FINANCES AND BUDGET PLANNING
“There is always some chaos in travel”
The big question is how much does it cost to do a trip like this? We get asked so often how much it costs to do an overland journey and really, it is an almost impossible question to answer as everyone does it differently.
But generally, the short answer is ‘not cheap’. So how do people make it a reality? They make it a priority and don’t spend any money on anything else. In other words, save like mad.
Most overlanders have to make huge sacrifices to travel the world. There are not many who can maintain an expensive home base and travel. If traveling the world is your top priority, it means eating out, luxury items and gourmet coffees have to go. You have to save like your life depends on it.
When planning a budget it is best to divide your costs into 3 main expenses.
- Costs to maintain home base. This includes everything from taxes to home maintenance while away. Some travellers rent their homes while they are on the road to cover these expenses.
- Lost wages while traveling. This is important if you are too old to make up losses when you return, less so if you are young and have many earning years ahead of you.
- Maintenance and home check-ins. You do have to keep a bit of an eye on your property while you are away. This may mean paying a company to watch and maintain your home while you’re gone.
OVERLAND START UP COSTS
If you go carefully through this document and begin researching the various costs, your biggest expenses will quickly become evident. The vehicle and modifications will most probably be the most expensive upfront cost and is completely dependent on what you choose to travel in and the modifications you need.
You will likely require several documents to travel, such as passports, international drivers licence, vaccination records, records of insurance and vehicle registration. Be thorough when researching what is legally required to travel in the countries you plan to visit. The costs of required documents will vary – check with the document issuer. Ask your doctor or at a medical clinic about the costs of various vaccinations.
One cost that you may incur is shipping. Shipping a vehicle is generally costly but, again, it depends on the size of the vehicle, the vehicle shipping route the vehicle and how the vehicle will be shipped (e.g. container or RORO or flatbed). We actually flew our cruiser as cargo from the Congo as it was safer and cheaper than shipping it.
Start up costs:
- Vehicle and modifications
- Equipment (your vehicle, camping and recovery gear, GPS, computer and electronics, etc)
- Documents, passports, visas, IDP, Carnet
- Immunizations and health check up and medications
OVERLAND ON ROUTE COSTS
Biggest expenses on the road are fuel, visas, park entry fees, shipping and/or ferry.
Your daily costs once on the road are not that bad. We estimate it cost approximately $10-$30 per day, excluding gas but including everything else: camping, visas, ferries, park entrance etc.
Fuel costs vary. We paid 20c/l in Egypt and $2.30 in Zambia. Fuel costs also vary depending on the vehicle. It is best to estimate your distances then calculate the costs per km/L. Use the cost of fuel in Canada per litre as your guide and this will give you some ballpark number to start with when budgeting.
Some have great overland experiences on a very tight budget and others spend millions!
EARN AS YOU GO
There are several sources of income while on route, including:
- Investments and savings.
- Rental income if you have a home you can rent out. This seems to be a popular way of financing trips.
- Others such as sponsorship, or selling articles and photographs to magazines are possible but not many overlanders manage to fully finance their trips this way. Most of those who do actual generate enough income are professional travellers and not your average overlanders.
ACCESSING YOUR MONEY
Always carry copies of all your credit card(s) and the contact phone numbers should you need to report it lost or stolen. Carry this information at all times and separate from your credit cards.
Canadians need to inform their credit card company that they will be traveling through Africa. The credit card company may cancel credit cards if purchases are made in Africa without prior notice. VISA is generally used everywhere in East Africa but not in West Africa. MasterCards are widely accepted.
Carry several cards as we found that not all cards were accepted everywhere and we needed different cards for different banks.
Don’t rely on finding an ATM, except in major towns in many developing countries. Carry only as much cash as you need between city centers. Cash is the easiest to bargain with and will always be accepted. Check whether your bank has banking affiliates in the countries you are planning to visit.
ATMs are easily found in the Americas and the situation in Africa is improving.
Unofficial Money Changers
We used them for most money changing while travelling in Africa. We found them competitive and never had problems with being cheated, although we choose our changers carefully and did end up firing some we suspected.
Most unofficial money changers can be found at border crossings or in local markets.