Not Matter If You Are On A Long Term Travel Or On A Short Trip…
The most frequently asked question about my travels, no matter if it is a single short trip or one of my Years Off (Round The World in 2007 – 2008 or Sabbatical in 2014 – 2015), is “How much does / did it cost?” and eventually “How can you afford it?”, but basically, both questioned are linked in my opinion…Before I go into A Detailed Breakdown Of My Travel Budget & Travel Costs, the most important is that these numbers only make sense when seen in a context, what makes traveling cheap, what makes it expensive. In other words, what are the main drivers of costs while traveling and the possibilities of cost reduction.
There are 4 elements that will massively impact your Travel Budget & Travel Costs:
- The first and most important rule is: cheap countries are really cheap, expensive countries are really expensive. This sounds trivial, but no matter how I traveled, this had a critical impact on how much I spent. In Bolivia or Laos or Vietnam, I simply stop worrying and significantly upgraded my style of travel. Nevertheless I spent far less than almost anywhere else. On the other hand, in the Pacific or in Africa, I simply find no way to stop the financial hemorrhagic! And this is both true on short trips and on long term travel. For example, I spent almost half of the budget of my Travel Around The World in 2007 – 2008 in the Pacific, although I spent only one fifth of the time there. South America can even prove more complex. In Argentina and in Chile I spent almost twice as much per day as in Bolivia or Peru.
- The faster I travel, the more I spend. Crashing in a village in Bolivia or Laos costs very little. Moving every other day from one place to another, as you often do during shorter trips, greatly increases your spending. Maybe also because when you were exhausted, you tend to reward yourself with little extras and more comfort, that quickly add to the bill.
- The way I travel and the level of comfort I choose indeed influenced my expenses, but not significantly as far as I remain on a Backpacking or (comfortable) Flashpacking style of travel. But interestingly enough, overall this is less crucial moneywise than where and how fast I travel. True, if you significantly upgrade your travel style, then expenditures go up quickly… Maybe worth mentioning, I no longer are in my 20s, so my “camping or dormitory times” are over. I mostly chose budget hostels, but stay in private rooms mostly with private bath. In most of South America and Southeast Asia, I eat at very local restaurants or food stalls. In more expensive areas or large cities, I tend to cook most of my meals. I book many tours or hire guides in museums or points of interest to get the utmost of those places. Moreover I travel in comfortable buses, when those are available and once in a while opt for a plane in order to avoid long bus rides.
- Going out a lot and drinking the night away is not what I travel for, and that saves a LOT of money! I must admit that I am always baffled when observing young crowds burning their budget on booze & parties while traveling. Do not get me wrong: once in a while I enjoy partying! But by avoiding bars or clubs, and instead enjoying a beer or a bottle of wine with fellow travelers in the hostel or with random locals in some small local spot makes a huge difference in the end on your budget…
That said… How to reduce costs if you have a tight budget? Compared to the expenditure I give in my Detailed Breakdown Of Travel Budget & Travel Costs, I would say that one third of those costs can be cut without major inconveniences if you consider the “Golden Rules” I identified above for the Backpacking & Flashpacking trips, and even much more for Mid-Range trips and Tours (though at times, you have no alternative to local Tours, especially in Africa):
- Do not underestimate how fast you will burn your budget in expensive places like Western Europe, North America, Japan, the whole Pacific area including Australia & New Zealand and large parts of Africa… If you are on a tight budget, try to stick to cheap regions as much as you can. Southeast Asia & the Andean Countries of South America (except Chile & southern Argentina) are your best bet!
- Do not try to pack too much into your itinerary. Traveling fast will increase the costs. And reduce the number of continents visited if you are on a budget.
- Of course, reducing your “standards” by staying in dormitories, by camping or by using the cheapest transport can save a lot of money.
- Last but not least, do not underestimate partying and going out! I vividly remember travelers bargaining a dollar off their dorm bed in Cusco / Peru and then drinking the night away.