEFL cert, although I am not sure if the latter is something I am too incredibly interested in doing.
Well if you made it this far thanks for reading all of it, I know I threw a lot of questions in your face but those little details in particular seem to be the most elusive for me. Anyway any feedback would be awesome and greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance -Chris