How Much Does Backpacking Cost?
how much does backpacking cost? For a question most commonly asked straight after ‘How much does university cost’, it is certainly a difficult one to answer…so let’s answer it shall we?
The question at hand is like asking ‘Where is the beginning of a circle?’ In order to give a semi-coherent answer, we have to split it down into rather a few key components. Something important to keep in mind is that the final cost figure will be different for every person and country.
One simple piece of advice you can take before we attempt to answer it is this: You do not have to be rich to travel.
Many people still think travelling is for those privileged few who have the money to spare to blow on a trip to Barcelona or Ibiza every summer. You can travel as cheaply as the place you are visiting allows. If you know your stuff, it’s surprising how little you can spend. It all depends on what your travel lifestyle is, and what you want to take away from travelling.
So how much does backpacking cost? Well…it costs as much as it costs to live in any given place.
And the end of this blog post there is a price table which will have VERY rough price guides. I must stress that these prices are rough and are in the lower-medium price range. The “good value for what you pay” price range since most people don’t have a lot of money saved to travel.
Where are you going?
This is your first big point in answering this question. Where you go vastly affects how much you spend. South East Asia and South America are much cheaper than Europe. Even within Europe, the east is generally cheaper than the west and even then, within towns and cities, there are bargains to be found. This is your first choice and this will affect everything else that follows.
How are you getting there?
Regardless of how you get to your destination or whether you like green eggs and ham, you have to get there somehow.
Over long distances, usually a flight is the most cost-effective, but over land, the overnight train costs can, sometimes, surprise you. Buses are pretty cheap as well within the same country.
Have a search and you may be surprised (and then add luggage fees for planes and waiting times, you may prefer the train!). Also, if you are heading to a smaller town, going via ferry might also be cheaper than an expensive small flight.
Check out all your options.
“Would you, could you in a car.
How about in an aeroplane?
Or boat or in a train?
How about the pouring rain?.”
When are you going, and for how long?
The price difference between high season and low season is horrendous. Try and fly from London to Rome in August compared with March, the price is at least triple!
Then you have everything else – which will be more expensive – and thus, your whole trip is a lot more expensive. Plan carefully when you can travel and if you have to go in the high season, be aware that things will be more expensive.
Of course, the longer you stay, the more expensive it will be. However, extending your trip by a day (so 1 extra night + food for an extra day) might save you £100 or more on flights/train tickets because of a special deal, so always watch out for those!
WHERE TO SLEEP?
When travelling there will be one major (almost) unavoidable cost – accommodation.
Depending on where you stay will affect how much accommodation is, but please remember there are so many different options. Don’t just go on the internet, look at the hotels and think that is all there is. There are other hotel websites for starters, along with Airbnb, hostels, Couchsurfing or housesitting or camping! Even getting an overnight train means you save on 1 nights’ accommodation, all these things to think about.
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Whether it’d be eating out or cooking yourself, food will eat away your bank account, but it is no different from eating at home. Eating out will always be more expensive than self-catering.
In New Zealand, when fruits are in season (like Kiwi fruit and such) they are so cheap (£0.50/kg) but when they are out of season, they can be in excess of 10 times as much!
Also. think about what the country you are in grows – rice and noodles in China and most of Asia will be very cheap whilst in Canada, it will be more expensive.
On the topic of food and drink, alcohol is another big money buster. We personally do not drink hence, however, some people love to and alcohol is never as cheap as you want it to be. We can’t offer much advice on alcohol aside from if you want to spend less on it, drink less and go for a house party instead of a bar.
This is one major area where you can save some money.
Some people can go to a place and not spend a penny, whilst others spend thousands and both parties have the time of their lives. It’s difficult to say how much you should spend on activities because this is very personal to your travel style. We personally wouldn’t spend £100 on a 90-minute scuba diving lesson, or £50 on a turtle swim, but would visit a museum for £10 if it is good. Some would say I’m crazy for not going to swim with turtles (even if I did find them off the coast of Gili Trawangan for free!) but then some people wouldn’t spend money on a Museum.
Remember, payment comes in different forms, if you want to see glow-worms but the tours are £150 for 3 hours on a full boat of strangers then look for wild caves if you dare to go in, your new currency is risk, but if you are prepared and careful. Why should you not?
All we will say on this is: only do the activity if it will not make you regret the money spent on it. If you carry on thinking back on great times and your biggest thought was how much it costed, it probably wasn’t worth it. Money exists to be spent, so use it to enjoy yourself!
A few things that quite often are forgotten until the last minute often eat away at your savings a lot more than you would like:
Travel Insurance: Vital if anything should go wrong, do your research and read the small print! Some are not so great, even if they are cheap.
Vaccinations: Depending on where you go, you may need some vaccinations and these can sometimes be costly.
Exchange Rates: Exchange rate fees means you get less money for your money. People make money by you paying them money, and they give you less money in return, I know…it’s stupid…). There are various ways to completely eliminate exchange bureau fees/bad exchange rates. First, get a card that doesn’t charge a fee for spending in a foreign currency. Or, if you are staying in the country for longer, my tip for this is to set up a bank account at your destination and use a transfer company like TransferWise so you encounter fewer fees.
Visas: Entering a country is not quite as simple as just flying in, you often need a Visa to stay there. These are usually free for a short stay (ie 15-30 days) but always check and, of course, if you are staying longer, make sure you get the one that you need.
Examples of costs:
As promised, here are some very approximate costs on how much does backpacking cost for you (all costs are per person or for accommodation will be a 1-bedroom room for 1 person):
Overall, travel is as expensive as you make it but it’s not something that can only be done for 2 weeks every few years. It’s something that you can integrate into your lives and no matter where you are in the world. You can always get a backpack and jump on a bus to go somewhere incredible. You don’t need to fly to Hawaii and stay in a 5-star hotel, there are great places that are under £50 not far from your doorstep.