So how much does it cost to travel abroad for a year? I’ve had that question from just a few people but I think many more do wonder about the costs. I’ve decided to detail my expenses here because I was helped by bloggers who did so before my trip, so I hope this can helpful for others who are planning extended travel.
Things to Consider
The first thing to know is that there is not just one answer to this question. I met travelers who would spend as little as $10,000 in a year, and others who easily spent more than $50,000. There are many factors to consider when making your budget.
- Where will you travel? Traveling in developing countries is generally cheaper than traveling in more developed areas such as North America, Europe and Australia. Still, costs can vary greatly from one country to another, so it’s worth doing some research into the cost of living for where you want to travel.
What I Spent in One Year
I used a Google spreadsheet and an app called Wallet to keep track of daily expenses. Neither took much time and it was worth the effort. There were days where I forgot what I spent and had to estimate, and I probably missed some expenses, but it’s still pretty accurate. Keeping track of your spending is a great way to control your spending, no matter where you are.
I did receive a stipend from Fulbright for my expenses in Vietnam, but I included those expenses here for budgeting purposes. Finally, I paid for a full year of health care from Cigna Global ($3800) before I left, which is not included in the total below since health care costs can vary greatly depending on the type of coverage you want.
Year Abroad Expenses
June 29, 2016 – June 29, 2017
Countries: USA, Honduras, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Laos
What’s not included:
- Health insurance for 12 months ($3800)
- Storage unit for 12 months ($1200)
- Flight from Boston to Hanoi (paid directly by Fulbright)
- Tuition for a one-week photo tour (funded partially through gifts)
- Renting a PO Box for one year ($72)
- Gift cards sent home to family for Christmas
That’s it. My only other costs were a life insurance premium and a leftover water bill from my house. If you think $20,000 is a lot of money, well, it is. However, it is far less than what I would have spent just living at home for a year and paying all of my usual bills and expenses. So, when you think about it, I actually saved money by traveling for a year!
- My lowest average daily expense was around $35 in Vietnam, Honduras, Philippines and Thailand. Keep in mind that in some of these places I was getting free lodging and meals in exchange for volunteering.
- The most expensive place, by far, was the US. I spent around $100/day during my short trips to the US in August and May, and my lodging was already covered. This did include some larger purchases for things I would need in Asia.
- I made about $2200 selling items on Craigslist.
- During one three-week period of volunteering, I spent a total of $4.88 and had one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
I worried less about money during my year of not receiving a paycheck than I do when I get paid every two weeks. Having a budget, knowing my expenses and living in cheap places made my travels stress-free in terms of money.
- A Little Adrift: How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World for a Year? An up-to-date detailed post
- Budgeting Spreadsheet
- RTW Expenses Another perspective, this one from 2011