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Expenses! What Does One Year Of Travel Cost?

expenses year one - Robyn Around the World

One question that always gets asked is how much does it cost to travel the world? In this post, I’m going to break down my first year of travel expenses. I’m not going to get down to the nitty-gritty, just the basics so you can get an idea of what things cost. I separated out my flights and scuba costs then broke the rest down into three categories. Meals, Accommodations, and Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous is shopping, entertainment, postcards, gifts, SIM cards, etc. I didn’t break out SIM cards or transport but in general, I didn’t spend more than $20 a month on either, except for the Cook Islands, that place was just ridiculously expensive as you’ll see below.


INDONESIA


Indonesia was my first stop and by far my cheapest country to stay and play. My accommodation average is a little high because there were two nights where I spent $100 on housing. Even with the splurge, I was still right at $30 a day. Meals at the local warungs range from $0.75 – $1.10 for a dish with rice. Most of the temples are free to go in, and the ones that do charge are under $2.00.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


THAILAND


I spent the most time here and had two months of free accommodation while doing the work exchange in Chiang Mai. I visited Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Phuket. I spent a good chunk of the miscellaneous money on motorbike rentals (~$400 for six months) visiting and donating to elephant and Gibbon refuges. (~$350) Along with buying gifts and shipping them back to family (~$300) and the medical bill from my surgery is in there too (~$550). The rest is from buying clothes, toiletries, SIM cards, museums, and almost weekly massages ☺

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


LAOS


I was only here for ten days. Me and two friends took the slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang and visited the famous Kung Si waterfalls and walked the markets nightly. I bought quite a few gifts for family here and sent them back to the states. Food is cheap here too. My morning breakfast consisted of a lemon-ginger smoothie with a Nutella banana crepe for $1.50. There’s a significant French influence with a whole row of crepe, juice, and sandwich stands right on the main road. In the evening, there are many stalls that sell buffet style food where you can pile all you can on your plate for $1.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


MALAYSIA


I spent most of my time in Penang. I love the art and food culture here so much that I went twice! Even with all my eating (3-4x a day!) I still didn’t spend that much on food. I averaged $13/day to eat like a king! Most plates cost $1-2. My most expensive meal was when I went to dim sum (6 times!). I would get 4-5 dishes for $4-5. Still a bargain!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


AUSTRALIA


Surprisingly, I didn’t spend as much as I would have thought here. I stayed in a hostel right in the center of town and didn’t skimp on meals or seeing the sights. I saw a show at the Opera House, hired a car and spent the day touring Hunter Valley wine country (purchasing a couple of bottles while I was there) and visited a wildlife park.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


NEW ZEALAND


New Zealand on the other hand, I spent more than I thought I would. All of the miscellaneous was devoted to Hobbit gifts and sending them home (postage is expensive here!). I also visited the Hobbit movie set and went black water rafting which was pricey, but worth every penny!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


COOK ISLANDS


This island is EXPENSIVE! Although I got a good rate on my accommodation through the dive shop, most cheap accommodations here average $20-25 a night for a hostel and $30-40 for a private room. I cooked at home nearly every day. The cost you see below is from buying groceries. Vegetable prices were through the roof! It was cheaper to buy 2 pounds of chicken than it was to buy one small pineapple. Internet was ridiculous too. The island is all satellite, so 1GB of data cost $50. I spent $300 for two months of Internet! The cost of living in paradise…

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


SCUBA DIVING


So after breaking it down, I was surprised that I didn’t more on my new scuba hobby about to turn profession. I spent just under $2500 to do 83 dives in 5 countries and also completed four recreational certifications (Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Emergency First Responder, Rescue Diver). Most people will spend that on one week of diving in an exotic location and only get 12-18 dives in.

Scuba Diving Cost - Robyn Around the World


FLIGHTS


I love Air Asia! My two biggest tickets were the flight from Seattle to Bali ($500) and my flight from Chiang Mai to Cook Islands ($800). The rest of the flights were between $30-$125 each. Air Asia is my go-to airline for flying around Southeast Asia.

Flight Cost - Robyn Around the World

Overall I spent a total of $18,450 which was $6,000 more than budget. Not bad considering I didn’t plan to pick up scuba diving along the way and stayed in mostly private rooms. Could I have done it cheaper? Absolutely, but I’m traveling to experience life in other countries, and when there were things I wanted to do that would give me an amazing experience (like black water rafting through caves), I did it. I could have also stayed in more hostels, but when I found places like the overwater bungalow for a month at a deep discount, I viewed it as a chance of a lifetime, and I wasn’t going to say no!


Luang Prabang’s Morning and Night Market


Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Luang Prabang has two daily markets. The morning market is located down and alley off Sisavangvong Road starting at 6:00am.  The night market is along Sisavangvong Road, where the street is shut down to car traffic starting at 5:00pm and is then lined with local vendors selling their loot. Both markets are great, and a must do while in Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

MORNING MARKET

The morning market opens at 6 am and is where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood. Along with all the fresh items, you’ll also find dried spices, buffalo jerky (try it!), rice, and dehydrated insects. Occasionally, you can even catch some vendors selling live frogs! Most of the “stalls” are on the ground where they spread out what they are offering on blankets and cardboard. Early morning, you’ll find mostly locals here buying ingredients for their restaurant or fruit for tenants staying at their guesthouse.

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

ALMSGIVING

Early risers will also get the treat of witnessing Almsgiving.  This is where the monks come down from the temples to receive offerings of sticky rice and chant prayers with the local people. Almsgiving starts around 6 am and lasts about 30-45 minutes. It’s beautiful to watch and highly recommend waking up early to witness this daily ritual and walk the market afterward.

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

NIGHT MARKET

In the evening, starting at 5 pm, Sisavangvong Road turns into a market filled with handicrafts of beautiful quilts, handbags, clothes, tea, coffee, bowls, shoes, lampshades and spices. You can also ask for “special discount” to get a better price.

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

The best part of the evening market are the food buffets! Down the alley are about ten different vegetarian buffets selling “all you can stuff on your plate” for 15,000 Kip (~$2). You’ll see tourists piling their plate as high as they can without it falling over. It’s a delicious way to stuff yourself silly for cheap.  The buffet food is room temperature, but if you ask, they’ll be happy to heat up your food in the wok.

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Luang Prabang Market, Laos

There are also a couple BBQ stalls selling fish, chicken, and beef. Most of the stalls will also offer local Beer Lao to enjoy with your dinner.  Don’t miss out on the Luang Prabang markets when you’re in Laos!

Luang Prabang Market, Laos  Luang Prabang Market, Laos

Kuang Si Waterfalls


Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

One of the most beautiful waterfalls I have seen was in Laos at Kuang Si Waterfalls and just a 30 minute Tuk-Tuk or motorbike ride from Luang Prabang. These waterfalls were amazing!  Crazy blue, tiered and just beautiful. There’s 4 different sections you can go to so you can spread out from the crowds.  

The first one you run into has a tree branch you can jump off into the pool of blue water.  I jumped off and was immediately taken back to when I used to quarry jump as a kid, but this was so much prettier. 🙂

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

The second section has a bunch of different pools and is the biggest.  It’s where most of the people go.  It’s big enough to swim and there’s plenty of ledges to lay out on, which is what most people do.  The 3rd is the one you see in most of the pictures online if you google Kuang Si.  It’s the most photographed of all the waterfalls here.  There’s signs stating this section is off limits, but you’ll see many people ignoring the sign and going in.  It’s a great photo-op and no one’s patrolling the area.

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

The last section has the biggest waterfall and is designated no swimming, which surprisingly everyone adheres to. Picnic tables are at the bottom where you’ll see buses dropping off tours to eat their lunch and enjoy the view.  You can also hike up to the top of this waterfall.  The steps are steep, but it’s worth the hike.  At the top, there’s another natural pool to swim in and park benches where you can eat lunch or relax from the hike up.  

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

There are a few options to get here.  We booked a Tuk-Tuk from our guesthouse and got there at 10 am. When we walked in we noticed the waterfalls were already starting to get crowded.  The drivers gave us 4 hours to see the falls before taking us back, but we could have easily stayed all day.  My suggestion? Rent a motorbike, pack a picnic lunch, grab your GoPro and go early (they open at 8:30am).  If you get there right when they open, you’ll get to enjoy the falls an hour before anyone else gets there.  Entrance fee was 20,000 Kip (as of September 2015).  Well worth the trip and not to be missed if you find yourself headed to Luang Prabang!

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Three Days in Muang Ngoi


Muang Ngoi, Laos

While in Luang Prabang, we decided to do a three day trip to Muang Ngoi, which is a small village about 180 km north of Luang Prabang and only accessible by boat.  It was quite the adventure!

We grabbed a minivan from our guesthouse that was the bumpiest, scariest ride I’ve had yet. It was 4 hours of twists, turns and making sure we hit EVERY pothole along the way! Seeing as we were aiming for the potholes instead of trying to avoid them, we *surprisingly* got a flat…

Muang Ngoi, Laos

The van dropped us off at a bus station where we had to take a songtaew down to the boat. The boat didn’t leave for another hour, so we sat and watched the local kids playing.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

When the boat arrived, the porters also loaded the boat with supplies to drop off at Muang Ngoi. These older women get paid to take supplies down to the boat. They carry them down with a rig that they place on their head and make only $4-6 a day. What’s crazy is we saw four women and only one man carrying a motorbike down to the boat!

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

 

The boats are small and cramped, and a 90-minute ride to Muang Ngoi.  The ride was filled with the same views as my trip on the 2-day slow boat from Thailand to Laos.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi is a cute one street town. We found a guesthouse that was right on the water that had a balcony with hammocks.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

We spent two nights there and went hiking up to Buddha View Point. The view was breathtaking, but it’s a crazy steep climb. Not for the feint of heart! It was also raining which made going up and down quite tricky. The route to the viewpoint is made up of mud and some stones, with no real path for your footing in some parts of the trail. It was more like rock climbing rather than hiking. I took my PacSafe Backpack with me for this hike. It’s not waterproof, and I don’t have a dry fly, but it did ok. I love this backpack, but I’d suggest getting a dry fly for it of you’re going to be doing hikes in the rain.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

The townspeople are friendly, and the kids are curious and adorable. We spent most of our days at an outdoor cafe reading and working. The cafe has a great view of the river and down below you can see all the fishing boats lined up.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Muang Ngoi, Laos

My three days in the village were relaxing. It’s very minimal accommodations and only a few sitting places for food, but it was perfect.  This trip was a great way to experience the laid-back Lao life in a village.

Muang Ngoi, Laos

Taking the Slow Boat to Laos



Guide to taking the slow boat to Laos - Robyn Around The World

Taking the slow boat to Laos from Thailand is quite the experience! I had a great one (mostly)! I went with two new friends I met at my Workaway in Chiang Mai. Below is how to get there from Chiang Mai and my experience.

*Note: all prices were what I paid for my trip June 2015. Current prices subject to change.*

We took the Green Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong. The bus leaves twice a day (8:00 am and 2:30 pm) and is a 5-hour trip. The bus is in great shape!  Snacks and water are given throughout the trip too. It also stopped about an hour in at a food stall market so you can grab breakfast/dinner. I purchased our tickets a couple days ahead at the bus station (which I recommend). When you purchase the tickets, you will also pick your seats on the bus. At the time of publishing this post, prices were 406 Baht for the morning bus and 261 Baht for the afternoon bus.

Once the bus arrives in Chiang Khong, you will need to take a Tuk Tuk to your hotel (~30baht). Chiang Khong is a cute small town (one road) on the river with a street market and plenty of choices for food. This town was super cute!  If my visa wasn’t expiring the next day, I could have easily stayed another day or two.

Slow boat to Laos

Before you settle in for the night, you will need to have your guest house arrange a taxi for you. Our guesthouse gave us a ride at 7:00 am for 250 Baht and also had all the immigration forms for us to fill out the night before.  All we had to do was show up, get stamped and walk through.  Super easy.  We stayed at the Day Waterfront Hotel (Aircon and a view of Laos – picture above was taken from my balcony in the morning)

The new policy is you can no longer cross the border by ferry. The new immigration office for everyone that is not either of Laos or Thai nationality is now at the friendship bridge, which is about a 20-minute ride from Chiang Khong. I didn’t see much in the way of hotel options on our drive there, but there may be more options coming as the immigration office was just opened in 2013.

Get to immigration early. I’d suggest at least 45-60 minutes before the shuttle bus leaves. Once there, they will stamp you out of Thailand, and then you’ll get on the shuttle to cross the bridge. The shuttle costs 25 Baht and leaves promptly at 8:30 am. When you get to the Laos side, go directly to the VOA (Visa on Arrival) office and apply for your visa. Take note that they only accept US dollars. The VOA is $30 but will cost an extra $6 if it’s off season for ‘overtime’ fees. After they give you your passport back, head through the gate and grab a songtaew (25,000 Kip) to the slow boats at Huay Xia.

There is only one ticket office, located right at the boats. They take both Kip (220,000 Kip) and Baht (1000 Baht), but you’ll pay a little more if you’re paying by Baht.

Slow boat to Laos

After you have your tickets, drop off your backpacks and grab food for the ride. There are many places close to the boats that will make you sandwiches for 10,000 Kip.

Slow boat to Laos

Once on the boat get a seat near the front. The engine is in the back and is obnoxiously loud. Right before you take off a guy will come on the boat to give you a briefing and try and sell you his hostel. He will tell you the whole town doesn’t have electricity except his hostel and should book his because he has electricity. This is not true, everyone has electricity in the town. There are just some places where it doesn’t turn on until 6 pm, but there are outlets, lights, and working fans in the guesthouses. Don’t book his option.  I heard from a few guests, the accommodation was sub-par at best.  There are plenty of options once you get to Pakbeng. We, unfortunately, picked a bad guesthouse which didn’t have a name (should have taken that as a clue). There were bed bugs and dirty sheets. Glad it was just for one night and it was only $4 for the room.  Split between 3 people, that’s pretty cheap!

Here’s a list of guesthouses that are decent.  Again, this is a small stopover town, so accommodations are not going to be 5 star quality.  The rooms are basic, but keep in mind you’re only staying one night.

Pakbeng Lodge – $35-40/night

Mekong Riverside Lodge – $20-25/night

Sarika Guesthouse – $20-25/night

Slow boat to Laos

We left Huay Xia at 10:30 am and got into Pakbeng at 4:30 pm.

Right at the boat dock is a street market with many food stalls. These stalls open at 7:00 am so you can get your sandwiches made fresh for the next leg of your trip before you jump on the boat in the morning. Your guesthouse may offer to pack your lunch for you too.

The next morning you will get on a different boat that leaves at 9:30 am. Again, get there early to get a good seat. We got into Luang Prabang at 5:00 pm.

Slow boat to Laos

Slow boat to Laos

Slow boat to Laos

The ride itself is beautiful, green hills the whole way. The 1st two hours of the ride you can see Laos on the left and Thailand on the right. The boat stops off along the way to pick up and drop off locals at their villages. It was so awesome to see the kids running to greet their families and playing in the water. We also picked up someone off a speed boat in the middle of the river!

Slow boat to Laos

Slow boat to Laos

Slow boat to Laos

The ride is about 25% locals and 75% tourists. I loved the slow boat ride down the Mekong River. There are water buffalo and goats all over and grass huts and fishing boats. Between the beautiful scenery and seeing the locals in their country. It’s a photographers dream!  If you’re up for an adventure and have the time, I’d highly suggest taking the slow boat to Laos.  It’s an experience you won’t forget!

Slow boat to Laos

Slow boat to Laos

Slow boat to Laos

Slow boat to Laos


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