NB: The info here is from early 2008, as part of the series on my 2008 RTW trip. Some of the information might not be relevant any more.
How much do you think it costs to travel around the world for a year? Go on, take a guess. You’re right! Travel can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. Sadly, many of us are simply unaware of the ways we can make travel fit into our budget. There are many, many ways of travelling cheaply, and a simple internet search can help you find them.
I categorised my travel budget into 5 buckets: transportation, accommodation, food and drinks, activities and sightseeing, and miscellaneous.
Budgeting for Transportation
I will discuss flights in detail in another post, but I had thought of setting aside about 2000$ for this purpose. I wanted to take as few flights as possible, and go overland as much as I could. Trains, buses, donkey carts: everything was fair game. That way I’d get to see much more of the countryside and also meet more people. I find that people in buses and trains are far more sociable than those on flights.
Finding Cheap Accommodation
Finding good and cheap accommodation is critical for any budget traveller. Most people think of hotels when they want to travel somewhere, but the fact is, if you are travelling alone, you’ll rarely find a better deal than in a hostel with a multiple-bed dormitory.
Food and Drinks
Cheap food is available everywhere. Street food is cheaper, sometimes healthier and almost always tastier than restaurant food. Having an Indian stomach, I was never too concerned about street food making me sick. A word about alcohol: while I wanted to use most of my money for better things, a few beers after a long day is a great way to unwind. However, going overboard on alcohol can quickly cut deep into any travel budget.
Activities and Sightseeing
Course fees (language, dance, cooking, etc), entrance fees for national parks, museums, performance tickets, the odd guided tour up a volcano, a zipline tour etc. can cost a pretty dime and thus, should be chosen wisely. It is okay to skip the “must see” sights if they don’t interest you and don’t fit in your budget. One example I can give is Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. I have never understood the fascination that people hold for this overpriced and unnecessary “tourist attraction”. But to each his own I guess.
Costs for visas, replacing broken flip-flops, buying a new pair of batteries, toiletries etc.
Another rule of choosing destinations for budget travel (after going where you know people) is to go to cheap countries. Now, which countries are cheap? Depending on your travel style, the answers can sometimes be surprising indeed!
One of the first victims of my budget constraints were Australia and New Zealand. The were very expensive to get to and expensive to get around. I saved them in the “to do” folder for later.
Early on in my research I knew that I couldn’t possibly afford both Africa and South America and that I would have to choose between the two. I kept vacillating for a while, but eventually I made up my mind to drop Africa and “do” South America instead. Contrary to common belief, Africa is expensive to travel to. Especially the activities (safaris, gorilla treks, etc) can be outrageously expensive, coupled with steep permit fees.
Europe was the next to fall. Europe was just too expensive. And the more I read about learning Spanish I realized that Guatemala and Ecuador were both better choices than Spain for a wide variety of reasons. In Guatemala, many Spanish schools give weekly packages that include homestay accommodations and meals. That would serve to save some money. I also read about some places that let you work in exchange for a bed and meals.
I was also considering Korea and Japan, but both are expensive countries. I would have to limit my time in these.
So I had the basic idea in my mind. I now had to see the financial feasibility of my project. How much can I realistically survive on and still have fun? After a lot of reading, learning from people’s experiences and getting a general idea of the cost of living in a few places I decided on a budget: 35$ per day. While it was too little for the expensive countries, it was certainly more than enough for the cheaper ones. I figured it would balance out.
Next step: Unravelling the perplexity of the Tourist Visa – The bane of every Indian traveller.