There a few regular questions that you get asked as a RTW rider.
What’s your favorite place or country?
Where haven’t you been yet?
How fast does your bike go?
How do you do it?
How do you afford it?
How much does it cost?
Let’s deal with that last one, how much does it cost?
Firstly I want to preface this post by saying: traveling finances are as individual as you are, no two people will ever spend identical amounts of money as no two people will ever do identical trips. Even on what is supposed to be a set track to follow like the TAT, I have never read two reports the same so it is unlikely they spent the same either…as a RTW is hugely different and potentially a lot longer thusly the costs will vary a great deal too. Therefore, this article is to give you a ‘feel’ for the expenses, take these thoughts with a pinch of salt and adjust according to your tastes.
Since early 2011, I have spent around 1000 days on the road, ridden through 44 countries, 4 continents, and crossed 86 borders, so I think I have a good feel for costs. I will say that travel expense is a unique thing, though. One man’s comfort is another’s hardship. I don’t travel at a luxurious level but I also don’t travel scrimping and saving every single penny I can. I like to camp, I don’t love to camp or get upset if I’m not in my tent every night.
I think if I looked at myself comparing with other riders as a line depicting money spent on a graph I would be somewhere in the lower half expense wise for travelers I have met.
People have ridden RTW on less than $5,000 and I have heard and met others that have done it on more than $100,000. You need to decide where your comfort level is, what you feel like you can reasonably spend.
Using an analogy to gambling, don’t spend more than you can afford to loose, save a little cash for your eventual return because at some point it will happen. Don’t go ALL IN…THERE WILL BE AN END TO YOUR TRAVELS, whether you like it or not.
The one plan no one likes to think about is the return, have a little hidden away in a separate account for your eventual return because at some point it will happen. In my situation, I opened an investment account and bought (reasonably) secure investments for when I get back and if I’m lucky in the time I’m on the road they might make a little as well, as a long-term investment.
Most importantly, spend and budget what YOU can afford, there is a RTW for every budget and you can still come home with the feeling that you had a great time full of lifelong memories and stories to tell.
Its funny the people I meet who spend more, and I mean a lot more than me don’t always seem to have seen as much, or been as many places…do they spend the difference on beer or alcohol or cigarettes?
…and just so you know that ONE beer at the end of each day you congratulate yourself with, it will average about $3 a day, which is $1095 a year or around a month or so less travel a year.
This is my story, my version of a RTW currently in motion. I left on this RTW 365 days ago, one full year and no plans on stopping anytime soon. It included two major motorcycle shipments, no major breakdown expenses or motorcycle expenses besides tires and oil changes, 27 countries and actual distance that I rode was – 35,458 miles or 57,064 km.
Honestly, that figure surprises me, the distance covered: it doesn’t feel like I’ve ridden even a quarter of that distance which works out to average 97 miles or 156 km per day.
To put 35,458 miles into perspective, if I could ride non-stop in a straight line RTW, using an imaginary road with bridges crossing oceans, that line from Las Vegas heading eastbound would go RTW one and a half-times almost and land me in central Mongolia on the second lap.
The following is based on two people traveling on one motorcycle and doesn’t include the cost of the motorcycle or any of the gear related to travel. The bike was completely set up with all new consumables in place before mile 1 was ridden.
I estimate that the passenger adds $10-25 per day depending on the countries traveled if you are looking to calculate numbers for a solo traveler. The reason for this increased number is obviously food, but also a slight increase in fuel costs, tire wear and some hotels/ motels/ hostels/ campgrounds charge more for two people rather than one.
How do I figure a budget? Experience. I like to keep track of where the money goes and as a reminder of certain countries or certain instances, what they cost individually.
From previous experience, for this RTW I budgeted/ guesstimated costs for the Americas at $75 and Europe to be $82 a day for how I like to travel. Spoiler alert: I came in below that number.
Those costs are broken down into four major categories: FUEL – FOOD – LODGING – MISCELLANEOUS.
FUEL – Just fuel for the bike, NOTHING else.
FOOD – This is obviously is self-explanatory. Good food, some eaten in restaurants, some roadside and some I cooked myself.
LODGING – Hotels/ motels/ hostels/ Airbnb/ Couchsurfing/ staying with friends or family/ campground/ wild camping/tent space
MISCELLANEOUS – Catch-all for expenses not covered by the other three: museums, entry fees, ferries, tolls, shipping, tires, oil changes, parts, tires, flights, replacement of broken/ lost/ stolen/ worn out items, haircuts, dentist appointments, Euro green card insurance, medical insurance, country entry fees, visas, TVIP, etc.
One year total fuel costs – $3629.36 or 10 cents a mile/ 6 cents a km
Accurate fuel prices for the whole world can be found here and are updated daily and weekly depending on location – http://www.globalpetrolprices.com/Iran/gasoline_prices/
Highest price for fuel I paid was in Norway – $6.70 a (US) gallon!
One year total food costs – $7769.13 or $21.28 per day or $10.64 per person.
Most expensive country for food was Norway (surprised) averaging at least three times more than any other country.
One year total lodging costs – $4890.76 or $22.54 per night**
**148 days of that were $0 because of Couchsurfing/ staying with friends or family/ campground/ wild camping/ tent space
Most expensive night in a hotel was in North Carolina…WTF!
One year total miscellaneous – $7745.49
Shipping to Cuba and back – $2613
Shipping to Europe – $1365.68
Oil changes – $298.24
I have a reusable stainless steel oil filter, so $0 cost
Ferries, abnormal amount mainly because of Norway! $609.69
GRAND TOTAL ONE YEAR ON THE ROAD = $24,034.74 or $65.67 day avg.
The problem is that it’s not a real average for everyone because of the unique expenditures. It would be very rare that a RTW would have these large expenditures in the first 12 months – 2x shipping, and the ferry total. If we remove those it will become more realistic for most travelers.
New Total = $19,446.37 or $53.28 per day for two people
If I was solo, I could realistically deduct $10 per day (maybe more) to make the year total = $15,796.37 or $43.28 a day.
**As a side note, to show how the numbers really average out against different times for me on the road and lots of different countries, to show its not a fluke number –
When I traveled solo RTW in 2014 my total expenses including shipping from Canada to South Korea came in at $44 per day avg.
When I traveled solo from Ushuaia to Prudhoe Bay to Newfoundland to Key West, back thru Central America, to Colombia and Venezuela and back to the US I averaged $41 per day, that’s was in 2011/ 2012
Try not to see RTW travel as a daily expense, be aware of it, but try to see how it will average out over the months or years. Learn your own spending habits, become aware of the fluctuations that can happen – a rear tire might cost a weeks expenses but it’s inevitable and a requirement to the trip. That tire you need to average out over the total amount of days since the last tire was bought, so really it’s not a one-time $300 expense it’s $3 a day over 100 days. This way you will roughly know when the next rear tire is due and plan for it accordingly and maybe if you stay in that cheaper country for an extra week/ month you can also buy that tire there cheaper as well because you got to know a shop or some local riders who will help you out?
If you can, spend more time in the cheaper countries and less time in the more expensive ones. Also, if you can head to cheaper areas first, “learn the ropes” of traveling if you’ve never really traveled for long periods of time before.
To elaborate a little…
Where do I sleep? Hotels are decent, decent enough that my mother would stay in them! Campgrounds are clean and generally have showers, washers, and dryers, hostels I get my own room, only twice in 5 years have I been in a dorm. If possible I look for a place with cooking facilities. Secure parking is always a priority so I probably pay a little more because of that.
Where do I eat? Restaurants, street vendors for fruit and vegetables, roadside, fast food, supermarket food takes the majority so I can cook my own food, I enjoy cooking and then I also know the food is cooked how I like, its fresh and cleaned properly and it saves me a lot of money, usually 50-85%.
Motorcycle knowledge and maintenance? I owned three motorcycle shops (not metric, this is all new to me) for 17 years so I work on my bike myself and if for any reason I need to take it to a shop it never leaves my sight. The only reason it would ever go to a shop is if I need a specific tool that I don’t carry due to rare use.
In Romania, I went to a shop to have a tire changed because it was included in the price. I was the one that removed and replaced my wheel, I was watching the guy change the tire to make sure it was done right and I also did a little extra maintenance while I was there too because it was a convenient time to check brake pads, cush drive rubbers, final drive wear and tear etc. So, another way to save money for sure is to know your bike and how to fix as much as you can and do the service yourself, the only area you might fail in, is having a catastrophic failure.
Before I left the shop the owner came over and offered me a job! I thought about it but declined as winter wasn’t far away and it was time to head south – but if I (you) look at it another way, I could have stayed and worked and earned some cash, doing something I enjoy to further my travels. If you have a useable skill and can get work in another country it could help extend your travels as well. It would also open you up to new experiences that may not happen otherwise…be open to change.
I was interviewed last week and asked about slow travel and why is it cheaper? I have elaborated below what I said to clarify the point a little more and show why certain people go RTW and are back in 1-3 years and others are on the road for 5, 10, 15 years with what seems like the same amount of money and are still going…its the following principal – SLOW TRAVEL!
What I said was….’the slower you travel, the further you will go, you will see more and you will have more control over your money.’
I was asked to define my statement in more detail – “how traveling slower is cheaper?”
Well, I will give you an example, right now I’m in Greece, accommodation runs around $20 -$35 per night in a hotel, mostly closer to the $30 mark. The day to day price can vary a lot depending on location, of course, if you can stay in each location longer you can get a better deal. If we were here in our current location for 1 night the price would have been $35, 3 nights it came down to $30 a night, a week it was $20 a night…we are staying a month and negotiated $11.50 a night. So based on our current location we are saving over $500 a month and probably close to that in food costs as well, because of being abe to cook every day…basically, an extra $1000 we still have in the bank.
The last place we stayed was $75 a night we negotiated it down to $17 a night with a month stay!
Now add to that if you are on the move every day you tend to eat out more than making your own food, if you are a little more stationary then its the other way around, saving you money as well.
The other thing traveling like this you will see more, a lot more – a great many travelers never figure this out for a long time or sometimes not at all, so I’ll explain why.
Take any point on any map, of any country, put a dot on it, now draw a circle with a 200-mile radius. You are staying at the ‘dot’, travel within that circle return to your cheaper lodgings each evening when you have seen everything now move 200 miles from your dot and repeat.
Think about it, really let that sink in…this is where and how you reduce your expenses!
As I say you will see more and it will cost you less by saving on accommodation and food costs and you will have the chance to meet the locals, possibly find out about places not in guide books, or on the internet, meet and ride with local riders, live like a local at their prices and see a lot more things (maybe even score some discounts) than if you simply rode thru with a final destination in mind.
“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
RTW travel looks more and more affordable, doesn’t it?
If you have read my whole ride report on ADVrider and understand what I have seen in the last year, would you think $43 a day would be worth you taking off? I think so!
If you haven’t read my Ride Report then maybe you should…my ride report is here – LINK