Last modified on November 10th, 2019
If you are secretly thinking about how to travel the world for $10K a year, this post is for you, friend. Really, you don’t need to have lots of money to be able to travel. It is totally possible even if you are on a tight budget.
Nowadays, there are a lot of tips from different people regarding how much money one should have in order to travel full-time and feel comfortable.
I have personally seen reports with such numbers as $20K and $30K per year and then I met someone who spent around $15K when traveling solo around the world. Honestly, I don’t think that having $30K for one year of travel is something extraordinary. That’s a lot of money. If knowing how to spend it smartly, this amount can keep you going for way longer than just 12 months.
We didn’t have 30 thousand dollars with us when leaving the U.S. Actually, there was not even 20 thousand in our account. What we had was $15K and a desire to work, use luxury travel hacks to be able to travel and see the world.
We knew that we had to make this money last for one long year of travel. And you know what? It lasted for way longer. What’s going to be more surprising is a fact that we didn’t spend a night in a hostel, sleep in tents, hammocks or night trains. Also, rice and noodles were not the only foods we ate.
That year was full of adventures, lots of new countries and experiences. We ate loads of delicious and healthy foods, drank liters of coffee, swam in infinity pools, went to spa centers, and hiked gorgeous trails.
As a couple, we spent slightly less than $10 thousand. If you are interested to know where we went and what we did, you can read this post. But a goal for today’s article is to show you that travel the world for $10K a year is possible. More than that, this amount will cover expenses for two people.
So, here is a mini-guide on what to do to be able to cut corners too:
Set a Plan on Where to Go and How Much Time to Spend in One Place
I am not implying you should make a step by step agenda which will tell you at what time of the day of what week and month you should be ziplining, munching on your favorite nachos or visiting a temple. No, with those things you can be flexible.
But knowing which countries you’ll travel to during a year of travels, in what order you’ll visit them, what cities and villages you plan to cover and most importantly how you are going to move between them are going to help you meet the budget. I have to admit, $10,000 for the entire year, especially for two people, is not a lot. That’s why having a clear vision and plan is your recipe for success when it comes to money.
Do not plan to cover 50 countries in 12 months and go with a flow. Have a precise idea of where you’ll go and when.
From our experience, I can tell that going without a plan (even an approximate one) can cost a pretty penny later. We used to travel without an idea where to go and when, and then when trying to make a last-minute decision, prices for everything were so much higher, so we had to overpay.
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Choose to travel slowly to be able to save
By traveling slowly I mean choosing one city in a new country where you’ll base for at least a month. In this case, you’ll be able to rent accommodation on a monthly basis, cook at home, get to know how locals live and travel within that region. All of it will cost you way less than constant travels from one place to another.
Traveling full-time can get really exhausting and also it takes more resources.
If you look at budget-friendly destinations, to rent a room (usually pretty basic one) costs between $10-$15 a night. If you multiply by 30 days, it will add up to $300 minimum. But honestly, you cannot count on that. In one destination it may cost $10 while in other $20.
On the contrary, in the same destination, the entire apartment costs between $250-$350 a month. It includes a kitchen that in turn helps to cook at home from time to time and save on food.
With slow travel, you do not necessarily see less. You actually get to experience more, just in one country.
Pack Everything You Need Before You Leave
Chances are you won’t be taking a lot of stuff when leaving to travel. Still, pack your bags wisely.
While you are still working and having an income stream, buy everything you may need for your voyage ahead of time. Glasses, sunblocks, a bathing suit, sandals, snickers, towels, medicine, and even a hair muss if you need one. Do not plan to buy those necessities later. In a new country, you may not know right away where the best places to shop are or the same items can be more expensive.
However, it is not really about money only. Running around in a new place may steal your time.
When we made a decision to go to travel, we started to prepare with a lot of time in advance. To pack our bags, in particular, took us two months. During that time we modified our lists a dozen times, adding and removing some items, purchased something extra and got rid of what we didn’t need.
The only items we bought during our first year of travel were a mosquito spray, sunblock, two hats (how could we forget those when planning to go to Southeast Asia?) and towels (we also didn’t pack them, c’mon.) Oh, and one more thing. I also got a cute handmade swimsuit in Bali for myself. It wasn’t really a necessity though, more of a whim. Also, one time we bought sore throat medicine which didn’t cost much at all.
Travel to cheap destinations
I am sure you could somehow figure that this one was going to make the list. If you want to make sure your saved money will last you longer, choose to travel and live in cheaper destinations. Each continent has its own cheap countries. And Southeast Asia is not the only place.
In North America, for instance, Mexico is pretty cheap. But don’t look into touristy Cancun, Tulum or Playa del Carmen. Instead, look into Campeche, Merida, Guanajuato, Puerto Escondida, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, etc.
In Europe, look into the Balkans (all countries in this region are very cheap,) Eastern Europe and some parts of Spain. We lived in Montenegro and spent the same amount of money there as we did in Bali. Bosnia and Herzegovina was even cheaper. Ukraine in Eastern Europe, my home country, is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe where you can have a very good quality of life for little money.
With Southeast Asia, you need to know where to go because some places can be more pricey than others. Singapore is obviously the most expensive, but some parts of Malaysia, the Philippines, Bali can also surprise with prices.
Go only there, where flights are cheap
Do you know how we choose a destination where we want to go?
There are a lot of countries that interest us. When picking our next base, we always search for tickets first. The cheapest and most convenient flight wins.
When planning your itinerary, first of all, make a list of countries you want to visit and then start looking at which country is cheaper to fly to. Sometimes distance doesn’t matter. You may find a better deal to fly from the U.S. to Europe than Costa Rica or even Mexico.
Last year, while being in Ukraine, we found the cheapest ticket to Chiang Mai and this is why we ended up there. This year, the cheapest ticket was to Buenos Aires but we chose to stay in Europe instead.
Play with different airfare search sites, make sure to check from Tuesday to Thursday, look for connecting flights and compare prices.
I recommend buying tickets for at least the first three months of your travels. The rest you can buy along the way.
Find complimentary accommodation
Complimentary accommodation does not always come as free. Sometimes you may need to do some work in exchange but it is worth it so much.
Getting this type of accommodation is good if you plan to travel to prime destinations such as Western Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, etc. With these countries, you can always house sit, volunteer, camp for free or little money, couchsurf or work in exchange for food and a place to sleep. Most of these opportunities will cover your room and board and sometimes provide a car.
Before Mark and I left America we spent 3 months traveling from the West Coast of the U.S. through Canada to the East, doing everything I’ve just mentioned and paying less than $1500 for all adventures. I have a post on our work in exchange for accommodation and food across the United States. Give it a read.
Look for New Apartments on Airbnb
Honestly, I am not a big fan of Airbnb anymore. I used to be in the past when it has just come to the market and was relatively new to everyone. But after a while, after traveling for a bit and staying in various Airbnbs on three continents Mark and I noticed how much Airbnb changed for worse.
Many times we paid a lot of money for a place which was dirty and not the same as on pictures, some owners didn’t seem to try hard to provide the best service, sometimes Airbnb team didn’t care, other times we had issues with the apartment and nothing was done to fix it. Overall, we started to notice one pattern – prices for apartments are constantly unreasonably increasing but the level of service and quality gradually goes down.
Another thing that caught our eye is a fact that many Airbnbs are owned by real estate agencies, not locals as Airbnb promotes. And in turn, it creates a totally different experience.
When it comes to Airbnb, our trust got undermined. Still, we recommend this concept in a few cases. One of them is when you travel long-term and need an apartment for a minimum of 28 days. To save money, when we book a flat for that much time (or more) we always go with new apartments only.
The reason for that is an additional discount from Airbnb. Usually, when the owner signs up and is willing to rent out his home, Airbnb always suggests giving a discount to the first 3 people who book his property. Besides a regular long stay discount, they are supposed to provide an extra one. Many times this discount is between 30 and 50 percent.
If you look at some destinations, you will be surprised to find some amazing deals. For instance, when we were looking for homes in Norway, the average price was around $1,500 per month but a new apartment that recently popped up on Airbnb cost around $800. Soon we are going to Spain, flats there (the type we are looking for) cost a minimum of $1,000 per month. We waited for a new one to show up and secured it for $600. I think it is still expensive for that region, but we decided to simplify our search.
In cheaper destinations, you’ll be able to score places for a few hundred dollars only.
Or Look For a Home On Spot in a New Country
If you plan to stay in one place for as minimum as a month and haven’t found anything decent and affordable on Airbnb yet, do not panic. I recommend booking accommodation for the first 3-4 nights and once you get to your destination, start looking around among locals.
We always follow this strategy and always have success in finding something. This is how we found lovely and rather cheap apartments in Vietnam, in Thailand, and in Bali. In Montenegro, we found a beautiful flat through the Facebook group.
So do not worry if the choice of flats online is not ample. In many countries, you’ll find it quickly enough.
Rent a Car If Traveling in Europe
Some people may assume that I made a typo when writing this header. No, I didn’t. The best way to travel in Europe is by renting a car. It is a smart move that is going to help you save money and see more. And I’ll explain how.
If you start searching for deals and try to book in advance, you can rent a car for as little as $20-$25 per week (sometimes per month!) There are endless offers from various rental companies that offer fantastic deals in different parts of the European continent.
We rented a car in Barcelona for $18 for 10 days in late November, in Bratislava (Romania) for $25 for the entire month (which we canceled due to change of plans,) $45 per week in Sarajevo, $30 for 2 weeks in Milan and more. Only in Montenegro car hire was way more expensive but. One full tank of gas that covered 900 kilometers (550 miles) cost us around 50 euros ($60.)
If traveling solo, renting a car may actually cost you more but for two people it is a perfect opportunity to save money on transportation. Buses and trains are not that cheap as companies try to promote and you may end up spending more for two people on one round trip between cities than on a car rental and gas for the entire week (which also allows you to be flexible.)
With this strategy though, you have to visit Europe during the offseason and also target to visit cheaper destinations. During the high tourist season prices are so high, that omg, your $10,000 will disappear sooner than you think.
Food costs always come second after accommodation costs and can take a lot out of your budget. To be able to travel the world not spending much, try to cook at home more, especially if you are traveling in Western World countries.
Eating out in Southeast Asia, surprisingly, is cheaper than when you cook at home, but only if you choose street food. Trips to restaurants and cafes add up and can cost a fortune. South America and Eastern Europe are very affordable in this sense too.
We always cook when we travel. Our daily food expense is between $10-$15, depending on a destination. This cost always covers meat or fish products, lots of veggies, fruits, smoothies, coffee, tea and occasional eating out and desserts. There is never a moment when we say “no” to ourselves when it comes to food, and we always eat local food.
I honestly don’t understand how some people manage to eat only rice or vegetables in order to cut costs. Doing it they lose so much. Trying local foods is part of the experience, please, spend some money on local food. Also, you need to stay healthy and watch your diet by eating healthy whole foods. There is no way for your body to be healthy if consuming rice or vegetables only.
Another note is about alcohol and coffee. You would need to cut on those to save money too.
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Be Selective When It Comes to Attractions And Entertainment
I know, when you travel you want to have fun and do as many activities as you physically can. But don’t be in a hurry. Price for those attractions matters.
Physically you can’t do everything anyway, but choosing one activity over another does not mean you don’t get to know the country. Each destination has plenty of free or cheap things to do, so there is a lot to choose from. Avoid attractions oriented solely on tourists, even in poor countries they cost a fortune. Choose those activities that locals choose for themselves too.
For certain destinations, like Cambodia, for instance, you still want to budget money to be able to do some sightseeing. Angkor Wat entrance ticket for 3 days costs $62, but it is well worth it.
To travel the world for 10 thousand dollars a year is not a difficult task to do if you carefully plan your trip. I do advise though to put aside at least an extra $2000, just in case if there is a day when you need it. If you can have more, it’s even better. Having an “emergency money” always makes you feel more confident even if you don’t make use of it.