Traveling around the world is no longer as difficult as it once was; air and road travel has become cheaper over the years, not to mention the availability of wireless internet in almost all major parts of the world which makes it easy to find accommodations, tourist destinations and eateries. Gone are the days when you had to find local guides and search for area maps before setting off on your quests.
If you have some spare cash to burn, or want to take a year off from regular life, traveling around the world is one of the best things you can do. Traveling gives you exposure and educates you like nothing else can.
The only question now remains; how much does it cost to travel around the world? That is, of course, a very broad question with no exact answer. But in this article, we will try to ballpark the figure depending on how luxuriously you want to travel and live so you have an idea of the cost and know what you’re getting into.
Things that effect the cost
Here are some major factors that will spike (or bring down) the cost of your travels.
- Travel destinations – It goes without saying that some parts of the world are more expensive to travel to and live in than others. Developed areas such as the United States or European countries tend to cost a lot more than countries in Central or Southeast Asia. Even if you find affordable air tickets, you will have to spend on accommodations, food, clothing and other necessities – the cost of which is high in developed countries.
- Planning your route – Route planning is critical when it comes to traveling around the world. Intercontinental air travel tends to be very expensive. If you’re traveling from the Americas to Europe or Asia, you will have to pay a lot. But traveling within countries in Europe, for example, is very cheap. In fact, you can travel between EU states by road or by transit (train, bus etc.) at a very nominal fare.
- Season – Traveling costs will go up or down in certain areas depending on the time of year (or season) you’re traveling in. For example, traveling to Germany around October is expensive due to the yearly Oktoberfest in Munich. Traveling to Australia or European states during holiday season is also expensive. If there is a major sporting event going on in a country, that will drive up the prices of travel and accommodation significantly.
- Where you’re traveling from – The cost of your travels will also vary depending on what country of origin you’re traveling from. An American passport will let you travel around the majority of the world without a visa. But if you’re a South American or Asian national, you will have to apply for visas to certain countries, which will not only increase the cost but also the time it takes for the visa approval process.
- Accommodations – Are you comfortable living in small motels or even dorms? Or do you prefer the luxury of a five-star hotel wherever you go? The nature of accommodations will have a direct impact on your traveling cost.
- Food – The cost of the food you will eat must also be factored in. Food costs vary depending on areas and on the type of local cuisines available. In Asian countries, you will find delicious snacks from street vendors at a very low cost. But if you want to dine at a fancy hotel in France, it will cost you much more.
- Recreation – Traveling around the world would be pretty much useless if you don’t indulge in local recreations. Sky diving, cliff jumping, driving dune buggies, skiing, all of these adventures are expensive and can drive up the total cost depending on what you’re doing.
Major cost items
Here are some of the things you will end up spending most of your money on, so let’s get down to how much each of these will cost on average.
- Airline tickets – About 20-30% of your overall RTW (Round-the-World) tour cost will go to airline tickets. There are various tools such as AirTreks TripPlanner that will help you get an estimate on airline tickets, but you can expect to spend anywhere between $4,000-6,000 on tickets. This estimate includes travel to all major countries in all the continents. The more countries you visit, the higher your trip will cost.
- Accommodations – Accommodation costs will eat up the bulk of your traveling budget, and you can expect it to be around 40-50% of the total. This is because hotels in some areas can be really expensive. If you prefer staying in hostel-style dorms, you can get by on around $5-20 per night. So, if you’re traveling for the most part of the year, say for at least 6 months, you can expect to spend anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000 if you stay in dorms only. However, you will not always find, or indeed want to stay at, dorms. Luxury hotels can cost anywhere between $100-200 a night, which means $20,000-30,000 on hotel stays alone. However, you can always mix and match between high-end and cheap accommodations, so on average you should spend $8,000-$12,000 on living spaces.
- Food – This is where you can really save up if you plan accordingly. A single meal can vary anywhere between $1-20, depending on where you are and what you’re eating. Travelers tend to make use of canned foods or snacks from supermarkets to keep the costs low. Save your money for local specialty dishes alone, and you can expect to cover food costs within $2,000-5,000.
- Transport – Besides airfare, you will have to spend on ground transportation as well, going from city to city (or even country to country in some cases). Thankfully, ground transportation is usually not very expensive. In Asia or Africa, you can expect to go around town in as low as $5;10 a day. Buses and trains are also a very cheap alternative. Overall, ground transportation should not cost you more than $1,500-$2,500 in total on your entire trip.
- Activities – You have to spend money on local activities if you really want to enjoy the unique offerings of each region or country. These activities include skydiving, cliff jumping, skiing, and so on. The good thing is, you will likely not be doing such activities each day, nor are they a necessity. So, you can keep costs to a minimum. On the flip side, these activities tend to be expensive around the world, especially for tourists. Expect each one to cost anywhere between $5-200, so if you’re going out on one or two adventures at least each week, you need to keep around $500-5,000 extra in your pocket.
If you travel and live modestly and indulge in minimal local activities and adventures, you can expect to spend at least $15,000 on a world tour. On average, world tourists spend $20,000-25,000 on their trips, but this price can go as high as $30,000 or even $40,000 if you want all the luxuries of life.
The best way to cut down costs is to plan thoroughly. Look for cheap airline tickets and inexpensive accommodations online. For example, if you’re travelling to Cambodia, you can find some great Siem Reap accommodations that will give you a great view of the popular floating village. Be sure not to miss out on any of the fun experience each country or region has to offer!
Some hotels/resorts will give you discounted deals if you stay for many days. Similarly, look for cheap modes of transportation in each area, including private transporters who will give you cheap rates if you book for the entire day or week, or public transport which will cost very nominally. It’s all in the planning. Good luck!