The #1 question I receive from readers is still: How much does vagabonding travel cost?
Understandable. We’re taught from the early years that not having enough money is the barrier to entry for many good things. Actually, the holdup is rarely ever actually money; it’s something else entirely.
- Consider reading why money probably isn’t what’s stopping you from vagabonding.
You can do the exact same thing I am doing. If you want. With or without very much money.
The Weakest Excuse
“I don’t have enough money to travel” is the weakest excuse ever. Always has been. From barefoot sadhus, monks, and sages to hippies, backpackers, and gap-year students — most long-term travelers aren’t wealthy. The wealthy folks are at home, too busy and wrapped up in managing their empires.
Even tethers made of gold are still tethers.
How Much Money to Travel in Thailand?
You’ve already heard about how your travel style ultimately determines how much travel will cost. You may also know that the United Nations figured out that more than half the world’s population lives on less than US $2 per day. I won’t beat those any longer.
But chances are you won’t spend your trip driving a water buffalo through rice paddies. So let’s make this a bit more applicable for travelers.
Thailand is a fairly cheap place to travel, but it’s definitely not the cheapest option.
Most of you are here for exact numbers. So without further delay, below is a good example of daily costs in Bangkok. I was just there (February 2017) before escaping to an island.
Here is an exact breakdown of expenses on my second day in Bangkok:
- Espresso: 40 baht
- Fresh orange juice: 40 baht
- Pad thai: 100 baht (organic place / pad thai can be had for 30 baht)
- Guesthouse room: 300 baht (private fan room but shared bathroom)
- Water: 20 baht (2 x 1.5-liter bottles)
- Espresso: 40 baht
- Banana shake: 40 baht
- Noodle soup: 40 baht
- Fruit: 50 baht (two kilos of dragon fruit bought from a truck)
Total: 670 baht ($19.14)
At the time (February 2017), $1 equals approximately 35 Thai baht
Here is day three:
- 2 x espresso: 80 baht
- Fresh orange juice: 30 baht
- Guesthouse room: 300 baht (same as before)
- Iced coffee: 40 baht
- Large salad: 140 baht
- Red curry: 60 baht
- Drink: 80 baht
- Water for day: 50 baht
Total: 780 baht ($22.28)
As you can see, I got by quite well in a big capital city for an average of US $20 per day. That’s roughly $600 per month. Smaller places, especially ones off the tourist trail a bit, are way cheaper.
These two days are just snapshots. Things vary. I didn’t do any activities and only walked for transportation. I didn’t go party. But I also enjoyed lots of treats and one very healthy meal a day from an organic restaurant. I didn’t just eat cheap street food.
I enjoyed my coffee indulgences. Those aren’t optional.
I had a private room for $8.50 per night. There wasn’t TV or any of the usual stuff but so what. It wasn’t a rat hole, either.
I didn’t sleep in a backpacker hostel dorm. The last dorm I stayed in was in Madrid (2015) after running with the bulls in Pamplona. It was full of American 20-something douchebags. I’ve declared myself officially too crotchety to brave such environments unless absolutely necessary.
Of course, these numbers jump when you start doing things such as scuba diving or partying. Renting a scooter is $5-8 a day. But those activities are optional.
I use $20 as a target for each “base” day in Thailand. I often go over but not by much. Raise that to $30 per day in the islands, mostly because of accommodation.
The Travel Budget Juggle
Then you do the juggle — the budget dance of give and take. If you plan to party, eat cheaply. If you’ll stay in that night, splurge on food or something else. I don’t track actual numbers (except for this post). It’s just a gut feeling that I’m over or under each day.
I don’t scrape by. I splurge frequently, but then compensate in some other way (e.g., spend less, work more, etc).
Moving around costs the most. If you feel like you’re hemorrhaging money, sit still for a few days.
Add in transportation, mobile phone credit, activities, entrance fees, visa fees (if any), visa runs, ATM fees ($6 in Thailand), and everything else — expenses climb. But even in full splurge mode, I spend less than US $900 per month. You could very easily spend that in a week on a meager vacation in the U.S.
Saving Money to Travel
How many of your monthly expenses can go away once you begin traveling? Add them up then divide by 30. Chances are, you can really inch your way toward that $20 a day target easily.
Here are some quick examples of monthly expenses you can ditch once traveling. Or better yet, ditch them at home for a few months before leaving to really boost the travel fund. Consider it a savings sprint over the last stretch just before the finish line (your departure).
Common monthly expenses:
- Auto insurance, maintenance, gas, parking
- Monthly cell phone plan
- Cable TV, internet access, Netflix, Amazon
- Gym/club memberships
- Dinner-and-movie dates
See the math?
Vagabonding Vs. Retirement
Vagabonding is simply a matter of realigning priorities. It’s a mindset. If you’re willing to sacrifice a few creature comforts, you can ditch the conventional life. Monday mornings won’t matter.
You don’t have to wait until you’re 65 to do fun things. You don’t owe Corporate America 40 years of life before you begin living. Retirement is a myth.
Many of the things you want to enjoy don’t cost much anyway.
Why not enjoy them now?