I’m often asked how much to costs to travel the world. Specifically, many people want to know how much it costs to travel one whole year. Round-the-world (RTW) and career break trips often aim for 12 months away from home, and most gap years last for… well, a year!
So how much does it cost to travel the world?
Unfortunately, asking “how much is a year of travel?” is kind of akin to asking “how big is a fish?”.
It all depends… are we talking about a dwarf goby, or a whale shark?
Okay, weird metaphor, but the point is that a year-long journey can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it, depending on where you go.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to give a precise cost break-down for one year of travel, as there are just so many variables, but it is possible to give a rough ballpark idea.
The cost of traveling around the world for a year depends a lot on your travel style and destinations. The minimal budget is around $12,000 for one person if traveling very low budget-style in the cheapest countries. If you add more developed high-income countries, a minimum $25,000 is a good rough estimate.
These figures are based on my own experiences, various travel budgeting tools I’ve used, and estimates from other travelers.
Since so much depends on where and how you travel, let me break things down into several categories below.
The monthly costs indicated here don’t include pre-travel expenses (insurance, initial flights, etc.) and only the costs incurred once you are actually on the road, such as sightseeing, accommodation, and transportation.
Option 1. Travel minimally in cheap countries
Annual cost: $6000 / €5500 / £3800 at minimum
Monthly cost: $500 / €450 / £320 at minimum
This is the absolute most basic way to travel the world.
It requires focusing exclusively on the cheapest countries in the developing world as well as being super frugal. This is the category of the vagabonds and the drifters with only the smallest of shoestring budgets.
Maybe you could spend time in off-the-beaten-track Central America sleeping only in your own tent or hammock, eating cheap buffet meals (and saving leftovers for later), hitch-hiking, and only going on activities that are free. You could go to India and fully immerse yourself in the local lifestyle, avoiding any of the popular tourist sites, and moving from place to place in crowded 3rd class train carriages only.
This is travel for the ultimate free birds, content to spend much of their days reading books or plucking their guitar instead of doing more expensive sightseeing.
It’s maybe surprising that you could travel a year for around $6000, but I have seen people do it.
I met a guy in Nicaragua traveling on just $10 a day: all he had to pay for was a place to put his tent, and he bought his food straight from local bakeries and fruit farmers. The rest of his budget was for taking buses whenever he couldn’t find a way to hitchhike safety.
You do really have to embrace the hippie lifestyle and reduce everything down to their basics, which is maybe not for everyone.
Option 2. Travel fairly comfortably in cheap countries
Annual cost: $12000+ / €11000+ / £7700+
Monthly cost: $1000+ / €900+ / £650+
If you are not too fussy, you can travel very comfortably in many developing countries around the world. If you can make do with basic accommodation and are fine eating mostly the local cuisine, you can travel for less than you may think.
Expect to need about $1000 a month for many budget-friendly countries in Latin America, South- and Southeast Asia, the Balkans in other cheap destinations in Europe. You may have to “live like a local” a bit sometimes, but you will generally be able to afford an otherwise comfortable lifestyle with very few real restrictions.
As a rough rule of thumb, it takes about $1000 a month, give or take, to travel in many developing countries.
With such a budget, you can easily afford hostel beds or basic hotel rooms (particularly if shared between 2 people), go sightseeing whenever you’d like, have sit-down restaurant meals multiple times a day, and move about using local transportation, tourist shuttle services, or the occasional short-distance flight.
This style of travel is most commonly associated with backpacking, round-the-world trips, and career break trips. It’s especially attractive if you’re from a high-income country, as your Western currency will take you further elsewhere in the world.
The standard of living in developing countries may of course be lower than you are used to at home. Don’t necessarily expect to get a Danish craft beer with your pho noodles in Vietnam, or for that ramshackle bus in Ecuador to be exactly on time. But once you adjust to the local pace and lifestyle, you can feel like you truly have everything you need. I’ve traveled a lot in this style and I can’t get enough of it.
Option 3. Travel frugally in expensive countries
Annual cost: $25000+ / €23000+ / £16000+
Monthly cost: $2100+ / €1900+ / £1350+
Travelling long-term in developed countries can be astronomically costly if you travel the same way you would on a regular holiday. The cost of hotels alone can send your budget spiraling out of control. The alternative is to find creative ways to travel cheaply in expensive countries.
This could mean cooking your own meals in hostel or holiday apartment kitchens or eating packed lunches. You will typically avoid the most expensive tours and activities, instead enjoying publicly accessible sights or going on free city walking tours.
However, you may not have to go to quite these extremes if you limit your overall time in expensive countries and budget adequately.
It’s no coincidence that many travellers opt to go to Europe, Australia, or the U.S. for maybe one or two months—and not ordinarily for, say, half a year or a year, as this is much more difficult for many to sustain.
This is the sort of cost you’ll likely be looking at for a round-the-world or RTW trip, particularly one that has stopovers in many Western countries, mixed with a few cheaper ones.
4. Travel lavishly in expensive countries
Annual cost: $100000+ / €90000+ / £65000+
Monthly cost: $8000+ / €7200+ / £5200+
When money is of virtually no concern, you can truly go everywhere and do anything. I know of some luxury travel bloggers who spend well over $100,000 a year!
But if you have these kinds of means, then maybe you wouldn’t be doing much travel budgeting at all.
I think these kinds of numbers are what most people assume traveling around the world must cost, but the reality is that you don’t need to spend a fortune. I’d say that on an average person’s budget, it starts somewhere around $10k a year and goes up from there. At this sort of budget you will have to travel as a backpacker, and maybe do without some of the comforts you have at home, but you will be able to have some truly amazing experiences.
While this sure isn’t anything to sneeze at, this is also far from the millionaire status that some people think you need in order to go on a big journey!
Learn more about travel costs
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, I have some cost breakdowns for a few specific regions of the world:
- Southeast Asia cost of travel overview
- South America cost of travel overview
- Central America cost of travel overview
- 14 cheapest countries in Europe
- 20 cheap countries I recommended traveling to
Of course, if you really want to know a more exact budget, you will have to do your own research and calculations.
If you want to learn more about trip financing, accurate budgeting, and long-term travel, be sure to check out my book, Travel the World Without Worries. It’s my ultimate guide to planning a round-the-world or gap year trip.
It talks about how to fund a trip, how to deal with pre-travel costs (insurance, flights, etc.), and how to create a realistic travel route.
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