In 2017 my then partner, now husband, Sasha and I left our corporate careers in Seattle to travel abroad without a set date of returning. We ended up traveling for six months, visiting approximately 50 cities in ten countries, spending anywhere from 10 days to one month in each country. I documented a detailed account of our spending to keep us on track with our budget, and in this post I will share details for travelers who might be interested to know how much it costs to travel long-term.
So, exactly how much money did we spend in six months of traveling abroad?
Before I get into our spending analysis, I’d like to note a few things. Because we did this trip on a budget, I tracked every single transaction between the two of us (even as small as 50 cents). This meant either saving receipts until I documented them, or writing the cost in the notes section of my phone. In each country I had to do the conversion to calculate the prices into U.S. dollars. Yes, I realize that this is a dinosaur method. No, I haven’t found a good app for this yet that has all the features I want. (Please let me know if you have!) I used good ole-fashioned Excel to compute our expenses and created a category table for each country, which you will see below. To figure out the average per Diem spending in each category, I divided the total amount spent in each category by the number of days spent in that country.
Once we returned to the the states and used credit cards, I used Mint to track our expenses, but Mint obviously cannot track cash, which is why I used excel for the international portion.
Sasha and I would consider ourselves to be mid-range travelers. This means that we prefer the comforts of an Airbnb over a shared hostel dorm, a rental car to have the freedom of exploration over taking public transportation (with the exception of staying in large cities where a vehicle is not necessary), and we are foodies, so the Eating Out category is almost always the highest. However, to save money, we cooked several meals at home since we always had a kitchen. This same trip could easily be recreated by a budget traveler and come out to half the cost of what we spent. It could also be recreated by a luxury traveler and be more than double what we spent. The point is, traveling abroad long term can be affordable and doable on any budget!
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TRANSPORTATION: Includes rental cars, gas, Uber, public transportation, tolls and parking (and there are a LOT of tolls in Europe!)
CELL PHONE: We selected the T-Mobile International Plus Plan, which gives us unlimited free texting and calls for $.20 per minute, including unlimited data in each country. The cost is $104 per month for the two of us. We figured this would be easier than getting a SIM card in each country, but it ended up being excessive, and the data was too slow. While it was nice to have Internet and be connected anywhere we had service from Ecuador to Russia, I would recommend simply getting a SIM card in each country once you arrive to the airport, as that is a much cheaper option. To figure out what portion of the cell phone category we spent in each country, I calculated the portion we paid while we were in that particular country.
ENTERTAINMENT/LEISURE: Includes museum admissions, jet ski rentals, bungee jumping, entrance fees, etc. Any expense for having fun!
ACCOMMODATION: With the exception of a few hostels in South America and Mom and Pop hotels in Greece, we used Airbnb for our entire travels. With Airbnb filters, you can easily select the criteria you’d like in a home. We set our nightly accommodation budget not to exceed $50 USD (inclusive of taxes and service fees – be careful of those fees, they can add up!) and we miraculously were able to stay under this budget for every single night in every single country.
In mainland Greece, we traveled quickly (only 2 – 3 days in each village) and because we had a rental car, we wanted the flexibility to be able to change our plans at the last minute (or go without a plan and wing it based on how we enjoyed the place.) Because of this, we used Booking.com to check the availability in a hotel sometimes as last-minute as 15 minutes prior to arriving. Once we saw that there were rooms available, we simply showed up and asked for a discounted price if we paid in cash (which was honored 100% of the time, because hoteliers don’t want to pay the fees through Booking.com.) Even though we visited in peak tourist season (July), we were able to find some great deals this way (still within our budget) and also had the freedom to add on nights if we wished. (This is usually easier than cancelling and expecting a refund, assuming they have the availability, which is always the toss-up.)
*Note about Booking.com* – we used a “refer a friend” once (I referred Sasha and he booked our next accommodation) and received $20 off our next stay. Also, many times on their site it will show a listing with the text, “hurry! Only two rooms left at this price!” or something to that nature. This is a sales ploy and is typically not true, because you will arrive to the hotel and find that nearly every room is available.
You will notice that our accommodation for some countries will be either $0.00 or extremely low (London, Greece, France and Russia). This is because we stayed with family or friends for either part of the time or the whole time. I will list this in the notes.
TOILETRIES: We tried to bring as much as we could with us from the states, but that can make your backpack get heavy quickly! Sasha and I use all natural and/or organic products such as deodorant, shampoo, soap, sunscreen, etc. This was generally very difficult to find in other countries (especially South America). In Europe they were available, but at a very high price. Inevitably we ran out of things like soap and toothpaste, so we had to brave not being familiar with a brand and trust its labeling.
**A word for my female readers**: the menstrual cup is the best toiletry investment I’ve ever made. It is far less wasteful than tampons and pads, and much less to carry! No more worrying about being on a bus in the middle of the Andes and having to run to the toilet to change it out. The cup can stay in for up to 12 hours. I use the Diva Cup.
*NOTE* In Europe and many other parts of the world, the term for natural is “biological“.
AIRFARE: Because airfare is not indicative of how much money we spent in each country itself, I will list it separately. Three flights were booked using Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card points miles including Denver to London, St. Petersburg to Athens, and Munich to Denver. The total amount we spent on airfare for our entire trip was $3,916.39. We flew a total of 22 flights, bringing the average cost per flight to $178.
*Countries are listed in alphabetical order, not in the order in which we visited them*
Time Spent in country: 22 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 22 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$8.00||$0.36|
|COLOMBIA TOTALS (22 DAYS)||$2,305.09||$104.78|
Time Spent in Country: 10 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 10 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$5.90||$0.59|
|CROATIA TOTALS (10 DAYS)||$3,116.04||$311.60|
Time Spent in Country: 16 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 16 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$112.00||$7.00|
|ECUADOR TOTALS (16 DAYS)||$3,828.27||$239.27|
Time Spent in Country: 8 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 8 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$63.17||$7.89|
|Accommodation **we stayed with Sasha’s friend for our entire stay**||$0.00||$0.00|
|FRANCE TOTALS (8 DAYS)||$671.63||$83.94|
Time Spent in Country: 27 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 27 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$302.67||$11.21|
|Accommodation **We had free accommodation from Sasha’s friend during our entire 11-night stay on Crete Island. On Mainland Greece, we paid for the rest of our accommodation**||$475.84||$17.62|
|GREECE TOTALS (27 DAYS)||$4,358.15||$161.41|
Time Spent in Country: 32 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 32 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$105.22||$3.29|
|ITALY TOTALS (32 DAYS)||$6,826.90||$213.34|
Time Spent in City: 8 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 8 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$0.00||$0.00|
|Accommodation **We stayed with Sasha’s friend for our entire stay**||$0.00||$0.00|
|LONDON TOTALS (8 DAYS)||$723.27||$90.41|
Time Spent in Country: 30 days
**Note about Russian Visas**
If you are visiting Russia and are you are not a Russian citizen, you will need a Visa. I obtained a re-entry Visa, valid for three years, which cost $390 (this is included in the Transportation category below.) You may also get a Visa for only a one-time entry, which was significantly cheaper. However, since my Fiance’s family is from there, we figured we would likely visit again sometime in the next three years. I obtained my Visa two months before departing the country.
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 30 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$59.31||$1.98|
|Accommodation **We stayed with Sasha’s family in St. Petersburg & Moscow. The only accommodation we paid for was our five nights in Kazan and chipping in for the electric bill for our 2.5 weeks in St. Petersburg**||$208.72||$6.96|
|RUSSIA TOTALS (30 DAYS)||$3,188.12||$106.27|
UTAH NATIONAL PARKS
Time Spent in City: 5 days
|CATEGORY||TOTAL COST IN 5 DAYS||AVERAGE PER DIEM|
|Clothing, Accessories & Gifts||$0.00||$0.00|
|UTAH TOTALS (5 DAYS)||$800.50||$160.10|
Hopefully this helps you gain a better understanding of what it takes to be able to travel long term, and how much it costs to travel abroad long term. If you have specific questions about saving, budgeting or documenting expenses, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!
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