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334 Days On The Road, $36,774 Spent, 14 Countries Visited – A Budget Breakdown By Country

by Tony · 15 comments

Travel Budget Comparison

334 days of travel. $36, 774 spent.  14 countries visited.

So what was the cheapest country?

What was the most expensive?

What were the biggest surprises?

I know these are your most burning questions because you all told me. It basically comes down to everyone wondering how to travel the world on a budget.

In the budget survey we did last month, you all gave some great feedback about what you are most curious about. Since I spent the painstaking and mind-numbing time last year of chronicling every penny spent, you might as well get some benefit from them.

Hopefully all of that work will provide some real value to anyone interested in visiting a few of these places.

So let’s dig into the numbers!

But First, Some Ground Rules About Analyzing How To Travel The World On A Budget

If you are curious at all about travel costs, you have probably already found a ton of different answers. I know I did when we first started researching our trip. So let me be upfront about what is included and excluded in our budget.

While I did keep track of flight costs and health insurance costs, I removed these from our daily average expenses below. This means that our total expenses of $36,774 become $24,913.


Both the cost of flights and the cost of health insurance can vary greatly by traveler!

Flights for Budget TravelAlmost everyone will pay for flights, but some get around the world tickets while others pay as they go. Since Meg had a lot of airline miles, we decided to spend them on the most expensive leg of our journey, from Lima to Paris, and payed out of pocket the rest of the way to get a little more flexibility.

This resulted in total flight expenses of $5,347.

In addition to varying costs, some long distance flights are very expensive and can artificially inflate a country’s daily average expense rate. Just because we flew from Berlin to Bangkok and paid $1,400, doesn’t mean you need to consider that when visiting Berlin from London.

Additionally, I removed health insurance costs.

Health Insurance Travel Costs

You might have universal health care from your home country or decide to use a different insurance package from the US than we did.

I have a pre-existing condition and did not want to lose creditable coverage back in the US. That means I stayed on COBRA and had to pay a really big chunk of change every month to stay insured. Meg and I also got travel insurance so that we could receive care overseas.

This averaged out to roughly $19.50 per day of travel or $6,513 total… yikes!

Many travelers just get travel insurance overseas, which can cost MUCH less. So do your homework and you could save big bucks on this budget item.

So with flights and health insurance costs taken out of the daily country averages, you get the closest apple-to-apple comparisons I could create. There are of course differences in styles of travel, but I will try to point out anything major that might have inflated a countries average.

The Big Travel Budget Reveal

So with the ground rules out of the way, the below list shows the average daily expense for a couple traveling to the 14 countries we visited, in descending order:

Daily average expense by countryRTW Travel Expense Exhibit


Turkey at the bottom is an outlier. The takeaway there is to invite your parents to visit you at some point in your trip and hope that they treat you to a whole lot of nice things… Thanks Mom & Dad!!!

Now lists like this always allow the reader to take away some obvious ideas about travel expenses in different countries. But I want to point out something that jumps out at me that you can’t tell from just the numbers.

The Importance Of How You Travel

Don’t be intimidated by the perceived cost of a country. There is so much that goes into travel budgets beyond basic costs of living. You could take the cheapest country and turn it into your most expensive vacation.

I discussed in an earlier Budget Breakdown article the big surprise that Europe was actually a cheaper destination than South America. A large portion of this was due to the epic adventures we had to pay for while in South America. We hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, ventured through the Atacama Desert to the Bolivian Salt Flats, and explored Patagonia.

The rest of our trip around the world held much fewer costly adventures, but we also explored alternative ways to travel.

We tried WWOOFing in Italy, Housesitting in Thailand, and tried housesitting again in Australia. Because of this, all of these countries are in the bottom half of our daily expense list. In the weeks to come, I will explore each of these methods of travel in more detail, but for those of you asking how to travel the world on a budget, I would highly recommend trying anything that removes the accommodation expense from your budget for a few days.

Most Expensive Country In A Year Of Travel

Switzerland most expensive countryCongratulations Switzerland!

Even though we paid nothing for accommodations thanks to the generosity of friends, we still paid a fortune compared to the other countries ($126.86/day). The best example I can give that showcases the cost of this country is that a 20 minute train ride costs $10 per person… for just a one-way ticket!

I would say skip a place this expensive, but it is seriously one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Our entire time in Switzerland was spent in the small town of Gerra Gambarogno, but we were able to visit a few nearby villages that were all just as spectacular.

If you have the time and the budget, definitely spend a few days exploring the incredible lakes in the south of Switzerland. You will not regret it.

Biggest Surprise About Our Travel Budget

Indonesia is higher up on the list than I would have thought.

But then I remembered that this daily average expense of $77.56 included the cost of getting me SCUBA certified and taking extra dives. When people tell you that you can stretch a dollar in Southeast Asia… they are not lying.

We stayed on the tiny island of Gili Air, just east of Bali, for 3 weeks. I was able to get my PADI certification for SCUBA diving while taking almost all of my lessons in open water. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Meg got certified when she was much younger, but had to do it in a pool in upstate New York. She often reminded me of this point as I swam with Sea Turtles on my training dives.

What Do You Think?

Do you think you could live on these daily averages as a couple? How much do you spend now on just rent and weekend bar visits?

It was seeing budget breakdowns like this that first got me intrigued about the idea of traveling for a year. Do you have any interesting thoughts about how to travel the world on a budget?

If you are thinking about taking a long-term trip, let me know if this list helps or if I can add any more detail.

If you have already traveled to these countries, I would love to see how our budgets compare.

Be sure to leave your thoughts in the Comments section below and to share this post on Facebook so that we can keep the conversation going.

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Heidi Wagoner March 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for sharing this! I love when we see real budget numbers. I too think insurance and flights should be left out. There are too many options there to choose from (like taking a cruise the cheapest interior cabin vs a penthouse) it is all about your options. It is interesting to see Italy at the lower end, I think we will need to check that out. We are doing about $100/day for family of 4 in Spain, but we are renting long term. That will keep us to the budget in the high season too. Thanks again for this info. :-)

Tony March 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Renting longterm definitely helps save money. If people can afford the time, it makes visiting places in Europe much cheaper.

$100/day for a family of 4 in Spain is amazing! Would love to hear your tips on how you do that. Spain is one country i’ve never visited, but want to go so badly.

One last thing about Italy… part of the reason for its cheapness is that we were able to leverage our WWOOFing assignment for 2 weeks where food and housing were taken care of by the farm. That was a HUGE help!

Heidi Wagoner March 12, 2013 at 3:39 am

Ah the WWOOFing thing would help. We are looking into that, Helpex and house sitting to travel more around Europe over the summer. We still have our long term rental in Spain, so don’t want to double pay as we travel a few weeks. Fingers crossed we find something. We have applied for many, but I am sure a family of 4 is more difficult for people to accept with open arms.

As far as our budget tips…. the right rental is the key for us. Just 550 Euros a month for 3 bed 2 bath just a block above the beach, with “to die for” sea views. We limit eating out and don’t buy “stuff” or souvenirs, only what we need. We are in southern Spain, so local produce is plentiful and inexpensive. A small town helps too.

We have a little post on our budget, but I don’t want to be rude and place the link here (It should be in our “finances” category). Take care!

Jamie March 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm

So impressive, and seriously valuable advice!

Tony March 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Thanks! I have a lot more ways to break this info down, but wanted to give the general summary first. Stay tuned…

JR March 10, 2013 at 8:12 pm

This really starts putting it in perspective. I was surprised that Switz was that expensive and your lodging was free!!! It is beautiful however. Well worth the stop over. My sense is you probably also need to make some adjustment for getting scuba certified. While I do understand that during your travels you will take adventures like the Inca trail, getting scuba certified is something that was not dependent to your trip alone. If that makes sense. Great article.

Tony March 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Good point about the SCUBA certification. To make this list even more accurate, I could go through and scrub it of extra activities. Indonesia would definitely be much lower on the list then!

Josh | Traveling 9 to 5 March 11, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Great breakdown Tony. I noticed right away how high Indonesia was and figured it was the scuba diving, otherwise it’s super cheap!

It’s crazy how critical getting free lodging can be in expensive countries. It’s the only way we could do what we did in South Africa, Chile, and Brazil.

Tony March 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Free lodging is key… and there are a ton of ways to do it: WWOOFing, bartering, staying with friends. The more creative you can be the more ways you can stay for free.

Beth March 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I love your budget breakdowns! I totally wish I had the discipline to keep track of our spending that closely to share–posts like this one are so so important for people to be able to see that it *is* possible to get out and see the world (or even just the US in our case).

Tony March 13, 2013 at 2:12 pm

It was a pain the first month… but now it has become an insanely hard habit to break! The reason we started tracking was because we had to arbitrarily pick a daily expense # based on the few budget articles we could find online. Plus, the budget articles we did find were so varied that it made it almost impossible for us to judge the cost… people have VASTLY different travel spending habits!

Glad you like the breakdowns!

Charlie March 24, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Thanks so much for sharing! From the perspective of someone trying to work out a budget for a rtw trip for two next year, posts like this are gold! Helps reduce the stress I feel every time I try and get my head round daily travel costs.

The housesitting tip is great too! Never thought of it. I’ll be looking in to this for sure.

Tony March 27, 2013 at 11:02 am

So glad you liked it, Charlie!

We kept a fairly detailed budget so I have a lot more breakdowns to share. If you have any specific questions let me know and maybe I can write about them!

Brandie April 8, 2017 at 4:24 am

I agree, Mary. I have a nice repertoire of casseroles too…and they are so simple to turn to when you have company. I usually have one in the freezer for emegcenries as well. A lot of people don't like lamb, but my family loves it. So glad you gave this a trial run for us!

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