A world map of Scott's bicycle ride around the world
Vietnamese money, called Dong, piled on a colorful bed spread.
A pile of Vietnamese money, called Dong, piled on the bed. Budgeting the next leg of my journey. I'm feeling rich!

How much does it cost to cycle around the world?

A note from Scott: This article was originally written by Dennis as an estimate. I updated the budget below with the actual cost of his trip around the world on a bicycle between 2001-2005. Also, see the supply list and tips and tricks for info about what to do with your money. And one word of advice, we both wish we would have spent more money on local cultural highlights, like food, tours, museums, et cetera, but I was a cheapskate and afraid of running out of money.

Money: The third most important factor to travel

Estimate of expenses

Dennis and Scott
Dennis and Scott when they first met on their trip across the United States

The word budget makes me cringe. What does this boring, stuffy subject have to do with the ultimate freedom of circumnavigating the globe by bicycle? I envision relying on my resourcefulness to cope with whatever is around the corner. An intrepid traveler does not need a budget! Right? The idealist in me hears this while the realist hears, “Make sure you are wearing a clean pair of underwear. You never know when you will be in an accident.” Do I need therapy?

Cycling is a very intimate and naked form of travel. This is what I love about it. True resourcefulness is a wonderful commodity but it does not buy airline tickets, hotel rooms or a warm meal. This all takes money. So, I accessed some very helpful websites and used my own touring experience in an attempt to find an answer to how much money is enough money.

So, how much does a bicycle trip around the world cost? I discovered there is no definite answer. Some riders consider a hotel room a necessity while others view free camping, or guerilla camping, as an accomplishment. Also, each rider crosses through different countries for different durations of time. Crossing a border can mean a huge change in the cost of living and can leave one subject to currency fluctuations. There is no way to anticipate all these variables but I can share with you the estimated cost of my trip.

In an attempt to save money, I plan to both camp and cook the majority of the time; also, Scott and I have decided to share some of our gear. We purchased our equipment based on value and simple technology; state-of-the-art equipment is great but our first concern was durability and the availability of spare parts. In my budget, I also included extra money for unanticipated emergencies. And, this is my trip of a lifetime, so I’ve budgeted some money to splurge. I do not want a lack of funds to prevent me from taking a side trip into the Amazon Rain Forest or sampling fine local cuisine. Also, my budget only includes the major items. I assume that small items such as plastic bags, duct tape and toiletries can be easily obtained from my home.

The biggest challenge was to calculate the cost of living while traveling through different regions of the world. In the budget below, I divided my trip into three regions. (I do feel the need to share my definition of the terms listed below. Hopefully, it will help explain my budget a little more thoroughly.) As you can see, where I chose to tour made a huge difference in the cost. The Third World is a wonderful bargain.

This was my first attempt at a formal budget and I admit to finding the estimated total cost of my trip a pleasant surprise. Sure it is a large sum of money, but bear in mind this is based on a 30-month trip. The average cost is less than $970 a month. My current cost of living is substantially higher. In other words, I can see the world for a lot less than it costs to stay home — I am actually saving money while I experience an amazing adventure! Well, maybe not, but consider that a two-week cruise costs as much as a three-month bicycle tour. Okay, I know, I should go into sales.

Around the world by bicycle budget

Daily expenses: meals, lodging, bike repairs, etc.

  • Industrialized World (North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand): $30 per day x 230 days = $6900
  • Developing World (Argentina, Mexico, Eastern Europe, Turkey, etc.): $20 per day x 230days = $4600
  • Third World (India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Central America, etc.): $10 per day X 460 days = $4600

Total Daily Expenses = $16,100 USD. All numbers are in US Dollars.

Equipment expenses

  • Bike Panniers and Racks = $2100
  • Cycling Gear = $300
  • Spare Parts and Tools = $200
  • Camping Equipment = $750
  • Camera Equipment = $600
  • Misc. Clothing & Gear = $500

Total Equipment Expenses = $4450 USD

Healthcare Cost

  • Catastrophic Health Insurance (for three years) = $1500
  • Preventative inoculations = $1000
  • Incidental healthcare expenses (dentist, doctors, pharmacists) = included in daily expenses

Total Healthcare Expenses = $2500 USD

Transportation Expenses

  • Airline & long distance bus and train service = $6000
  • Baggage fees = Nominal. Now it may cost a lot extra for a bicycle.
  • Local transportation cost (train, taxi) = included in daily expenses

Total Transportation Costs = $6000 USD

Communication Expenses

  • Internet (email, travel planning) = $2 per week
  • Internet website (domain and server) = $134 per year
  • Film, memory and burning CDs = $5 per week
  • Phone calls (friends, family, travel agents) = $1 per week
  • Mail = About $20 per 3 months
  • Update: These days you can use social media to post updates for free, and digital cameras to avoid a lot of expenses, including mailing the film home.

Total Communication = $1770 USD

Total Cost = $30,370 USD

Average Cost Per Day = $20 USD

Afterword: I have some friends who rented their condo in San Francisco and traveled the world for 18 months. When they returned they had made a profit, which goes to show how cheap traveling can be in undeveloped countries. They stayed in hotels everywhere; however, since I camped in the bush wherever I wanted, I traveled even more cheaply. Sometimes I only spent one or two dollars a day on food; other times when my gear broke down or I needed a hotel my expenses were over 100 dollars per day. All in all, I managed my money so well that I was able to stay on the road for nearly four years for nearly the price of our three-year estimate below. And I wish I had spent more money on local attractions like museums, theatre, food, etc.

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