Despite the weird and restrictive COVID years, people are still traveling – or planning to; and when it comes to trip prep, travel budget is usually the number one item to discuss. How much are RTW travelers spending on average, is it sustainable, and can you tweak your travel budget to make it last?
Obviously, travel budgets will vary – sometimes, wildly – from rider to rider depending on the level of comfort they need or want, the time constraints they may have, the speed they’re traveling, and the duration of the trip. The faster you go and the more you want to see, the more you’ll spend, and the other way round; level of comfort, one of the biggest determining factors of your travel budget, is also very individual. For some, camping is bliss, for others, a guesthouse room with a shared bathroom is an unspeakable horror. Finally, it’s smart motorcycle shipping routes – if you’re planning to cross oceans, shipping will leave a bit of dent in your budget, especially if you’re transporting your bike via less popular routes.
There are so many variables it’s impossible to have one travel budget template that fits all – but here is mine just to give you an idea if you’re hoping to be on the road for at least a year:
Daily vs Yearly Expenses
Now that I’ve been stuck in a strange limbo in Europe for almost two years (the initial plan was to just do one rally season in Europe, then head East or ship the bike to Africa, all gone wrong when the pandemic started), I’m spending a little more on fuel, food, and accommodation than I did in South America. For most South American countries, I spent around 1,200 a month on the essentials, around $1,200 a year on bike repairs, tires, and the like, and $1,000 to ship the motorcycle from Chile to Poland. The most expensive month in South America was January 2019 when I spent a week preparing to cover Rally Dakar – I had to do a 2,000-km round trip in three days just to get my Peruvian visa and bike permit extended by means of a Chile border run – and then chased the rally for ten days doing long daily distances, buying data, and being less mindful what I eat or where I sleep; in total, the Dakar chase added around $700 or so to the total expenses. All in all, six months in South America came out to about $10,000, including bike shipping to Europe.
Riding Europe, I’m spending closer to $2,500 a month for food, fuel, and accommodation as well as the occasional amateur rally race, plus expecting to spend around $900 to ship the motorcycle to Cape Town as soon as possible. A recent complete bike rebuild (including engine rebuild) is going to cost around $1,500; to round it all up, a year in Europe costs me somewhere around $32,000, including bike shipping. The two biggest contributing factors of why my expenses have almost doubled in Europe vs South America are the simple fact that things are more expensive here, and the added rally racing costs.
Could I spend less? Of course. Could I be spending much more? Certainly. Once again, budgets will vary as much as mileage, comfort levels, and expectations; for me, however, the ballpark figures are around $2,500 a month. If I camped more and had fewer rally racing delusions, I could easily cut that number down to about $1,700 or thereabouts. If I raced more, covered larger distances, and stayed in hotels more (as opposed to longer AirBnB stays), I could be spending more.
Regardless how much or how little you spend – some riders require $100 a day, some get by with $20 a day – a travel budget is a finite resource, unless you have a way of earning an income while on the road. In addition to daily expenses and bike repairs, there are additional costs like travel insurance (mine comes as a complimentary service with one of the bank cards I use), unexpected expenses (usually medical – in my case, recovering from dengue fever in Colombia as an example), gear repairs or replacements, and flights home if you’re planning to visit once a year or so. Finally, although I have no expenses back home owing to the fact that I have no home anymore (rent, mortgage, car payments – I have none of those), I’m still repaying my student loan, and I’m trying to build some savings for a rainy day (with questionable success). To cover all of this, I work on the road as a freelance copywriter and content marketer, which means my travel budget isn’t set – I have to actively earn an income instead of simply traveling non-stop until the money runs out. While this works very well for me, it isn’t for everyone, and, curiously enough, it somewhat adds to the overall costs, too – often, I simply have to stay in a place with good WiFi or buy data to be able to work, as an example.
So there it is – just one example of how much you can expect to spend on the road on a monthly basis; once again, the numbers can easily be reduced if you travel like Paolo, camp more, and race less. Equally, it can be a lot more on a different bike, different schedule, and different routes; chances are, this year and potentially 2022 will be slightly more expensive because of frequent PCR test expenses and the like.