Complete Cost of Living to Travel for a Year

A Complete Cost of Living for My First Year of Travel

I recently celebrated my first year of traveling non-stop and if you’ve been with me from the beginning, then you already know I love talking about the cost of living for where I am. I’ve already talked about how much it cost for me to live in a few destinations. But, I figured it would be even more interesting to compile all my travel expenses in one huge post!

Yes, I have actually kept track of it all. Why? Well, I’m on a mission to find somewhere I’d like to “settle down” (I use that term very loosely) and understanding how much it costs to live in different destinations will help me in the future.

I have been using Venture Cost religiously to help me keep track of my expenses. I normally would keep track of my expenses in a spreadsheet, but using this web app makes things so much easier for me. It’s also extremely useful to see how much it costs to live in places I haven’t visited yet, since the numbers are much more accurate than other websites I’ve viewed.

Because I don’t always post my monthly cost of livings, you can click here to follow me on Venture Cost if you want to stay updated.

60 Days of Living in Sweden

So, let’s get straight to the point: how much did I spend traveling in a year?

Between travel and living costs – you know, food, household items, toiletries, a dentist visit, all that – the total comes to… $10,139 USD and a few pennies.

That breaks down to an average of $844.98 a month! I actually wrote a post super early into my travels about the possibility of traveling for less than $10,000 a year. However, I didn’t expect myself to be almost spot on with that number. Mainly because I spent a little bit more on some accommodation than I wanted to.

During the past year, I have lived in Sweden, Thailand, Bali, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. 3 months were spent in Sweden and the remaining 9 months in southeast Asia.

2 long-haul flights, 6 countries, 10 apartments, 1 dentist visit, and countless Ubers. Here’s the details:

Let’s start with the cost of living in certain cities. In the section after, you will find the cost of all flights and other travel methods. Then following that, I talk about how I keep my cost of living below $1,000 a month. You can also click each title below to view more info.

destinations

Annual Cost of Living Breakdown

This is in order of how I traveled; locations may repeat since I ended up traveling twice around southeast Asia.

3 Months in Kalmar, Sweden
  • Total Spent: $2,355.86
  • Monthly Accommodation: $686.22 ($23.66/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $5.86
  • Monthly Average (Accommodation + Daily Expenses): $861.94
1 Month in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Total Spent: $610.25
  • Monthly Accommodation: $406.78 ($14.53/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $7.02
16 Days in Kuta, Bali
  • Total Spent: $354.25
  • Accommodation Total: $221.03 ($14.74/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $8.33
13 Days in Canggu, Bali
  • Total Spent: $226.27
  • Accommodation Total: $174.96 ($14.58/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $3.95

Monthly Total in Bali, Indonesia: $580.52

1 Month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Total Spent: $706.49
  • Monthly Accommodation: $550 ($19.64/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $5.40
6 Weeks in Penang, Malaysia
  • Total Spent: $959.61
  • Monthly Accommodation: $455.30 ($15.70/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $6.47
  • Monthly Average (Accommodation + Daily Expenses): $654.28

How Traveling Helps You Become a Better Person

3 Weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Total Spent: $676.85
  • Accommodation Total: $415 ($19.76/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $11.90
1 Week in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Total Spent: $221.60
  • Accommodation Total: $170.71 ($21.34/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $5.65

Monthly Total in Thailand: $898.45

2 Weeks in Philippines
  • Total Spent: $64.71

Cheap, right?! Nah… My mom flew from America to meet up with me, so she took care of basically everything.

1 Month in Lovina, Bali
  • Total Spent: $549.46
  • Monthly Accommodation: $435 ($15.54/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $3.95
6 Weeks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Total Spent: $758.60
  • Monthly Accommodation: $377 ($13/night)
  • Daily Expense Average: $3.77
  • Monthly Average (Accommodation + Daily Expenses): $494.74
1 Month in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Total Spent: $859.34
  • Monthly Accommodation: $634.55
  • Daily Expense Average: $4.50

Total Cost of Living for One Year: $8,343.29

How to Travel from Kuala Lumpur to Penang

Travel Expenses

  • Flight from Chicago to Stockholm: $380 + $75 extra checked luggage = $455 total
  • Flight from Stockholm to Kalmar: $65
  • Flight from Kalmar to Bangkok: $466
  • Flight from Bangkok to Kuta: $65
  • Flight from Kuta to Kuala Lumpur: $59
  • Bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang: $10
  • Flight from Penang to Chiang Mai: $102.50
  • Flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok: $44.50
  • Flight from Bangkok to Manila: $125
  • Flight from Manila to Kuta: $90
  • Taxi from Kuta to Lovina: $48
  • Taxi from Lovina to Kuta: $48
  • Flight from Kuta to Kuala Lumpur: $68
  • Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City: $45.50
  • Visa for Vietnam: $50 (agent + visa fee during arrival) – Sidenote: Read here about the visa process.

Total Travel Expenses for 1 Year: $1,796.50

Monthly Cost of Living in Bangkok

How I Keep My Expenses Low

If I could define my travel style, it’s the same as how I would live at home. I’m not necessarily seeing how far I can stretch my money, nor am I spending as if I was on holiday. I’m just living comfortably. I don’t think of traveling as a vacation, only that I’m literally moving apartments… except more frequently and farther than I would be back home. So, based off of this, here’s how I currently keep my cost of living under $1,000 a month:

Airbnb and digital nomad Facebook groups are a godsend. I’ve strictly only found accommodation through these two platforms. I rarely look for accommodation higher than $600 a month (about $20/night) however, my budget set does reflect with the area and the standards I prefer.

When searching for accommodation, I start at the lowest price and then go higher based on undesired results. This might sound like common sense to some, but to others if they have $600 to spend, they will spend that $600 without looking at other options.

I compare whether it’s more affordable (and worth my time) to eat out or cook my own meals at home. This may sound absurd, but in southeast Asia, eating out in restaurants can be extremely cheap. Actually, most meals cost less than $3 that leave you so full. And don’t judge me because I am small, this girl can eat a lot.

Must Know Before Traveling to Bali

Walking around is an activity. Maybe that sounds boring, but that’s honestly what makes travel exciting. Seeing the local culture and finding new, unknown areas is how I want to spend my time. Because of this, I try to limit myself to paying for activities. If it’s less than $10, it’s not really a big deal. However, things like the cooking class I took in Chiang Mai for about $40, I had to make sure it was really worth the money – which it was!

I don’t go shopping. So, this is probably the main difference from how I lived in America versus traveling. I’ve just realized things are so unnecessary and frankly, I don’t even have the space to travel with more items. If I need to replace an item, I do; but I don’t go out of my way to buy new outfits every month or send souvenirs back home.

Sticking to a budget is truly what helps the most. Like I mentioned earlier, I usually set $600 as a max for a monthly accommodation. Then, I try to limit my daily spending to about $150 to $200 a month for food, toiletries, SIM cards and data, etc.

I try really hard not to go over that set $800 monthly budget. But of course, some destinations cost a little bit more if I want to be comfortable.

If I want a night of drinking, I’d rather grab an entire bottle from a liquor store and hang out on my balcony or a peaceful park… I drank a lot at the castle in Sweden, oops! As a result, there’s no entrance fees, no overpriced drinks, and usually a more enjoyable evening. Maybe that sounds boring, but I honestly prefer that. Of course this doesn’t eliminate me going out altogether, I still meet up with people… I’m still normal.

I Broke My Tooth While Eating Fried Rice

Walking everywhere saves a bit of cash, also. Which kind of brings me back into how I find accommodation; I almost always make sure I’m within walking distance to places I need/want.

Overall, I eat fairly healthy. Which means I don’t spend money on many sugary snacks or sodas. Water, coffee, and tea is all I need to drink. Also, my go-to snacks are usually watermelon or tomatoes.

Oh, coffee… what seems to be everyone’s weakness. Yeah, I brew that shit at home. Even make my own iced coffees. They taste just as satisfying.

Hm, I think that’s pretty much it. I’m just a simple person, I live a simple life. Although, it may not look like that.

I just want to show people that traveling doesn’t have to be as expensive as you may think it is.  After a year of me saying that, it’s seriously becoming my catch phrase! Anyways, I hope this post proves that to you. And if I’ve inspired one person to travel somewhere new because of something I’ve said, then my job here is done.

Would love to know your thoughts about all of this in the comments below! If you want more insight of my daily life while traveling, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

11 Comments

  • Randy

    I find this very useful. I’m in different situation (work from home, nearing retirement) but reading about how others can get the most out of a place without spending a lot is refreshing. I love to visit other places but don’t feel the need to see every site. I prefer to walk around, speak with locals and form my own impressions.

    • Dianna Allen

      I’m super into numbers, so I figured there’d be someone who appreciates this! Thanks for commenting, Randy. It’s nice knowing there’s other people who exist who aren’t all into the tourist things.

      One thing that keeps me away from them are the huge crowds… not very enjoyable in my opinion.

  • Scott - Quirky Travel Guy

    Nice post! Detailed budget posts are always useful. I’ve been traveling for years but haven’t gone full-time nomad just yet (hopefully soon!) I knew it was possible to live in Chiang Mai for dirt cheap, but it’s nice to see that I could travel all over Asia and still stay under $1000/month.

    • Dianna Allen

      I’ll be heading through Europe the beginning of next year, so I’d love to keep you updated with more info about destinations there!

  • Katie Merritt

    I’d love to see one on Korea one day! In two years I hope to take my little one for a whole summer there to see his grandma. I know people travel internationally with toddlers but that isn’t my thing. Just camping and close beaches for now.
    I’d like to see more of the meals you eat too! That’s probably the most exciting part of traveling to me.

  • Adam

    Great post Dianna!! Amazing commitment to tracking your expenses for that length of time, I always fail at that quite early in a trip. I know a lot of people that need to read this, proof that life on the road is not nearly as expensive as people think. Keep up the great work!!

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