Why it might be cheaper to travel than to stay at home

In my previous post, I eluded to the fact that it may actually be cheaper to travel and work online, rather than work online while staying in your home country.

I just recently mapped out my travel plans for 2016, and also went through and did a bit of a budget for how much my 5 months of travel will cost me.
I looked up the prices of all of my flights, on the estimated dates I will need them. I added in the price of monthly rental in various places, along with a couple of nights in hotel rooms while I look for said long-term accommodation. I also factored in other costs such as food, motorbike rental, gym membership, and the cost of a co-working space!

Just how low the prices were astonished me!
This post is the breakdown of this budget, and hopefully it gives you an idea of just how little you need to be making online to comfortably live the digital nomad lifestyle! (All prices are in $AUD)

I’ll start with the cost of flights/transport. All prices were gathered off of Expedia. No I’m not flying Business Class (one day soon!), and yes I have chosen the cheapest flights. But as long as they get me there in one piece, I’ll be happy.

Flight 1: Melbourne to Bangkok = $351
Flight 2: Bangkok to Ko Samui = $159
Taxi & Ferry to Koh Phangan = $15
Taxi & Ferry to Ko Samui Airport = $ 15
Flight 3: Ko Samui to Bangkok = $208
Flight 4: Bangkok to Saigon = $83
Flight 5: Saigon to Bangkok = $108
Flight 6: Bangkok to Chiang Mai = $84
Flight 7: Chiang Mai to Bangkok = $62
Flight 8: Bangkok to Melbourne = $310

Total Cost of 8 flights & 2 Ferry Rides = $1395

Only around $1400 for 8 flights and 2 ferry rides amazed me. I was expected a figure closer to double that! As an Australian I’m used to it being expensive to fly anywhere, but once you’re in South East Asia, everything is close and as a result the flights are dirt cheap! Not bad!

Next up: Accomodation. These figures are estimates based on information I’ve gotten from others, my personal experience in Thailand, and prices that I’ve found online.

Hotel in Koh Phangan (3 nights) = $120
1 month rental in Koh Phangan with utilities = $700
Hotel in Saigon (2 nights) = $100
1 month rental in Saigon with utilities = $400
Hotel in Chiang Mai (2 Nights) = $80
3 month apartment rental in Chiang Mai with utilities = $900

Total cost of 5 months accommodation = $2300

Accommodation is crazy cheap in South East Asia, especially when you compare it to the super high Australian prices! Next up, are the other costs of food, bike rental, gym, and a co-working space. These are all estimated on the amount I spent last time I was in Thailand. I’m also only planning to have a bike for 4 months out of the 5, and just walking in Vietnam. Obviously this may change, but for now – that’s the plan!

Bike Rental for 4 months = $350
Food for 5 months (average of $20 p/day) = $3000
Gym for 5 months = $400
Co-working Space for 5 months = $600

Now, let’s add all of that together!

Flights/Transport = $1395
Accommodation = $2300
Bike Rental = $350
Food = $3000
Gym = $400
Co-working space = $600

At the current exchange rate that = $5700 USD and £4000GBP

Around 8KAUD for 5 months of travel and adventure throughout Thailand and Vietnam isn’t bad at all! That’s about $1600 per month. In Melbourne, all that $1600 per month will afford you is your rent and maybe utilities if you’re lucky and live somewhere small. Forget about food, transport, gym, working space, or bike/car, etc…

Obviously this doesn’t include any extra activities or weekends away, and doesn’t include any money spent on alcohol which will inevitably happen!

If this doesn’t seem cheap enough to you, it can definitely go lower. You could easily scrap the co-working space and save yourself $600. I just like the co-working spaces for meeting new people, and the great work environment. However, you could easily work from a coffee shop or even your apartment.

Another cost you could cut is the gym. There are many outdoor gyms, parks, and beaches for you to workout at if you’re on a budget! That’s another $400 saved, and now your total cost is down to about $7000 ($1400 p/month).

You could also cut the bike rental, but for many the cost of that will be replaced by the cost of tuk-tuks or taxis so it won’t really save you any money unless you can walk everywhere.

One other area to address is the food cost. I have budgeted $20 per day on average. Some days I will be well under this figure, and some days will be over. In Chiang Mai for example I can get a main meal for just 40 baht ($1.60). Times that by 3 meals and my daily cost could be as low as $4.80!
Other days however I might go all out and eat western which could cost me upwards of $10 per meal for a total of $30. Add in any snacks I buy and the prices climbs.
Luckily, I love Thai food and am excited to try some Vietnamese. I’m happy to eat the local cuisine 95% of the time, and my costs stay low as a result. But, if you want to eat Western or at big fancy restaurants, expect the price to be higher. Also, Chiang Mai is super cheap for food, but places like Koh Phangan will be more expensive again. I think $20 per day over the 5 months is a pretty spot-on estimate for myself.

But what if you really want to be cheap? What if you want to bootstrap a new online business – Just how cheaply can you live for 5 months?

Well, if this is you, I would recommend staying in the one spot, instead of visiting 3 different places like me.
Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest cities in the world, it’s beautiful, and it has an amazing community of people working online so the culture is great!

I’m going to assume you’re also heading to Thailand from Melbourne, just so I can gauge the cost of flights!

Flight 1: Melbourne to Bangkok = $351
Flight 2: Bangkok to Chiang Mai = $84
Flight 3: Chiang Mai to Bangkok = $62
Flight 4: Bangkok to Melbourne = $310


Next are the other costs. I’m going to scrap the cost of gym membership and co-working space, and assume that you’re going to work from a coffee shop. If you’re eating cheap Thai food only, and getting 1-2 coffees per day, in Chiang Mai this will set you back around $15AUD.
Here’s the rest of your expenses:

Accommodation in Hostel (2 nights) = $20
5 month rental of apartment with utilities = $1000
Bike rental 5 months = $400
Food & Coffee ($15 p/day) = $2250

The total cost for 5 months in Chiang Mai (Including flights to & from Melbourne), living as cheaply as possible is… $4477AUD
That’s just $3170USD
and only £2230GBP

So, it comes in at almost half the price of my planned trip and works out at around $900 per month with flights included!

Even with the cost of flights, it makes a lot of sense to travel while you work online rather than staying in your home country – especially if you’re just getting started.
Absolutely anyone can make $1000AUD online a month. That’s only $700USD. That would be enough to get by cheaply in Chiang Mai while you build your business.
Make double that and you can comfortably travel to different places in South East Asia, live in a nice apartment, and party a little. In fact, on 2K a month you can live like a baller in Thailand.

On 2K a month in Australia… it’s a different story.

The cost of a 1 bedroom apartment in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne (45 mins from CBD) is around $1500 a month and that’s not including any utilities!
A meal out at a restaurant will be upwards of $20, versus only $2-$5 in Thailand.

The average full-time income in Australia is around $60,000. And on this amount of money most people are in-debt, have no savings and can’t afford to buy their own home. What a stressful way to live.

Why not lower that stress, head overseas, live by the beach, and work online. Not to mention the food in Thailand is amazing, and the people are some of the friendliest and stress-free I’ve ever met!
If you want to live super cheap in Chiang Mai, then $1000 a month will have you sorted (and that’s including flights). If you want to see the sights, and maybe live on a tropical island like Koh Phangan, then you’ll need to be making more like $2000 per month. That’s only $1400USD!

I believe that absolutely anybody can build an income of $2000AUD per month online. Within a few months of working on the side, you could definitely achieve this!
I’ve seen people do it through Kindle publishing, drop-shipping, affiliate marketing, freelancing, and so many other avenues.

Once you’re making enough to comfortably leave home, do it! Hell, if you have enough savings to support you, then do it!
If you spend 5 months working on an online business in South East Asia, surrounded by other successful entrepreneurs, and you put in the work – there is absolutely no way that you can fail.

We live in an amazing time where living this location independent lifestyle is possible, and it’s possible for everyone. You don’t need to be a master of the internet, or have any great deal of entrepreneurial skills. In my opinion, building an online income stream to $2000 per month is possible for any person of any ability.
So if you’ve been contemplating trying this lifestyle out, it’s time to make a move.

Do it now, or you’ll regret it later. It may be scary, but you only get one shot at this life. Better to say that you ‘tried it and didn’t like it’ than ‘What if?’

So that’s my breakdown of my travelling budget through South East Asia. Hope you enjoyed it and are feeling motivated to go on some travels of your own and possibly start your own online business!

Adrian Ingram

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  1. Hi Adrian, Yes, I can definitely vouch for Chiang Mai as I have been here for 2 years now on a retirement visa. Although I am thinking to escape for a couple of months in March / April as it tends to get a bit too smoky for me (burning season). Koh Phangan seems like a valid option, although I thought about Hua Hin also. I have yet to make a choice :) – Andy Turner.

    • It’s a great lifestyle being able to choose where you’d like to live for a few months at the drop of a hat! If you end up in Koh Phangan I’ll see you there – if not, then enjoy your break from Chiang Mai!

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