One of the most common questions we get asked while on the road is “how do you afford it?”, closely followed by “Are you loaded?”.
While we have saved up some money to help us fund our travels, we are by no means millionaires and the main way we afford to travel is because it actually doesn’t cost as much as you might think.
Of course, if you stay in five star resorts every night and fly first class between cities, then expenses add up quickly and being a millionaire might be necessary to sustain that kind of lifestyle. But if you are happy to ‘rough it’ a bit (or a lot), you might be surprised how little you need to spend to see the world. In fact, travelling the world is often cheaper than day-to-day life back in home in the U.K.
Shane and I have now visited over 60 countries each, have spent a combined total of roughly three years living on the road at different points in time and have undertaken a wide variety of different types of trips. Some have been super cheap, and some less so, but they have all been cheaper than renting an apartment in London and commuting to work everyday. We have put together a quick list of some of different trips and scenarios and how much they cost, to try and show that you can travel on a budget without resorting to living in a tent and eating cold pasta (though, of course, we’ve done that too):
1. Average monthly expenses for a twenty-something year old living in London: £1650
Bills and council tax: £200
Entertainment and miscellaneous: £250
2. Average monthly expenses per person on a road trip across the USA: £900
In 2012, Shane and I hired a car and drove from Miami to Los Angeles. The trip took about six weeks, but this is how much we spent on average in a month:
Accommodation: £300 (we spent an average of $15 a night per person on decent hostel accommodation, cheap motels and the odd campsite.)
Car Hire: £120 (this included a one-way drop off fee).
Gas: £100 (we had a very fuel efficient Toyota Yaris, and gas in the USA is significantly cheaper than in the U.K.)
Food: £225 (we spent around $10 each per day on cheap food, including a few $1 McDonald’s snack wraps for lunch!)
Entertainment and miscellaneous: £150 (most days we didn’t spend much on ‘entertainment’ but this included national park fees and admission fees to important sites)
3. Average monthly expenses backpacking in South East Asia: £750
South East Asia is a backpacker’s paradise! Cheap rooms, cheap food, cheap travel and stunning scenery make this a destination where you could stay forever without breaking the bank. As we’ve travelled here on our honeymoon, Shane and I splurged a little here and we have stayed in nice places and eaten out every night. Even so, it’s an inexpensive way to splurge!
Accommodation: £150 (£5 per person, per day is actually quite a generous budget in South East Asia, and gets you a private room in a hotel with air con, a private bathroom and in some cases even access to a swimming pool!)
Travel: £150 (again, £5 per person per day is around average assuming you take a few tuk tuks, hire a scooter and take cheap long distance buses from place to place).
Food: £300 (we have spent a bit extra on food eating out a lot and indulging in pizzas and ice cream which are more expensive, but you could easily half this figure if you are happy to eat more street food and forego the Western-style snacks).
Entertainment and miscellaneous: £150 (there are so many cheap and free activities – from renting snorkel gear and exploring nearby islands in Thailand to climbing across rice terraces in the Philippines, £150 is a generous entertainment budget!)
Despite the fact that much of Central Asia is relatively inexpensive, high entry fees, costly insurance and major bureaucracy makes driving across 20 different countries to get to Mongolia significantly more expensive than driving across the USA. Definitely worth it though!
Entry fee: £135
Deposit / shipping cost: £140
Insurance: £165 (I haven’t included this elsewhere as the cost is usually minimal, especially if used for more than one trip. However, for the Mongol Rally we had to buy more expensive insurance as we were driving so much).
Visas: £270 (mostly Russia)
Ferries: £100 (mostly crossing the Caspian sea)
Fuel: £180 (fuel in Asia is much cheaper than fuel in Europe!)
Accommodation: £200 (we camped around 50% of the time, but mostly in campsites)
Bureaucracy: £100 (car insurance, various taxes, tolls and other dubious charges)
Entertainment and miscellaneous: £20 (the open road was free!)
5. Average monthly expenses on a month-long African safari: £1,400
A 32 day overland safari trip from Nairobi to Johannesburg with Africa Travel Company costs around £800 per person and includes all accommodation (camping), all transport (overland truck) and three meals per day. You could expect to spend an additional £600 per person (approximately) on activities and entertainment, such as game drives, national park fees and other safari related fun. Shane and I went on a 21 day safari with Africa Travel Company from Nairobi to Victoria Falls in 2015, and it was one of the best experiences we’ve ever had! All for less than the price of your average month in London.