There is no all-around answer to this. It depends crucially on the standard of living you require, the length of the trip and number of places you want to visit. Almost anyone living in the rich parts of the world could do some kind of around the world trip. The cheapest way that comes to our mind is just flying around the world quickly. One example of this would be:
- Helsinki – Los Angeles: 156 EUR
- Los Angeles – Beijing: 201 EUR
- Beijing – Helsinki: 306 EUR
- Total: 663 EUR.
So, the trip could be completed during a weekend and paying less than 700 euros per head, eating McDonald’s (or similar) at the airports. Nobody at your work would probably even notice what you had done. On the other hand, we could easily imagine someone travelling few years by flying in first class, sleeping in suites and renting private yachts, and thus spending thousands of euros a day. So, the cost of the trip could be either less than a thousand or more than a million.
Maybe this didn’t help at all. Maybe you want to know how much it costs to travel on a budget for a year. But the fact is that it still depends, a lot. For us, there are three main sources of expenses: transportation, accommodation and food. Visiting 50 countries will cost a lot more than visiting 5 of them. A room in New York will cost 5 times more than in Hanoi. And eating out will cost much more than preparing dinner yourself.
Our around the world budget
As we found it impossible to approach the trip from the viewpoint of how much it costs, we inverted the problem. We started with a sum we are willing to pay, a total of 15 000 euros per person per year, and then try to build the best possible trip with the amount. Is it enough? Yes. We have been living in Finland for half the amount, and Finland is not exactly the cheapest country in the world. Could we do it for less? Yes, of course. Could we spend more? Yes, that also.
In our approach, the budget will be our tour guide. If it seems that we are overspending, we slow down the pace, re-route to cheaper countries and start cooking. If it seems that we are way under the budget, we can easily take a detour to some paradise island, or maybe we just continue the trip for a bit longer.
This is how we categorized our daily budget for one person:
2017,5 EUR (mainly guesthouses)
1012,5 EUR (flights, car rents, trains…)
- Food & Drinks: 7,5 EUR (restaurants in cheaper countries, self-cooking in richer places)
- Visas & Permissions: 1 EUR (India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, China…)
- Communications: 0.75 EUR (we are addicted to internet)
- Other: 0.75 EUR
- Clothes: 0.5 EUR
- Health & hygiene: 0.5 EUR
- TOTAL: 41 EUR / day / person
Those figures are just rough estimates, and we are not by any means fixed to them. Only the total of 41 EUR is important. So far, we have noticed, that we originally had probably allocated too little for transportation, as we seem to be country moving around quite a bit. And honestly, we can easily find a place to stay for less than 20 EUR / night / person in most countries. What’s missing from the list is pre-trip purchases, vaccinations and travel insurance and so on. We spent quite a lot on camera equipment, but we will hopefully get around 2/3 of it back when we sell them after returning to Finland. We also spent together almost 2 500 euros on medical appointments (public healthcare), vaccinations, antimalarials, travel insurance and other travel items back in Finland.
This is a list of countries we are currently planning to visit:
- Finland (starting point)
- UAE (done)
- India (done)
- Sri Lanka (done)
- Malaysia (confirmed)
- Singapore (confirmed)
- Australia (confirmed)
- Indonesia (confirmed)
- Malaysia (planned)
- Thailand (planned)
- Myanmar (planned)
- Laos (planned)
- Cambodia (planned)
- Vietnam (planned)
- China (+Hong Kong / Macau) (planned)
- South Korea (planned)
- Japan (planned)
- USA (planned)
- Canada (planned)
- Mexico (planned)
- Central America (under consideration)
- South America (under consideration)
- Central and Southern Europe (under consideration)
- Africa (under consideration)
We have yet no real plans what on what to do after North America. As we have never visited Central and South America, this shall probably be a high priority.
We are quite happy with our total budget of 30 000 euros. However, we could easily come with another kind of plans with different budget. The following trips should be possible for two persons travelling together. Alone, it would cost somewhat more, but by staying in hostels would offer great value.
A tight budget trip
If we had to do the trip for half the price, 7 500 euros per head per year, we would most definitely cut the amount of countries to maybe a maximum of 15. The Plan might be something like this:
- India (30 days)
- Indonesia (25)
- Singapore (10)
- Malaysia (40)
- Thailand (30)
- Cambodia (25)
- Vietnam (15)
- China (45)
- Japan (20)
- USA (30)
- Canada (15)
- Mexico (25)
- France (10)
- Germany (10)
- Poland (20)
- Czech Republic (15)
Transportation costs could be around 2 500 euros. Accommodation, with hostels in more expensive countries, and cheap guesthouses in affordable places, would probably cost 7,5-10 EUR / day, total of 2750-3650 each. This would only leave 1350-2250 euros for everything else, meaning only occasional dinners at restaurants, and only in cheaper countries. If the budged seemed to go over, there would be two easy ways to cut costs even more. Dropping countries and cutting the accommodation costs. The former is straightforward, but one must consider visa limits. The latter needs some imagination, Couch Surfing would certainly help a lot. And by staying in same place for longer or renting a flat for reasonable price could be possible. Grouping with another couple would also drop the cost somewhat, but not as much as stepping from one to two persons.
This would certainly be doable, and honestly the trip would be quite fulfilling. But like the prospects of visiting tens of countries and having more freedom with where to sleep, what to eat and what to do.
A hefty budget trip
If instead of 15 000 a head, we would be using 30 000 euros per head per year, there would be three possible ways to spend the extra:
- Staying in better places
- Spending all the time in richer countries
- Rapid country hopping
We would be most thrilled about the possibility of seeing more. We have already dropped Maldives, New Zealand and tropical Polynesian islands from our visit list due to budget constraints. And we would like to stay closer to beaches or city centers. And maybe we would occasionally like to stay in three-star hotels and try different activities around the world. But it’s surprisingly little, what we would get by spending an extra 30 000 euros.