After I shared my year-end review of my 2015 travels, casually dropping my total expenditure into my rundown of statistics, a whole ton of you dropped me an email to ask for more details. Fortunately, I track every single cent that I spend while I’m on the road, so putting together a detailed breakdown of my year wasn’t too much trouble. I want to prove that travel isn’t as expensive as people assume and in 2015, I spent less than many people spend in a year at home.
Over the past 12 months, I managed to visit 19 countries: Australia, Cambodia, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
I hit up 62 different cities.
I travelled 24,613 miles.
I took 15 flights.
I slept in 35 beds.
I spent $19,640.73 (£13,747).
That’s an average of $53.80 per day.
Here’s the breakdown:
Entrance Fees: $177.38
Travel Insurance: $706.26
Is it cheaper than you expected? It’s far less than I had assumed, given that this was the first year I made very little attempt to travel on a budget.
This, therefore, is not a guide to how you can travel the world for the smallest amount of money possible — it’s about how travel is still affordable if you opt to stay in nice apartments, splurge on fancy hotels for special occasions, and don’t choose the most uncomfortable budget options available. It’s about how you can still spend less than many people would in a year at home, even on a mid-range budget.
What can you expect to spend if you have more of a backpacker budget, and will be staying in dorm rooms in hostels, travelling overland, and staying in cheap regions of the world? $10,000 is doable for a year.
If you want to find out exactly what my money went on, what standard of accommodation I stayed in, and how I save money on travel, keep on reading.
My total accommodation costs came in at $6962.69 for the year.
In 2015, I stayed in a whole host of different accommodations, ranging from eight-bed dorms in Latvia to a luxury floating hotel in the middle of the Cambodian jungle. I opted to sleep in some pretty offbeat places, too, hitting up both a luxury yurt and shepherd’s hut in Cornwall, and a houseboat in the Netherlands.
This year was also the year of Airbnb. While I’m not a massive fan of the company’s business practices, I can’t deny how perfect it is for slow travellers like me. The monthly discounts on the site save me and my boyfriend, Dave so. much. money and I still can’t believe that staying in an entire house for a month with a kitchen and a dedicated Internet connection nearly always works out to be half the price of a month-long stay in a private room in a hostel.
Not tried Airbnb yet? If you sign up using this link, you’ll receive $20 off your first stay!
And speaking of slow travel, this year was also more about spending months in a new city rather than days, which helped me save money and get to know a place more that superficially. I spent three months writing my book in Granada. I lived in Madrid for six weeks. I spent two separate months based in London. I lived in Taipei for four weeks, and spent a full month in Melbourne.
The generosity of our friends and family around the world helped Dave and I further bring down the costs of our accommodation. We housesat for friends in Amsterdam and Melbourne, and stayed with both my and Dave’s family in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.
Finally, I have to note that if you were to travel on more of a backpacking budget, you could very easily bring the accommodation costs down to half of what I spent.
When it comes to travel style, I’d estimate that 10% of my travels were on a backpacker budget, 80% were mid-range, and 10% were super-luxury! After five years of full-time travel, I’m grateful I can afford to have a few more comforts in my life :-)
The Most Expensive Place I Stayed: The most expensive place I stayed at was the floating hotel in Cambodia, which came in at $175 a night. I booked this for Dave’s birthday and it was one of the highlights of my entire year of travel. I love splurging on places we’d never normally choose to stay at for special occasions!
The Cheapest Place I Stayed: The cheapest place I stayed at was Munkenhof hostel in Tallinn ($13.39 a night), which also wins for the shortest length of time I stayed in a place and the worst place I’ve ever stayed in. I was attacked by bedbugs, somebody threw up in the bed above mine, and the hostel cleaner kicked me in the back. Ah, budget travel!
The Longest I Stayed in One Place: That would have to be my Airbnb apartment in Granada, where I spent over three months! It was the perfect place to knuckle down and write the entire manuscript for my book without leaving the house.
The Best Place I Stayed: That would have to be Tamu Hotel, on Otres Beach, in Cambodia. At around $120 a night, it wasn’t cheap, but having the penthouse suite and getting to wake up to this view was more than worth it.
And because I’m a massive completionist and love numbers, I’ve compiled the average cost per night of every city I spent time in this year. Hopefully this should give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay in different regions around the world. I’ve also linked to the places I stayed at as the location name, in case you want to check them out! Anything marked with a * is somewhere I visited on my own or for Dave’s birthday, so the accommodation costs weren’t split.
Granada, Spain: $15.84 per night
Ronda, Spain: $23.87 per night
Amsterdam, the Netherlands: $0 (housesitting)
Utrecht, the Netherlands: $40.16 per night
Leiden, the Netherlands: $37.06 per night
Maastricht, the Netherlands: $31.57 per night
The Hague, the Netherlands: $37.17 per night
Oslo, Norway: $41.43 per night
Bergen, Norway: $66.73 per night
London, UK: Free (staying with family)
St Ives, UK: $48.03 per night
Perranporth, UK: $34.63 per night
Wadebridge, UK: $44.86 per night
Liskeard, UK: $44.86 per night
Riga, Latvia*: $17.58 per night
Tallinn, Estonia*: $12.15 per night
Helsinki, Finland*: $123.10 per night
Stockholm, Sweden*: $59.29 per night
Vilnius, Lithuania: $40.43 per night
Warsaw, Poland*: $40.57 per night
Madrid, Spain: $18.49 per night
Verona, Italy: $32.55 per night
Ljubljana, Slovenia: $33.72 per night
Lake Como, Italy: $0 (stayed with friends)
Bangkok, Thailand: $18.96 per night
Tatai, Cambodia*: $175 per night
Sihanoukville, Cambodia*: $128.23 per night
Kampot, Cambodia*: $48.00 per night
Siem Reap, Cambodia*: $90.61 per night
Hanoi, Vietnam: $12.36 per night
Hoi An, Vietnam: $28.96 per night
Saigon, Vietnam: $27.10 per night
Taipei, Taiwan: $27.28 per night
Melbourne, Australia: $0 (Housesitting + staying with Dave’s family)
Christchurch, New Zealand: $0 (staying with Dave’s family)
Hanmer Springs, New Zealand: $0 (staying with Dave’s family)
My total transportation costs for the year came in at: $4,619.34.
This year was a bit of an odd one when it came to transportation. I took a hell of a lot of flights for convenience and to save time, but because I was also travelling slowly, it still worked out to be affordable.
When it comes to finding cheap flights, the easiest way to save money is by being flexible. If you don’t have set travel dates or destinations, you can look at prices across an entire month and pick the cheapest day. If don’t mind where you fly in to, you can look at flights to every airport in the country to see which will save you money. I usually do both and managed to score some great deals this year.
I use only three sites to find flights: Skyscanner, Adioso, and Google Flights. One of those will usually find me a kickass price. I find every other flight search website really annoying and unhelpful.
Most Expensive Flight: My flight from Madrid to Bangkok came in at $534.96. I had a last minute change of plans and booked it two weeks before the departure date, and had zero flexibility because I wanted to be on the same flight as Dave. He booked his flight four months before me and it cost half the price.
Cheapest Flight: I scored my flight from Hanoi to Hoi An for an incredible $28.50!
Here’s the breakdown of my expenses for the year:
Tube tickets for a month in London: $110.00
Flights from London to Malaga: $74.59
Bus from Malaga to Granada: $12.50
Taxi to our Granada apartment: $7.50
Return train tickets to Ronda: $38
Bus from Granada to Malaga: $12.50
Flight from Malaga to Amsterdam: $117.68
Train tickets in the Netherlands: $74.16
Flight from Amsterdam to London: $83.66
Flight from London to Oslo: $211.04
Train from Oslo to Bergen: $50.97
Flight from Bergen to London: $140.91
Petrol for my Cornwall road trip: $170.45
Train from Lelant to St Ives: $4.72
Parking in Cornwall: $18.21
Trains to and from London and Staines: $38.15
Flight from London to Riga: $203.50
Bus from Riga to Tallinn: $24.91
Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki: $28.16
Helsinki airport bus: $6.82
Flight from Helsinki to Stockholm: $73.64
Stockholm airport bus from and to the airport: $22.88
Flight from Stockholm to Vilnius: $140.74
Taxi from Vilnius airport to my apartment: $17.33
Taxi from Vilnius apartment to bus station: $3.12
Bus from Vilnius to Warsaw: $21.84
Warsaw airport bus: $8.70
Flight from Warsaw to Lisbon: $281.73
Flight from Lisbon to Porto: $32.13
Metro from Porto airport to my apartment: $2.38
Bus from Porto to Madrid: $56.47
Metro from my apartment to Madrid airport: $5.64
Flight from Madrid to Verona: $89.56
Train from Verona to Venice: $4.86
Bus from Venice to Ljubljana return: $50.81
Train from Venice to Milan: $21.17
Train from Milan to Como: $5.63
Bus from Como to Torno: $3.39
Flight from Madrid to London: $179.79
Train rides into London over a month: $151.50
Flight from London to Madrid: $100.59
Flight from Madrid to Bangkok: $534.96
Flight from Bangkok to Trat: $73.91
Minivan from Trat Airport to bus station: $13.95
Bus from Trat bus station to the border: $3.35
Transfer from the border to Tatai: $35.00
Minivan from Tatai to Kampot: $13.00
Minivan from Kampot to Sihanoukville: $10.00
Taxi from Otres Beach to Sihanoukville’s airport: $10.00
Flight from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap: $116.20
Tuk-tuk hire for a day at Angkor: $15.00
Flight from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City: $135.00
Flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi: $48.21
Flight from Hanoi to Hoi An: $28.50
Flight from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City: $62.25
Flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Taipei: $183.72
Bus from Taipei to our apartment: $4.74
Metro transport in Taipei: $3.25
Transfer from our apartment to Taipei’s airport: $15.00
Flight from Taipei to Melbourne: $268.50
Flight from Melbourne to Christchurch: $300.89
My total cost for food and drinks (both eating out and grocery shopping) came to: $6072.78
Food is nearly always one of my biggest expenses when I travel, because life’s too short to have a bad meal. When I’m staying in an Airbnb apartment, I’ll typically eat breakfast at home and eat out for lunches and dinners. One of the things I both love and hate about this lifestyle is getting to eat out for every single meal, but also that it makes me fat.
This year, my most indulgent countries for eating were Italy, London, Thailand, Taiwan, and Australia. Especially breakfasts in Australia.
My total activities for the year rocked up at $719.88.
At the start of the year, I set myself a challenge to do more activities as I travel, so I think I did pretty abysmally on that front. I was so wrapped up in writing my book for the first half of the year that I barely left my apartment, then spent the second half experiencing panic attacks as I recovered from the writing process. Trying new things wasn’t high on my list this year. Here’s what I did manage to squeeze in:
Spain: Food tasting experience in Granada: $43.04
The Netherlands: Running tour in Maastricht: $27.95
The UK: 5 km colour run in London: $43.34
Norway: Bergen fiord trip: $50
Latvia: Riga walking tour donation: $10.83
Portugal: Port tasting experience and tour of the Douro Valley: $67.02
Slovenia: Ljubljana walking tour donation: $10.83
The UK: David Gilmour tickets for two shows: $278.77
The UK: Dengue Fever tickets: $25.46
The UK: Afternoon tea in London: $144.66
Vietnam: Street food tour in Hanoi: $85.00
My total entrance fees came in at $177.38 for the year.
Entrance fees for attractions are typically pretty low for me. I’m not a huge museum freak and can be lazy about exploring the tourist hotspots when I’m staying in a city long-term. I’ve found that the longer I travel, the more I prioritise wandering through markets, meeting and chatting to locals, and hanging out with friends. Here’s my breakdown of entrance fees for the year:
Spain: Entrance fee for Ronda Arab baths: $3.29
Spain: Entrance fee for Ronda bullring: $7.13
Spain: Entrance to the Alhambra, in Granada: $17.20
The Netherlands: Entrance fee for Keukenhof tulip gardens: $17.88
The Netherlands: Entrance to the Escher museum: $10.61
Norway: Entrance to Bergen art museums: $12.78
UK: Minack Theatre entrance fee: $7.08
UK: Tintagel Castle entrance fee: $7.08
UK: Entrance to the Eden Project: $39.01
Estonia: Entrance to Kiek in de Kok: $5.97
Slovenia: Entrance to Ljubljana Castle: $8.46
Cambodia: Three day pass to the temples of Angkor: $40.00
Vietnam: Entrance to a temple in Hanoi: $0.89
My total visa costs came in at $95.00.
This year, my visa fees were pretty low. I spent much of the year in Europe, and had a short enough stint in Thailand and Vietnam that I could get their free visas on arrival. Australian visas are free for British citizens, but due to a fuck-up on my end, where I forgot to apply for one, I had to pay for a rushed visa.
Cambodian visa: $30.00
Australian visa: $65.00
Twelve months of coverage with World Nomads came in at $706.26.
Travel insurance is my one essential, and I never go anywhere without it! I always go with World Nomads, because they make insurance easy for long-term travellers. They’re one of the few companies where you can buy or renew your policy while you’re not in your home country. Any experience I’ve had with calling them or claiming from them has been trouble-free and easy.
My total amount for miscellaneous items came to: $287.40
Insect repellent: $15.00
Shower gel: $27.50
What Wasn’t Included
It was tricky figuring out which expenses to include and which to leave out, and I know I won’t be able to please everyone. There’s being transparent about every expense I incurred and being irrelevant. Here’s what wasn’t included:
Business expenses: Sharing how much I spent on hosting Never Ending Footsteps and the various subscriptions I have to companies didn’t seem relevant for someone who is going to travel for a year. If you’re interested, I share how much I spend on these in my monthly summaries. It’s typically around $100 a month or so.
Cancelled travel expenses: I spent $3000 on a trip to the Seychelles, Mauritius, and the Maldives, but was suffering from such severe anxiety that I had to cancel my plans. This didn’t feel all that relevant for most people!
Birthday presents for family: This didn’t seem too helpful to include.
Replacing my clothes: This year, I spent several hundred dollars replacing every item of clothing I have in my backpack. Most travellers who head out for a year won’t have the need to do this.
A new camera: I splurged and threw down $2,500 on a new camera this year to improve the photos on this site. Most travellers won’t need something this fancy and wouldn’t be likely to buy one mid-way through their trip.
Beauty products: In the midst of my book-related breakdown this year, I attempted to cheer myself up by spending around $3,000 on new makeup. Pretty self-explanatory — I can’t think of anyone who would do this while travelling! Ah, anxiety.
To those of you who are commenting to say you could do it for far less, me too! I didn’t keep such a detailed track of my expenses when I first started traveling, but you can read about how my first year of travel cost me $13,000. I stayed in dorm rooms in hostels, ate fast food, and travelled mostly overland.
After five years of full-time travel, though, I started to crave home comforts, so decided to transition from more of a budget style of travel to something mid-range. The upgrade is worth it to me :-)