6 Unexpected Expenses to Expect for Your Round-the-World Travel Budget

travel vaccinations

So you’ve read your copy of The World’s Cheapest Destinations, read the books from Rolf Potts and Nomadic Matt, you’ve priced your tickets out on the Indie RTW Flight Planner, and you’ve been following a dozen bloggers doling out advice on traveling the world for cheap. You’ve been saving like mad and you’re ready to take off!

Before you put that round-the-world budget in ink, however, don’t make the mistake many before you have made by overlooking these hidden expense categories. These are all going to cost you more beyond the basics of food, transportation, admission costs, and lodging.


Jabs in the arm aren’t just a smart prevention measure for your health: in some cases you are supposed to show proof of those jabs to enter a country. (As in the map at the top, for Yellow Fever.) Unless you are lucky enough to have a local health clinic doling them out for free or cheap, or you have a platinum insurance policy at that job you’re about to quit, the cost of these will easily run into the hundreds of dollars.

Money-saving tip: For shots that require a series of two or three, you can get the latter one(s) in a city like Bangkok or Panama City for less.

travel insurance

Flickr photo by chriswong4238

Travel Insurance

Not everyone buys travel insurance, but it only takes one motorbike accident or bad fall on a trail to make you wish you did. Policies can be as low as a night’s lodging a month if you shop around and aren’t trying to include “hazardous activities.” If you can avoid the U.S.—the most ridiculously overpriced health care system—you will pay less.

Money-saving tip: Getting a higher deductible makes sense if you’ve got a stash of money to pay reasonable everyday costs and only use the insurance for a real calamity.

Expensive Admission & Tour Fees

If you’re going to travel all the way to Jordan and not go to Petra, or visit Peru for the first time and skip Machu Picchu , that’s pretty dumb. Yes, these places are going to cost you, as are a lot of adventure splurges that are the whole reason people visit certain islands.

No matter how low your daily budget is, you need to be able to go over it now and then for activities and sites that are truly worth it. Only doing what’s free means missing out on a lot.

Money-saving tip: Balance splurge days with cheapo days: stay put in a cheap place for a week (a simple beach, a rural town, hiking huts) and spend far less than your normal budget those days. It might not make up for expensive Petra, but it’ll help the balance.

Angkor Wat complex

Medicine, Doctors, and Tampons

You will get sick at some point from something you ate or drank and will think you’re about to die. You will go to a doctor, get some medicine, and get better later. If you don’t factor in a few visits like this, you’ll be one of the fools who may have something serious for six weeks running and doesn’t go to the doctor. I met one of these idiots in India. His wife ordered a salad at a truck stop when our bus stopped…

You’ll also learn that Americans have it good when it comes to the price of toiletries and cosmetics. Plan on spending more than you do at home—even in the cheapest countries—for deodorant, sunscreen, and yes, tampons.

Money-saving tip: Leave enough room in your bag to buy an extra one of these things when you see a good deal, rather than paying through the nose in some small town with no supermarket.

Travel Gear That Will Last

Deuter backpackIf you’re going on vacation, you can head out with a low-quality backpack, poorly made clothing, and average shoes. If you’re going to go backpacking around the world for a year, however, you need travel gear that’s good enough to go as hard as you do. You will interact with that backpack every single day, so it needs to fit well and endure lots of abuse. If it falls apart two months in, you might be buying a replacement in a place where you don’t want to be doing that.

Your shoes are super-important when you’re on the move. Have you ever gone a year only wearing two or three pairs of shoes? That’s a lot of pounding, and with an extra 40 pounds weight on them as well. Put good shoes, a good pack, and quality quick-dry clothing into your budget.

Money-saving tip: Buy last year’s/season’s model. There’s a clear retail cycle with gear where a change of seasons brings a clearing out of inventory. Watch for huge sales and buy last year’s discount merchandise at the online shops. You’ll get quality at half the price.

Unplanned Upgrades

There will be times when you miss your train and have to buy a nicer class ticket to take off anytime soon. (Been there.) There will be times the trip out to an island will be so arduous and difficult that you will spend your last $100 to buy a one-way flight back instead of facing the ferry again. (Been there.) There will be times that bus you expected to take from Point A to Point B isn’t leaving again for 18 hours. You can stay in that crappy town you’re stuck in or you can pay for a taxi. Budget for that taxi.

No money saving tip for this one. There were times I would have paid far more than I did to avoid serious aggravation.

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  1. Gerald

    I spent more on shots than I did on my backpack when I took off for six months. And I bought a really nice backpack.

  2. Marie

    Here’s a tip on that tampon cost…get a menstrual cup, ladies. Such as a “Diva Cup.” You can use it your whole trip and don’t have to figure out what to do with your used goods in that rural part of the world where people go through every bit of your trash looking for reusables, or on that freighter ship where some poor guy has to go through and sort our your cabin trash.

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