How To Do An Around the World Trip
Adventurous souls have inquired about planning a world trip of their own. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers from my personal experiences. If you have any additional suggestions, please share them in the backpackers’ forum. In addition, if you are looking for sample itineraries click here to see my personal itinerary for “The Great 08.”
How can I afford to travel around the world?
The first concept we must discuss is saving. Unfortunately, many people never get past this important step and without the funds, the rest of their dreams crumble.
If you are still a bit leery about the expenses of an around-the-world trip, start thinking more positively. You may realize it’s quite easy to save for something this important when putting your money into perspective. The cash you spend on one new t-shirt at the mall could amount to a few extra days in a foreign beach town. One less restaurant/cafe visit per week could provide you with enough money for side adventures as you travel, such as a jungle trek through South America or a cruise down the Nile River. And just a few hundred dollars from each paycheck mounds up to an entire around-the-world ticket very quickly.
Coming from someone who obsessed over San Francisco restaurants’ world cuisines, swung by Starbucks instead of using a fully-adequate coffee maker and travel cup combo, and popped in to “look” at cute outfits displayed in boutique windows, I can guarantee saving will be a shock when you first cut back. But I just reminded myself that I would soon be sampling real cuisines, in an authentic setting straight from the countries in which they originated, sipping something better than coffee (the thought!) and visiting a community where designer clothes were arrogant and frivolous.
So if this type of multi-destination travel compels you, you should be double thinking your expenditures and starting a savings account for something that will really change your perspective on the world. Commit to having direct deposit set aside $50-$400 per paycheck in an interest-bearing account, such as ING Direct (I labeled my account “Save for a Rainy Year”) and do not cheat! Unlike the new car or bigger house or fancy shoes for which you were stockpiling paychecks, educational travel enlightens you about yourself, your place in the world and the blessings often overlooked at home; travel experiences last forever. Now that is something worth saving for!
How much money do I need?
An around-the-world airline ticket with numerous stops (often referred to as RTW fares) can be purchased for $1200-$6000; this is an excellent deal considering it lasts for an entire year. Besides the cost of the ticket, you will need to save for accommodations, ground transportation and food. Many backpackers choose to visit places where the US dollar stretches the furthest, like Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. Here it is possible to spend only $30-$40 a day on food, hostels and public transportation. Places like New Zealand, Australia and Europe cost $50-$75 a day unless you are willing to camp, buy food at grocery stores, and hop on the bus. This is the route I chose because I did not want to use the excuse that a place was “too expensive to travel.” Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I also chose to use this trip as a time to catch up with old friends who live abroad. Many of them were generous enough to host me and show me around, so sometimes I did not need to pay for a hostel. You may want to visit people you know around the world to get a true life experience.
Because most RTW tickets are good for a year, you can also choose to travel for a few months, settle somewhere to work for a few more months, and then complete your trip on the money you’ve earned along the way. Youth Hostels are usually looking for extra help and in non-English speaking countries, you can often find tutoring jobs.
What type of ticket should I buy?
This all depends on how many places you wish to visit, but an easy way to compare multi-flight tickets is to visit wikitravel’s RTW page (edited by yours truly). I bought my RTW ticket from the One World Alliance and loved their interactive map which I used to dream build. From the One World site, I was able to see which cities were connected by flights and design a unique route. The countries I chose to include in my itinerary are listed here.
What places should I visit?
Do you have enough money to buy a ten-segment ticket? If so, choose the top 15 countries you wish to see. (Enough for five? Choose ten wish-list destinations.) Are there friends or relatives you would like to visit? Is there a region’s food for which you hunger or beaches you yearn to admire? Include them all because some won’t fit when finally piecing together the ticket.
If a few of your wish-list destinations are close enough for an overland trip by bus, boat or train, you will not need to use an airline segment for that location, freeing up a few more flights for other countries. Although overland travel usually counts as one flight segment, you can bypass this waste of a flight by leaving from the same airport in which you arrived, making a loop of places you want to see with ground travel.
Sometimes you will end up booking a RTW ticket and including a place that was not on your top ten list. This happens because certain cities are only accessible through specific hubs. But this throws a bit of surprise into the journey and teaches you to explore beyond your expectations. Chances are, the reason the specific location was not in your top destinations is that you knew very little about it– there is no better time than this trip to change your opinion about top travel destinations!
What areas should I avoid?
The answer to this question can change on a daily basis. Always pay attention to world news that concentrates on the area in which you are traveling. BBC is a good channel when in Europe and Aljazeera is an expert on the Middle East and the rest of the world. Forget the hometown channels you watch at night while lounging on the sofa. You are traveling the world now and need to pay attention to global events, whether you found them interesting before or not.
If you are not worried about world travel being dangerous, chances are, other people may be commenting about the perils you could incur. I like to say,”Don’t let others’ fears jam your gears.” Worrying about what might happen is a waste of energy that could be used to explore. Dress appropriately, do not wander off alone and guard your possessions. Just use common sense- it’s that easy.
I wrote an article on the hype of “dangerous” travel as a guest travel writer on Buzzteria. If you are interested or need to ease the mind of family or friends, visit “Too Dangerous for Travel?”
Can I do this trip alone?
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of solo travelers I met on my trip. They made friends with fellow bunk-mates, joined other backpackers who were headed their way, and were available for itinerary changes and last minute deals because they did not have anyone holding them back. If this sounds like your ideal way to travel, you will be better off alone than with someone who may not be on your same adventure level.
If you do wish to have a travel partner, sites such as TravBuddy help link you up with other adventure seekers. One piece of advice is to plan just one stint together in order to get to know each other. If you decide your travel personalities are different, you will not have to cancel previously-made plans.
There are many travel personalities and you may want to search for someone who is compatible with you. These are a few examples:
The Meticulous Tourist: This person needs to see every “famous” site in an area and will stand in any line or bear extreme heat just to say they’ve done it. The meticulous tourist runs the risk of missing the authentic experiences, such as meeting locals or tasting street food because their noses are glued to a guidebook. If postcards will not do the trick and you must see everything in person, this would be the right travel partner for you. But remember to take a breath and look around once in a while, too.
The Prince/Princess: This traveler has a large budget and may only be on a short vacation.They will want to try the best eateries and don’t mind spending money on a taxi rather than experiencing overcrowding in a slow, local bus. Make clear plans before traveling with the Prince or Princess or meet up with them at the event instead of using expensive methods to get there together. It is not shameful to admit you have a smaller budget, as many backpackers do, otherwise, they may cause you to overspend.
The Risk Taker: This type of traveler doesn’t need a definite plan and is willing to sleep in a bus or under the stars if their lack of planning leaves them out of luck. These people usually have the best travel stories to tell, but endure a few uncomfortable moments to earn their narrator rights. If you are willing to uncomplainingly adapt when events do not go as planned, this is the right partner for you.
The Party Roamer: This person is more into the nightlife of a place than anything else. They love the hostel pub crawls, the clubs and the bar scene. Although this is a fun part of exploring new countries, this party traveler runs the risk of missing out on some major attractions, unique culture and daylight hours.
The Mixer-Upper: This is the most popular type of traveler, who understands the importance of doing a little bit from each category. They know that exploring other places does not call for the same activity every day and that by going out of their comfort zone and trying something new, they will grasp what makes the area distinct. This is a good partner for those who want a bit of it all.
What should I pack?
I found that anything I needed and did not bring along the way, I could find on the road. Also, I made a rule that I did not pack anything irreplaceable. My most precious possession was my camera, but since I uploaded photos along the way at internet cafes, it never had ALL of my photos on it. I also took a luxury item, an old Ipod, to listen to at night in noisy dorm rooms. My entire backpack could have been stolen and I would have survived, due to travel insurance and having no attachments to my replaceable possessions.
How long should I travel?
You should plan your trip for as long as your money will stretch, and if you are willing to work on the way, you may be able to be away for even longer. If you are nervous about missing home or friends, invite them to meet up with you during different parts of the trip or visit people you may know around the globe. There is nothing like a familiar face waiting for you when your plane lands.
Can I change my dates and destinations with a RTW ticket once I am on the trip?
What I loved about the One World ticket is that I could call (I used Skype) and change my travel dates at any time without being charged. The destinations are finalized when booking your ticket, though, but if you’re willing to pay a fee, they can be changed as well.
What should I do in case of an emergency?
Travel Insurance is an affordable necessity on a trip such as this. You will misplace items that need to be replaced and you may even get sick or have something stolen. In any case, many incidents will barely slow you down if you have travel insurance to reimburse you. I used World Nomads, but be sure to read what is covered with your policy. My passport was stolen and was not covered, which ended up costing over $100.
If you lose your passport or get into any trouble, your country’s embassy is the place to call home. You’ll notice that because you are a citizen, you will be ushered to the front of the line at your country’s embassy and helped right away. I felt very welcome in the embassies I entered and knew that they would help in any emergency, which put me at ease.
If you are so sick that you feel you need to be hospitalized, tell a taxi to take you to the nearest doctor or hospital. The people working at your hostel or hotel will also be of great help since they have probably assisted sick travelers in the past. There are traveler insurance companies that will pay medical bills for you no matter where you are in the world, but if you are a US citizen, you will find that many other places have cheap prices for medical care and medicine. Many drugs are also available without a prescription by consulting a local pharmacist.