Stretching My Travel Budget: Making the Most of $20K


I am way over budget and I’m okay with that.

My budget for 10 months of travel was only $18,000. I just surpassed $20,000 and I have about two months to go.

But with a nice tax refund, some additional income sources and partnerships with companies like to secure complimentary accommodations, I was able to loosen the purse strings a bit, extend the length of my trip and add in two not-so-budget-friendly destinations: Italy and Turkey.

While my first $10,000 lasted me 150 days, my second $10,000 has lasted me 172 days.

Here is how it all breaks down – note that there is some overlap in the per country breakdown as my first 8 days in Ukraine fell into my first $10K.


International Transportation




Marshrutka, Chernivtsi, Ukraine to Chisinau, Moldova $16.06
Marshrutka, Chisinau to Odessa, Ukraine $11.89
Ferry, Odessa to Batumi, Georgia $181.25
Marshrutka, Tbilisi, Georgia to Yerevan, Armenia $18.29
Marshrutka, Yerevan to Tbilisi $16.73
Flight, Tbilisi to Rome, Italy $169.27
Flight, Rome to Istanbul, Turkey $180.42
3 mini-buses & 2 shared taxis, Kars, Turkey to Tbilisi $43.86
Bus & 2 marshrutkas, Telavi, Georgia to Qax, Azerbaijan $6.31
Bus & shared taxi, Baku, Azerbaijan to Tbilisi $24.43
Marshrutka, Tbilisi to Yerevan $18.39
Marshrutka, Yerevan to Tbilisi $15.73
Flight, Tbilisi to Dushanbe, Tajikistan $823.28




Per Country Expenses






Ukraine 44 $2,043.46 $46.44
Moldova 6 $225.38 $37.56
Georgia 26 $1,195.54 $45.98
Armenia 43 $1.364.48 $31.73
Italy 7 $425.04 $60.72
Turkey 17 $1,133.70 $66.69
Azerbaijan 12 $760.66 $63.39
Tajikistan 29 $628.94 $21.69







Clothing and shoes (including new hiking shoes, running shoes and sandals): $636.14

Clinique makeup (note to self, check prices and confirm exchange rate before purchasing next time): $99.87

Souvenirs: $212.49

Shipping costs to send stuff home: $101.52

Total: $1050.02

$1,526.11 +$7.777.20 + $1,050.02 = $10,353.23


Like before, here is a further breakdown by country:




  • Accommodation: $797.20 (includes 15 nights homestay, 7 nights hostel dorm, 10 nights hostel private room, 3 nights guesthouse, 6 nights hotel, 3 nights Black Sea Ferry)
  • Russian language course (2 weeks): $303.75
  • Food: $10.69 per day
  • Local Transportation: $64.08
  • Activities/entertainment: $285.91 (includes Chernobyl tour and day trip in the Carpathians)
  • Phone/internet: $11.88 (SIM card and 3G modem internet access in Kiev)
  • Miscellaneous: $110.42 (toiletries, ibuprofen, Kleenex, pens, maps)




  • Accommodation: $93.84 (6 nights hostel dorm)
  • Food: $11.34 per day
  • Local Transportation: $21.37
  • Activities/entertainment: $35.06
  • Miscellaneous: $7.08 (map, hostel towel)




  • Accommodation:$463.75 (3 nights Black Sea Ferry, 1 night guesthouse, 4 nights hostel dorm room, 5 nights hotel, 10 nights complimentary hostel private room)
  • Overnight trains: $21.34
  • Food: $11.09 per day
  • Local Transportation: $77.01
  • Activities/entertainment: $245.95 (includes taxi hire for multiple day trips)
  • Phone: $27.44 (SIM card used in Georgia & Azerbaijan)
  • Miscellaneous: $71.71 (sunglasses, hair color, toiletries)




  • Visa cost:  $38.60 (one 120-day single entry and one 21-day single entry)
  • Accommodation: $281.76 (36 nights homestay, 3 nights friend’s apartment, 1 night hostel private room, 4 nights complimentary hostel private room)
  • Volunteer program: $138.96
  • Food: $6.98 per day
  • Local Transportation: $62.56
  • Activities/entertainment: $495.24 (includes multiple excursions with volunteer program, 2 organized group tours & a lot of vodka)
  • Phone/internet: $71.28 (SIM card and rental of 3G mini-modem + unlimited internet for 30 days)
  • Miscellaneous: $114.96 (2 haircuts, 2 pedicures, toiletries, ibuprofen)




  • Accommodation: $234.21 (1 night hotel, 3 nights shared hotel, 2 nights complimentary hotel)
  • Food: $17.43 per day
  • Local Transportation: $26.32
  • Activities/entertainment: $42.50




  • Visa cost: $20 (90 day, multiple entry)
  • Accommodation: $458.62 (4 nights hostel dorm, 8 nights hotel, 3 nights complimentary hotel)
  • Overnight buses (2): $60.80
  • Food: $12.57 per day
  • Local Transportation: $84.23
  • Activities/entertainment: $289.91 (includes day trips to Sumela Monastery and Ani)
  • Miscellaneous: $56.14 (scarf, hat, toiletries)




  • Visa cost: $160.98 (30 day, single entry, plus visa agency fee)
  • Accommodation: $193.51 (4 nights homestay, 2 nights guesthouse, 6 nights friend’s apartment)
  • Food: $12.70 per day
  • Local Transportation: $65.95
  • Activities/entertainment: $152.39 (includes 3 days of hiking guides)
  • Internet: $0.30 (1 hour at internet café)
  • Miscellaneous: $43.60 (laundry, bracelet, gift for host)




  • Visa cost: $35 (30 day, single entry)
  • Accommodation: $98.53 (2 nights hotel, 2 nights guesthouse included with volunteer program, 25 nights homestay included with volunteer program)
  • Volunteer program: $370 (includes bank transfer fee)
  • Food: $1.18 per day (all my meals were included while I volunteered)
  • Local Transportation: $74.58
  • Activities/entertainment: $0
  • Phone/internet: $4.20 (SIM card plus 2 hours of internet café use)
  • Miscellaneous: $8.09 (anti-itch cream for mosquito bites & new sunglasses)

As before, I hope this helps for anyone planning a career break of their own or thinking about visiting some of these countries. Stay tuned for my final stats this fall!

 Photo: Images_of_Money

12 thoughts on “Stretching My Travel Budget: Making the Most of $20K”

  1. I am looking at making a 14 day trip to this region, looking at taking in Georgia, but really wanna add either Armenia and or Azerbaijan in, which one would you recommend more for a first time visitor to this region.

    1. I’d probably go with Armenia. It’s easier logistically (visa available at the border for like $8, compared to Azerbaijan, which you have to get in advance, with a letter of invitation, for $140) and it’s less expensive. Many of the major sights are close to the capital, Yerevan, and there’s a great tour company called Hyurservice that runs inexpensive day trips all over the place.

      That said, the sights to see in Armenia can be quite similar to Georgia – a lot churches and monasteries. Azerbaijan is more of a contrast so if you want two very different experiences, I might try Azerbaijan.

      Check out my post, Travel in the Caucasus: Comparing Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, for more comparing all 3 countries.

  2. Very impressive budget tracking. It is so interesting to see the breakdown of your travel expenses throughout these countries.

  3. I’m impressed with your tracking as well! If you need a place to stay, I can offer you a couple of free nights with us in Munich.

    1. Thanks Laurel! Don’t think I’ll be heading through Munich, but will keep you in mind if I do!

  4. This is a great breakdown. I love the budget side of travel. This is even better because it is for countries that are VERY often not on the regular tourist trail! So VERY great details!!

  5. Always interesting to see travel expenses. I see your average on food is around 11-12 USD.. Very impressed! How did you do that?

    1. Cooked for myself a lot at hostels, tried to eat big breakfasts and then just one other big meal a day. Also, my homestay in Armenia included breakfast every day and my homestay in Tajikistan included all meals. Some countries, like Georgia and Armenia, food was just really cheap too. I could eat a decent lunch in Yerevan for $3-4 and a good dinner for $5-6.

  6. I’m impressed with how well you kept track of your spending. I did ok until it came to food and random things like toiletries, food, alcohol, and a few other random things.

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