The Cost of Travelling the World for 1 Year, Part 3: Accommodations and Transportation

FIRECracker
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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is Canada's youngest retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
FIRECracker
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$50 CAD/night condo with infinity pool in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This is part of a series called “The Cost of Travelling the World for 1 Year”. Click here for Part 1. Click here for Part 2.

What does a normal person do when they come home after a 1-year trip around the world?

Hug their family? Reminisce about their trip? Fall into bed in a heap of jet-lagged exhaustion?

Wanderer chose the latter. Me? Not so much.

“Um. Hun?” Wanderer asked, squinting at me from his pillow. “Aren’t you coming to bed?”

“Uh-huh,” I said absent-mindedly, fingers flying across my keyboard.

“It’s 3am in Chiang Mai right now!” he said, looking at his watch. “Aren’t you tired?”

“Shhh.” My eyes didn’t budge from my MacBook screen. “Busy.”

“Whatever you’re doing, just do it tomorrow and come to bed.”

“In a minute.“ Ah, sweet, gullible Wanderer. He thinks I actually listen to him.

One whole hour later. “HOLY SHIT! GUESS HOW MUCH WE ACTUALLY SPENT?”

Wanderer groaned, rolling away from me, and pulled a pillow over his head.” UGGGHH. Why can’t you just let me sleep?”

“Look at this!” I said, yanking the pillow off his head, and shoving my laptop screen in his face.

“Can’t we do this in the morning?”

“WE ONLY SPENT $40,000! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?!”

“What?” He asked, annoyed.

“4% of our portfolio is $40K/year!“

“So?”

“So we can do this FOREVER!”

He pulled himself up in bed and rubbed his eyes. “Huh…”

I was one step ahead of him, already scrolling through Google Maps trying to decide what corner of the world I wanted to see next. “Don’t unpack. We’re going again.”

***

Before we left for this trip, Wanderer estimated (aka “pulled a number out of his ass”) that we’d spend $75,000CAD to travel the world for 1 year.

But because our of time in Southeast Asia, our decision to not bring any check-in luggage and our choice to optimized the ever-loving-crap out of our budget (using Nomadic Matt’s “Travel the World on $50/day“), even though we went to expensive places like the UK, Denmark, Switzerland, and Japan, we were STILL able to get the cost down to $40K CAD/year (or $30K US/year). For the 2 of us.

How did we do it? Let’s take a look:

Accommodations:

$575 CAD/month Airbnb condo with pool, gym, and sauna in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Full Disclosure: The links in this post are referral links so I will get a small credit if you sign-up.

By using Airbnb in expensive places like the UK, Denmark, Europe, and Japan, we were able to slash our accommodation costs by as much 50-60%, compared to hotels. On average, our daily Airbnb costs in these expensive areas were around $75/day. Comparable hotels would’ve easily charged us $115/day with taxes.

And in inexpensive places like Southeast Asia, we found 3 to 4-star hotels on Agoda. Many of these places have room service, a pool, and breakfast included.

The trick I like to use in Agoda is to check off “air-con, wifi, and pool” in the amenities, filter by price (lowest to highest), and then scroll through until I find the first one with a review of 8/10 or more. I then read the reviews and compare this with other hotels in the list, until I find the optimal one. This lets me book hotels that have all my “must haves” in amenities, at the best price for quality. Win-win!

Using this method, I was able to find the best deal of all time: the Banyan Leaf hotel in Siem Reap. It had a rating of 8.4/10 from 200+ reviewers, at a cost of only $19CAD/day, and amenities included a pool, air-conditioned room, fast wifi, AND breakfast! And not only that, when I checked out the map in Agoda, it was conveniently located just 5-10 mins walk from all the bars, local restaurants, and nightlife! When we stayed there, we also found extras like super courteous staff, and even a new laundry mat across the street charging only $2 per load! Sweet!

$19CAD/night hotel in Siem Reap with pool, air con, and breakfast included

 

Can you tell we like pools a lot?

Airbnb beats hotels, hands-down, in Europe. However, in Southeast Asia, I found that hotels on Agoda tends to beat the prices on Airbnb. With the exception of Chiang Mai, where I was able to find a brand new 1-bedroom Condo on AirBnB, renting for only $575 CAD/month (or $442 USD/month) with air-con, en-suite laundry, a pool and sauna! And not only that, it was also walking distance to the night markets, the mall, and main attractions.

So if you want to save money on accommodations, stick with Airbnb (for Europe and Japan) and Agoda (for Southeast Asia). Click here to get $40CAD ($30CAD) off your first stay with Airbnb.

Transportation

Flights

View of Copenhagen from Norwegian airlines

Travel hacking saved us at least $6000 on long-haul flights by using points. We will talk more about this in a future article.

Budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet in Europe, and Peach and VietJet in Asia saved us thousands on short-haul flights. We used Google Flights and SkyScanner to find the lowest flight prices. The reason why we love using these sites is because they have flight calendars, where you can see that flight’s prices for the entire month. So if we found a flight that’s $100 cheaper flying out just one day later we could pick that instead. This made it really easy to plan how long we should stay in each European city.

Buses

Student Agency bus with screens, leather seats, and free drinks
Europe

In Europe we used GoEuro to find the best bus and train deals. If flights were too expensive, we could take a bus instead, which took longer but as long as the ride was within 5 hours, the trade off was worth it. Our favourites are Megabus in the UK (cost us only 2 pounds/person to go from Amsterdam to Belgium!) and StudentAgency in Prague (only $10/person to go to Vienna with leather seats, personal TVs, and free drinks!)

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, we used 12GO Asia to find trains for travel between cities. We avoided buses in Southeast Asia as much as possible (due to the high accident rate on their roads) since trains are way more comfortable and well priced.

The only time we took a bus in Southeast Asia was in Cambodia (since they don’t have good rail coverage between cities and the Cambodia airlines were pretty sketchy) to get from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and then to Sihanoukville. We chose “Giant Ibis”, voted #1 in Cambodia by travellers, because they have systems that alert the head office if the driver exceeds a certain speed. Very convenient, safe, and comfortable. The cost? Only $15USD/person.

Local Transport

All the cities we went to in Europe had efficient and inexpensive subway systems, so we didn’t need to spend any money on cabs.

This wasn’t the case in some U.S cities, as well as cities in Southeast Asia, in this case Uber came to our rescue! We used Uber in Penang, Malaysia and Chiang Mai, Thailand and it was AWESOME! Convenient, cheap, and safe (you rate each driver and can see their ratings when you request them) We easily saved at least 30-50% each trip with Uber instead of using the local taxis.

Total Savings

Category Amount Saved
Accommodations $40 x 365 = $14,600. Airbnb generally cost $40/day less than hotels and ditto for Agoda versus other hotel sites
Groceries/Cooking $500/month x 6 = $3000. Airbnbs usually had a kitchen to cook, so we didn't have to eat out all the time in non south-east Asian places, which saved us a lot.
Laundry $100 per month x 12. Again, Airbnbs usually had a laundry machine so we didn't need expensive hotel dry-cleaning services.
Transportation $6000 (travel hacking instead of paying full price airline tickets), $200/person * 2 * 10 = $4000 (budget airlines), $100 (Uber instead of taxis)
No check-in luggage $750
Total saved $29,650

So we saved $18,800/year just by using Airbnb and Agoda!

Without these optimizations, we would’ve had to spend close to $70,000/year, without getting anything extra. By optimizing our budget, we got to splurge on spas, Kobe beef, the Swiss Alps, scuba diving, etc, without having to sacrificing anything. Which just goes to show, traveling the world really isn’t expensive. In fact, we spent LESS on this world trip than we did, at home in Toronto when we were working.

And you know what else? By saving $29,650 yearly using the methods above, that’s a passive income that would require a portfolio size of $741,250 to generate! (using the 4% rule). So by optimizing our trip budget, we reduced our required portfolio size by $741,250! Thus, saving us 6-7 extra years of work! Huzzah!

So where did we go and what kind of shenanigans did we get into? Find out here (note: this is an ongoing Travel series, updated bi-weekly as we continue travelling around the world).

Click here for Part 4 in the series on where to buy Travel Insurance.

37 thoughts on “The Cost of Travelling the World for 1 Year, Part 3: Accommodations and Transportation”

  1. Glad to see you guys are making use of Airbnb so well. Do you guys always go with an entire place on Airbnb or do you sometimes go with just a private room?

    We’ve been hosting primarily students coming into town for grad school interviews or conferences on campus. I always think these are the smart kids. Everytime I talk to them, they always tell me about how other people are staying at the fancy hotel on campus and paying 3 times as much! It’s nuts! All they need is a place to sleep.

    1. For Airbnb, it depends on where. Japan had lots of good deals for the entire place (shocking right?), and so did Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

      In UK and Western Europe, we had to share the kitchen and living room but had a private bathroom to ourselves most of the time. I actually like not having “entire place” to ourselves because then we get to interact with the host and have them show us around. In Japan, every place we stayed in was “entire place”, but then we never got to see the hosts.

      And I agree. Those are smart kids! Hotels have a huge downside in that you can’t cook or do laundry. You also don’t get to meet locals who can show you around.

  2. So many good tips here. We are mostly leaning on AirBNBs in Asia this time around, but that’s mostly based on the fact that we have four of us sharing a place. In our case, it changed the numbers a bit as we can split a bigger place four ways, and the hotels don’t seem to want four of us in a room (nor do we).

    Thanks again for all the tips for Tokyo & Siem Reap, too! Much appreciated. We’ll let you know how the ramen is. 🙂

    1. Yes, if you have a family of four, Airbnb beats hotels in SE Asia too.

      Enjoy Tokyo and Siem Reap! Make sure you eat EVERYTHING!

  3. Amazing and inspiring as usual! Thank you for sharing. I hadn’t heard of Agoda, but will look into them now (I’m going to Thailand in February and already travel hacked the flights).

    I also love how often you post. It gives me something to look forward to every other weekday 😃.

    1. “and already travel hacked the flights”!!!

      Awesome! That’s what I like to hear 🙂

      Enjoy Thailand! The food and the massages are OUT OF THIS WORLD! Which cities are you going to? Our favs are Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta, and Koh Tao.

      And as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing 🙂

      1. Thank you! We’re going to Bangkok and Ko Samui for my parent’s 25th anniversary celebration. I’m doing whatever they want to do and we have very different vacation styles (they’re fancy, I am not) so I’ll put Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta, and Koh Tao on my list for when I return. I was actually looking at Chiang Mai as a retirement destination for a month or two after seeing your and GoCurryCracker’s costs. Amazing!

        “And as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing 🙂” DEAL!

        1. “we have very different vacation styles (they’re fancy, I am not)”

          That’s us too when it comes to my in-laws and friends 🙂 That’s why we tend to travel together only in short bursts. I think you’ll enjoy Bangkok and Koh Samui though. I loved the massive park and the food in Bangkok and Koh Samui has THE BEST COCONUT shakes EVER!

          Hope you do get to stay in Chiang Mai next time. It’s one of our favourite cities in the whole world!

          1. Oooh – I didn’t know about the park in Bangkok or coconut shakes in Koh Samui! I’ll definitely try those. Thank you for the recommendation! I’m excited.

  4. You know, a lot of people say they “save a huge amount on lodging”, but inevitably they’re staying in shitty places with no AC, no Internet, and marginal cleanliness.

    But you guys post actual pictures (which I appreciate to no end) and those places don’t look shitty. The fact that AC, Wifi and a pool were part of your requirements is perfect…those aren’t things I would skimp on either!

    Love it. Keep on keeping it real FIRECracker.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad the pictures are helpful 🙂 People keep thinking you need to spend a lot to get quality. Not true. You just have to optimize.

  5. Ummm what the hell! Why can’t you just let the man sleep?! 😉

    I’m down with the airbnb but haven’t heard of agoda before. I’ll have to check them out. Any successes with finding sweet deals in Europe with agoda for hotels? I took a quick peek at Slovenia and saw some decent prices but nothing that was mind-blowingly cheap (but maybe that’s because Airbnb is such a steal in Europe).

    1. “Ummm what the hell! Why can’t you just let the man sleep?! ”

      He knew what he was getting into by marrying a psychopath like me 😉

      I didn’t find anything good with Agoda in Europe, but you can try booking.com (found a deal through there for Santorini, Greece) or “http://www.eurocheapo.com/”.

  6. Congrats on the amazing year and savings! Regarding using credit cards to rack up travel points, do you use these cards overseas? I’m curious to know how easy/hard that is, and if there are a lot of fees associate with using cards abroad? Also, if you did travel with suitcases, how much extra do you think that would be? Thanks!

    1. No, we don’t use those exact cards overseas. When we travel we use a card that has a good international exchange rate to save on conversion costs. Generally, we only travel hack when we go home to visit family. It’s not worth it to use them overseas (they tend to add 2% overhead to the exchange rate).

      If you travel with suitcases, it depends on how many flights you take. Budget airlines charge an extra $25-$50 or more for each piece of check-in luggage. So, over the course of the year, probably 10-15 flights…so an extra $750? There are some airlines that have higher baggage allowances, but it’s kind of a crap-shoot.

  7. Wow – travel hack extreme. Great ideas for keeping cost low in expensive western European countries – esp that little tip on using the washing machine @ their house while keeping light luggage. I like saving time from having to check-in luggage.

    Just curious where do you stay when back “home” in TO? How much does it cost to keep the TO basecamp while away?
    If parents weren’t an opt, how much would it cost per month?
    For tax and mailing address purposes do you just rent a PO Box or use a family/friend’s m/a?

    1. I’ve been curious about this also. It’s all well and good being able to travel the world on $40,000 a year when you don’t have to pay for a place back home, but most people can’t live in a backpack their entire lives, they need a permanent address somewhere. I mean where do they keep all the stuff they haven’t taken with them? I’m sure their entire belongings aren’t fitting in one backpack each.

      I suspect FC and Wanderer use their family as a home base to stay at when they are back in Canada, thus incurring no expenses. If that’s the case it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say they can travel the world all year for $40,000, when all of their permanent residency expenses are essentially covered by mooching off of family. This isn’t really a realistic strategy for the majority of people, they need to also pay for a home base throughout the year.

      Maaaaaaybe you could do it by travelling for a year then finding a place to rent every time you get back home to Canada, but I find that hard to believe. It’s not easy finding a furnished place in Canada that will rent short-term accommodation on the cheap. At the least they usually want a 1 year lease. The stress of constantly having to find a place to rent every time you get back home would be enough to make me go insane.

      That being said, I don’t suspect this is something most people do every year. It’s likely something you do once, then perhaps take a break and rent back in Canada for a year or two, then go on another trip. That would be a bit more manageable than living your life travelling the world with no home base.

      1. “it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say they can travel the world all year for $40,000, when all of their permanent residency expenses are essentially covered by mooching off of family…”

        I love how people make assumptions WITHOUT even reading the post. If you look at a part 1(https://www.millennial-revolution.com/freedom/how-much-does-it-cost-to-travel-the-world-for-1-year/), nowhere in there do I include expenses in Canada. All 12 months are accounted for WITHOUT spending any time in Canada with family.

        As for home base, it’s actually very easy to find 2-4 month sublets for $800-$1200/month back in Canada. The reason being a) people who travel with their kids for the summer and want to rent out their homes b) students who go home to visit family in university. So being nomadic has a huge advantage because you have access to these inexpensive sublets, whereas other people want long term rentals.

        Just because YOU can’t figure out how to travel the world on 40K, doesn’t mean other people can’t. And if you want to live in one place for years and not live out of a backpack that’s your prerogative. No one said you HAD to travel or do anything different from what you’re currently doing.

      2. If most people were doing what firecracker and wanderer are doing I suspect none of us would be reading their blog. I don’t think anybody is reading it to be just like them, but certainly we can glean insight that can help us personally in our life. Instead of looking at all the ways their lifestyle wouldn’t fit your ideal, look for the positive ways their lifestyle can improve yours. Accusing them of mooching off their family is highly insulting , and makes you sound jealous and bitter.

    2. To answer your questions, when we come home to visit family, we tend to either a) stay with family or b) rent a cheap sublet.

      As much as I love our family, I tend to go a bit crazy after a month or two, so that’s when we move out to find a sublet or fly to the next destination.

      The cost of a sublet is around $800 -$1000/month or $200-300/week, since it’s from people who are on vacation and just want to rent out their place short term.

      We use a family remember’s mailbox, but going forward, we’re looking into a “travelling mailbox”, recommended to by gocurrycracker, which is around $20/month.

  8. Congrats guys! Appreciate all the tips (no Checked bag, laundry at AirBnB, filtering on Agoda, etc. ). I’m headed to Europe in the spring of 2017 and will def use Airbnb for my stays.

    Question: Did yall rely on Wifi to make calls or did you sign up for a travel cell phone plan?

    1. Awesome! Enjoy your time in Europe and Airbnb!

      We didn’t bother with a travel cell phone plan. We use Skype to make calls through Wifi, and sim cards/data has been pretty cheap in most places around the world (ie Vietnam’s was $6 for 9GB of data!).

      That being said, it helps to have a consistent contact number for banking stuff of family emergencies, so we changed our Canadian cell phone from monthly to pay-as-you-go. That way we can keep our canadian number, by topping up $25 every 3 months.

      1. In case you are interested in ditching the pay-as-you-go plan, here’s some Canadian tips for (cell) phone options besides Skype.

        For a free option, I tried Fongo app which gives you a phone #. Just make sure the # is not recycled too much. If it seems to be spammed, I just released it and get a new #. It also has built in voicemail and you can fwd to (local) numbers sequentially/simultaneously. I think it’s similar to the google voice options. (Unfortunately we don’t have google voice in Canada!) You can get txts but if you want to send out it costs $2/month so I don’t use that option. Anyways, I really like the app because I can exit it (w/o logging out of my account) and it would restart when a call comes in. It works great so I can have numbers in different cities as I work remotely.

        For my landline, I use voip.ms. I bought a used mini-ATA box where I can plug in my home phone and connect it to my router. (Also, I can also d/l a softphone app on my cell phone and use my account there if I’m travelling. I don’t find the wifi calling on the app as good as Fongo. I’m sure there is a desktop option as well.) It’s so cheap like 0.5-1cent/min and bill to 6s increment! It costs 85c/month to keep the line and I think 50c to register a number. You can port your number over but it’s more expensive.

        In 6 months, I still haven’t used up my 25$ (US) funds. It has a voicemail and call forwarding option. Also, they have a free beta where ppl can txt your number and you get it in email format. I had some trouble with setting it up at first but thankfully I have some techie friends to help.

        1. Never heard of the Fongo app, but now that I know about it, I’m going to try it out! As for the VOIP, if we ever do end up needing a landline again, we’ll definitely go with that option. Thanks for all the awesome tips!

  9. Thank you for all this incredibly helpful travel information! I’d never heard of Agoda before so that’s a great new site we can use. I am pumped that you were able to travel a full year for only $30,000 US by getting smart deals and mixing low and high cost countries. I love that you’ve been able to splurge and do lots of luxurious expensive activities but still keep the overall cost very affordable. You haven’t had to “rough it” or scrimp on experiences to get the costs down. This information is awesome!

    1. Thanks! I was pretty shocked too at how much we could do for so little. It’s all about optimization 😉 Also, the Canadian dollar was crashing during the time we were travelling, but luckily the Euro wasn’t doing too well either, so it evened out 😉 You Americans are lucky that your currency is SO strong right now. Take advantage! Get out there and travel!

  10. Curious, what site did you use for US?

    I loved Agoda when we went to Thailand/Cambodia back in 2012. My best booking deal story was when we were in Siam Riep.

    We waited until we arrived in Siam Riep as my travel buddy was worried not making it in time due to transportation. When we got to the hotel lobby (Prince D’Angkor), the price they quoted was crazy so we asked if we could get this Agoda online price (at least 50-75% off) and they said no. Then, we asked if we can pay to use their Internet in the lobby. We then booked the hotel room on Agoda and waited about 15 min to get the confirmation into our email. Ta da! Massive savings. This was a gorgeous resort hotel so I was surprised we were able to pull that.

    Thanks for the tip on AirBnB for Chiang Mai.

    1. HA HA! That was genius! And yeah, Siem Reap rocks 🙂 So many good hotel deals there.

      And for US, we used craigslist. I’m generally not a big fan of craigslist because it doesn’t have the accountability of Airbnb, but we got lucky that time and found a good sublet for only $800US/month in Boston. Airbnb didn’t have anything under $1800/month. I had a Skype chat with the craigslist host to do a virtual tour of the place before hand, and she also agreed to let me pay only $50 deposit via paypal and pay the rest after I got there and made sure everything was legit. She was vacationing for the summer in South America, so the timing and price was perfect for us.

  11. Hello again!
    Your blog is so inspiring!
    I love to read it ❤️
    Is this Canadian dollars or USA dollars?
    Is your total saved and invested amount around 741,250 USD?
    Me and my girlfriend are some miljons from that amount. We working on it. Hopefully we will be there you are in 5 -10 years.
    Nice regards Swedish Couple

  12. I love all the details of this ‘series’. Is it complete?
    Just wanted to know if you are planning on talking about travel insurance. Otherwise I think missed it.

  13. Based on the data provided in Part 1, single travellers should budget $30K a year for the same experience. UK should be skipped.

    Here are the expected costs* for a single person:

    north america 2081$ per month 24967$ per year
    western europe 3379$ per month 40542$ per year
    eastern europe 2518$ per month 30216$ per year
    Japan 2974$ per month 35694$ per year
    SE Asia 1576$ per month 18918$ per year

    *methodology: Used costs from Part 1 of this article. Kept accomodation costs the same. All other expenses were divided by two.

    1. Good work breaking down the costs for 1 person. Though I would like to mention that accommodations aren’t necessarily the same cost for AirBnb since putting in “1 traveller” instead of “2” will open up places that don’t like to rent to couples (usually they charge less). So in Agoda hotels, you’ll probably have the same accommodation costs as a couple, but on AirBnb it might be slightly cheaper.

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