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How Much Does it Cost to Go Traveling? (Cheapest possible backpacking budget)

I must have googled this 100 times before I first set off traveling way back in 2006 and only now, 15 years and every country in the world later, do I feeling truly qualified to answer it categorically. The answer to the question ‘How Much Does it Cost to Go Traveling?’ is reassuringly simple. Not as much as you think. As long as your willing to make a few sacrifices, that is.

Experiencing First Class for the first time!
Experiencing First Class for the first time! ‘Free’ with airmiles!

So, how much for a 6-month trip traveling?!

I know, I know, you want cold hard figures. So I’m going to try to give a quantified answer in the most rudimentary way possible for one sample gap year trip.

$30 a day?

Let’s talk about the budget for a regular 6-month trip, leaving from Europe going to Southeast Asia for 4 months, Australia and Fiji for 1 month and the US for 1 month. The biggest cost on these types of trips is the airfare. That presents another question about whether to buy a Round-the-world (RTW) airfare ticket or not. We’ll deal with that another time. Other than the flight cost, you can squeeze by on an average of $30 or so IF you’re careful..

Wherever you go, it pays off to do some research. Usually, even major attractions offer discounts online! The budget tends to break down to something like this:

  • Around the world (RTW) ticket                      $1000
  • Travel insurance                                            $200
  • Visa fees                                                        $200
  • Travel gear (backpack, torches etc)              $200
  • 180 Days budget X $30                                 $5400

TOTAL COST FOR A BUDGET 6 MONTH TRIP: $7,000USD

Let’s have a look at these individually.

Airfare:

Lots of companies (STA travel, virgin etc) offer very competitive RTW tickets. Prices normally start at around $700. They then increase as you add flights and continents to your itinerary. Generally speaking, a 5 flight 3 continent trip can be found for around $1000 if you search hard enough. You certainly should never pay more than $1500.

Personally, I love to be free when I travel so I don’t book RTW tickets. I prefer to spend a couple of hundred dollars extra each time BUT I can fly when I want. Or where I want.

Best Luxury Hotel in Cairo
Me at Best Luxury Hotel in Cairo

Travel insurance:

I’m not going to endorse any travel insurance company that makes you pay hundreds of dollars up front. Rest assured quality cover is available for less than $300 for 6 months. I personally use THESE GUYS. Read my review here, I use them for my digital nomad insurance

Visa fees:

Depending on the countries you plan to go to a 6-month trip should cost between $100-$200 for visa fees.

If China or Vietnam is on your itinerary remember they don’t offer visas on arrival (i.e you can’t arrive at the border and get stamped in). So you have to arrange that in advance, although you can do this during your trip at a neighbouring country. For example, I got my Chinese visa in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Travel gear:

Check out my post on things to bring when you pack. You shouldn’t have any need to spend more than $200 on all your stuff though.

Your Daily Budget:

Here’s the big one. The one that the success of your entire trip hinges on. Asia requires around $20 a day and you live pretty well on that. As you move back to Western society, you have to watch your wallet a lot closer.

If you do that and maintain a frugal mindset (this means drinking local booze when available, like 4 litres of cask wine/goon in Australia for $8 a box or eating sub of the day instead of your meatball marinara) then $40 is just-about manageable.

how much does it cost to travel
How much does it cost to travel? It’s cheaper with friends! (Here in Saudi Arabia)

So $7k for 6 months?

Ok, if you’re finishing you’re A-Levels, graduating from uni or simply taking a career break this is the answer you’ve been looking for.

If you’re happy to:

  • Sleep in dorm-rooms in hostels
  • Eat in supermarkets
  • Steer clear of 1st world countries for the most part 
  • Don’t fly too much

Then:

You need about $7,000 USD for a 6 month break

Save up and set off. Happy travels guys!!

Remember, never travel without travel insurance! And never overpay for travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing at $9 a week, and it's amazing. Also, it has great digital nomad insurance for people who are constantly travelling too! You can read my review here, and you can sign-up here

Also, if you want to start a blog...I CAN HELP YOU!

Also, if you want to start a blog, and start to change your life, I'd love to help you! Email me on johnny@onestep4ward.com. In the meantime, check out my super easy blog post on how to start a travel blog in under 30 minutes, here! And if you just want to get cracking, use BlueHost at a discount, through me.

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20 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Go Traveling? (Cheapest possible backpacking budget)

  1. Pingback: 去旅游要花多少钱?(最便宜的预算!)-数字游民指南
  2. Hi Johnny. Loved your postr really. I wanna know what is your main concern at your first trip to Asia. Worry about weird food ? unknown risk? or ? If you wish you could get some help at that time, what would you ask for? Thanks. :S

  3. well guys i bought 4 tickets leaving from ireland to sri lanka and returning jakarta (indonesia)to ireland for 2,500 euro(thats 3 full price and 1 child) The fun is going to be in making up the middle bit. I agree with Johnny that rtw tickets can be too rigid especially as these days you have to pay for each change of date!

  4. I will have about $6,500 USD saved up before I leave for my trip to Europe for 3 months. Will this be enough? I am hoping to spend a fair bit of time in Eastern Europe, but I will spend some time in Paris and Germany. Last month will be a WWOOF stay in Sweden.

    Thanks,
    Samuel

  5. Hello Johnny. Stumbled upon your blog. Your devotion & energy is fascinating. I don’t have the desire to visit every single country on earth, but your quest is admirable. Keep up the good work!

  6. $6,000 for a 6 month visit! Not bad 🙂 thanks for your post! Good luck in your future travels.

  7. Great article! I agree it’s nowhere near as expensive as a lot of people think. Like you, I found good information on this very hard to find when I first set out backpacking 5 years ago.

    1. i know mate, not even half as expensive as people think! People always ask me how i afford it and they don’t believe me when i tell them tho!!! :S

  8. Hi Johnny! Loved the article! I was wondering why it is that you don’t like RTW tickets..they seem to be fairly cheap and get you to a bunch of places…so why not??

    1. hey Vania – i just don’t like their rigidity, plans change so much when you’re on the road for a while. New opportunities/relationships etc pop up and if you’re stuck with a pre-booked flight (flexible or not) it can be a real downer.

      That, and it doesn’t really save you much money! Also, much better to fly to one hub (i.e BKK, KL, LAX) and make your way to another hub by land and sort your flight out from there – it’s often cheaper.

      Finally, a RTW ticket often gets you stuck on the same STA travel tourist trail with loads of other people from the same old countries, telling the same old stories and you don’t really get to feel like real ‘traveling’ whereas freestyling it gives so much for freedom 🙂 Just my opinion of course, i know a lot of people disagree!

  9. Great post. It’s amazing how cheap you can do it if you set yourself the challenge. Even though I’m quite frugal while traveling, there are still times when I like to splash out on a nice meal and drinks. Which is completely do-able if you factor it into your budget.

    1. yeah mate, i think the big thing is knowing that it’s not gonna be your only trip. So many people ‘go traveling’ for 9 months then back to their real world, they need to pack everything into those 9 months which can prove expensive. If you know you’re gonna get the opportunity again, you can slow down, relax and soak up the culture in more places which proves invariably cheaper

  10. You’re so right Johnny! I’ve found that on average it costs me about $1,000 a month while traveling. Sometimes you can get away with less, but it seems that something always comes up that you need a few extra bucks for, so $1,000 is a great, workable figure.

    1. if you’re keen for vegetarian food, slow travel, little booze and dingy hostels i honestly think $500 is doable but that’s heavy going :S i traveled like that for nearly a year in 2007 because my funds where somewhat limited thanks to a Thai salary. Amazing experience but it’s $1k a month is a lot easier to come and go on!

  11. nice post johnny… i alwayst thought RTW tickets are expensive… never thought you could get one for $700… thanks for sharing

    1. hey flip,

      if you shop around u can get some great deals, i’m not actually a big fan of RTW tickets actually but i know they are convenient if you dont have all the time in the world

  12. Hi Johnny,
    Sounds good and very motivating to me, thx.
    I have now earned by working hard an amount of 10000 euro in one year, so my backpack adventure trip is really getting more and more realistic.

    1. hey Jaap,

      that’s more than enough mate, get going!! You’re gonna have the time of your life -) keep me posted!

      johnny

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