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14 November 2011 / leggypeggy

On money—the unanswerable question

Cheap eats. A grilled fish for for next to nothing.

Lots of people ask how much money they’ll need on an overland trip. Let’s get one thing straight right now—I DON’T KNOW. Honestly. It’s going to depend on you.

Will you go to all the attractions? Will lunch be at Macca’s or from a street stall? Are you a clothes horse, shopper or souvenir junkie? Will you buy a bottle of wine at any price? Do you smoke? Will you want to upgrade from dorm to room, or tent to hotel? Do you take taxis, a bus or walk?

Even if you can answer all these questions, I still can’t tell you how much money you’ll need.

I can, however, tell you about how much Poor John and I have spent on this trip. This is based on the fact that I know how much cash we brought and how much we still have left. We used the credit card a lot in May and June in Germany, Belgium and Czech (before the trip began), so I’m not counting any of that. But we haven’t really used the card since then, so the cash trail is reasonably accurate.

Now before I reveal the amount, I’ll tell more about us and how we spend.

Poor John and I go on trips like this because it takes us back to basics. He did an overland in Africa in 1973. I did one in 1977. We always said we’d ‘do’ Africa again—together. We did in 2009.

So we’re comfortable in a tent. We love to eat local food. We walk most places. We’ve spent quite a few years living in the developing world and already have souvenirs coming out our ears. We don’t smoke and only I drink (local beer for me, thanks very much). The last bottle of whiskey I bought, in Kyrgyzstan, cost me an astonishing A$3.

We go to almost all the attractions/side trips—heck, if you come this far, you can’t miss out on these. In fact, we go to attractions not listed on the trip itinerary. We upgrade accommodation occasionally when the price is right. We’ve bought two pairs of shoes to replace ones that broke or wore out, and I replaced the jacket Poor John left on the train from Czech to Austria.

We don’t need a lot. Our main indulgence has been paper—we buy books and cookbooks everywhere and Poor John loves his newspapers.

Night markets—pick and choose and fill a plate for a couple of dollars.

Some countries have been dirt cheap, others dearer. When we camp, breakfast and dinner are provided, and we buy our lunches. When we’re in hotels or hostels (basic accommodation is included in the package), we buy all our own meals. Visa costs vary from country to country, and we got nine visas before starting the trip.

So without visas, what’s the bottom line? Is the suspense too much?

Okay. We’ve spent US$3900 in 20 weeks (still four weeks of the trip left—with two cheap weeks in Indonesia and two pricey weeks in Australia). That works out to $195 per week for two people, or just under $100 a week per person.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect we have spent the least of anyone on the trip. Some have bought lots of souvenirs and clothes, others have upgraded accommodation regularly, some love fast-food or fine dining. Our biggest ticket item was probably that thieving hair cut Poor John had in Kashgar.

So good luck figuring it all out for yourself.

16 Comments

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  1. Louise M Oliver / Nov 14 2011 7:18 am

    That’s incredibly good value for such a trip Peggy. I think that if I could manage to bump along on a truck and camp at night, I would probably want to do similar things: eat the local food, have a comfortable bed when one was available at not too great a price and see all the attractions. I might buy more souvenirs than you and Poor John but I wouldn’t need the occasional beer or bottle of wine. Like you, I would also buy books and newspapers. What would life be without them?

    And on a home matter: I don’t know if you’ve been looking up the ABC news but the Gold Coast will be hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2018. There was much excitement and jubilation when that was announced. I hope that, given it will be in winter, they get good weather.

    Best wishes as always
    Louise

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    • leggypeggy / Nov 14 2011 11:40 am

      It is a reasonably economical way to travel, but I should have mentioned that we paid 5000 pounds each just to be on the trip. That included a seat on the truck, a driver, a tour leader (who works hard to keep us organised, but who is not a tour guide), entrance to a few attractions (if the truck had to drive us in), camping stools, ferries when the truck was being shipped too, breakfast and dinner when camping, basic accommodation when not camping and probably a few other things that don’t ome to mind. I’ll add this to the main blog entry.
      Yay for the Gold Coast.

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  2. Sy S. / Nov 14 2011 2:45 pm

    Hello,

    In 1971 I spend three months in Europe and nine months in Asia. At 28 years old I was able to get a student discounts for airline tickets via Turkish Airlines… so had several fights (Israel, Greece, Istanbul) , including from NYC to Luxemburg going and at the end of 12 months back home. I went to about 35 or so countries and if I recall I spend about $3,500 US for the basic trip… and about $1,500 for shipping back to the states from Singapore, two reel to reel tape recorders and Seiko watches… and other items along the way (wooden carvings and watercolor paintings in Bangkok).
    Now-a-days, my guess is that it would now cost about $10,000 for such a trip if not more.

    Sy S.

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    • leggypeggy / Nov 15 2011 1:25 am

      Wow, Sy, what a great trip and what a good time to have made it. But I think you are right, it would cost a lot more now.

      Like

  3. Derrick / Mar 5 2012 10:47 pm

    Just wanted to ask you a money question
    I got US $2000 in cash, UK £2000 in cash,
    I was going to get any other money I need from ‘holes in the wall’
    Do you think this is going to be enough ?
    How did you get your money or how much did you take in cash ?
    did you ever use a ‘hole in the wall’ to get cash ?
    All this cash is a bit bulky, even in high denomination notes

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Mar 6 2012 11:04 am

      Hi Derrick, if the above amounts are what you’re taking AFTER you’ve made the local payment, you should be fine. Poor John and I took $10,000 for the two of us, and spent about half of it. We had an ATM card and a credit card, too, but rarely used either because of the surcharges from the bank.

      Make sure your card has low or, better still, no fees.

      We saw all the sights, but ate cheaply and rarely upgraded on accommodation. Australia is expensive—especially after you’ve travelled through a lot of dirt-cheap countries.

      Don’t worry about the bulk of money. There’s a safe on the truck, so you never need to carry much, except in Uzbekistan where the local bank notes are ginormous.

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      • Derrick / Mar 6 2012 11:20 am

        Thanks Peggy

        That is what I will have as ‘taking out money’ after the ‘local payment’

        I got to keep one of these blankets they call money in Uzbekistan, just to show people back home

        All the trucks/buses have had some means of keeping stuff safe (money, passports, spare photos)

        I dont have a problem eating local or kipping in a hostel (even a 5* is the same when you are a kip)

        I dont intend to spend a lot of time in hotel rooms (or hostel rooms) I have come for a look round (I dont know if I will return, so going to make the most of everything

        I dont know what the charges will be on my cards, but I have always had some charge on them when I use a ‘hole in the wall’ its usually a charfge for the exchange rate

        I know Oz is going to be more expensive than Asia, but any idea of prices ? (say a loaf of bread, a pint, a pizza, a steak dinner, do they have cheap eateries there, but not fast food, like McD)

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      • leggypeggy / Mar 6 2012 3:51 pm

        You’ll get breakfast and dinner on the truck/bus in Australia, but if you want a can of beer when you’re up north it will cost a bomb—maybe $6. Likewise, buying lunch in a small town in the Northern Territory is going to be pricey, but it’s only for 8–10 days. Then you get to cheaper places.

        If you decide to stay on in Sydney, there’ll be plenty of cheaper eateries. Nothing like Asia, but still not bad by comparison.

        The Brits on our truck were shocked by the prices up north, but mostly because the exchange rate for the pound is so dismal now.

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  4. rachael / Oct 28 2012 10:41 pm

    hi peggy,
    i am doing the uk to oz via silk road next year, would yoe recommed a pre paid currencey card or just cash in dollars?
    any help would be great

    thanks rachael

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    • Derrick / Oct 29 2012 1:33 pm

      I just finished my trip 2 weeks ago, now in Oz
      I bought with me cash, dollars and UK£, never had any problem changing either, I used my CC as a back up, only used em for flights when we couldn’t get in to Tibet

      Like

      • leggypeggy / Oct 29 2012 11:44 pm

        Hi Derrick. Thanks for that advice. I agree that a cash-card combination covers all the situations.

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    • leggypeggy / Oct 29 2012 11:43 pm

      Hi Rachael
      Hope this helps. We took a credit card, plus dollars and euros. ATM machines don’t always work, so cash is a good back-up. Our credit card was a Master Card, and sometimes Visa was preferred. Debit cards don’t seem to be popular. We did put a couple of thousand dollars on our credit card, so we didn’t have to worry about running over the limits. Hope you have a great trip.
      Cheers
      Peggy

      Like

  5. rachael / Oct 30 2012 2:44 am

    thanks to both of you for the advice

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Nov 1 2012 6:47 am

      Hi Rachael. Glad to be of help. Sorry to take so long to reply, but haven’t had internet access.

      Another tip comes to mind. Be sure to tell your bank you are travelling and where, or they may block/cancel your card if it gets used outside your home country. They do it for your safety in case someone stole your card. But the banks are good if you let them know in advance.

      Let us know how your travels go, and feel free to ask questions/advice of me or Derrick. I have his email address, so can always pass on any queries. His trip didn’t run as smoothly as ours, so he’ll have insight we don’t have.

      Like

      • Derrick / Nov 1 2012 4:55 pm

        Peggy also has my blog website address
        Things didn’t go quite to plan but my trip was still worth doing it
        I hope you get to see as much as I have, but always have at least one other person with you (even if it is just for company) and above all take lots of photos 🙂

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Nov 2 2012 12:58 am

        Hey Derrick, you are so right about taking lots of photos and the benefit of having someone to talk to on such a trip. Hope you are enjoying Queensland. Sorry we aren’t there to show you Canberra. Maybe someday. 🙂

        Like

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