3. Reality Check: Money
Money is a bit trickier to evaluate. But it helps if you break it down into airfares, daily living costs, and other costs. Unless you're doing something a bit unusual the airfares and living costs will usually be the vast majority of your trip cost.
First though, a tip for those who struggle with currency conversions: You can look up current exchange rates using Google by typing into the search bar the two currency codes you're wanting to convert between. For example, if a price is given in US dollars and you want to know how much it is in NZ dollars then just search "USD NZD" and Google will usually tell you how much 1 US dollar is worth in NZ dollars. I say "usually" because occasionally this doesn't work for some reason, but if you try again a few hours later it will normally come right. Another great place to get exchange rate info is www.xe.com
Now thats out of the way, let’s look at the first big cost of most trips: airfares.
Airfares (and Trains and Ships)
If you intend to take just a small number of flights, it is relatively straightforward to get an idea of cost. All you have to do is go to one of the many flight comparison websites such as www.kayak.com or www.expedia.com or www.hipmunk.com or
www.vayama.com and try out a few days across a week to find the cheapest flights available. Make sure you set the currency on the website to your currency!
These websites may not include all the budget airlines available. To check what budget airlines fly to the region you’re interested in try the links on this wikitravel page: http://wikitravel.org/en/Discount_airlines#b
If you intend to take quite a few flights, you may be best to check out some of the regional air fares or Round the World ticket options offered by the main airline alliances. But for now we’re just after a really rough idea of cost so it’s quickest to just use the Air Treks website at: www.airtreks.com to put together a rough routing. Don’t worry too much about getting it exactly right, we’ll get into all that soon enough. If you're planning on going overland (or sea) for some of your trip then make sure you change that segment of your trip to "overland" before you submit it for pricing. In general, if you put some effort into it, you should be able to beat the lowest price estimate shown on the Air Treks website. So just use that price for now. Make sure you click on the "Email To..." button to send yourself a link that will let you come back and edit this routing later.
If you want to investigate the alliances right now anyway then check out our special section on RTW tickets, or go directly to one of the sites listed below.
Train and Ship Journeys
As an alternative to flying a segment of your trip, you may decide you'd like to do a great big train journey or a trip by sea. To whet your appetite for the options that are out there and the typical costs you'd be looking at, a great place to check out is www.seat61.com
If you're just planning on slowly making your way overland from one city to another using whatever transport you find on the day, then this will be covered under living costs.
Everyone has a different idea of what an acceptable level of comfort is when travelling and this has a huge impact on their daily living costs. Some people are happy to sleep in cars and train stations and tents if it means they can travel for longer, while others may prefer to travel for less time if it means they can stay in a higher quality of accommodation.
To get a feel for how much you’ll need to allow for living costs during your trip, find that list you made of all the places you would like to go, and how long you would like to be in each one. Now, alongside each place you want to go, write/type a daily “living costs allowance”. To get an idea of what typical living costs are for travellers in each country, one particularly useful resource to consult is the Lonely Planet website: www.lonelyplanet.com. Just search for the relevant country, click on the "Overview" and then select the “Practical Information” heading and find the advice on daily budget allowances. If it is a big country you may have to search for individual cities to get suggested daily budget information.
Some cities and countries don't have budgeting information listed on the Lonely Planet website. For these you'll either have to find an actual guide book or try the Budget Your Trip website: www.budgetyourtrip.com. Search for the relevant country or city and then select which level of comfort you want. If you select "all" then it just gives you the overall averages. It is hard to know how reliable these numbers are as it doesn't tell you how much data they have for each place.
Note that these two websites won’t give you identical results, so its sometimes worth considering both.
Living costs also depend on how you’re travelling and what you’re doing. If you’re touring a country by bike then your costs will be quite different to if you have a rental car and are doing all the touristy things, or if you are staying in one place for a decent length of time. So if you think you’ll be doing something a bit different you may want to adjust these numbers accordingly. If there is a particular thing you plan to do in a certain country and you know it will be expensive, then you should add in some extra to cover that.
The living cost estimates at Lonely Planet don’t really apply if you’re planning on taking a package tour. In general it costs more per day on a tour than it does to travel independently for a similar quality of accommodation. We’ll look more closely at tours later, but for now just assume that any days you’re planning to be on a tour will cost twice as much as you would need to allow if you were travelling independently. So double the living cost allowance for those days.
Once you have living costs for each country, multiply the daily living cost for each country by the number of days you plan to be in the country. This gives you your total expected living cost for that country.
By now you should be getting a pretty good idea of whether or not you'll be able to do everything you'd like to within your available time and money. But there are some other costs to allow for as well...
Other costs can get messy but they usually don't add up to more than about 10 or 20% of your trip cost so you can probably be pretty rough in your estimates for them at this stage. Major things to consider are the cost of travel insurance, visas, vaccinations, travel gear and in some cases student loan interest.
Travel insurance depends a lot on your circumstances, where you are from, where you are travelling to and how long you’re travelling for. To get a super speedy idea of typical insurance costs for the trip you’re looking at, try www.worldnomads.com If you’re not happy with the price they give you there then try one of your local insurance companies for a better price. In New Zealand a good value non-profit travel insurance company is Southern Cross www.southerncross.co.nz/travel-insurance-new-zealand.aspx Southern Cross also give you a discount on Travel Insurance if you are already using them for health insurance. We used Southern Cross and found them good to deal with when we had to make a claim for a lost camera.
If you’re going to a whole bunch of countries then the cost of visas can really add up. Finding out accurate information on visas is surprisingly difficult, but a good place to start is the Project Visa website at: www.projectvisa.com. It doesn’t have information for every country, but it does have a lot of them. The main benefit of this site is that for most countries it has a direct link to the country’s official immigration website detailing the visa requirements and costs.
The Lonely Planet website is a good resource for visa information: www.lonelyplanet.com. Just search for the relevant country, click on the "Overview" and then select the “Practical Information” heading and find the advice on Visas. Alternatively you can do a search of their Thorntree forum www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree for more detailed information on visa requirements for a specific country. The Lonely Planet Thorntree forum is packed with helpful, and not so helpful advice and information on all sorts of travel related matters, some of which you will struggle to find anywhere else. The regular posters seem to be a pretty grumpy and stuck up bunch, so if you're thinking about posting a question make sure you've checked its not already answered somewhere else or they'll give you a good lecturing!
It may also be worth checking whether your own government's foreign affairs website has anything useful on it. Most won't list prices for visas of other countries, but they may at least give you links to the official websites of those countries.
If you're planning to go to Asia then check out: www.evisaasia.com This website has a separate page detailing what the visa requirements are in asia for citizens of a whole bunch of different nationalities.
If you get lucky, www.wikipedia.org or www.wikitravel.org may also be of use. In Wikipedia, just type into the search bar "Visa requirements for New Zealand citizens", but replace "New Zealand" with your home country. Wikitravel seems a bit harder to use and is still fairly new, but should eventually be a good resource for this type of information.
If you can’t find decent visa information for a country on any of the above websites then your next best bet would be to just Google the name of that country and the words “tourist visa”.
Normally as a traveller you’ll only be after a tourist visa, unless you’re hoping to do a stint of working, in which case a working holiday visa may be what you need if one is available for that country.
The aim here is just to find out whether you’re likely to need a visa for each country, and if so how much they cost. You may also want to note down whether they say you can get them on arrival, or whether you have to buy them in advance. As New Zealanders we found we didn’t have to buy any of our visas in advance, but you may not be so fortunate and it does depend on where you go...
Vaccination requirements will also depend on where you go. Generally speaking if you’re heading to Asia, Africa, South America or the Middle East you’re likely to at least need a few jabs if you haven’t already had them. The cost of vaccinations is likely to vary depending on where you live. In New Zealand you can get enough vaccinations to go just about anywhere for NZD 400 or so. Consult your travel doctor if you want more accurate information, but this isn’t going to have a lot of impact on your total trip budget unless it’s quite a short trip.
Most people buy way too much stuff before going on their trip. The main travel gear the average traveller needs is a robust pack, a good sleeping bag, a camera, USB memory stick(s), a rain coat, good walking shoes and a travel first aid kit (you should be able to get one of these from your travel doctor). If you’re going to be tenting you’ll also want a tent (surprise!), a bedroll and cooking equipment. Of course, if you’re planning on doing a big cycle tour of somewhere then you’ll presumably need to sort out a bike. If you don’t have some of these things then you may want to allow some money to cover the cost of them.
But before you go out and buy all this stuff, remember that you can buy some of this stuff as you go, when you need it. We didn't buy our tent and bedrolls for example until we reached Europe, three months into our trip, as this was the first place we planned to camp. One of the lessons you learn very early on in travelling is that you don't want to have to carry any more than you need to.
Student Loan Interest
I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but in New Zealand where we’re from we have an interest free student loan scheme. But it’s only interest free as long as you’re in New Zealand and paying off your loan at the minimum rate or more. If you leave New Zealand for more than half a year then they make you pay interest for that year. If you still have a loan of several thousand dollars then the interest for this time can add up to quite a lot. Just a little something to be aware of.
If you’re not from New Zealand but you live somewhere with a similar scheme and you have a loan, it may be worth checking out what the implications are of leaving the country for extended periods of time.
So putting it all together, lets see what we have for our example trip...
So in summary we have: $10,500 for flights, $19,700 for living costs and $2,000 for other costs, for a grand total of $32,200.
This is way more than the NZD 20,000 we wanted to spend.
In short, we can't afford this trip. That means we're going to have to move on to the next step and do some pruning...