How much does it cost to travel? Travel expenses range drastically based on where you go, what you plan to do, and the sort of experience you plan to have. Other factors that can influence fees include age and how frequently you plan to switch locations.
Cost to Travel by Location
During my three-month trip abroad, I am visiting six countries including Iceland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland (yes, they are different countries), Netherlands, France, and Spain. Each of these wonderful places to visit has different customs, languages, and currencies. As of writing, the following foreign currencies equal one U.S. dollar:
- 121.75 Icelandic Króna
- 0.79 Pound sterling in Northern Ireland
- 0.88 Euro in the Republic of Ireland, Netherlands, France, and Spain
However, the currency rate is not the only consideration. Iceland, for instance, has notoriously high costs for accommodations, alcohol, and food. Likewise, parts of France, specifically Paris, are known for high-cost meals and pricey rooms. This means that just be being in these areas, your travel budget is not going to stretch as far as if you stayed in someplace cheaper such as the island of Ireland or the cities of Madrid, Spain and Marseille, France.
Travel Tip: If you are debating between Madrid or Barcelona and budget is a primary focus, then choose Madrid. The capital city has cheap food and alcohol. Enjoy free tapas with each glass of wine (only at certain locations) or tapas by the euro. Barcelona offers the same food and alcohol options but at a slightly higher amount.
While it is perfectly fine to visit a new location and simply live as the locals do, there is a strong chance that you are going to want to be a typical tourist and see the attractions. Booking tours and paying for admission tickets add up.
For example, you might consider a city bus tour that allows you to stop and explore different locations. While these tickets take you on a particular route and may include commentary, the majority of locations will require an admission ticket. Some of the costs for the sights that I have seen on this trip include the following:
- Eiffel tower admission ticket to the top – $28
- Plus, a glass of champagne – $19
- Moulin Rouge show – $152
- Hop-on, hop-off bus in Dublin – $25
- Kilmainham Gaol – $10
- Book of Kells exhibit – $16
- Teeling Distillery tour – $17
- Cliffs of Moher and the Burren – $34
- Blarney Castle – $20
- Reykjavik City Pass – $56
- Northern Lights tour – $48
- Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon tour – $215
- Forbidden Walking tour in Barcelona – $16
Note: Above fees include the currency exchange rate as listed on my credit card and do not include any transaction fees.
Taking up the biggest chunk of any traveler’s budget is accommodations. These costs can drastically differ if staying at a hostel, an Airbnb, or a hotel. My Airbnbs, which included a combination of rented rooms and private apartments, averaged $58/night on my three-month trip.
Likewise, the dining establishments wanderers decide to eat at will play a role in daily living costs. Choosing to visit a grocery store once in a while for basics can save on the overpriced cost of meals at restaurants. Additionally, selecting fast food (or opting for a brasserie in France) rather than a restaurant can help reduce food costs.
If you are planning to stay abroad for a long time, then you may want to have use of a phone. Upgrading to an international call phone plan with your existing provider may be the most expensive option. If your phone is unlocked (paid for outright), then you can choose to purchase a SIM card locally to save money as well as have more data than with an international upgrade.
With AT&T, the $60 international pass only gave me one GB of data and still cost an additional $0.35/minute to call anyone. If I opted for their $10/day plan, which would have let me use my plan’s data and unlimited talk and text, then I would have spent a total of $900 in three months. Instead, I purchased a SIM card in Belfast for $19.23 that gave me five GB of data and 3000 texts and minutes (I should have gotten the bigger option). Then, in Amsterdam, I bought another SIM for $22.76 for two GB and unlimited talk and text, which I have since re-upped with another four GB for another $22.76.
Actual Travel Costs
Your plane ticket is not the only travel expense you may run into. Since Keflavík International Airport is 45 mins away from the capital of Reykjavik, I had to spend $57.99 on bus transportation to and from the city. Make sure your transportation budget includes expenses from and to the airport or train station.
Another travel expense I endured were train tickets; some of which were more expensive than the flights to get into the country. The more times you switch locations, the more your actual travel costs will be. Trains and plane tickets included:
- Flight JFK to KEF – $247.40
- Flight KEF to BEL – $82.44
- Train to Derry from Belfast – $33.54
- Train to Galway from Belfast – $87.01
- Train to Cork from Galway – 24.01
- Train to Dublin from Cork – $45.44
- Flight to Amsterdam from Dublin – $49.31
- Flight to Paris from Amsterdam – $53.44
- Trains to Bordeaux and then Lyon – $286.83 (106 and 145 euros respectfully)
- Flight NCE to MAD – $79.94
- Flight BCN to EWR – $255.43
Note: Younger travelers may be able to purchase train tickets for less than those older than 26 or 30 years of age.
Other creature comforts that can add to travel costs include opting for taxis instead of ride-shares like Uber and Lyft (where available). Or, choosing a car rental instead of the aforementioned. While renting a vehicle can save you time and give you more freedom, keep the little expenses like gas, parking, and tickets in mind when calculating your budget.