“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
For the first year of my travels I lived off of five dollars a day (which equates to just 2,000 dollars a year), and then for the second year, I bumped it up to ten. Granted, this doesn’t include visas or flights, but with very limited flights (only over oceans which tend to be uncycleable), it is easy to cycle around the world for years at a time on a very small budget. It is also possible to work along the way in many countries, teaching English, farming, or working at hostels, which can provide free living and sometimes even a bit of income (or, in places like Australia, a lot of income).
Now, what does five dollars a day get you? In cheap Asian countries such as India, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, and a few countries in South America (Bolivia and Peru), this gets you a room in the simplest hostel or guest house and a meal (sometimes even three) out in the market or at a cheap local restaurant. In most of the world though, a five dollar a day budget means you are sleeping in your tent every single night and you are cooking lots of pasta, rice, and oatmeal for every meal. What five dollars a day doesn’t get you is luxury. Forget the fancy restaurants (or restaurants of any kind outside of developing countries) and shopping sprees. It won’t pay for your nice hotel room or even a shady motel room at that, and it certainly won’t cover a night drinking at the bar.
Now, I understand this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to call their tent home, and I have yet to meet many people willing to cook every single meal on a small petrol powered backpacking stove. It would be easy to spend thousands where I spend hundreds and travel in comfort, but, as a twenty-year-old who had never made more than ten dollars an hour before cycle touring, that was definitely not an option. Nor do I want it to be. By traveling cheap — living out of my tent, staying with locals, and eating street food (in developing countries) — I ended up experiencing the culture in a way most people miss. Sure, like everyone, I wouldn’t mind a bit more money in my account, but in all honesty, I am glad I have a small budget for such an extravagant trip as it has forced me to live my life in the simplest yet happiest way I could ever imagine.
Check out this photographic journey, from sunrise to sunset, of what five dollars a day can get you.
365 Days in Money: How to Live on Five Dollars a Day
Backpacking On A Budget
-855$ (San Diego to Delhi)
-200$ (For my bike to fly)
-480$ (Delhi to Georgia)
-1,110$ (Turkey to Ushuaia)
-110$ (India- three months)
-280$ (Nepal- six months)
-90$ (India- three months)
-20$ (Turkey- three months)
-90$ (Argentina- three months)
-0$ (Chile- one month)
-0$ (Bolivia- two months)
-0$ (Peru- six months)
Pacific Coast USA: 4.5$/day/person
-Lodging (more like tent space): 22$
-Bike maintenance: 0$
(Bike mirror and pepper spray)
-Bike maintenance: 15 cents
(High since I had expensive taxi and bus rides to get to Ladakh, my starting point)
(Maps, gas, ATM fees, passport photos, shampoo…)
(Clothes, internet, nose piercing…)
-Bike maintenance: 14$
(ATM fees, fix shoes, soap, toilet paper, shampoo…)
(Gifts, clothes, internet…)
India (again): 6.10$/day/person
Guest house (room and board): 55$
Extras (shampoo, toilet paper…): 10$
One Month Vacation With Family (Turkey): 23$/day/person
Total for first 18 months (560 days): 6.6$/day/person
Living: 3,703$ (6.6$/day)
All expenses (living + visas + flights): 6,928$ (12.4$/day)
South America: 14.7$/day/person
Cycling the Andes for 15$ A Day
Ok, if you counted the taxi/bus transfers out of the unsafe/un-cyclable parts of India to get to your start at Ladakh (and that truly non-essential nose piercing!) you’re down below $5/day.
Picked up any good spicy recipes along the way??
Yeah unfortunately the buses were expansive (the nose ring was only a dollar!) but I will make up for it living cheaper in other countries!
Your low budget is impressive girl! I would break down and spend more on food craving fresh fruits and veggies which can be expensive in some areas, but I would pick what the land had too! How do you get them into your diet?
Well we were lucky in Georgia because tomatoes were fifty cents a kilo, peaches were just as cheap, and people gave us free watermelon like crazy because they had too much. Basically since it was all in season fruits and veggies were actually super cheap!
how did you plan out your routes? like where was safe to cycle, how long you would have to cycle, how long you would stay in each place and also where to go next?
Hi. EVERYTHING I have read here sounds so great! One question though – what do you have in the way of insurance?
Cheers and happy trails 🙂
Good question!! I am lucky enough to still be on my parents… but my boyfriend bought a travel insurance for 350 a year which covers him outside the usa and Canada.
what insurance is that one?
This is incredible! How many miles per day are you cycling, on average? Do you have a country recommendation for starting a trip like this? Where did you start?
Depends, about 60-100km per day, but it can really depend on the conditions.
I think you’re a strong girl, i had dream like you but i total failure because i’m always afraided and my english is not good.
I really admire you but one day i can do it
Wish you have another trip good
Pakistan isn’t impossible! I’ll be cycling the North section of the KKH this summer 🙂
It is (or was) for Americans.
Wow, good for you! And you definitely have gained the most valuable thing which is immersing yourself in the local culture!
Nice overview! Thanks for that. I wonder why it has become popular to travel as cheap as possible? I think it is worth spending money in places where people have less and thereby share the immediate wealth of a westerner. Enjoy life on the road! All the best from http://www.twistingspokes.com
Yes and no, I won’t get into it here but I think loads of money coming from white people can definitely be a bad thing as well. That being said, the reason I traveled so cheap wasn’t to deprive anyone of my money, but rather because I’ve never made more than minimum wage and therefore don’t have much of it myself!
Pingback: A Complete Guide to Cycle Touring | The Wandering Nomads
Amazing trip! It’s true, traveling by bicycle, you can go very cheap. I did a bicycle trip in Europe. And the experience was great! I would like to try again!
Where is your next destination? Are you in Georgia?
Congratulations for your blog!
Thank you for sharing what it cost you to ride. Everything about bicycle touring is shared on the internet, and I mean everything, except cost. Thank you again for sharing what it cost you!