An Explore for a Year reader, Andrew Doades, asked an excellent question recently if I had tips on how to estimate travel costs around the world.
“I’m currently working 9-5 and I’ve been thinking about leaving for a few months to go travelling, reading your blog has inspired me to finally make the push.
The only thing that’s been keeping me back is the thought of money issues – I’d be interested if you can provide some advice and tips to help work out how much I’d be needing – I’ve got a few places I want to visit around the world and the last thing I want is to get caught short on money.”
- From Andrew Doades, via email (question posted with permission)
So, how does an aspiring traveller figure out how much money they’ll need?
Two resources I use to estimate my travel costs to Southeast Asia and Europe on my current trip, and Central America and South America on past trips, are Lonely Planet guides and prices of small group tours.
Low-end budget, using Lonely Planet
The start of every Lonely Planet country guide provides a recommended budget for the region.
Because Lonely Planet is geared to the budget traveller, I use their cost estimate as the minimum amount of money I should have to travel in the country.
Here’s a summary of their budget recommendations for various world regions. You can view the source page by previewing the book on Amazon.com via the links I reference below.
|Region||Budget recommended by Lonely Planet|
|Southeast Asia||$15-$35 USD/day, or $450-$1050/month, average of $750/month
(see page 25 from Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring after clicking on “Look Inside”, Amazon.com)
|Europe||40-80 Euros/day, or $66-$120 USD/day, or
$1,980-$3,600/month, average of $2790/month
(see “Getting Started > Costs & Money” from Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring after clicking on “Look Inside”, Amazon.com)
|Central America||$15-$40 USD/day, or $450-$1200/month, average of $825/month
(see “Getting Started > Costs & Money” from Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring after clicking on “Look Inside”, Amazon.com)
|South America||$35-$45 USD/day, or $1050-$1350/month, average of $1200/month
(see page 15 on Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring after clicking on “Look Inside”, Amazon.com)
Comments: Compared to my actual expenses from my 4 months in Southeast Asia and 5 months in Europe (current trip), and 1 month each of in Central & South America (past trips), these Lonely Planet budgets are reasonable low-end ranges if you exclude major tours or special courses, such as scuba diving courses or multi-day treks/hikes.
Higher-end budget, small group tour prices
Small group adventure tour companies like Gap Adventures have over 1,000 trips to every continent. Their posted tour prices include accommodations and transportation.
Because Gap Adventures makes a margin/profit on their trips and they generally use guesthouses/hotels instead of dorms, I use their tour prices as a high-end estimate for how much funds I need.
Here are sample prices from tours that cover entire regions.
|Region||Cost of Gap Adventure tour|
|Southeast Asia||$2380 USD for 32 days, Indochina Discovery|
|Europe||$3500 USD for 28 days, Paris to Rome Adventure|
|Central America||$2140 USD for 32 days, Central American Journey|
|South America||$5900 USD for 2 months, or $2950 USD for 1 month, Great South America Journey|
On my current round-the-world trip, my Southeast Asia budget was about $900/month and my Europe budget (averaged between western and eastern Europe) was about $1,800/month excluding transportation (a Global Eurail Pass with 15 travel days over 2 months, is about $1,100 USD, or $550/month). Based on this, I would consider the Lonely Planet average budget to a low-end but comfortable amount that assumes:
- In Europe, you’re staying in dorms, cooking 1 meal a day and eating out for the other meal, breakfast included at accommodations or homemade
- In Southeast Asia, you’re staying in relatively cheap but still comfortable guesthouses, eating local street food and a non-street food meal once a day
In my opinion, it’s possible to travel for less per month than the Lonely Planet ranges if you:
- Travel slowly, staying a multiple weeks in a country, thus saving transportation costs
- Plan longer stays in one place, giving you the opportunity to ask if your accommodations if they have discounts for longer-term stays (I’ve gotten 5-10% off for stays over 1 week)
- Cook more of your own food in Europe, spend more time in cheaper Eastern Europe
Based on the average Lonely Planet budget recommendations and the higher-end Gap Adventure tour prices, here is the summary of the minimum and maximum budget ranges for the four regions of the world.
Summary of budget ranges
|Region||Lower-end budget, USD
(from Lonely Planet)
|High-end budget, USD
(from Gap Adventure tours)
>> Do these budget ranges seem appropriate to you? What is your #1 tip to help Andrew figure out how much it costs to travel in a country? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Have a travel question? Other people probably have the same one. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to answer it here.
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