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Budget

A trip around the world is admittedly expensive, but perhaps not in the ways you would imagine.  Below is a summary of all of the expenses for the trip, stated in 2015 US dollars (USD).  I already owned some of the items I took on the trip (such as a backpack and my laptop computer), and are therefore not included.  The figures presented below represent the actual cost to me.

The total cost of the 120-day trip, including everything from transportation and food to vaccinations and a new camera, was $17,250 USD (2015 dollars).

Expenses by category

CategoryTotal Expenses (USD)
Transportation$2,035
Lodging$2,179
Sleeper transportation $2,604
Tours $3,570
Food $1,714
Attractions $1,221
Clothing and electronics $2,016
Souvenirs $722
Other $1,200

Daily cost by region

The daily costs including food, lodging, transportation, tours, attractions, and miscellaneous costs, but excluding souvenirs.
RegionCost per day (USD)
Pacific Ocean $134
Eastern Asia $145
Central Asia $127
Southern and Western Asia $150
Europe $86
North America $116

I’m sure it seems highly suspect that my lowest per-day costs were in Europe, one of the richest regions on Earth.  It also might come as a surprise that Western Asia (i.e. Iran) was the most expensive.  This strange inversion arose from two phenomena: the significant added cost of traveling with a guide in otherwise-cheap regions (Uzbekistan, Iran), and the significant savings realized by staying at friends’ houses in Europe and the United States instead of renting a hotel, and by sharing all other hotel expenses with friends and family.  My expenses in Europe were further reduced by the cruise debacle, since the cruise company paid for my food and lodging for four days in the UK.

The table above also hides significant regional variations.  For example, countries in Central Asia were both the least-expensive to visit ($46/day, Kyrgyzstan) and the most expensive (Turkmenistan, $280/day).  And, given the distance-heavy aspect of a trip around the world by surface transport, the daily cost of a country is enormously skewed by its size.  Enormous China, for example, seemed relatively expensive, at $140/day, but this was only because I traveled enormous distances very quickly.

Specific expenses of interest

Here are a few tables showing the costs of some specific things around the world, all in 2015 USD.

Transportation

ItemCost (USD)
Cargo ship: Vancouver, Canada to Busan, Korea (14 nights) $1,778
High-speed ferry, Busan, Korea to Fukuoka, Japan$108
Subway ride in Shanghai$0.50
High-speed train from Lanzhou to Urumqi, China (12 hours, 1900 km)$138
Share taxi from Kyrgz border to Osh across the Irkeshtam Pass (5 hours)$49 (includes a generous tip)
Bus from Nis, Serbia to Herceg Novi, Montenegro (15 hours, 550 km)$27
First-class flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK$0
Train Minneapolis to Seattle, USA (1 night in sleeper, 1 night sitting up)$265

Bureaucracy

ItemCost (USD)
Visa: China$117
Visa: Iran$115
Visa: Uzbekistan$87
Visa: Turkmenistanwho knows
Visa: Turkey$60
Bribes$0

Gear

ItemCost (USD)
Camera and accessories$1638
Clothing$377

Attractions

ItemCost (USD)
Kabuki performance in Kyoto, Japan$50
Access to the old city walls in Xi'an, China$15
Bribe to police officer to climb the minaret in Register Square, Samarkand, Uzbekistan$4
Turkmenbashi museum in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan$10 (seemingly decided upon at random)
Chac-Chac Zoroastrian shrine near Yazd, Iran$1.80
Everything else in Iran, regardless of importance or sizeMultiples of $1.80, up to $5.40
Hot air balloon ride in Goreme, Turkey$170
Froggyland in Split, Croatia$3.70
Public baths in Leukerbad, Switzerland$22
Two bike share rentals in London, England$9 (including late fees)
Two bike share rentals in New York City$20 (including late fees)
Rush ticket to see Hedwig in New York$85

Food

The cost of eating out around the world. All figures are for one person (me).
ItemCost (USD)
Purchases from the slop chest on cargo ship (mainly beer)$23
Buffet breakfast in Urumqi, China$4
Sit-down lunch in Osh, Kyrgyzstan$3
Fancy Italian pizza dinner in Tashkent, Uzbekistan$14
Typical meal in Uzbekistan$5
Typical meal in Turkmenistan$10
Two boxes of Yazd sweets$9
Kabab lunch in Iran$4-8
Fancy dinner in Croatia (Dubrovnik)$30
Dinner in trendy part of Istanbul$20
Fancy dinner in Croatia (anywhere but Dubrovnik)$10
50% off almost-spoiled discount sandwich and pudding at the University of Geneva cafeteria$9
Decent dinner in Geneva$60
Afternoon tea at Marks and Spencer, London, UK$10
Breakfast in the Amtrak train dining car, USA$12
Sushi lunch at the train station in Fukuoka, Japan$12

Other

ItemCost (USD)
Vaccinations and doctor consult$220
Website$150
e-reader and books$167
Cell phone roaming charges while in Europe$60
Silly sheep-skin hat from Uzbekistan$27
Tribal Azerbaijani killim from the Garden of Eden in Iran$500
Use of the bathroom at the bus station in Nis, Serbia$0.28 (I had to withdraw money from the ABM, paying a $5 fee)

A word about exchange rates

Exchange rates were calculated using the rates given by www.oanda.com, using the average of the weekly values for the days I was actually in the country. No allowance was made for currency exchange costs, which ranged from nearly zero (when using Chase Marriott Rewards credit card with no foreign transaction fees) to several percent (when withdrawing from a bank machine in Serbia), so the costs are slight underestimates.

    2 Comments

  1. Amazing detail and accounting of a trip of a lifetime.

    • Hopefully it’s just the start — there’s so much more to see in the world!

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