Instead of letting this site sit and rot while I’m away travelling I’ve decided to document my trip right here. I’ll be tracking all my expenses to hopefully inspire some of you chumps and chumpettes to get out and travel more. There are so many easy ways to make travelling cheaper and they often simultaneously make the trip more fulfilling.
Where, when and why I’m going
I need to start by coming clean. This website is predominantly for Canadians, of which I am one, but I’m living in America right now on a 10 month work exchange. Thus my trip begins and ends in Chicago.
This map doesn’t include all the cities that I’ll visit, only the major ones that I’ve financially committed to in some way. As far as timeframes go I’ll be leaving Chicago for London on October 30th and as for the rest:
- London – 24 hours.
- Istanbul – 4 days
- Bishkek/Kyrgyzstan – 1 week
- Urumqi/Lanzhou/Beijing – 2 weeks
I’ve been actively learning Mandarin the better part of 5 years now but I’m a long long…. long… way from fluent. Luckily there is no better place to practice Mandarin than in China! Oh and they got 5,000 years of culture and some other cool stuff to see….
China alone wasn’t enough for this trip and the true deciding factor was having an old friend living in Kyrgyzstan. I’ve wanted to visit northwest China in past trips but never had time, but since Kyrgyzstan borders China I decided that I could easily visit both places in one trip.
The next question was how to get to Kyrgyzstan? Kyrgyzstan is basically on the opposite side of the world so flying east or west works. My friend suggested we meet somewhere in Europe and since I’ve never been it became an easy decision. We settled on Istanbul, although Moscow was a strong contender.
Visiting London was not part of the original plan, but the cheapest flight to Istanbul happened to be with British airways and they offered a 24 hour stopover. And the cherry on the London cake was another good friend living just north of London!
The whole trip will last about 4 weeks.
How much I’ve spent so far
I believe that I’ve already spent about 1/3 of the cost of the trip before setting one foot in an airport. Let’s break it down:
|Flight – Chicago to Istanbul||$796|
|Flight – Istanbul to Bishkek||$180|
|Flight – Bishkek to Urumqi||$358|
|Flight – Beijing to Chicago||$730|
|Hotel – Istanbul, 4 nights||$80|
|Hostel deposits, Urumqi/Beijing||$15|
|Train – Lanzhou to Beijing||$73|
Damn. It didn’t seem like that much at the time. But keep in mind I was spending $USD, which at today’s exchange rate is only $2,178. Be careful spending $USD! Overall though, under $3k for a trip around the world isn’t too bad.
I can justify the clothing since it’s good quality and should last at least 5 years. Also they are the only clothes I’ve bought in the past 5 months. The backpack I expect to last at least 10 years, and multiple trips. Good backpacks last a long time, I’m still using backpacks from grade school over 10 years ago!
To find those flights I checked Momondo, Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Kayak. I checked my exact dates and how they compared to last minute prices and historic prices. Forget all those fancy tricks like “only buy flights on Thursdays between 3pm and 4pm and exactly 64.4 days before your departure and clear your browsing history and change your browser to incognito”. I’ve checked the same flights from different computers at different times and never found any difference.
I also though about trying priceline’s price bidding, where you bid on last minute prices and theoretically get significant discounts. I’d like to try it sometime but I think it’s too risky when you have very specific vacation days booked. If you don’t get your bid price you might be stuck with super high last minute prices.
How I plan to control costs
Buy Return Flights – One way flights are more expensive than return flights. Chicago to Beijing return was $650 USD instead of the $550 one-way that I paid, implying the extra flight is only $100. This might just be a ploy to get you to spend more money as I talked about in my last post on relativity. Or it might be that one-way travelers are more rare, and based on supply and demand the cost is higher. Obviously I already paid for flights so this is not relevant to me, but it may be relevant to you, dear reader.
Stay in Hostels – After the hotel in Istanbul and my friend’s couch in Bishkek it will be hostels the rest of the trip. Hostels are such a good way to save money as a solo traveler while simultaneously meeting other travelers. I’ve stayed in at least 50 different hostels in my life and I’ve never had a truly negative experience (only minor annoyances).
Take Public Transit – Not only is it significantly cheaper than a taxi, there is no better way to mingle with true local people. The subway in Beijing is only 40 cents!
No Foreign Exchange Fee Credit Card – I’m using the amazon.ca rewards card, and I’m sure there are others. I don’t expect to save much money, but if I put $2000 more on the card (unlikely) the 2.5% conversion fee will be a cool $50 saved.
Do Homework – I will research places beforehand to make sure I don’t fall for scams. But more importantly to see what attractions are worth skipping to prevent losing money and precious time.
What to expect for travel related posts
I’m not bringing a laptop or anything so all my posts will be from my phone (this will be painful). The posts will predominantly be travel blogish, and I’ll be putting financial spin on things wherever I can, including totally 100% accurate and documented expense reports with receipts and everything….
I might end up just checking credit card and bank statements at the end of the trip if some expenses get lost.
Oh hey! I did a travel blog back in 2013 when I visited Asia for 3 months, here it is: http://bfasia.blogspot.com/
Away I go!
Spam your friends:
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers – Ralph Waldo Emmerson