This is a summary of our expenses for the 281 nights that we spent travelling during 2019. You should keep in mind that if one travels at a slower pace it's easier to make savings as especially transportation can eat into your budget quickly. That said, we found that if one can contain accommodation costs and avoid up-market restaurants, travelling need not be an expensive affair. This budget report excludes all international flights between countries but includes all local transportation within each country.
If it's individual country budget reports you're after have a look at:
Travelling full-time changes the way one travels and it becomes less of a quest to tick off the 'popular' sights than it becomes a way of experiencing your surrounds in a slower, relaxed fashion. Many further cost savings are indeed possible, but one should also not completely deprive oneself of uniquely local experiences that ultimately add value to your visit to a foreign destination. However, more often than not, it's the encounters and connections with people that stand out, those that you do not foresee or could even have planned for. Like most things in life, a balance between being frugal and making use of opportunities should be sought.
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During 2019, we spent time in a total of 8 different countries and slept in a total of 51 different beds! However, this budget report is only for a period of 281 nights spent across 6 countries. Four of these countries were new to us. We have previously visited the two countries of Malaysia and Indonesia and chose to return to these countries to explore further. We spent the remaining time of the year in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. We have chosen to exclude these nights from this Budget Report as we were staying with friends during this time and want this budget report to be a reflection of realistic travel costs without these 'free nights' affecting the daily averages.
South Africa - excluded from this report
United Arab Emirates - excluded from this report
Taiwan (new) - 31 nights
South Korea (new) - 39 nights
Malaysia - 70 + 30 nights
Indonesia - 29 nights
Philippines (new) - 55 nights
Cambodia (new) - 27 nights
Our budget report expenses include accommodation, all food, snacks and drink, all transportation costs within the country, cell and data costs, general daily costs such as toiletries, medical, laundry & small shopping items and all sightseeing expenses. The costs do not include extreme / disproportionately expensive activities such as scuba diving.
Which was the most expensive country we visited in 2019?
We spent the most on average per day in South Korea, with our average spending coming to $62 per day for both of us over our 39-night period there.
Which was the cheapest country we visited in 2019?
We spent an average of only $46 per day over our 29-night stay in Indonesia, making it our cheapest country per day for the year.
Which was the cheapest destination we visited in 2019?
Our cheapest destination for the year was Penang, where we spent an average of only $38 per day over our 28-night stay there. This is a good example of how long stays can reduce your average daily costs.
We slept in a total of 51 different beds over the 365 days of 2019! We consider 281 of these nights to be ‘travel nights’ as we paid for our accommodation for all except 21 of the 281 nights. The 21 ‘free nights’ were spent volunteering at an Eco Jungle Camp in Borneo and we have included these in the budget report as it was part of our travel experience and a great way to save on accommodation costs while travelling. Our average cost of accommodation per night over the 281 nights came to $25 per night for both of us. If we exclude the 21 free nights and take the average of paid nights’ accommodation only, the average increases to $27 per night for the two of us.
Our minimum requirement for accommodation is a double bed room with private en-suite bathroom and with air conditioning at the very least in the bedroom. Our 2019 accommodation varied from extremely basic to some very luxurious VIP suite rooms. For longer stays, we found apartments with full kitchen facilities and if possible also laundry facilities. Most of our accommodation included free WiFi, although the actual usability of this WiFi varied from country to country.
Our experience throughout 2019 was that finding accommodation for two people sharing for under $30 per night is easily doable. If you want to spend less than $25 per night for two people, then you may need to consider accommodation without a private en-suite bathroom and may even need to consider hostel rooms in some countries. If you are prepared to spend over $30 - $35 per night, you will have a much wider variety of accommodation to choose from.
We book all our accommodation via one from the following service providers:
On average, we spent the most on accommodation in South Korea ($32 per night), but this was also by far the country where we stayed in the nicest, most modern, western-style accommodation. Our cheapest average stay over a month period was in Penang, Malaysia, where we spent 28 nights in a lovely apartment for only $20 per night. We found accommodation to be, on average, the cheapest in Cambodia, where we spent an average of only $22 per night and had pretty good accommodation. We found Cambodia to by far be the overall best value for money accommodation.
Our most basic accommodation for the year was by far the Eco Jungle Camp that we volunteered at in Borneo. This was, however, an experience on its own! Our two worst accommodations were extremely small rooms (only just larger than the double bed!) one of which was horribly dirty and the other which was in a rather bad area. Still, on average our accommodation was comfortable and well suited to our style of travel. A few places stands out as excellent value for money and are places that we would happily return to. Accommodation highlights per country for the year are:
Stunning location and best view: Badaya Pension (Jeju)
We generally try to eat like and with locals. Many people wonder just how expensive is it to eat while travelling. We spent an average of $14 per day for the two of us for all food, snacks, drinks (including alcohol).
Our most expensive country for food was South Korea, where we spent $20 per day. This included trying a fair amount of new local foods from street markets but did not include any restaurant meals (which are significantly more expensive) and also involved us preparing most breakfasts and about half of our dinners ourselves in our apartment-style accommodations. We did not consume much alcohol while in South Korea, only the occasional beer.
We found the cheapest country for food to be the Philippines, where we spent an average of only $13 per day. Here we ate very much as the locals do, with the exception of making our own breakfast when and where we could. In comparison, the daily cost included a few more beers compared to South Korea, but the food was also a lot more simplistic.
We managed a significant saving for the month that we spent in Borneo, spending only an average of $5 per day over the 30 nights there as we received most of our food for free as part of our volunteering experience. Even excluding the volunteering experience, Borneo could easily be the cheapest destination for food as we only spent $9 per day when we did pay for all our meals.
We found that if you are prepared to stay out of western-style restaurants and eat like and with the locals, most countries were very affordable. Alcohol can be extremely expensive in some countries, and you may need to eliminate alcohol entirely to be able to stick to a tight budget. Even when we do enjoy a drink, we try to choose affordable options such as beer and sometimes gin and tonic, and we tend to steer clear of more expensive alternatives such as cocktails.
Without any alcohol or treats, and by eating only local food, you could definitely save a dollar or two per day. In our opinion, our budget is a fair balance between frugal, nutritious and still enjoyable! However, if you choose to eat western food and prefer to sit down and eat in a restaurant, you will need to be prepared to more than double the budget!
Our transportation category includes all transportation costs within each country. We spent an average of $5 per day on transportation. This includes all internal flights, trains, buses, ferries, taxis, scooter rental and fuel. You should keep in mind that we travel at a fairly slow pace which allows us to reduce our average daily cost of transportation.
The most expensive country to get around was by far the Philippines, with an average cost of just over $9 per day. One should also consider that we travelled fairly slowly and that most people visiting the Philippines would move around faster which would significantly increase their average daily transportation cost.
We found Malaysia to be the cheapest country to get around, with our daily transportation cost averaging to only $3 over the 70 days that we spent there. Penang was, in particular, a very cheap destination with so many free transportation options available which resulted in us spending less than $0.50 per day on average over our 28 days spent there.
CELLPHONE & DATA
Being very dependent on data for getting around and rather heavy data user generally, this is one of the first things we investigate when staying in a country for a longer period. We usually each purchase a local SIM Card and then load data as required. Although WiFi is usually available in most countries these days, it is not always that reliable. We spent an average of $1 per day for both of us to always be connected. Data was the cheapest in Malaysia, where we only spent an average of $0.30 per day. We found The Philippines to be the most expensive with regards to data costs with an average cost of $1.45 per day. This was largely due to the poor WiFi available in The Philippines which resulted in a higher reliance on personal cell phone data.
Our "General" category includes everyday expenses like toiletries, medical, laundry & small shopping items. In some cases, it also includes VISA or VISA Extension costs. Our average daily spending for general items came to $2.20 per day for both of us.
We generally try to stay away from very touristy places and prefer to explore independently where and when possible. That being said, we travel for the experience and there are often touristy experiences which simply can’t be missed. It was, however, very interesting to us to see just how much sightseeing costs vary from country to country. We spent an average of $2.40 per day for both of us for sightseeing and activities. This includes entry fees and excursions and only excludes extreme / disproportionately expensive activities such as scuba diving.