Is Backpacking Expensive? Backpacking Budget Calculator (2023)

Wondering whether taking a backpacking trip is expensive?

You’ve come to the right place as I’m a full-time backpacker and I‘ve visited over 20 countries on a budget.

Taking the leap to go on a backpacking trip can be scary- especially when you don’t know how much it’s going to cost you.

I remember before my first trip how much I researched. That’s why I’ve written this complete guide to “Is backpacking expensive? and I’ve even created a budget calculator of the most popular countries to backpack.

Is Backpacking Expensive?

There is no straightforward “yes” or “no” answer to this question.

Of course, backpacking is not going to be as expensive as an all-inclusive holiday or even someone who travels with a suitcase.

Backpacking is going to be cheaper than most “normal” trips people take. But in terms of whether a backpacking trip is expensive or not, is relative.

Whether backpacking is expensive or not depends on three main things:

  • Where you are backpacking
  • How long you are backpacking
  • What type of backpacker you are

Every single backpacking trip is different. No two countries are the same, and no two people are the same.

FYI: If you haven’t realised by now, I’m talking about backpacking as the form of budget travel. If you are wondering whether backpacking as in hiking is expensive, this isn’t the right article, sorry!

The biggest factor in how much a backpacking trip will cost you is where you go backpacking.

A backpacker poses in front of the towering Millennium Cross on Góra Gradowa in Gdańsk, Poland. Gdansk is a city that isn't expensive to backpack.
A picture of me in Gdańsk, a really cheap city to visit in Poland.

For example, if you backpack along the Banana Pancake Trail, throughout Southeast Asia, you are going to spend considerably less than someone who has to budget for backpacking in Europe where it’s much more expensive.

Countries which are expensive like Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and some other countries are not ideal for backpacking because they are costly, and the whole point of backpacking is to travel on a shoestring budget.

How long you are backpacking will naturally affect your budget in an obvious way: the longer you are backpacking, the more you are going to spend.

But the longer you are backpacking, the less you spend over time. What I mean by this is, when you go on a backpacking trip, there are some expenses at the start that you don’t have to make again for a while.

For example, when I first arrived in Thailand, I bought a bottle of shampoo. I didn’t have to buy another one for 2 months. So whether I was backpacking for two weeks or two months, I had the same amount spent on shampoo.

Traveler stands before the vibrant Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal. Even though it's in Europe, Lisbon and Sintra aren't expensive to backpack.

The third factor affecting how expensive backpacking is comes down to how you like to travel. I categorise backpackers into 3 main categories: shoestring backpackers, average backpackers and flashpackers.

Shoestring backpackers are your ultra-hardcore backpackers who live on $10 a day no matter what.

Average backpackers make up the majority of backpackers, and they tend to spend a bit more, maybe $20-30 a day but still try to spend as little as possible. I class myself as an average backpacker.

Flashpackers are backpackers who enjoy a little bit more comfort and luxury. Things like staying in a private room in a hostel rather than a dorm or eating in restaurants rather than street food are some basic characteristics.

Also impacting this is how good you are at travelling on a budget. It takes practice to learn how to travel on a budget well, as there are lots of “advanced” ways to save money that most people don’t know about.

A young man smiles while sitting against a backdrop of a historic castle on a hill, showcasing the potential costs of cultural exploration during backpacking trips.

There is no right or wrong way to take a backpacking trip, and everyone has different preferences. The only reason it matters for this is because flashpackers will obviously spend more than those on a shoestring budget.

So I can’t answer “yes” or “no” to answer the question of whether backpacking is expensive or not.

All I can say is that it’s subjective and depends on where you are going, how long you’re going for, and how you like to travel.

But to help you out, I’ve created a budget calculator so you can see how much a trip is likely to set you back.

Backpacking Budget Calculator

As I said, the cost of a backpacking trip is very subjective, every person’s budget will be different.

I’ve put together a calculator for all of the most popular countries to backpack along the Banana Pancake Trail, Gringo Trail, and a few other common countries like Australia and Sri Lanka.

Simply choose your country, choose your type of travel based on my definitions above, enter how long you’re going to be backpacking, and boom, you’ve got a rough budget.

Note: this includes expenses while travelling such as accommodation, food, activities, transport, etc. It does not include international flights, travel insurance, visas, vaccinations, etc.

Backpacking Budget Calculator

Backpacking Budget Calculator

I did get it to overestimate budgets slightly because I always say that it’s better to budget more money and not spend it than to need more money and run out.

Also, I know that a large percentage of backpacking trips cross over more than one country, so you will need to manually do the budget per country and add up the total cost of your trip at the end.

But hopefully, it gives you a rough idea of how much to expect your personal backpacking trip to cost you.

Cheapest Countries To Backpack

If you’re searching for whether or not backpacking is expensive, the chances are that you’re looking to visit countries that aren’t so expensive, right? I’ve visited more than 20 countries on a budget, and I’ve got a good feel of where is easy to visit cheaply and where isn’t. So to help you out, I’ve put together a list of the 5 cheapest countries to backpack.

1. Vietnam

  • Shoestring Backpackers: $10/day
  • Average Backpackers: $20-30/day
  • Flashpackers: $40-60/day

Vietnam is widely regarded as the cheapest country to visit in the world. And I agree!

You can get things for so cheap while backpacking in Vietnam, which is why it’s also one of the most popular countries for backpacking.

I’ve found hostels for $5 or less, and you can get street food meals for only a couple of dollars. These are the ways people are able to travel on $10 a day.

Vietnam is also an amazing country to visit. My personal favourite is the Ha Giang Loop which is a 3-day long scooter ride through the highlands in the north- it’s stunning and I’d strongly recommend it…it’s cheap too!

Sunset hues cast over a modern cable-stayed bridge reflecting on the calm river below, flanked by lush green hills in Vietnam.

2. Cambodia

  • Shoestring Backpackers: $10/day
  • Average Backpackers: $20-30/day
  • Flashpackers: $50-70/day

Cambodia is another really easy country to visit on a budget. Being so close to Vietnam, it makes sense to visit them both on the same trip while backpacking Southeast Asia.

It’s a country jam-packed with culture, the obvious main attraction is Angkor Wat and it does not disappoint. It’s incredible to see. And experiencing culture is one of the biggest pros of backpacking.

Again, you can find hostels and street food for really low prices which makes it very affordable to visit. One of the best solo travel benefits is that you’re able to control your budget independently.

Ancient Khmer temple ruins in Cambodia with intricate carvings, surrounded by trees under a clear blue sky.

3. Bolivia

  • Shoestring Backpackers: $10/day
  • Average Backpackers: $20-30/day
  • Flashpackers: $40-70/day

Bolivia is one of the most unique countries in the world in my opinion. I love nature, wildlife and just being outdoors in general.

Thankfully, these things are either completely free or very cheap. Just look at this picture below. Flamingos on a slat flat with mountains in the background. What a sight!

The free and cheap activities combined with hostels and street food are what make Bolivia cheap to visit. The cuisine in Bolivia is also pretty unique, I think it’s really tasty too.

Flamingos wading in the shallow waters of a high-altitude Bolivian salt flat with striking multi-colored mountains in the background.

4. Nepal

  • Shoestring Backpackers: $10/day
  • Average Backpackers: $20-30/day
  • Flashpackers: $40-80/day

Nepal is widely known for being affordable to visit. Backpackers can easily survive on $20-30 a day in Nepal, which is really amazing for how much the country has to offer.

Even with the large tourist attraction of Everest and the Himalayas, the prices in Nepal remain low and it’s very cheap to visit which is a win for backpackers.

A trip to Nepal guarantees memories to last a lifetime, and the best bit is, it won’t even cost you that much. Most locals eat street food in Nepal, so that tells you how easy it is to find street food and therefore find really affordable meals.

Rugged Himalayan mountain landscape in Nepal with a clear view of snow-covered peaks against a bright blue sky.

5. Guatemala

  • Shoestring Backpackers: $10/day
  • Average Backpackers: $20-30/day
  • Flashpackers: $40-60/day

Guatemala is the final country on this list where you can go backpacking without it being expensive. Of course, there are many many other countries where backpacking on a budget is easy, but these are just my top 5 cheapest.

The country has a little bit of everything mixed together. Nature and wildlife, beaches and jungles, culture and attractions, everything.

It’s important to note that there are some political conflicts in Guatemala, and the country does have a pretty high crime rate.

But in terms of visiting on a budget, it’s really easy, and as long as you do your research and have due diligence, you’re unlikely to face any problems while backpacking.

Colorful buildings line a steep street descending towards a lake in Guatemala, with motorcycles parked and a person walking, under a clear blue sky.

Is Backpacking Expensive: FAQ

Below are some common questions related to “Is backpacking expensive?” along with my answers to each question.

How much money do you need for backpacking?

How much money you need for backpacking depends on three main things: what countries you are backpacking, how long you are backpacking for, and how you like to travel. These factors mean that no two people’s budgets are the same.

How much money do you need for a year of backpacking?

The amount of money you need for a year of backpacking varies from person to person. It depends on where you visit and how you like to travel. Typically, most backpackers will spend between $12,000 and $24,000 for one year.

How much does it cost to go travelling for 6 months?

The cost of travelling for 6 months depends on which countries you are visiting and the way in which you travel. If you visit expensive countries and stay in luxury resorts, you will spend a lot more than someone visiting a cheap country and staying in hostels.

Final Thoughts: Is Backpacking Expensive

And there you have it, a complete guide to “Is backpacking expensive?”

Remember, the answer depends on three main things: where you’re backpacking, how long you’re backpacking and how you like to travel.

Everyone will have a different budget, as no two people travel the same way. Even if you travel on a shoestring budget, you might treat yourself to a private room every now and again, for example.

But now that you know about how expensive backpacking is, you might be interested in learning about whether or not backpacking is dangerous.

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