The Cost of an RTW

by design on December 19, 2010 · 24 comments

What Does It Cost To Travel The World?

It is weird to talk about money.  Especially my money.  Especially when I know that someday my friends and family will be reading this blog.  The reason I’ve decided to share our finances with the world is because I hope it will help others who are planning an RTW.  In the course of my research on the cost of year-long around the world travel, I’ve found that other RTW travel bloggers that have shared their budget and finances have been an indispensable resource to me. 

Brian and I have set a savings goal of $60,000 dollars.  We plan to travel with $50,000 and save $10,000 as money to come home to.  This is, of course, assuming we come back to our adopted home of Portland, Oregon.  Maybe we’ll make somewhere else home.  Maybe we’ll travel indefinitely. 

In addition to our $60,000 in savings, we also have retirement accounts that we could access.  We prefer not touch those accounts, and we know we’d be heavily taxed on the money, but maybe that will become less important to us as we travel.  At the moment, I’m leaving all the doors cracked. 

I’ll admit that at first I just sort of picked the $60,000 figure out of thin air.  It seemed like a lot of money, but because I meticulously track our finances (I write down every dollar I spend in one of those old-school bank ledgers, and am incessantly teased by my friends for it), I knew that it was a figure we could reach in a short-ish amount of time.  After doing some research, it started to become clear that $60,000 might be spot on.  For some travelers, our budget is exorbitant, but I know that Brian and I are not the couchsurfing, sleep in the train station type of travelers (at least not anymore). 

All of the RTW budgets referenced below are mid-price-range backpackers.  In other words, they stay in inexpensive, but not dirt cheap, accommodations, partake in some spendy indulgences like tours, safaris and treks, prepare food for themselves but also eat out, and drink beer but not until the sun comes up. 

The budgets and grand totals range, but fall between about $2,000 and $4,000 a month.  Brian and I are planning for the $4,000 a month mark, and hoping that we can stay below that range in some countries in order to allow for splurges like the aforementioned tours, safaris and treks.

I’ll make sure to post a more detailed budget when I have one.  I also plan to post our real-life expenditures as they happen.

Many thanks to these RTW bloggers that shared their budgets and expenditures with the world (click on the blog to see their budgets):

One Giant Step

Seat of our Pants

Living the Dream

The Travel Year 

Thirteen Months


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott December 19, 2010 at 10:37 am

Your pretty accurate on the costs of RTW trip, and that’s what Dee and I spent for 4 months in Europe and 6 months in SE Asia. Europe was by far more expensive than we though and easily broke $200 a day. For instance your already at €110 with your room and food which is already $150 US. Then add on alcohol (couple beers or wine after a long day), attractions and transportation. If you cut down to €20 PP for dorm hostel your in a room with 16 other people, so for a bit more you can have a private room. Any room less than €20 you really don’t want to stay in.

Average Hostel with room for 2 (€30 x 2) / low end hotel – €60
Breakfast – included
Lunch – €10 x 2 = €20
Dinner – €15 x 2 = €30

Alcohol (2 beer x 2) €5 x 4 = €20
Attractions €10 – €30 x 2 – €20 – €60
Travel – varies. Train pass was excellent. Could find flights to other cities with Easy Jet and RyanAir €20-€100 PP
In city transportation – €10 – €20 (bus / metro, both ways)

Two great sites for accommodation are hostelbookers and HRS is the European travelocity and we quite often we found 3 star hotels for same / cheaper than hostel. Also in UK, look for Travelodge, basic hotel that’s cheaper than hostel by half!

SE Asia on the other hand is super cheap.

Excellent Room – $15 – $20
Breakfast – $3-5PP
Lunch: $3-5PP
Dinner: $5PP
Drinks: $2-3 per beer
Attractions : $3 – $10 PP
Transportation: $2-$10 per day for 2.

Once your settled in a place, it really only cost us $50 per day for the two of us for food, accommodation and drinks. Often we would rent a scooter for $5 per day and boot around town checking things out, and most attractions are cheap.

If you have any budget questions we’d be happy to help!



kimberlydinan December 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

Scott, thanks for all of this amazing info! It’s nice to know we are on the right track with our budget. Thanks for the tip about, I’ve never heard of it before but will make sure to check it out. The budget breakdown you provided is very useful. Europe is so expensive, but we are planning on spending time there. I need to prepare myself for the cost now, so I can just relax and enjoy it, knowing how much it will cost. Thanks again, Kim


Gillian December 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I’m glad that our budget was of help to you! I felt weird too when I first started posting about money but I felt that the transparency was important. Now I still think it’s as important but it doesn’t feel weird anymore. I love that more people are opening up about costs. If we want to inspire people to step out and live their dreams then we have to give them the information we have…it’s not a secret! Cheers!


kimberlydinan December 19, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Thanks Gillian. That’s why I’m writing about it. Why is money such a taboo subject anyway? I mean, I guess I understand why, but it SHOULDN’T BE! Our worthiness isn’t defined by our income (and thank god for that, since my income in just over a year will be a big, fat $0)!


santafetraveler December 21, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Sounds like you have the finances all figured out. Some places will be less expensive than you thought and some more- but sounds like you have a decent cushion. Bon voyage!


kimberlydinan December 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Thanks! Now we’re just in save-save-save mode to reach that goal.


Skott and Shawna January 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Good post! Though not everyone feels comfortable talking about the actual figures, it is WAY more helpful to those of us looking for help/inspiration/confirmation.

Shawna and I are planning very similar to you…we initially said that we will have a blanket budget of $100/day, realizing that some places will be MUCH less and others much more…we are still going to try stick to that, but I wasn’t comfortable with only having access to that much money (I am the spender, Shawna is the saver), so we have an additional $50/day buffer….it looks like our budget is very similar to yours. At this point however, I don’t think we will spend much time in Western Europe or Oz, so I think we will be in very good shape. Here’s hoping we do come back with a little money, just so we aren’t begging at our parents doorsteps for the first few weeks we are home.


Kim January 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm

@ Skott and Shawna. Yes! I am so worried that we will end up back at our parents house. At 30+ years old my parents might not be as accepting of that as they once were (ha!). But yes, that is why we have worked in 10K as a return budget. That should last us a few months as we resettle. I think it is good to know what your comfort level is with money. I am a huge saver and sometimes feel unhappy spending money at all. I’m worried that I might try to pinch pennies a little too much and avoid doing things because of the cost. I am really, REALLY working on coming to terms with the fact that we’ve saved the money for the trip, so we’ll be spending it on the trip. I have a feeling that, while we now have some expensive countries on our itinerary, I may want to bypass those once we are out on the road and our money is dwindling. Anyway, can’t wait to check out your itinerary myself.


Amy January 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Ah, the budget: closely related to the conundrum of itineraries. Budget information can be so hard to find, so I too, try to put information on our blog. I really appreciated when people did the same – One Giant Step’s budget was helpful. Lives of Wander also has some cost information. I need to add some more to my blog, but you can find some cost information, including our European costs, here:

We sort of just pulled our budget out of thin air as well. Ours is also $60,000, although that number includes all day to day costs, transportation, and other misc costs on the road. It doesn’t include my student loan payments, pre-trip costs, and the like. At 10 months in, we are right on track to finish 1 year at 60,000. BUT, we had to change our plans and readjust our spending a bit mid-trip to make that happen because spending an extra month in Europe and a whole month in Japan set us off course. We had to drop Australia completely and are keeping New Zealand, but we’re extending our trip a bit and using savings to cover the budget overage in NZ.

With our budget, we’ve been able to live comfortably. We never stay in dorms, almost always have en-suite bathrooms and wi-fi if available, backtracked a bit with extra flights to follow the weather, eat out for all meals with a mixture of street food and low to mid range restaurants, and rented a car a few times.

By far, the single biggest factor in your budget will be developed countries versus non-developed countries. $50 a day is a comfortable budget for most of the developing countries we’ve visited (except Morocco and Jordan, which were more expensive), whereas a lot, but not all, developed countries come in more around $150, making it 3 times as much to travel in a developed countries. During our one year (not including our extension to NZ), $60,000 allowed us to travel comfortably but with an eye on the budget with roughly half the time in countries at $50 a day and half the time in countries at $100 to $150 a day (and in the case of Japan and some of the more expensive European countries, closer to $200 a day).

If you have any specific budget questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ve gotten some of my most useful budget information from other travelers.


Kim January 21, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Wow, thanks Amy, this info is so incredibly useful. I will probably be shooting you some budget questions at some point. I need to really dig in to our budget. Right now I’m just trying to build the pot, if you know what I mean.

So I guess Japan is insanely expensive, huh? I’ve really been dreaming of going to Japan lately, though it isn’t yet “on the list.”

Thanks for the link to your budget, I’m checking it out now.


Alonna January 20, 2012 at 6:18 am

Hey guys, I’m new here. Just wanted to say I think your budget is spot-on and very reasonable. My husband and I have a similar travel style as what you described, and our total came to $43,000 for 8 months of traveling. I laid it out here:


Kim January 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. It is BEYOND helpful to see other people’s budget as we try to figure out just how much we might spend. Heading over there now…


Manish Kutaula February 6, 2012 at 10:39 pm

If you travel and roam in the mountains of india. just cut the monthly budget to half. Food and accommodation is dirt cheap in mountains. moreover, people are very supportive too.


Kim February 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Awesome thank you! India is going to happen 🙂


Jen January 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Hi Kim,

I’m scratching my head over your budget and a few other comments.

A couple questions if you don’t mind. You talk a lot about saving money, but I can’t help but ask about the other side of the equation. Can you share what you and your husband’s careers were/are? (School teacher and musician probably not) I don’t see this anywhere on your blog, but I may have missed it. My guess is you both have advanced degrees and a combined income that is very, very healthy.

There is a big difference between sleeping in train stations and couch surfing. You should really give couch surfing a chance. You meet regular locals, and this helps you learn about where you are visiting much more than a fairly sanitized tourist experience staying in 3 star hotels.

$4000 per month is a backpackers budget? Maybe Ivy League backpackers with a trust fund. I could travel an entire summer, actually 6 months easily, on that amount of money, and never sleep in a train station or even camp out, not that there is anything wrong with camping out. Could you please elaborate on how much you budget for; airfare, ground transportation, food, lodging, misc.?

It looks to me like the way the top 5% travels.

Rick Steves travels comfortably, but most of his budgets are less than yours.

And you should really join frequent flier programs of any airline you use. Doesn’t cost a thing.
Thanks for sharing, just need a bit more information.


Kim January 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I wrote this post a long time ago when I was trying to determine what our budget would be. I should probably update at some point.

We do not have advanced degrees. We both worked for local government. We did not have a schoolteacher salary but probably pretty close to it. We were nowhere near the top of the income bracket.

In this post I link to a lot of other travelers who have shared their RTW budgets so please feel free to check those links out.


Jayne April 9, 2013 at 5:54 pm

This is great. We are a couple taking off in October for a years travel and so many people have asked me how much it will likely cost. I have done a budget estimation spreadsheet estimating what we think it will cost us for a year. Our figure is around $55000 Australian dollars plus AUS$13000 for flights (pay as we go) We will be spending around 5 months in Asia with a tour through China and Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal. Around three 3 weeks in North America, three months in South America, 5 to 6 weeks in Europe and 2 months doing an overland truck through Eastern and Southern Africa. By far the most expensive portion of our trip is overlanding through Africa plus gorilla permits. We are a little fussy with the overland company so we are going with someone reputable like Intrepid or Nomad Africa, we don’t want to be stuck on a cheap overland truck that attracts the 18 – 25 party brigade! A trip to the Amazon and the Galapagos are the other expenses.

Once we start traveling I will have an expenses spreadsheet up on our website (yet to be built) which I hope will help other travelers with their planning.


Kim April 10, 2013 at 7:12 am

Jayne, that sounds like one hell of a trip!!! It will be very helpful when you share your numbers. I’d planned on it and then didn’t track as well as I thought I would. Overall, we spent more money than I imagined we would in South America, less in India and Asia, and about on par with what we thought in the U.S.


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