How much does an overland trip cost?

How much does an overland trip cost?

Working out how much it costs to do an overland trip is essential.  I feel travelling by overland truck is good value for money, but it depends on what additional activities you intend to do, along with understanding other costs, which can mount up.

I had a few financial surprises as I was preparing for my last overland trip through Central and SE Asia.  Some were due to poor planning on my part – mainly because I’d made assumptions about the cost of things – and others due to unforeseen circumstances.

Your pre-trip information should give you a guide to the costs, including a rough daily spend allowance, but some costs change depending on your circumstances. I’ve listed out as many things as I could think of, as well as ways you can save money. If you have other suggestions, please do contact me.

Cost of the trip

Depending where the company you’re travelling with is based, the cost may be in a different currency to your usual one.  So bear in mind currency fluctuations and the costs of transferring money.  Find out from the company how they can receive the money.  If they charge in GBP they may also have USD account if that is your preferred choice of currency.

Kitty

Many trips have a set amount for a kitty.  This is usually paid in cash to the crew on the day the trip starts.  It can cover food whilst camping, accommodation, fuel, truck costs etc.  Check exactly what is covered.  Usually, food required when staying in hotels is not covered, unless it’s an included activity.  This is why it’s important to understand how much camping is involved – it can affect the overall cost of the trip.

Additional Activities

The trip notes should make it clear what is included in the trip price, and what is not. Many give details and a guide price for additional activities to do on your travels, sometimes these can mount up, but it can also be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Flights & Accommodation

What will it cost to get to the place you are meeting the truck, and back from the place you leave the truck?

Meals

It’s usual for you to pay for all meals when you’re not travelling on the truck or camping.  Check the percentage of camping vs hotels as this can make quite a difference to your daily cost of living.  Of course, it depends on the countries you’re travelling through, but it’s something to bear in mind.

Contingency Fund

Trips can be disrupted by natural disasters and life can throw curve balls at you.  Read the fine print of your trip notes, and establish how unexpected changes of plan are handled.  In what situation would you be expected to pay extra?  What if you’re unable to use the truck for all or part of the journey?  It can, and does, happen.

For this reason, I set aside about 10-15% of the total cost of my trip as contingency money.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be in hard cash, it can be in accessible funds such as a credit card.

Ironically, on my last lot of travels I used about 50% of this before I even set off.  Three weeks before I was due to depart and with three days notice I had to have significant surgery. It was touch and go if I would be able to do the trip at all. As it happened I did make it but I missed the first 6 weeks of the overland, had to put one flight in the bin, buy another flight to a more expensive place and pay accommodation and food for 2 days whilst I waited for the truck to arrive which had got delayed en route.  In addition to this I had to delay tenants moving into my house by a month.  If I was to factor that cost in, I probably used all my contingency without stepping out the door! I was unable to claim these costs on my insurance.

Visas

The cost of these can vary depending on the passport you hold. If you hold more than one passport, switching passports mid trip to take advantage of cheaper visa costs can be an issue and is not advised.  Some visas you will get en route.  I think I spent £650 in total for central and SE Asia.

Vaccinations & Medicine

I cover this in more detail in this section, but the vaccinations and medicine I took to cover me through Central Asia, China, Nepal, India and South East Asia set me back over £700.  Add that to my insurance, visa costs and already I’ve pushed through £1,200 without blinking.  Though I did weep a little getting the Rabies jabs!

Passport Photographs

You will need numerous photographs for visas and may need to carry up to 10 with you.  These can add up.

Insurance

Many standard travel insurance policies don’t cover you for long trips – trips more than say, 45 days.  So if you intend you use a ‘standard’ travel insurance policy check the fine print for the maximum travel days allowed as well as cover for activities you intend to do.

I’ve used two different specialist companies.  My backpacker insurance for a year costs £450.  Of course, the price varies upon age and pre-existing conditions.  I like True Traveller as you can amend and extend your policy whilst on the road and they answered my queries promptly.

Bank Charges

Depending on where you travel, cash may be king, and that usually means the American dollar.  I cover issues about money in this section, it seems like fees for changing money have all but disappeared these days, which just means it’s absorbed into the rate.  I couldn’t be bothered to get a bank account with no withdrawal fees for foreign currency when away, and I think I should have considered it.

Posting items home or onwards

This may not be an extra cost to you as it a) depends on the length of your trip and how variable the climate is b) your plans once your overland trip ends, and c) how much you overpack!  I spent around £200 posting my cold weather gear home, my sleeping gear and stuff I brought and didn’t use. I go into further detail in the section on ‘What to pack for an overland trip‘.

Many of us on my last overland trip posted items home.  Some of those who were going on to do further travel posted gear ahead to Australia and New Zealand, to save lugging it around SE Asia for 3 months.  So, if you think you might need to post items home, add it to the (ever growing) budget!

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PLEASE NOTE

Much of the information and advice expressed on this website is the personal opinion of the writer. If you choose to follow any advice you do so at your own risk with no recourse to the writer or Adventures in Overland.

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