What does it cost to travel long term? So far other than gear purchases I’ve spent almost exactly $1,500/month. Below is how the expenses break out into categories.
You can go a lot cheaper than this or a lot more expensive, but $1,500 feels right to me. It gives me a good mix of shared hostels, private rooms, cheap street food, nice western meals, and as much access to the internet as I need. I do move around a lot though. I visited seven countries in five months. I would like to settle into some of my favorite cities (Kyoto and Chiang Mai come to mind) for longer periods of time. If I do settle somewhere it will probably be for language courses, scuba diving, or a sustained photography project.
Food: Food does not vary too much in cost. I can spend as little as $2 for a meal in Cambodia or Thailand (each plate is $1 but I generally eat twice as much as locals) to as much as $6 minimum for a meal in Tokyo or Kyoto (where the meals are bigger). My food budget including meals and drinking water is $15-$20/day.
Lodging: as low as $8/night for private rooms with a fan and no television in Bali or Chiang Mai. As much as $30/night for a hostel bunk in Hong Kong. My long term budget is again about $15-20/day, but I spend short periods way over or under it.
Transit: Renting a motorcycle in Thailand costs $5-7/day, getting around on the metro in Tokyo costs about $5-7/day, and I try not to spend more than $150 on any airplane flights. Big hops between countries or continents (Bangkok to India, India to New York) are obviously going to cost more. For longer flights I often take the most miserable flight I can find, saving maybe $500, and I compensate by buying nice food and entertainment for the flight.
Transit cost can be a lot lower by moving less frequently and taking local transit (buses, trains, walking). I’m experimenting with this after flying way too frequently.
Insurance: I spend $210/month for high deductible American health insurance. This works otu to $6.77/day.
Data: Cell phone plans varies widely in cost, but in ever country I’ve been to so far it could cost as low as $5/month for just basic voice and texting to $15 for 1GB of data or maybe $40 for unlimited. I generally spend about $20/month on cell phone data. That’s $0.65/day.
Visas: As an American visas are generally free for 90 days. I’ve only had to pay for a visa for Cambodia ($25), Vietnam ($45 plus $20 for an invitation letter), China ($160), and India ($160 plus $75 processing fee, visa for 5 years). Every other country has been free. See this great wikipedia page for visa information for US citizens.
How do I stay on track? I use the free app XE app for Android to figure out what $40 USD looks like in local currencies and try to stay under that amount every day. One good tip that I don’t follow would be to only carry your daily budget in local currency every day.