Some of my most commonly asked questions I get about my travels besides “when are you coming home?” are “how much does it cost?” “how much did you save?” And I can see why. Money really is the biggest limitation people face when it comes to traveling for an extended period of time.
I’d have really appreciated an in-depth blog about the finance side to travel because it seems to be the least spoken about aspect of traveling, despite it being the most important factor when it comes to where you can travel and how long for.
Myself and Mat have been traveling for just under 6 months now and we’re both at pretty similar places with our finances. We don’t eat or drink the same or do all of the same activities, but generally we spend the same each month. To be honest we’ve been ‘winging it’ for the most part, just making clever decisions which have become easier after research, experience and things we’ve heard from others.
I’m going to share our general monthly budget and how that actually gets spent. I’ll be telling you country by country what our main expenses have been, what the most and least expensive parts have been. I’ll tell you how much we’ve spent in each country and I’ll list the countries from least expensive to most expensive! I’ll also share any additional tips I have picked up since my last blog https://tailoredbymtaylor.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/how-to-make-your-money-last-longer-whilst-travelling/
Tip 1, is that if you’re traveling with someone else, set a goal for the amount that you want to head out there with and make sure it’s the same goal. It’s definitely beneficial to head out there with the same amount of money to prevent anyone feeling like they can’t keep up or have to be more savvy than the other. The worst thing you can do whilst traveling is worry and even worse, argue about money. It’s something myself and Mat occasionally find ourselves getting totally unnecessarily caught up in…mainly because we both want our money to last as long as possible, but that’s still not a good enough reason.
Tip 2, be prepared to spend money. Unfortunately little if anything is free, you must come away being comfortable that there will be certain expenses such as food, transport and accommodation which you have to spend money on and these expenses will fluctuate depending on where you are. There are ways that you can limit your spending in these areas and other areas but if you aren’t okay with parting with any of that money you’ve saved…then everyday of your travels will be consumed with the concern of spending money, which isn’t fun for anyone.
Tip 3, research is your best friend. If you’re really keen on sticking to your budget, before heading to tourist spots or going on trips, read up on how much things should cost and that way you can’t go in blind and vulnerable to being taken advantage of! Also we like to read up on the cheap eats of where we’re staying which really helps when it comes to dinner time.
So how much did we save?
For the last few years I’ve been saving any way that I can. At first I didn’t even really have a goal that I was saving for but I was putting aside as much as money as I could and I’m so glad I did! Once Mat and myself got the idea of traveling we came up with a plan to work and earn for a while as well as asking for money for birthdays and Christmas’. At this time we knew we wanted to travel for about a year and after reading a few (limited) blogs we decided that to comfortably travel as in eating, drinking, having somewhere to sleep and funding transport as well as activities, we’d need around £1,000 per month. We had read blogs where people had backpacked with £500 per month or less. You really can tailor your travels to fit your budget but we decided that since this would likely be a ‘once in a lifetime’ year, that we would save the maximum amount to ensure we were never having to sacrifice activities or worrying about our finances.
So how much of the £1,000 a month do we actually part with? This really does vary month on month depending on where we’ve been and what we’ve done. Recently we’ve been booking lots more flights so our money has gone a lot faster…which I think we can both admit is hard to see but as the second tip I gave says, if you want to travel then you have to accept that it costs money! I think a lot of people forget that traveling actually includes traveling from place to place, be that in a taxi, a bus, a boat or a plane…it all costs money. Transport is definitely where the majority of our money goes, especially in places like Malaysia and the Philippines where transport was fairly expensive…but more on that later!
In general if I were to make an educated guess at an average monthly spend (after looking at my bank account) I would say I spend between £550-700 per month. I will try and break this monthly spend down as much as I can now Into difference categories (based on a month with 30 days)
Transport from place to place £120
Transport in your destination aka taxis £20
I just want to say here that this it’s pretty hard to make an average for all countries because they genuinely are all different. Some will offer really cheap food but their activities and transport are expensive. Others will be cheap all round or expensive all round and every other combination you can think of. Every country has something different to offer you and if you’re extremely cost conscious it’s definitely worth considering certain things such as;
1. How many places you can visit
2. The types of accommodation you can book
3. Whether flying is an option
4. What route you take. With air travel being the most expensive it’s better to have formed a good route that includes as many land crossings as possible!
Now…which country do you think has been the cheapest so far? Make a guess in your head first! Malaysia? Indonesia? Sri Lanka? The Philippines? Thailand? Cambodia or Vietnam?
It’s worth mentioning briefly before that in all countries there will obviously be ‘expensive’ places to eat, drink and stay. We just avoid them. You’ll always be able to find the hipster hang out spot who charge triple the price as other local restaurants. Whilst they are an enjoyable experience, for people like myself and Mat who are traveling for such a long period of time, we’re eating out at least twice a day…everyday. That’s a lot of meals out! Not every meal has to be sensational or in a glamorous spot. The same goes for where we sleep at night (although generally we’re much more picky about accommodation). Food is food and a bed is a bed, we would much rather eat and sleep cheap and travel for longer. So when reading my average costs for each place, please bare in mind that we’re traveling budget. There will of course be exceptions to what I’ve said, not all food prices will be what I’ve stated, but if you eat in similar places to us then you can guarantee the prices will be similar!
Sri Lanka has by far been the cheapest. Alcohol is a bit more expensive and obviously the flights there are expensive, but once you’re there everything is ridiculously cheap. It’s such an amazing feeling to see your money go so far, especially when you’ve worked for it and spent a long time saving it. I don’t think Mat and myself will ever not be excited by the cost of things out here. A lot of places have breakfast included which also helps keep costs down even further. We’ve only been in Sri Lanka for 10 days but on average we’re spending about £12 a day for food, accommodation, activities and transport.
Food – 50p-£2
Accommodation – £2-5 (each for a double room with A/C)
Transport – 20p-£2
Activities – 50p-£7
Cost of a month of travel: not yet completed but I will add once done!
Vietnam probably has to be the second cheapest, as everything was crazy inexpensive…accommodation, transport food, alcohol, activities and entrance fees to places. It also really helped that the majority of places to stay if not all places provided free breakfast. I remember Mat paying 5,000 Vietnamese Dong for a beer in Hanoi which is about 15p!
Food – £1-£2
Accommodation – £3-£5
Transport – £5-£15 (but these were long journeys)
Activities – £3-£10
Cost of a month of travel – £500
Indonesia would then be the next cheapest. This probably wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for visiting East Java and Lombok where the prices get real low (especially in Java). Alcohol in Indonesia wasn’t particularly cheap because Java and Lombok are majority Islamic countries, not that that bothered me in the slightest as I barely ever drink!
Food – £1-£2.50
Accommodation – £4-6
Transport – £5-£25 (some boats can be expensive!)
Activities – £5-£15
Cost of a month of travel £530
Next cheapest would be Cambodia. Generally I feel like each country has their own cheap thing to offer and with the exception of Koh Rong, accommodation was what we found to be the cheapest aspect of Cambodia. We managed to get a 4* hotel in Siem Reap with breakfast included for only £7 each a night! It was amazing. One thing to note about Cambodia is that they use both their own Cambodian Riel and dollars. We found it useful to work in dollars during our time here because it meant that if we saw 3 dollars are 3 pounds, we would always be under budget!
Food – £2-£4
Accommodation – £3-£5
Transport – £5-£15
Activities – £5-£15
Cost of a month of travel £500
I’d have to say that Malaysia and Thailand we’re probably equal when it comes to being inexpensive. Malaysia had exceptionally cheap food but their transport was very expensive. Similarly with Thailand, activities and alcohol were very cheap, but accommodation wasn’t! I think the difference with Thailand would be that if you’re traveling the south of the island then you’ll be doing a lot of beach days which obviously don’t cost anything, however you’ll be getting boat after boat which makes your transport outgoings much greater!
Food – £1-£2
Accommodation – £5-£7
Transport – £10-£25
Activities – £5-£15
Cost of 17 days of travel £350
Food – £1.50-£3
Accommodation – £6-£9
Transport – £5-£20 (some boats can be expensive!)
Activities – £5-£10
Cost of 20 days of travel (in the south) £300
Cost of 14 days of travel (in the north) £300
And the winner (if being the most expensive is a win) is….
The Philippines. By far the most expensive in all categories. I remember when we’d just landed in Manila and Mat got some cheap lunch outside which cost about 80 pesos (£1.20) he said “I’m never eating for anything more then 100 pesos”. Well I hate to say that that went out the widow as soon as we landed in Cebu. With the exception of fast food restaurants like Jollibees (if you’ve been to the Philippines you’ll know) everything is over 100 pesos and as one of my tips says, you have to eat..therefore you have to pay it! You can keep costs down by having lots of beach days however…but a lot of the time you’ll want to do boat trips!
Food – £1.50-£4
Accommodation – £4-6
Transport – £10-£25 (we paid £25 for a 3 hour boat journey and then paid £15 for a 17 hour ferry the next day…what!?)
Activities – £5-£15
Cost of a month of travel £600
So there you have it. The least to the most expensive. Whilst there are obvious reasons why it’s good to visit cheap places, things being more expensive definitely shouldn’t put you off traveling there. When we compare all the prices even the ones we now find expensive, are still a quarter of what we would pay on a normal holiday, which is amazing. You can always make your trip fit into your budget so long as you do the research and make that bit more effort. It’s also super helpful for you to set some limits and prices for yourself and to stick to them. We generally try to get a feel for prices of food in the first few days by experience and reading online and we use this to make our decisions from there on. Obviously there will be fluctuations in pricing dependent on how touristy of an area you’re in, and we allow for that in our judgement. Doing a few minutes of research can save you so much money that can be used for more travels!
For tried and tested ways to keep costs down whilst you’re traveling check out my blog that tells you exactly how https://tailoredbymtaylor.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/how-to-make-your-money-last-longer-whilst-travelling/
Until next time,