It’s officially been a year since we dropped everything, left New York City, and packed our bags to see the world. It was mutually decided that our twenties were too valuable to spend doing something we didn’t believe in. In 12 months we managed to visit 19 countries across two continents: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Cyprus, Turkey, Italy, Morocco, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Lesotho in that order. So much did it cost us to travel the world?
Enjoying the views from the Seychelles islands
When we left we had a decent savings account, but ultimately had no clue how much we would be spending every day. We shot for a goal of $35/day in Europe and $40/day in Africa.
6 Rental Cars
And we slept in 98 beds across 78 cities.
We stayed in all sorts of accommodation – hostels, Airbnb’s, African lodges, beachside condos, and standard hotel rooms. For the most part we ate well, and never skimped out on a coffee when necessary. Are you ready for the price this all cost? As I was going over all the calculations last night I got nervous. “Just how much have we spent this past year?”
$12,600 per person. Of course, this can be done and many people can do it for much less, but because of our need for sushi and fresh local produce at every farmers market, I didn’t think we pulled it off this year. So we spent $25,200 for the two of us, and this is including the recent purchase of our DJI Phantom 3 Drone, that will help capture incredible aerial footage of Africa (like this!). That means on average we stayed just on par with our budget, coming in at $35.80 a day. Is it cheaper than you thought it would be? I know if I told my friends and family they would be shocked.
When we lived in our one bedroom apartment in the Bronx we spent at least $1,300pp a month on basic living expenses, with ZERO fun involved in that cost. Just the apartment alone cost $60 a day. All we did was sleep there after our long work days!
So here is a little pie chart of how we spent our money including accommodation, transportation (flights, buses, car rentals,) restaurants, and all activities (visas, tickets, entrance fees, groceries, coffee)
What these costs include is the cost of travel insurance, property insurance, and even personal choices like replenishing clothes, haircuts, new camera toys, and things like catching a movie out every once in awhile. Every whale shark dive, African safari, Berber family homestay, Italian cappuccino, and airplane ticket is included in the breakdown.
What this cost doesn’t include are our hosted stays. Sometimes as travel bloggers we receive comped accommodation in return for an online presence, photography, or social media exposure. We stayed in some dream worthy accommodation like this and this, for 41 days out of the year. The cost also doesn’t include nights when we stayed with friends and family on the road – because who can put a price on that? We stayed with family and friends around the world for 23 days this past year. I know that this is 2 months worth of free accommodation, so I can confidently say that if we were paying for every single night of accommodation at our highest price of $23 per person per night then this would have tacked on $943 each to our total. If you look at it this way, then we spent $13,543 pp traveling this year.
This isn’t to show you just how cheap we traveled because I don’t believe we traveled on a shoe string budget at any point. I want to showcase that it is possible to travel comfortably while staying on a fairly strict budget. I know that most people don’t want to stay in hostels or Couchsurf – and that’s okay. Quite frankly, we prefer not to stay in shared accommodation anymore either. We like having our own bathroom, a private bedroom with no snorers present, and our own private space to work. If we want to zone out into our computers all day, we have no fear of being judged. This isn’t to say we don’t like hostels, they are actually are a great place to meet people; especially, when you are traveling solo. We prefer our comfort over cost now.
Although, it may seem like we ate ramen noodles every night and slept in bed bug infested places it very far from reality. What is our greatest strength at cutting costs while traveling comfortably? We travel as a pair. Every car rental, apartment, and hotel room – we split the cost. The second factor? Our decision to stay out of Western Europe. We’ve both traveled there and love it. It is a wonderful part of the world. I could live there and maybe call myself some sort of European someday…but to visit, it’s expensive and touristy. We couldn’t justify the cost. So, we decided to start our trip in the Baltics and work our way down through Eastern Europe. The only expensive Western European country we spent a large portion of time in this year was Italy for six weeks. Other than that, we spent the majority of our European time in the Balkans and in the Mediterranean.
Next comes Africa. As it’s the least developed continent you may think that it would be dirt cheap. News Flash. It’s not. From the country’s we have been in so far I would say Africa is much more expensive than Southeast Asia, but definitely cheaper than a holiday in France. It’s right about on par with prices in Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece. This is assuming you don’t go all out and blow your dough on some sort of overland safari.
The beautiful Drakensberg Mountains
So here are some of the highlights of our past year (in money terms) presented in USD and EUR:
The cheapest accommodation we stayed at:
Was an entire apartment off Airbnb in Tirana, Albania for $16/night total. You want bargain in Europe? Head to Albania!
The next step up from that was Antigona Apartments in Ulcinj, Montenegro for $10/night per person. The room was situated on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. We woke up to the sound of the waves crashing into the cliff. Who said comfort and serenity has to be expensive?
The most expensive accommodation we stayed at:
Was an Airbnb apartment rental in the Seychelles for a whopping $100/night. We could have gone a tad bit cheaper and got bare bones, but these islands definitely aren’t welcoming to the budget vacationer. For $100 a night we got a basic but nice apartment surrounded by the lush forests with no WiFi included (WiFi is very expensive in the Seychelles, so we lived without).
The best place we stayed at:
Was obviously one of our amazing sponsored stays like at Anvil Bay in Mozambique or at Montusi Mountain Lodge in the Drakensberg. But I will have to give the best place we stayed at and paid cash for to Rododaphi apartments in Cyprus. The fully equipped apartment cost us $17/per person while overlooking the Mediterranean sea. It was run by the friendliest Cypriot with beautiful gardens growing fresh fruit, and a grotto just below the property to take a dip in the Med Sea. We still reminisce about it and would recommend the property to anyone in a heartbeat.
Playing around in Avakas Gorge, Cyprus
The worst place we stayed in:
Also in Cyprus, the worst place we stayed at was Delphi Hotel on the Greek side of Nicosia. This place was overpriced, right next to the bus station, and even airing on the dirty side. Unfortunately at $23/per person a night it was the absolute cheapest accommodation we could find in the city. (And this was with three people in a room!)
The cheapest car rental we had:
Was in Croatia for €56/week. It was brand new Smart car. I’m still not sure if this was a mistake or if their prices were just that low. Either way, I wasn’t complaining. we’ll certainly be using SiXT whenever possible again.
The most expensive car rental we had:
We rented a brand new, 45km on it, Mazda NP200 for the first two months of our African journey through South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique. Little to our knowledge we should have went with a 4×4 for those Mozambican roads…but went a step down with a 2×4 bakkie. This cost us a grand total of $1050. It was a necessity for the kind of travel we wanted to do. We can’t afford to keep renting cars though, so our current plans are to purchase a 4×4 in Cape Town. This we’ll drive through Africa. We can’t tell you where, yet. It’s a secret.
Our most expensive flight
We didn’t take many flights this year as Europe is a great place for overland travel. You may have guessed our most expensive flight was from Istanbul>Seychelles>Johannesburg for $493 each. No, we couldn’t pass up the chance to spend a long layover in one of the most beautiful places in the world for less than some people’s monthly Starbucks bill.
Our cheapest flight
Would be from Istanbul to Cappadocia with Turkish Airlines for $25 including baggage and a meal on board. Istanbul has won our hearts over as one of our favorite cities, but we absolutely could not miss out on seeing the hot air balloons over the fairytale chimneys in Cappadocia.
Our most expensive meal
We splurged for both our birthdays and spent $55 total each time. One was at a fantastic sushi spot in Cape Town, completed with a bottle of wine and the second was in Bodrum where we gorged on fresh fish. Our next priciest food option was when we went to Le Saveur De Poisson Tanger so that we could eat where Anthony Bourdain went in Morocco. All of these meals are still a fraction of what a nice meal out in New York City would have cost us.
Our cheapest meal
Would probably have to be a packet of ramen noodles somewhere along the way when we couldn’t find food. Otherwise our best bang for buck would have to be in Naples, Italy where we each got our own famous Margherita pizza for €3.50. Oh, what I would do for this pizza every day.
The longest place we stayed.
We have traveled South Africa for 2 months and counting. This is inclusive of our amazing month long apartment rental in Cape Town. Which was needed as a base and workspace as we plan the rest of Africa. After that, the longest place we stayed in was Belgrade. There we were able to score a cute 2 bedroom apartment in a hip neighborhood for $550 for the month. Didn’t I tell you the Balkans were cheap? While we don’t always think Airbnb is the best for short term rentals because of the fees, it is perfect for anything longer than a week. Where we are able to settle down and make ourselves at home. Have you tried Airbnb yet? Here is $42 for your first trip!
How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World: Accommodation
This is going to make up the largest portion of most budgets. If you’re anything like me you will want a *comfortable* bed to sleep in for the night. There are plenty of websites to find accommodation on. When we are in Europe and Africa we first scan Booking.com for short term rentals. In Asia, we like to use Agoda first. After we see the results from those websites we check Airbnb because we prefer to stay at an apartment over a hotel. If we have exhausted all those resources and STILL can’t find what we want in our price range, we turn to hostels and try to get a private room. We also like to use Booking.com to find hostels because we enjoy their interface. If time allows we attempt to contact a property directly to get the best rates. Hotels and hostels usually charge more on booking engines to make up for commission (15%).
The Cost to Travel the World: Transportation
Flights are always going to be a hard hitter, but flexibility is key. Do you care what country you want to start a trip in? How about time of year, is this a factor for you? When researching flights we always go on Skyscanner and do very vague searches. Skyscanner lets you literally type in “Everywhere” as a destination and will also let you pick “2016” as a date. From there we find out what destination is the cheapest to fly into and what time of year we can get a deal. I also signed up for the Secret Flying newsletter, which sends me the lowdown on error fares around the world every day. It’s here that we scored the $500 flight to the Seychelles continuing on to South Africa. Depending on what part of the world you are in, every bus, train, ferry ticket is going to add up. So if you’re traveling super fast consider getting a rail pass. This was a fantastic purchase decision I made in both Japan and Western Europe in 2013.
Snowboarding in Lesotho
So, how did we keep our expenses down?
As I mentioned before, traveling as a pair definitely helps keep expenses down. If you can grab a travel buddy for any leg of a trip I would recommend it. We even traveled as a triplet for 2 months through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Cyprus, and Turkey when Cameron’s sister joined us. This helped us keep food cost down when we cooked in!
Travel Slowly. We travel as slow or as fast as we want. When we love a place – we stay. When we aren’t feeling somewhere – we leave. More often than not we want more time in a certain destination, so we stay longer. This helps keep transportation costs low, as well as food costs. Since you are able to purchase more perishable goods to cook your own meals. However, most importantly, when you stay in one place for a long time you can work out deals with accommodation providers who are more often than not happy to give you a discount. We usually save 30-40% on Airbnb’s when we stay at someone’s place for more than a week.
Stay out of expensive countries. For optimal money saving try to stay out of North America, anywhere west of Poland, and away from Australia. I will also throw Africa onto this list as safari tours can really break a budget. I love all of these regions of the world. They are beautiful and provide western comforts. But after traveling to parts of Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America nothing drives me nuts more than an overpriced latte.
I won’t say to just cook all your meals in, because half the fun of going to a new country is trying the cuisine. But always make sure to check the prices of menus beforehand and allocate a set budget to food prices. And never forget about a service charge or tip, those little costs can add up.
Could we have done this whole year for cheaper? YES! Without the restaurant eating, nights out, coffee shop runs, and everything else that a human doesn’t need to survive we could have easily come in at under $9000 per person for the year. However, as much as we like to travel we also like to be comfortable while on the road. If you want some more information or to see what we use check out our resources page.
Did we do well with our budget? What’s the cheapest you have traveled on?
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