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What’s the most cost-effective way to travel the world?
Published on 19 Jul 2019
From expensive countries like Singapore to cheap and cheerful Cuba. When it comes to travelling the world, one of the biggest considerations is how much it will cost. For those who want to see as much of the world as possible and embark on a round-the-world trip or travel for a year, trying to budget for accommodation, food, drink, entertainment, travel insurance and more for a wealth of destinations can be tricky, especially when they are in different corners of the globe.
In this article, we explore how much it really costs to travel the world, highlighting various regions around the world and the daily costs of travelling their most popular destinations. We also look at how a cruise holiday matches up and whether a world cruise might be better suited to your travel needs.
From sprawling deserts, jungles and mountains to bustling cities and metropolises, Africa and the Middle East is a wonderfully diverse region to explore. With activities on both ends of the scale, you may find yourself tempted to spend a little more whilst here, although it’s not necessary. The array of experiences on offer such as safaris and desert excursions make splashing out a bit extra on an unforgettable adventure well worth considering.
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Although nestled between countries with conflict, Jordan is a peaceful and relaxing country that makes for a fantastic travel destination. Generally mid-range in price, how much you spend will depend on the level of luxury you are looking for. By far, the best expense here is to visit the rose-red city of Petra, an ancient city built into the cliffside.
Saskia from Mad Lovely World told us about her time in Jordan, “We spent ten days in Jordan and three nights in Aqaba. The little port city is very nice and is located directly next to the Red Sea. The prices in Jordan are not really cheap, but we had a lot of fun. Alcohol and our hotel were expensive. Our best experience was visiting Petra. A lot of history with incredible monuments, it’s not a real trip to Jordan if you didn’t see Petra. It’s like going to Rome without seeing the Colosseum.”
Many people are unable to envision how much it might cost to travel to South Africa. After all, this country is known for being a hub of culture and excitement. However, despite its reputation, it manages to keep basic expenses cheap. Although, if you want to try some of the more adventurous and completely unique experiences here, you may be looking at a slightly higher price.
Johnny Africa fell in love with South Africa when he moved there for work, “The prices in South Africa are very reasonable. It is not a budget destination by any means, but it’s also not classed as an expensive destination. Alcohol and food are especially reasonably priced, as you can expect to eat out at a delicious steakhouse for about £15 which includes an amazing steak and a glass of wine.”
For an authentic South African experience, Johnny recommends going on a safari, “Head out on a safari and see the Big Five. No trip to South Africa is complete without a visit to one of the hundreds of game reserves the country has to offer. Whether you want to go on your adventure in style or prefer a more budget-friendly approach, there are plenty of options available to you. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so make sure not to miss out on seeing elephants and lions roaming in their natural habitat.”
Asia and the Far East is one of the most dazzling and diverse regions in the world. Whether you visit its most prominent countries and capital cities or decide to visit smaller, local towns, you’ll find the costs vary greatly. Many travellers find the largest expense when travelling to Asia and the Far East is actually getting there, but it’s worth it to experience a culture so different from our own.
One of the more modestly priced countries to visit in Asia, India brings a completely different appeal to its neighbours to the East. Dotted with cities teeming with frenetic energy, heat and commotion, there is never a dull moment here. However, the amazing history and culture you’ll experience, for very low prices, will have you wishing you could come back.
According to Joris and Joanna from The World Ahead of Us, India is generally not that expensive. However, attractions and sightseeing can put a big dent in your wallet, “The food is cheap in India - we ate whatever we wanted without having to go to questionable restaurants. Entry fees for a lot of important sights and attractions have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in the last five years and something we really didn’t like is that they keep adding fees if you want to take pictures.”
With bright neon lights, a buzzing culinary scene and a sci-fi feel, Japan is a very popular travel destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the future. Visiting the country can be expensive, however, it’s an incredibly efficient place to be so although you’re paying a little extra, the service is likely to be much better than you usually expect.
Nomadic Matt told us, “When I finally visited Japan, I was shocked to discover that, while it isn’t cheap, Japan isn’t the prohibitively expensive country many people think it is. In fact, I actually found Japan to be very affordable and on par with (and sometimes cheaper than) countries in Western Europe.”
According to Japan-Guide.com, “A meal at a more average restaurant costs roughly between £7 and £22, while there is no upper price limit when it comes to high-class restaurants. Cafes, both artisanal and coffeehouse chains, can be found in most cities. A typical cup of coffee at a coffeehouse chain averages around £2.20, while prices at boutique cafes tend to be slightly higher.”
This island country in Southeast Asia is known for its sky-high prices. As a densely populated destination, Singapore has a lot to offer in a small space, but this doesn’t necessarily make it wallet-friendly. Don’t let high costs put you off, though. You’ll certainly be rewarded for your expenditure as this futuristic country is a wonder for the senses, with bright lights, towering skyscrapers and luxuriant gardens all intrinsically connected to form a unique and culturally-rich metropolis.
According to Price of Travel, “Food in Singapore is one of the main highlights, with its famous hawker stalls all over the city preparing excellent and generous meals for a very low cost, in very sanitary conditions. Drinks can be a bit expensive by Asian standards, but happy hour bargains can be found. Restaurants meant for tourists can be expensive, especially in the main hotel districts.”
A beach lover’s paradise, Australia and New Zealand are laid-back destinations where you’ll quite happily just let life pass you by. Enjoy scorching sunshine, baked landscapes and adrenaline-packed activities here. As a region with well-developed countries, the prices in Australia and New Zealand are on the higher side, but there are plenty of free activities to take part in whilst here to save you some pennies.
Australia is a popular place for travellers looking for adventure. After all, with cosmopolitan cities, amazing beaches, great adventures and stunning heat, it’s hard to resist. But, it’s another of those places that is hard to budget for, as you want to make sure you properly enjoy your experience.
Bryony from Coasting Australia gave us a breakdown, “Australia is one of the best countries in the world to visit, but it is also one where you can spend a lot of money. There are so many incredible things to see, do, visit, taste and experience, that you could easily blow your whole travel budget. Ten years ago, Australia was one of the cheapest countries to visit, but the Australian Dollar has grown in strength making things a bit more costly. Despite this, the quality of the Australian experience still makes it one of the best value global destinations.”
Leon and Kirsten from Made For Travellers added, “We travelled for several weeks through Australia, had a rental camper and cooked mostly ourselves and we’d spend £90 per day. If you want to go out eating, have drinks, pay an entrance fee to a couple of parks and do cool activities, you’ll spend more. The cool thing about Australia is there are free BBQs to use everywhere - even Bondi Beach.”
Like Australia, New Zealand can be hard to budget for. However, it’s worth saying New Zealand tends to be more expensive than Australia due to its more remote location. As the adventure capital of the world, whatever you choose to do here, you’re sure to find a way to get your heart racing.
Travelgal Nicole told us, “New Zealand is an expensive country. Food is definitely more expensive than in other countries. A flat white will cost you about £3 and you will only find about 20 Starbucks throughout the country as people prefer local coffee shops.
“New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world and is known for its extreme sports. Whether you want to go sky diving, bungee jumping, black water rafting or even zorbing, there is something for everyone. But if you’re looking for something a bit more laidback, you cannot miss Milford Sound.”
The picture-perfect definition of a tropical cruising destination, the Caribbean has long been a haven for travellers looking to enjoy some sun. With shimmering blue seas and white sand beaches, the Caribbean islands are a paradise on Earth. Due to the region’s popularity, tourist hotspots can be quite expensive but breaking away from the crowds and enjoying some truly local fare can offer a better experience and more budget-friendly prices.
Barbados is one of the original, popular cruising destinations and it remains just as beloved today for good reason. This paradise island looks as though it’s been crafted especially for a postcard, with prices that reflect its luxury feel. Visit here to watch brightly coloured fish flutter through emerald seas while you sink into the white sand with a cocktail in hand.
Stacey from Wandering Bajans explained, “Barbados prices can be quite steep depending on what you’re looking for. If you want to enjoy a nice dinner out, then you will be looking to pay at least $200 USD for a couple but if you’re looking for more local options for food, then you can find it at Oistins Fish Fry, where you can get a good Bajan meal for around $15 USD. It is a great experience if it is your first time in Barbados, as you get to try lots of local food in a relaxed environment. It is open Friday nights and Saturday nights, but we recommend you get there early to avoid the crowd. Another awesome experience to have in Barbados is taking a catamaran cruise along the west coast and going swimming with the sea turtles.”
Known for its vintage style, turbulent history and affection for cigars and rum, Cuba is truly a fascinating country to visit. Every colourful street you walk down will inspire you to take photo after photo, as you wander through a culture completely of its own.
Péricles from 7 Continents 1 Passport visited Cuba recently. He told us, “Cuba operates a dual currency system: the Cuban Convertible Pesos for visitors and the Cuban Peso for locals. Even though you get CUC when you exchange or withdraw money, it’s advisable to carry some Cuban Pesos for shared taxis in Havana, local buses, food from supermarkets and street vendors like ice creams and pizzas.
“Cuba isn’t an expensive country, but it’s definitely worth spending a little more on tours to local attractions and, of course, riding in a beautiful vintage American car.”
A country with music at its heart, punchy Jamaica is a vista for travellers. Like other Caribbean islands, in Jamaica, crystalline waters lap white sands lined with palm trees and cocktails are aplenty. Enjoy the smells and flavours of traditional Jamaican food like jerk and rich stews and indulge in freshly picked tropical fruits for a fair price. When cruising to Jamaica, you won’t need as much budget as other islands in the Caribbean to have an unforgettable experience.
Food in Jamaica is generally cheap, with local restaurants charging $3-5 USD for a sumptuous and filling meal. As well as this, beer and rum are also considered cheap. Most of Jamaica’s gems are off the beaten track and the further out of the tourist hotspots you go, the cheaper they are.
Matt recommends snorkelling, “Spend a couple of blissful hours uncovering the deep blue on a snorkelling trip. Go to the northern coast where you can see a wide array of sea life, coral reefs, sponges and caves.”
With an incredible amount of spirit, Central America and South America are becoming more and more popular for travellers to visit. Enticing people thanks to its amazing climes, nature and atmosphere, it is also very popular due to its low prices. Travelling here will not cost you a lot of money, but it can be completely life-changing.
Argentina is a South American country with a punchy attitude. Buenos Aires, the heart of the city, is a whizzing metropolis with stunning views. Elsewhere, the prices will be slightly cheaper, but even in the city centres, you’ll still be able to find reasonably priced offers on food and entertainment.
In recent years, Argentina has had issues with its economy. Its 2018 inflation rate was 35% and its interest rate was at 60% - the highest in the world. So, if you’re looking to visit, it’s worth noting that exchange rates are subject to change.
The electric energy around Brazil is certainly one of the main reasons to travel there. Alongside that, enjoy eccentric carnivals, amazing food, lush rainforests and stunning sunsets. Known as a country of contradictions, it lives up to South America’s reputation as being a more affordable destination but premium options can be found in the larger cities.
My Funky Travel told us, “Brazil is unquestionably expensive by South American standards. Things cost more in Brazil than in any of its neighbours, but visitors should still find it a relatively affordable destination. Being such a large country, there is also inevitably a significant amount of regional variation in prices with the more luxurious parts of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo considerably more expensive than northern regions. In terms of eating and drinking out, Brazil has options to suit all with upscale restaurants and nightclubs to cheap beach bars and cafes.
“Prices in Brazil rise during festival time, particularly for carnival during February or March. However, it’s well worth spending that little bit extra to get close to the action and experience perhaps the world’s biggest street party. The Rio Carnival is world famous and is sure to be the highlight of your time in the country.”
Many people are drawn to Mexico because of the food but fall in love with it because of the atmosphere and stunning vistas. Mexico is great for any type of traveller, as there are sweeping beaches, Mayan ruins and some great adrenaline-pumping activities available, all for a low budget.
Patrick from German Backpacker lived in Mexico for four months, “I travelled around Mexico for four months and had the chance to visit many different parts and regions of this beautiful country. When it comes to prices and expenses, your budget for Mexico will highly depend on the area you visit. While the most popular tourist hotspots of the country are certainly not as cheap as you might expect, you can travel on a lower budget in less-visited parts of Mexico.”
A patchwork of countries known for fairy-tale castles and charming medieval towns, Europe is considered relatively expensive in places where imports are costly, such as Norway and Iceland. However, move further south to the likes of Germany and France and you’ll find the prices are not too dissimilar to that of the UK.
A diverse country, Germany is the perfect travel destination for lovers of architecture and history as well as party-goers and foodies. In West Germany, you can explore majestic castles and hike through spellbinding forests, while in the built-up cities of East Germany, you can experience a bustling, vibrant culture that boasts an eccentric art and music scene.
As a whole, the country is relatively affordable to travel to, however, some of its cities are known to be more expensive than those in neighbouring countries. According to Expatica, “On average, you should expect to pay from €7–€12 for lunch in a bar, cafe or restaurant or up to €5 for a sandwich or bakery snack. A cup of coffee is around €3-€4. Other general costs to compare include cinema tickets at around €10-€15 and an average of €2.50-€3.50 for a beer.”
For those who have done some travelling in their time, you’ll likely already be aware of Iceland’s reputation as an expensive travel country. Due to the terrain of the island, most things need to be imported, making prices high. However, it truly is a completely unique location that makes the price tag feel irrelevant.
Kirsty from World For A Girl shared her thoughts on Iceland, “Although you can find affordable flights to this stunning island of ice and fire, once you get there the costs will add up quickly. Dining out costs a lot, as does transport and activities. A meal out for four with drinks will almost always be over £70.”
Kirsty recommends splurging on transport, “Whether you opt for an activity-filled tour or hire a car (or even a bicycle) do not leave Iceland without really exploring it. Get out of Reykjavík and discover the landscapes that make this captivating island so unique. Hiring your own transport gives you the freedom to get deep into the countryside. Driving Iceland’s ring road takes you past volcanoes, glaciers and dramatic coastline.”
As one of the most popular cruising destinations, the outstanding beauty of Norway speaks for itself. However, those breathtaking vistas do come at a price, as Norway is often regarded as one of the more expensive countries to cruise to.
Lisa from Fjords and Beaches explained, “The prices in Norway are some of the highest in the world. Many tourists get quite shocked upon arrival and realise that a quick bite and a bottle of water at the airport kiosk can set you back over 100 Kroner (approximately £10). My advice is to prepare for how expensive it is so that you’ll hopefully find it a little cheaper than expected.
“The best expense to splurge on is seeing the fjords. I always advise travellers to find a way to make it to the beautiful fjords - those arriving on a cruise will already be a step ahead.”
If you’re looking to get away somewhere warm with indulgent food, laidback culture and charming architecture, the Mediterranean is just what the doctor ordered. Generally, the Mediterranean is well-priced, but it can become expensive depending on where you visit. Head to the region’s most popular destinations and party islands and you’ll be set back quite a bit, but visit the quieter, less-frequented destinations and you’ll find it much more wallet-friendly.
With myriad stunning islands on offer, Greece is a wonderful travel destination for all occasions. Home to some of the world’s stunning sunsets, this is the perfect place for a romantic couples’ getaway or to explore unique landscapes. Head off the beaten track and you’ll find local eateries with modest prices and dishes you’ll want to recreate at home.
Jodie from Alajode has spent some time travelling the Greek Islands, “Travelling Greece can be as pricey or as affordable as you want it to be. The popular spots on the Greek Islands will set you back the most but it’s still possible to travel the Greek Islands on a budget.”
Italy is a country that combines high fashion, incredible history and unforgettable foodie experiences to create a fantastic holiday destination. Modestly priced, the simple way of life many Italians live by means that a holiday to this homely country isn’t going to break the bank.
We spoke to Scarlett from The Petite Suitcase, she told us: “Italy can be surprisingly affordable. One of my favourite bars in Rome charges a mere €2 for a glass of wine. Coffee in Italy shouldn’t set you back more than a euro if you drink it at the bar.
“Every penny spent on food in Italy is money well spent. It doesn’t even have to be a significant expense either. A whole pizza in Naples is about €7 and it will likely be the best pizza of your life.”
Like the other Mediterranean countries, a precedent of cheap living can be found in Spain. Although it is always possible to splash the cash on luxury restaurants and experiences, in Spain, you can find happiness in a cheap glass of sangria and traditional paella.
Jamie and Ivana from Wander In Two told us, “The prices in Spain can vary depending on location. In the inner cities, you can expect to pay a premium (which we often refer to as a tourist tax). If you head off the beaten track to places the locals frequent, you can always find more reasonable prices.”
We asked Jamie and Ivana what you should splurge on, “The food - specifically the tapas washed down with some sangria. Tapas can be a really economical and delicious way of keeping an eye on the euros and cents. Perfect for sharing, you can order a small amount first and then more later if you want. Not only can tapas bars and restaurants be cost-effective, but they can also provide the perfect Spanish experience, as more often than not, they will be run by local families and filled with local charm.”
Whether you’re looking to visit warm tropical settings or ice-cold climes, you can find it all in North America. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life, get back to nature in the great outdoors or unwind on some of the best beaches in the world in this highly versatile region. In terms of costs, a few destinations will be surprisingly well priced while a lot of others will thin out your wallet due to expensive transport, food, drink and accommodation costs.
Although part of the US, Alaska is a destination all of its own, with its rugged and breathtaking landscapes drawing in thousands of travellers every year. Whether you’re looking to see incredible wildlife or experience glaciers that are as old as time, Alaska has you covered. But, be aware that the exclusivity of this state makes it one of the most expensive to visit.
Scott from Quirky Travel Guy has spent a fair amount of time in Alaska. He told us, “From mountains and glaciers to grizzly bears and killer whales, Alaska provides some incredible sightseeing opportunities. Just be prepared to pay for the experience, since Alaska is considered one of the most expensive states in the US.
“Prices in Alaska are quite a bit higher than those in the continental US, mainly due to its remote location. That goes for basic necessities like food and gas, as well as excursions such as whale watching and glacier hiking tours.”
If you’re willing to splurge for one adventure in Alaska, Scott says you should consider a flightseeing tour from Anchorage, “Ride in a tiny plane to scenic Denali National Park, where the plane lands on a snow-covered glacier. While the experience will set you back a few hundred dollars, the chance to walk around on a glacier surrounded by mountains on all four sides is a rare thrill that’s worth the cost.”
Canada is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination thanks to its more liberal way of life and stunning scenery. The country is vast but has a lot to offer every type of traveller who visits it. Its larger cities are incredibly built up, which can mean a higher price tag for most items.
Hannah from That Adventurer told us how the prices compare to the UK, “In general, the prices in Canada are much the same as the UK only it seems like a lot more because of the exchange rate and you have to remember to add tax whenever you buy something. Prices vary depending on the city with the bigger cities like Vancouver being closer in pricing to London. Food tends to be more expensive, especially when tax and the customary 12% tip is added. A pint of beer is about £4 plus tax and a tip in Vancouver!”
At the opposite end of the US, you’ll find Hawaii. A range of Pacific Islands that’s volcanic landscapes and laidback lifestyle is irresistible for many travellers. A tropical paradise for all who come, Hawaii is especially popular with couples as a beautiful honeymoon destination. Although local produce and activities can be surprisingly affordable, like many remote destinations, you can expect to pay extra for items and produce that have to be imported.
Despite its high costs, Vanessa from Turnipseed Travel told us what she thought, “All things considered, travelling to Hawaii is much more affordable than many people imagine. The gorgeous national parks have modest prices (and are sometimes free), there are plenty of frugal-friendly museums, concerts, community events and farm tour programs, and the spectacular beaches are yours to enjoy. Hawaii-focused foods like fresh fish, coffee, fruit and vegetables are reasonably priced but you’ll pay a premium for any items that have to be shipped in from the mainland.
Melissa from The Family Voyage added, “Hawaii has a reputation for being an excessive destination, and that’s deserved. Prices are higher than the mainland, but we found them to be only slightly higher on Oahu than in LA for things like restaurant meals and hotels.”
For those happy to spend a little more for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the Polar Regions are a once-in-a-lifetime destination. These remote areas of the world, surrounding the North and South Poles, are exceptional locations. Snowy and desolate but teeming with life, they more than makeup for the price tag with the experiences they offer.
Likely the most undiscovered destination in the world, Antarctica, the 7th continent, is expensive to travel to with tourists only being able to reach it by cruise ship. However, it’s one of the only places that is still truly natural in the world with blue icebergs, thick, fresh snow and its whole ecosystem untouched by humans.
Danielle and John from Two For The World travelled to Antarctica together, “Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime and the cost of the journey reflects it - for good reason, too! It’s one of the most remote, pristine and fragile environments on Earth. It takes two days on the open ocean just to get there and can only be visited for a couple of months each year by a limited number of specially designed ships.
“Prices for Antarctica cruises vary widely. We did a mountain of research, saved for an age and took advantage of early bird prices by booking our trip eight months ahead. But for us, just having the opportunity to set foot on the frozen continent, to meet the extraordinary people that live and work at the research stations, to encounter the amazing wildlife and breathtaking scenery of Antarctica up close, was priceless. It’s truly a destination, and an experience, like no other.”
At the opposite end of the world from Antarctica is Greenland. Equally as remote, this large country is often overlooked as a travel destination due to the price of getting there - but it shouldn’t be! With a combination of desolate, snow-covered landscapes and Norse culture, Greenland is a fusion of attributes.
Macca from An Adventurous World told us, “There’s no denying that Greenland is incredibly expensive. Think of prices in Denmark and Iceland then add more on top. Obviously, Greenland is one of the most inhospitable climates in the world - trees don’t even grow there. That means they have to import everything which is why prices are so high. However, I promise you, it is worth it. Greenland is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. It’s just so, so stunning.”