When we tell people that we travelled around the world for 14 months, their most burning question is usually “how did you afford that?”. I think many will actually be surprised by how far your money can go when travelling and how affordable travelling can be. In fact, we spent less money while travelling than we would’ve spent living our regular lives in Vancouver.
We kept track of all of our expenses during our travels, and in this post we will provide you with all the details of how much we spent and what we spent it on.
We traveled for 419 days (just over 14 months) and visited 11 countries. The total cost was $46,777 (NOTE: all costs are listed in Canadian dollars). Here is the breakdown of where that money was spent:
Click the country name to skip straight to that country.
Although we only visited 11 countries, there are 13 countries listed in this chart. That is because we’ve listed Tibet as its own country even though it is technically a part of China, and because we’ve listed Canada to include all the expenses like insurance, storage, etc.
Here is the breakdown of how that money was spent:
Some notes about the categories:
Food: All food, including alcohol and going out to restaurants. We mostly bought our food at grocery stores and cooked our own meals to save costs.
Accommodation: Includes all camping fees, hostels, AirBnB, etc.
Transportation: Everything except flights. We almost always took local transportation or walked when we could to save costs.
Flights: Includes all domestic and international flights.
Bank fees: In many countries we had to pay a fee to use the ATM.
Souvenirs: Includes all souvenirs for us and for friends and family.
Attractions/Entry Fees: Includes all park entrance fees, tourist attractions, scuba diving, etc.
Tours: Includes a few day tours, and some longer tours in countries where it was impossible to travel independently.
Visas: Includes all visa fees.
Gear: Does not include gear we bought before leaving on our trip, just includes gear we had to buy of replace during our trip.
Electronics: Includes any fees related to our camera and phone, and the few times when we had to pay for internet.
Insurance: Includes cost of travel insurance, storage insurance, and car insurance.
Storage: Includes cost of storing our belongings and our car while we were travelling.
Other: Anything that didn’t fit into the other categories - haircuts, toiletries, etc.
Now we will look more closely at how that money was spent in each country. For each country we will break down the costs and calculate the cost of traveling per day. Note that the cost of international flights were excluded when calculating the cost per day as this varies significantly depending on where you are flying from. Also note that all this data is based on two people travelling together and is NOT per person. Click on each tab to see the details for each country.
We spent 50 days in Chile, so the average cost per day was $80.62. Of those 50 nights, we spent 25 nights camping, 20 nights in hostels, 1 night in a refugio, 2 nights in the airport, and 2 nights on a boat.
In general, Chile is not cheap, especially as you travel further south, but we spent most of our time hiking and camping, so that really helped to keep costs down. We traveled from Santiago to Puerto Williams (south of Ushuaia), crossing the border between Argentina and Chile many times. After we finished in Bolivia, we then came back into Chile to see the Atacama desert. We did 6 hikes, ranging from 3-6 days, and we took buses to get to and from each hike. In Chile you have to pay park entrance fees for each park, usually these fees are quite small, except for Torres del Paine, which is very touristy so very overpriced. We bought most of our food at the grocery store, but we did also go out for several meals.
Our transportation costs are quite high because we spent $460 on a boat from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams. It is actually cheaper to fly, but we wanted the experience of taking the boat. Lauren also had to replace her shoes in Chile, which is why our gear costs are a bit high. Finally, the flights we took in Chile included a return ticket from Vancouver to Santiago (it was cheaper than a one way ticket) and a one way flight from Atacama back to Santiago.
We spent 40 days in Argentina, so the average cost per day was $58.87. Of those 40 nights, we spent 23 nights camping, 8 nights in hostels, 3 nights in an AirBnB, 3 nights with family, 1 night in a refugio, 1 night in the airport, and 1 night on a bus.
Similar to Chile, Argentina is not cheap, and things get more expensive the further south you go. Again, we spent most of our time hiking and camping to help keep costs down.We traveled from Bariloche to Ushuaia, crossing the border between Argentina and Chile many times, then we flew to Buenos Aires and spent a few days there before flying to Bolivia. Hostels were extremely expensive in Argentina, so we sometimes went to a campsite in town instead of a hostel, and in Ushuaia AirBnB was the most affordable option. We were lucky to have family to stay with when we were in Buenos Aires.
We did 6 hikes, ranging from 3-9 days, and we took buses to get to and from each hike. In Argentina you don’t generally have to pay park entrance fees, however, we did pay a small fortune to get into the park to see the famous Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate. We bought most of our food at the grocery store and rarely went out for meals because it was quite expensive. Our transportation costs are quite high because the bus to El Chalten was almost $200, and we took 2 taxis (one to see the Perito Moreno glacier, and one to the airport). Apart from a few maps and gas cans, we didn’t need to buy any gear in Argentina. However, we hiked the Huemul Circuit, which included two cable crossings, so we had to rent harnesses and carabiners.
David used his French passport so he did not have to pay for a visa, but Lauren used her Canadian passport so she had to pay the reciprocity fee.
We spent 23 days in Bolivia, so the average cost per day was $68.51. Of those 23 nights, we spent 9 nights camping, 12 nights in hostels, 1 night in a hotel,and 1 night on a bus.
We flew from Buenos Aires to La Paz and used it as our base, doing several multi day trips from here. We took buses to Lake Titicaca, Sorata, Sajama National Park, and the Takesi trail, and we hiked in each of these locations. We then took a bus to Uyuni and did a 3 day tour of the salt flats before crossing the border back into Chile.
Bolivia can be a very cheap country for travelling, however, our average cost per day is quite high because we did some more expensive activities, including our 3 day tour of the Uyuni salt flats and biking the death road. If we excluded these tours, the cost per day would be closer to $40.
Food, accommodation, and transportation are all inexpensive. We did have to pay some park entrance fees in the different areas where we went hiking, but then we were free to camp anywhere. We did not have to get a visa to go to Bolivia, we just had to pay a small fee upon departure for an exit stamp.
We spent 28 days in Nepal, so the average cost per day was $48.65. Of those 28 nights, we spent 21 nights in guest houses, and 7 nights in hostels.
We flew from Vancouver to Kathmandu. We only spent one day in Kathmandu before taking a bus to Besisahar to start the Annapurna Circuit. We hiked the entire circuit, then hiked up to Annapurna Base Camp, then walked all the way to Pokhara where we spent 2 days before returning to Kathmandu. We then spent a week in Kathmandu because we had to sort out our visa for Tibet.
Our biggest expense in Nepal was food, not because it was expensive, but because it was one of the only things we were spending money on. Food does get more expensive at higher elevations, but we learned that if we were really hungry the best thing to order was dal bhat because they keep refilling your plate. On the Annapurna circuit we rarely had to pay for accommodation because they usually let you stay in the guesthouse for free if you eat breakfast and dinner there. Since we hiked the whole time, transportation costs were low as we only paid for a taxi to/from the airport and for a bus to/from the Annapurna Circuit. You are required to have a permit to hike the Annapurna Circuit, which cost $112 for both of us.
During our week in Kathmandu we negotiated a good price for our hostel, we walked everywhere, and we found a delicious but cheap restaurant that we went to many times, so our expenses remained low. Our only big expense was a cooking class, which was the highlight of our time in Kathmandu.
The visa for Nepal is paid for upon arrival. It is $40 USD per person and we paid with credit card so they charged us an additional fee. Had we paid cash, it seems they would’ve accepted $40 CAD, so if we’d known we would’ve just done that!
We spent 8 days in Tibet, so the average cost per day was $388. Of those 8 nights, we spent 6 nights in a hotel, 1 night at Everest base camp, and 1 night on a train.
Tibet is very expensive because the only way to get into the country is to pay for an expensive tour. We booked an 8 day tour with Tibet Highland Tours. We chose them because we wanted a Tibetan company rather than a Chinese company. The tour included all transportation, entry fees, breakfast, and a tour guide.
We wanted to travel overland from Nepal to Tibet, but unfortunately the border was closed so we had to fly (it has since been reopened). We also had to get a visa for Tibet, which was organized through our tour company. The cost of the visa is $100 USD for all countries except Canadians and Americans who get charged $200 USD. Unfortunately communication was very poor and we didn’t know this until it was too late, so David ended up travelling on his Canadian passport instead of his French one.
Tibet was by far the most expensive place we travelled...we could’ve spent another two months in Nepal on this money! But it was a place we really wanted to see, and we were glad we went, especially after seeing how quickly China is taking over.
We spent 19 days in China, so the average cost per day was $47.55. Of those 19 nights, we spent 2 nights camping, 5 nights with family, 7 nights in hostels, 4 nights on the trains, and 1 night in the airport.
From Tibet we took a 40 hour train ride all the way across China to Beijing. We spent 5 days in Beijing before taking the train to Xi’an where we stayed with David’s cousin for a few days. We then took the train back to Beijing, stopping in Pingyao for one day on the way, then had another 2 days in Beijing before taking the Trans Siberian train up to Mongolia.
Transportation was our biggest cost in China, mainly because the train from Tibet to China cost $400. Otherwise, China is a fairly cheap country to travel around. We took trains, buses, and the subway to get around, they sell food everywhere in China so it’s cheaper to go out than to buy groceries, and hostels were usually about $10/person per night. They do charge entry fees anywhere and everywhere in China, which vary greatly in price. If you have a student card though you usually only pay half price (and even if you don’t have a student card, try using any ID….they often don’t speak English, so you can usually get away with it).
We spent 26 days in Mongolia, so the average cost per day was $76.10. Of those 26 nights, we spent 18 nights camping, 5 nights in hostels, 2 nights on the bus, and 1 night in the airport.
We took the train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, then we flew to the Altai mountains and did a 10 day tour before flying back to Ulaanbaatar, where we hiked around Terelj National Park for 3 days and went to the Naadam Festival. We then hiked along Khovsgol Lake for 8 days before returning to Ulaanbaatar to fly to Thailand.
Mongolia can quickly become expensive because it can be a very difficult country to travel around if you don’t book a tour. There are no roads, few public buses, and more than half the population lives in Ulaanbaatar making the rest of the country very remote and sparsely populated. We were lucky enough to meet 3 friends on the train, so the 5 of us booked a tour to the Altai mountains togethers. The tour included our flights, a driver, a guide, and fuel costs, but we kept the cost down by providing our own food (we just bought it at the grocery store at the start of the tour) and camping supplies.
The rest of our time in Mongolia was much less expensive because we camped at Terelj National Park and Khovsgol Lake, which can both be accessed by bus. Almost all of Mongolia is public land, so you are free to camp anywhere, so we would advise anyone traveling to Mongolia to bring a tent. We only stayed in hostels in Ulaanbaatar, which were typically about $10/person per night.
Our attractions/entry fees included a day of horseback riding, tickets to the Naadam Festival (the largest festival in Mongolia), and a cultural show in Ulaanbaatar.
We spent 36 days in Thailand, so the average cost per day was $30.63. Of those 36 nights, we spent 2 nights in hostels, 2 nights in hotels, 3 nights in a bamboo hut, 5 nights with friends, 1 night on a bus, 2 nights on trains, and 21 nights at volunteer projects.
We flew into Bangkok, then spent a week in northern Thailand before flying to Myanmar. After 2 weeks in Myanmar we came back to Bangkok, then went to southern Thailand to volunteer at two different farms.
Our expenses in Thailand were minimal because we had friends to stay with in Bangkok, then we volunteered for 3 weeks, so our food and accomodation was covered. We used a website called workaway to find these volunteer projects. They have projects all over the world and it is a great way to meet local people and be immersed in their culture. If you are backpacking around Thailand though, food, transportation, and accommodation are all quite cheap.
We had some other little expenses in Thailand as well. Attractions/entry fees includes a few parks and caves, as well as a marathon that we ran in the south of Thailand. Tours includes a one day tour of three different caves in the north of Thailand. Electronics includes memory cards, getting our phone fixed, and getting it unlocked. Gear includes all the items we were required to have for the 100km race we signed up for in Malaysia.
We spent 14 days in Myanmar, so the average cost per day was $60.77. Of those 14 nights, we spent 4 nights in hostels, 3 nights in hotels, 3 nights at homestays, 1 night at a monastery, and 3 nights on buses.
We flew into Yangon and spent two weeks traveling north, making several stops along the way. We finished in Hsipaw, then took a long bus all the way back to Yangon to catch our flight back to Bangkok.
Myanmar is not as touristy as most other countries in Southeast Asia, so finding cheap hostels to stay at is not always easy. We found agoda to be the best way to book accomodation in Myanmar, and sometimes we stayed in hotels rather than hostels because that is all that was available. Food is so cheap in Myanmar that we often left a restaurant feeling like we had stolen our food. We travelled almost everywhere by bus, and overnight buses are very popular, which is great because it saves a night of paying for accomodation and it means you don’t waste a day travelling. We did also take one train near Hsipaw to pass over the Goteik viaduct, and we rented bikes to get around Bagan.
We did some hiking in Myanmar, however, most hikes we couldn’t do independently either because we never would’ve found the trail or because we weren’t allowed to be in those areas as tourists unaccompanied by a guide. We did one 3 day hiking tour to Inle Lake, and one 2 day hiking tour around Hsipaw. Both tours included a guide, food, and accomodation in homestays with local families. This was a great way to learn about Burmese culture.
A visa is required for Myanmar, which we purchased in advance online.
We spent 7 days in Malaysia, so the average cost per day was $119.66. Of those 7 nights, we spent 5 nights in a hotel,1 night running, and 1 night on an airplane.
We went to Borneo, Malaysia to run a 100km trail race, so these numbers do not accurately reflect the cost of traveling around Malaysia. We stayed in a hotel for the week, went out for most of our meals, and used uber to get around because it was the cheapest and most efficient option. We had bought most of our gear in Thailand, so we just had to buy a few little things when we got to Malaysia.
We spent 15 days in Indonesia, so the average cost per day was $91.44. Of those 15 nights, we spent 3 nights in AirBnB, 2 nights camping, 7 nights in hostels, 1 night in a hotel, 1 night on a bus, and 1 night on an airplane.
We flew into Bali from Malaysia and spent a few days there before flying to Flores island. We then made our way back to Bali overland. Indonesia is a cheap country to travel around, but our daily average is higher than expected because we did some expensive activities while we were there. We went scuba diving for a day, we took a 1 day tour to Komodo island, and we did a 3 day hiking tour up Mt Rinjani.
Although we stayed mostly in hostels, our accommodation costs were quite low because David’s cousin worked at a hostel on Gili island and was able to swing us some deals for just about everything. Food costs were also low because our tours included food and we stayed at many hostels that served free pancakes all day long. We took one long ferry and bus ride, but otherwise we relied on taxis and uber to get around because they were inexpensive and public transportation was hard to find.
We spent 164 days in New Zealand, so the average cost per day was $66.14. Of those 164 nights, we spent 73 nights camping, 31 nights in backcountry huts, 3 nights with trail angels, 4 nights at holiday parks, 12 nights in AirBnB, 14 nights in hostels, 20 nights with friends, 6 nights in our car, and 1 night on an airplane.
New Zealand is known for being an expensive country to travel around, but thanks to all the hiking we did, the fantastic system of backcountry huts, the friendliness and generosity of Kiwis, and the friends we made along the way, our average cost per day was lower than expected.
Our primary objective in New Zealand was to hike the Te Araroa (TA), a 3000km trail that spans the length of the country. We spent a few days in Auckland to get organized, then it took us 107 days to walk from Cape Reinga to Bluff. We expected the TA to take much longer, so with our extra time we went to Stewart Island for 5 days, then bought a car and drove back up to Auckland, stopping at places we missed on the TA. We finished with a week in Auckland to sell our car, catch up with friends, and get organized to return home.
Since we spent so long in NZ we will break down the categories one by one:
Food: Before arriving in NZ everyone kept warning us how expensive food was there, but we actually found prices very similar to prices in Canadian grocery stores. NZ also has takeaways everywhere where they sell cheap burgers, and fish and chips. We only went out to a restaurant once, but we did get takeaway many times. Otherwise we bought all of our food at grocery stores.
Accomodation: Hostels in NZ average about $30/person per night, so we tried to minimize our time at hostels. We did buy a YHA membership because there are YHA hostels all over NZ and you get a bit of a discount with the membership card. We also received a low carbon discount for hiking the TA, which helped reduce the cost of staying at a YHA even more. NZ also has holiday parks, which are basically campgrounds with kitchen and bathroom facilities, and sometimes a lounge area. They also usually offer dorm rooms or cabins. We stayed at a few holiday parks when they were cheaper than hostels and/or when they were all that was available. By the end we were getting tired of hostels and we realized that AirBnB was often cheaper, so we started using AirBnB more often. We did a lot of camping in NZ, and the majority of the time we were in national parks so camping was free. There were a few times during the TA where we were taken in by trail angels and given a place to sleep in someone’s home. We also paid $92 each for a backcountry hut pass, which gave us access to the 900+ huts in NZ, which was an absolute bargain. Finally, we were lucky to have made a lot of great friends along the way, so as we made our way back up to Auckland after the TA we were overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of Kiwis.
Transportation: Although we were hiking for the majority of our time in NZ and we did a lot of hitchhiking, transportation costs added up. There were a few times when we had to pay for boats across small rivers, and when we had to pay for shuttles to get back to the trail after hitchhiking into town to buy food. We also rented a canoe for 5 days to canoe down the Whanganui river. Ferries are also very expensive in NZ, and we took one from Wellington to Picton, one from Picton to Ship Cove, one from Bluff to Stewart Island and back, and one from Picton back to Wellington with our car. Our car only ended up costing us $50 because we bought it for $1250 and sold it for $1200. In NZ car insurance is not required, however, we paid $40 for third party insurance but did not insure our own car as it was not worth much. Gas averaged about $2.10/L and we drove over 5000km, so we ended up spending a lot on gas.
Flights: NZ is very far from everything, so most flights in and out of NZ are expensive. We flew from Bali.
Souvenirs: Since this was our last stop before going home, this is where we bought all of our souvenirs for family and friends.
Attractions/Entry Fees: There are no park entry fees in NZ. All of these costs came after we finished hiking the TA and did some of the more touristy things. Things we did include a Milford Sound cruise, a boat tour to see dolphins in Akaroa, a Maori Village and cultural show, hot springs, caves, and David went scuba diving in Coromandel.
Visas: We were required to get a visa for NZ because we stayed for longer than 90 days. Many people get a working holiday visa, but we just got an extended tourist visa because we didn’t plan to work at all. This was all done online.
Gear: Even though we had all the gear we needed when we arrived in NZ, our gear costs were high in NZ because we had to replace many things. The biggest expense was ordering two new pairs of shoes each after finishing the TA. We also had to replace our knife twice, we bought some new clothes (merino sweaters, rain jacket, etc.), several gas cans, and other odds and ends.
Electronics: NZ was the only country in which we bought a local sim card, and we just used ‘pay as you go’ because we hardly used our phone. We also had to replace our phone after our first one got water damage during a rainy day on the TA. Another big expense was new memory cards for our camera. We had no way to back up our photos, so we just kept buying new memory cards when we ran out of space. Finally, internet in NZ is not the best (in fact, we had better wifi at 4000m elevation in Nepal than in some parts of NZ!), so there were a few times when we had to pay for internet because the hostel only gave us 30min or 100MB (whichever we reached first) for free.
Other: Other expenses in NZ included some toiletries, a haircut, postage to send food to ourselves on the TA, etc.
After 4 months in South America, we returned to Vancouver for a day before flying to Nepal. We did this because it was cheaper to book a return ticket from Vancouver to Santiago and a one way ticket to Nepal, than to book a one way ticket to Santiago and a one way ticket from South America to Nepal.
Most of our expenses reflect ongoing costs we had while traveling. These are the costs you often overlook when budgeting for a long term trip. We were lucky to have a fantastic landlord in Vancouver. He found a tenant to take over our apartment who was happy to keep our furniture for us until we got back, so we didn’t have to put any of our furniture in storage. This meant we were able to rent a much smaller storage unit for storing all of our things, which cost about $80/month. He also let us store our car on his driveway for $25/month. Many people will try to sell most of their belongings before travelling, but we didn’t want to have to re-buy everything when we got back because this probably would’ve cost more than we ended up paying for storage.
The other big expense was insurance. We bought our travel insurance through Allianz Global Assistance and it cost us $79/person per month. We also paid for storage insurance to cover all of our belonging in our storage unit, and for car insurance to cover any fire or theft to our car.
After 4 months in South America, a lot of our gear was already wearing out, so we spent a lot of money on new gear during our one day in Vancouver. We bought new socks, shoes, water pouches for our water filter, more tent pegs and paid for shipping and import fees for the new prototype tent that Yama Mountain Gear sent us to test out. Later on our trip we ordered more gear from Canada that our friends from Beijing picked up for us while they were in Canada. We ordered more new shoes, and a running bag for David. Finally, we ordered bag liners for our bags before arriving in NZ.
After NZ we took the long way around and flew to Europe before going back to Canada. We used aeroplan points to pay for our flights from NZ to Europe, so we only had to pay the taxes, which came out to about $300. We booked flights from Paris to Toronto extremely far in advance because we found very cheap flights for $280 each. We haven’t yet booked flights from Toronto back to Vancouver, but we will likely also book these with aeroplan points. We did not include any expenses while in Europe because at this point we were done with our travels and were mainly there to visit family.
We hear too many people say that they would love to go travelling if only they could afford it. By sharing all of our expenses with you, we hope to show you that travelling is possible for everyone if it’s what you really want and if you make it a priority. We spent 14 months travelling the world, which cost us a grand total of $46 777. It may seem like a lot when you look at the total, but it’s not more than we would’ve spent if we’d been living in Vancouver for those 14 months.
It’s also easy to look at friends who are buying houses and focusing on their careers and think that we are falling behind and making a mistake. But those are things we can focus on later, and travelling is so much more valuable than that. We have met amazing people and had unforgettable experiences as we’ve learned about different cultures and about ourselves. Travelling makes you humble, makes you appreciate what you have, teaches you what you truly value in life, and opens your eyes to everything that the world has to offer. We’ve given you the the cost of our travels, but in reality, travelling isn’t something you can put a price tag on. The experiences you have and people you meet will stick with you forever. Get out there, see the world, take risks, be open, meet new people. You will never forget it and you will never regret it.
Lauren and David spent 15 months travelling around the world and shared some epic adventures together! Some of their stories can be found on the Outdoor Explore Community website. Lauren works as a Physical Therapist in Vancouver, BC.