We found the internet had hardly any useful information, and the only budget calculator we found online turned out to be woefully out of date.
Being in our early 30s, we have lots of friends who did some travelling post-university, but again, their budgeting experiences were hugely out of date.
The weak pound was our worst enemy though, and countries which had previously been good value, were suddenly 30%, 50% or even 100% more expensive than they had been a few years previously. The latest edition guide books were usually 20% out.
We had saved for several years and our initial budget for during the trip was 30,000 USD for the 11 months. This has proved to be inadequate and our revised budget is now 39,000 USD. As you will see from the notes below this has allowed us to:
1. Stay in private rooms rather than dorms, but with shared facilities in the more expensive countries;
2. Do some but not all of the main tourist attractions along the way, and go on some, but not many, organised tours;
3. Eat out frequently in cheap countries and rarely in others;
4. Take occasional flights when the distances are too huge for the bus; and
5. Drink at least a couple of beers every day but getting hammered is a thing of the past!!
Our RTW tickets were 4000 USD each, which included most of our major flights – you can see the ones which were included on our itinerary.
Other pre-departure costs were mainly linked to buying new back packs, clothes, travel insurance & random bits of kit we thought we’d need. We probably spent 700 USD between us on this, but a lot of the more expensive new things were Christmas presents.
For consistency we have given prices in US dollars and at the time of writing, 1 US dollar bought 0.65 GBP.
Total spend = $4386
29 days at $150 per day
Way over budget here mainly because:
1. We acted like we were on a regular holiday and not an 11 month gap year i.e meals out every night in nice restaurants;
2. The cost of living is higher in Brazil than any other South American country we visited;
3. The cost of tourist attractions in Rio is high and we wanted to see them all i.e cable car to Sugar Loaf is approx. 26 USD each;
4. We stayed in pousadas rather than hostels, none of which had kitchens, so we couldn’t have self-catered if we’d wanted to; and
5. We travelled huge distances which meant we took two internal flights. In hindsight our route wasn’t necessary for what we saw.
Total spend = $3747
25 days at $150 per day
After the shock of Brazil, we tried to curtail our spending by making sure that every hostel we stayed in had a kitchen. Food costs are very low (comparative to the UK) in Argentina, so we were spending approx 5 USD on dinner for two each night – steak and veggies rather than cup noodles though, so you could self-cater for a lot less.
We also opted for shared bathrooms when we could, which was generally fine. We still over spent but mainly because of the number of long sleeper bus journeys we made.
In hindsight, we night have been able to take cheaper internal flights and the LAN airpass (which you have to buy outside of the country) might have made sense.
Total spend = $731
7 days at $104 per day
We stayed in two cheap hostels, cooked every meal and stayed in at night so not much money spent. We took the catamaran from Buenos Aires, which is pretty expensive, but there is a sleeper bus which gets you as far as Montevideo.
Total spend for Ecuador including Galapagos = $4203
22 days at $191 per day
Total spend for Ecuador excluding Galapagos = $1703
14 days at $121 per day
The Galapagos aside, Ecuador was cheap in comparison with Brazil & Argentina. We ate out much more and sometimes had en-suite rooms.
The Galapagos is horribly expensive, even when you find the cheapest boat going, as we did. Our 8 day cruise plus flights and park tax cost 2500 USD for the two of us.
Total spend = $1243
14 days at $88 per day
If you visited Peru without going to Cusco/Machu Picchu then you can spend very little. However, we had only really gone to Peru to go there, so we just had to suck it in.
Everything about visiting Machu Picchu is expensive: the train to get there; the bus from Aguas Calientes to the gates; the entrance ticket; and even the food and drink prices in Aguas Calientes are much higher than in Cusco.
In western terms, the prices are fair, and for one of the world’s iconic sites, the price is worth paying, but what you pay to visit would sustain you in other parts of Peru for a couple of weeks at least.
Total spend = $997
9 days at $110 per day
Continued with our cheapo hostels with shared facilities mostly, although occasional en-suite where the price difference was small. Self-catered, although eating out was reasonable.
Total spend = $4347
29 days at $150 per day
The weak pound continued to hurt us, and the comparatively high food costs made even self-catering seem pretty expensive.
Jane dug out all her old student specials and we we’re soon eating like kings in the camper van. Raw ingredients were of an extremely high quality so cooking was not a chore.
We also discovered Pak N Save – the Kiwi equivalent of Aldi* – home of the 5 USD bottle of wine and other lovely cheap things! And fish & chips became our regular treat when Jane didn’t want to cook.
We shunned anything organised and concentrated on spending time in the great outdoors: it being both free and fabulous. Exceptions were: a cruise around the Bay of Islands; and our visit to the thermal park outside Rotorua, but the whale watching had to be vetoed as being way too expensive.
We covered a lot of miles and saw both islands, so our petrol costs were high. We also paid for fully-comprehensive insurance, so our cheap camper van became a lot less cheap.
Camp sites were approximately 23 – 30 USD per night and, due to the cold weather, we needed a powered site so that our heater could work. The free (or cheap) DOC camp sites rarely have power so these weren’t an option.
* Aldi is a “budget” supermarket in the UK and some other parts of Europe
Total spend = $5037
32 days at $157 per day
Australia was even more expensive than New Zealand and we struggled to find a hostel for less than 60 USD per night, even with shared facilities.
The upside was discovering Cleanskin wine, which is surplus wine, sold in plain bottles to avoid having tax added to the price. These could be had for approximately 5 USD a bottle, whereas drinking in pubs was unbelievably expensive (8 USD for a pint of beer), so we didn’t.
Petrol was again a big part of our budget and the camper van and camp site costs were similar to NZ. The main benefit of our Spaceship, however, was that the power came from an auxiliary battery, so we didn’t need powered sites.
The two trips we did were also pretty expensive: we paid a (discounted) price of 500 USD each for a 3 day/2 night cruise in the Whitsundays; and the day trip to Fraser Island was 140 USD each. We also took a light aircraft flight over Fraser Island for an addition 60 USD each.
We had to forgo a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef and our planned visit to Australia Zoo.
Total spend = $1074
7 days at $153 per day
Tokyo is expensive for some things, but not for others. Our hostel was 75 USD per night and this was one of the cheapest we could find. Food in cafes and restaurants could be extremely good value though, and we paid 2 USD for a big Japanese breakfast and 5 – 10 USD for other meals. Most things are UK equivalent price i.e transport, attractions etc.
Total spend = $2106
30 days at $70 per day
The budget took a bit of a hit here because: we stayed 3 nights in a relatively expensive hotel in Bangkok (45 USD per night); we did two days’ diving in Koh Tao whilst staying in the slightly more expensive dive resort.
Apart from this, accommodation, food and transport are all cheap, but they are slightly higher than other countries in SE Asia (and higher than we had been led to believe).
Total spend = $522
10 days at $52 per day
We didn’t really do anything extravagant in Malaysia – we’d visited on a holiday a couple of years before, so had a quiet and cheap few days on the beach.
Total spend = $1014
11 days at $92 per day
The only major expense here was the Mahout Course, which was extremely expensive by Laos standards at 140 USD each for the 3 days/2 nights. In hindsight, the one day course would have been sufficient at 50 USD each.
We also decided to fly from Luang Prabang to Hanoi so as to avoid the 28 hour bus journey (the flight was only 1 hour!!). The flight cost 130 USD each, but was well worth it.
Total spend = $1777
27 days at $66 per day
It’s very easy to live cheaply in Vietnam. Our usual guesthouse had en-suite facilities, air conditioning, wifi and cable TV and was still less than $15 per night on average.
Local food is also incredibly cheap with beef/chicken pho selling for approximately 90 cents and roast pork baguettes selling for 45 cents. We ate out every meal and tried to have a super cheap lunch and then a more expensive (relatively speaking) dinner ($11).
Trips from the main tourists centres are also cheap but once you get off the beaten track a bit, prices rise substantially and it’s difficult to get to many sites independently.
Travel between towns is very good value and we spent approximately $40 each travelling the length of the country on trains and buses.
Total spend = $781
11 days at $55 per day
Prices in Cambodia are very similar to Vietnam (except randomly, Coke, Sprite etc are twice the price at between $1 and $1.50 per can!)
Total spend = $2400
31 days at $77 per day
Accommodation in Indonesia is generally of quite a low standard compared with Vietnam, Cambodia etc. Our average room price was $20 per night and usually this gave us a fan and hot water (but we did have two cold water rooms for this price).
Things which we’d taken for granted in other South-East Asian countries, like wi-fi and air-con, were very rare indeed. You can find very cheap rooms (less than $10 per night) but these will be very tatty with shared facilities.
Bali is more expensive than Java, and South Bali is the most expensive. Friends of ours went to the Gili Islands and found them too expensive to stay for more than a couple of days.
Food can be very cheap though. Local warungs will do nasi goreng or similar for $1.50/$2.00 and even touristy restaurants will have loads of choice around the $4 mark. Alcohol is often more expensive than the meal!! Large bottles of Bintang are around $2.50 and the cheapest happy hour we found had them at $2.
Public transport on Java was very cheap (but not much fun) whereas Bali has a network of tourist shuttle buses which take you to all the main towns for not much more.
Total spend = $4500
31 days at $145
On this budget we: hired a small car for 27 days; camped 3 out of 4 nights; and self-catered mostly. We also did a self-drive safari in Kruger (definitely the way to go).
We did however spend $450 on camping equipment (knowing we will use this back in the UK) but even with this expense, camping still saved us money over the 4 weeks. Another big expense is the Wild Card ($328 for a couple) which you may or may not need to buy depending on how many National Parks you plan to visit and how long you’re planning to stay in them. For us, the 6 nights we spent in the Kruger made it more economical to buy the card, rather than pay the daily conservation fee.
South Africa is expensive (relatively) for some things but cheap for others. Backpacker accommodation was particularly expensive ($15 for a dorm room, $37 – 45 for a double room with shared facilities) as were the activities offered by hostels. Food prices are comparable to the UK, although wine is very good value starting from $3 a bottle.
We’ll be adding to this budget as we move on around the world. If you have any feedback, please comment below. Please take a look at my other posts to find out more about where we’ve been and what we’ve done.