I have been putting it off for a while, but on a day where I found out that a) there had been a fire at my old flat for which I will have to pay damages and b) an insane electricity bill had come through (yep, it’s been raining good news..!), I figured I might as well round up the experience by confronting myself with the total costs for my trip so far.
Budgeting for long-term travel, and especially for a large-scale round-the-world trip, is a difficult exercise. I have found the information gleaned in books and on other travel blogs invaluable, and to help others in turn plan for their big journey or holiday, I have decided to be as transparent as possible about my expenses and to share the crunchy – and daunting – numbers on this blog every step of the way.
One of the reasons it has taken me a while to write this post is that it’s been really tiring spending all this money at once, especially as I’m not used to it! Over the last few months, I’ve been watching the savings I’ve accumulated over the years quickly disappear into this giant tsunami of trip expenses… Even though I know it’ll be worth it in the end, I’ve not yet started reaping the rewards and it’s been rather alarming to witness this rapid dilapidation of my (modest) ‘fortune’ without (yet) getting any of the benefits!
The second reason is that I already know I have made some mistakes. That’s right: there are expenses I’m regretting before I even set off! But hey, they say we learn from our mistakes and hopefully you can learn from mine, so I’ll be passing on a few lessons I’ve learnt the hard way at the end of this post.
I have spent a grand (in the most literal sense of the word!) total of £8,703.41 so far. However, this includes a number of advance bookings which will count towards the cost of daily living once on the road. Deducting these anticipated expenses, my pre-trip costs therefore come to £6,982.47, which can be divided up this way:
Round-the-world flights – £2,665.30
Travel insurance – £481.05
After comparing various insurance providers, I opted for Insure and Go, which had an attractive policy for 8 months’ backpacking and was pretty much the only company that was willing and able to insure me with an existing medical condition, and for a decent price. The £481.05 includes insurance for many adventure activities and a two-week skiing premium.
Travel clothing and gear – £1,075.84
This comprises my backpack (a single cost of £139.49), some camping gear, and all technical travel clothing and accessories.
Medical expenses – £470.45
Broken down as follows:
Japanese encephalitis: £150
Yellow fever: £55
Hepatitis B booster: £30
31 days’ course of anti-malarials: £70.45 I chose to go with the most expensive drug, Malarone, which was recommended to me as it carries fewer risks of side-effects (I was told that being very ‘fair’ – which in my case is a euphemism for near-albino! – I was likely to burn in the sun if I tried anything else). Malarone also doesn’t need to be taken as long as the other tablets.
Malarone prescription: £15
Technology – £350
These are two specific expenses: my Asus EEE netbook which cost £200, and a new, advanced point-and-shoot camera bought for £150 in a London tech shop.
Andean Trek Tour – £1,872
This is the upfront payment for the Tucan Travel tour I have chosen to join from Santiago to Quito, including the Inca Trail trek. The tour will take me through Chile, Northern Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador over two months.
Camille in Wonderlands website – £67,83
I bought my own domain name for £60 and spent another £7.83 on Nomadic Matt’s ebook, How to Build a Travel Blog, which was pretty useful in getting me started on WordPress.
A few tips and lessons learnt:
* Choose the right flights or RTW ticket for you, and do spend time studying every option! I have found that flying out of France was significantly cheaper than leaving from the UK on the same Oneworld Explorer ticket, even taking into account the price of the Eurostar from London to Paris (if booked early enough)!
* DON’T BUY TOO MUCH! This is the single most important piece of advice I can pass on. When I first started buying my equipment, I got carried away – it was novel, it was exciting and I wanted everything down to the last tee-shirt and pair of socks to be brand new and of the highest quality. I invested in technical clothing and gear from renowned and expensive travel brands. Then the novelty wore off and the excitement was replaced with worry as the costs began to add up and I started to realize that I’d overbought… Now I’m left with too many moisture-wicking, crease-resistant and other feature-packed clothes, some of which I will no doubt have to leave behind.
It’s good to spend the right amount of cash on a few key items – your backpack, a waterproof jacket, hiking trainers, walking sandals, a long-sleeved trekking shirt and a sleeping bag for instance deserve extra attention -, but really, you don’t need to replace your entire wardrobe and there is a limit to how high-tech a tee shirt can, and needs to, be. I reckon you could halve my costs simply by being careful and weighing what’s really worthwhile and what’s not from the get go.
* If you opt for Malarone as your anti-malarial, know that one of its many advantages is NOT cost: the drug is usually priced at £3 per tablet. Brennan’s Pharmacy however sells them online for £2.25, which can make you a decent saving. You will need to mail Brennan’s your prescription but the process is very quick and smooth (at least it was in my case!). If this is still prohibitive, consider a cheaper alternative but be aware of the potential side effects and of the need to take the drugs for longer either side of your stay in the malarial area.
* DON’T COMMIT TO A LONG-TERM PHONE CONTRACT! If you have the slightest hinch that you may need to leave the country before your contract runs out, don’t sign up for two years to get a free smartphone. There will be no way for you to terminate that contract and you will basically be held hostage by your provider until the agreement expires. I have made that mistake and now have to pay a lofty £300 for credit I won’t be able to use all the way up to November… Way to learn!
Did you find these tips useful? Have any further cost-saving advice to share, or questions about my expenses? Leave a comment below!