Once you’ve landed a remote job, there’s a curious combination of nervousness and excitement that settles when thinking about your finances. Great -- I can work from anywhere -- but where exactly is anywhere? How much will it cost? Juggling the expenses of flights, visas, accommodations, and the ungodly amount of street tacos you’re going to consume is no small feat. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We dished the question out to nomads to get a feel for how much they spent on their first year of international travel, and here’s what we found.
Yearly Cost of Accommodations
Like any other category, your accommodation costs will vary widely depending on the style in which you choose to travel. If you use hospitality exchange services like Couchsurfing, Global Freeloaders, or Hospitality Club, your expenses are going to be significantly lower than if you opt for hotels or private rooms in hostels. That much you knew.
After asking a pretty hefty sample size of digital nomads, we can give a rough housing estimate of around $7,000 for an entire year. This is based on balance -- about 30% of their time was spent in budget dorm room hostels, 50% of their time was spent in mid-range spots, and 20% of their time was spent in high-end hotels.
Also, a consensus has been reached on Airbnb: they’re significantly cheaper than long-term stays at hostels. If you’re looking for your own place with a kitchen and a private bathroom, Airbnb’s monthly discounts are almost always cheaper than a private room in a hostel.
Depending on where you’re traveling, the $7,000 can easily be cut in half. If you’re on a backpacker shoestring budget in Southeast Asia where nightly rooms can bottom out at $10 per night, you only need to budget for about $4,000. However, we recommend preserving some sanity for your first year on the road and budgeting a bit more than that. Even entry-level employees can travel full-time on a budget.
Yearly Cost of Transportation
Transportation is the next most costly expense that you should factor into your yearly budget. Generally speaking, there are two types of nomads -- those who are always on the move, and those who elect to stay put for longer periods of time. It goes without saying that the more you lean towards the former on this spectrum, the more money you’re going to spend.
For budgeting purposes, you can use the following formula for budgeting for flights: Fare = $50 + (Distance*$0.11). This formula was pulled from over 1,700,000 price points, and it’s based on the 20th percentile -- meaning it’s towards the cheaper end of the spectrum with 80% of flights more expensive. For example, if you’re looking to fly from Madrid to Bangkok, which is a distance of roughly 6,323 miles, you can expect to pay about $745 if you find a solid deal.
When taking into account buses, Ubers, train costs, and the rest, travelers who visited upwards of 15 countries in one year spent on average around $4,500. Again, if you plan on setting up shop in only two destinations for 6 months and plan on taking public transportation every day, this number can be as low as $1,500.
Yearly Cost of Food
As every avid foodie knows, life is too short to have a bad meal; and traveling the world is no time to skimp on gastronomical indulgences. In order to treat your palate on the road, be prepared to spend anywhere from $150 per month to $400, which comes out to anywhere between roughly $2,000 and $5,000 for food alone.
These numbers are taken from the averages of first-year digital nomads. If you’re looking to cut down on costs, try to book accommodations that offer free breakfast. Also pick spots near markets, which will incentivize you to shop and cook yourself.
Yearly Cost of Tours, Experiences, and Activities
Activities and experiences are arguably the primary reason we travel, so this comes in as our next biggest bucket of expenses. Walking tours, concerts, skydiving, river rafting, coffee tours, and museums can vary widely depending on the traveler, country, and tour agency, but we’ve settled on some conservative numbers.
Digital nomads on average spent around $2,000 annually on activities and adventures. Keep in mind you’ll still be working full time, so you won’t have enough time to get involved in pricey activities every day.
Yearly Cost of Co-Working Spaces
If you’re on a budget, you can opt to get your work done in coffee shops and libraries, but there’s a slew of benefits that come from choosing a co-working space. You can improve your time management, have more social interaction, have more networking opportunities, and get access to free coffee. What’s not to like?
For reference, in the U.S., coworking spaces tend to hover around $300 per month and $200 for a shared desk. That number drops off starkly in Latin America, Asia, and Central/Eastern Europe, but you can still expect to pay a pretty penny. Budget about $1,800 for the year for a coworking space.
Yearly Cost of Visas, Entrance Fees, Travel Insurance, and Miscellaneous Items
Long-term international travel involves a good amount of legal formalities and jumping through bureaucratic loops. Visas, entrance fees, exit fees, surprise taxes, and other items can sneak up on you quickly. Depending on your itinerary, you should allocate at least $300 per year for this category. You can spare a fair amount of money on bank fees using one of the banks for remote workers.
If you opt for travel insurance (which you should), the going rate hovers around $50 per month or about $600 per year.
As for the miscellaneous items that you’ll need to refill like sunscreen, deodorant, and other toiletries, this category can add up to another $200 for the year.
Budget Totals For One Year Of Travel
Adding up these categories gives us a ballpark range as to how much digital nomads spend on their first year of international travel. On the low end, it comes out to about $11,000, or around $900 per month. Many people who rely on homestays and only visit a few locations can spend as little as $7,000.
On the high end, digital nomads spent upwards of $21,000 for their first year of travel, or about $1,750 per month, after indulging in all the plush amenities and five-star dining.
Use these categories to plan and track your spendings on the road.
Written by: Dillon Dubois