Around the world in 79 days: how a Ukrainian engineer visited 40 countries for $100 per day
How did the idea of a world tour appear?
When I was working in Cairo, I started thinking about it. I didn’t make friends with anyone there, I was very bored, it seemed that all my friends in Ukraine lived their lives to the fullest, and I locked myself up in Egypt in pursuit of some kind of career growth. I have had this dream for a long time, I wanted to travel around the world. So, I decided that if I won’t do it now, then I will never do it, and that this dream had to be fulfilled.
For the first six months, I figured out the total budget and the duration of the trip. I thought that it would be cool to travel around the world in 80 days (a reference to the popular novel by Jules Verne – ed.), however, in order to remember the figure, it is better to plan a trip for 79 days. In August 2017, a year before leaving Kyiv, I bought the first ticket and from that moment I began preparing myself.
It was already winter when I was transferred from Cairo to Kyiv, and it was unsuccessful because in Cairo there is a wider set of embassies, it would be easier for me to apply for visas there. I negotiated to get a vacation off work with my managers without any problems, since I had to extend the visa in Brazil, there were some difficulties with this, and the question of my work on the Brazilian project was resolved by itself.
How many months did you expect your trip to be? How did you choose the route?
I started planning with the route. There is a web-site Rome2rio.com, without it my journey would not have happened. On this site you can set the travel route, and it will calculate the corridor of transport prices.
On this price corridor I clicked on cheap directions (they are also the busiest) where there is high competition between operators. So, I built five routes, all round the world. Then I took these routes and began to count each one by days. I estimated the budget for about 80 days, it turned out feasible for me. The route was chosen according to my geographical preferences, however, the main factors were: where it is easier to get a visa, where the cheaper tickets are, etc. I was making loops in the track where I was facing difficulties. For example, I had to make a loop in South America, where I was not sure about the responsibility level of the carriers. Also, instead of Australia, which did not issue me a visa, I flew to Indonesia, and so on.
How much did the trip cost?
I planned the budget at the lowest price and added 30% in case I couldn’t save. And my trip cost about $12,000, of which about 33% I was spending on tickets, 50% were pocket money, and 16,7% were spent for overnight stops.
I saved on tickets a lot. On average, a ticket cost me $100-150, because I took it seriously and developed a system for how to buy them. When I picked up all the tickets and realized where I wanted to fly, I began to check the optimal time in each direction. I figured out that there are two periods which are the cheapest: spring and autumn. I got into the autumn, from August to November, and flew with low-cost carriers. I counted changes in temperature the way I didn’t have to take winter clothes with me, which allowed me to fly around the world with a single backpack.
It was possible to save money by not going to museums a lot, it was interesting for me to compare cities, countries, and urban culture in contrasts. Museums are a story about the past, but I wanted to know the present, look at the sights, and then go to sleeping areas, see how people live.
How many cities in total have you visited? What route did you travel?
My route looked this way:
The full list of cities:
What impressions from different cities and countries do you remember the most?
I have never been to Poland before and it struck me. I always thought of Poland as something in between Germany and Ukraine, but it turned out that it is much more like Germany. And since I had low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised.
And vice versa, I always had high expectations about Germany, but when I was there, I did not like that historical centers were restored by scrupulous Germans to the smallest detail, but it was clear that it was restored, not authentic.
I was very impressed with the architecture of Zurich. Italy seemed untidy, with rubbish on the streets and many migrants. After Egypt, I am obsessed with the purity of the streets, and in Italy I felt myself approximately the way I feel in Ukraine.
I really liked Barcelona, it is the perfect option to spend the weekend at the sea. The rest of Spain is fading in comparison with Barcelona. I can understand why the Catalans decided to become independent, they are the brightest people there. One should never go to Paris by Ryanair because the airport where Ryanair flies is located approximately halfway between Brussels and Paris, so getting each way takes up approximately three hours, which is very far. After Paris, I flew to Brussels. It seemed boring, but they have great beer. If you are in the mood to get bored with a cup of good beer, that’s the perfect place for it then.
And besides Europe, what did you remember the most?
Everyone said that the USA has a great service, but it seemed to me that the service there was even worse than in Ukraine. We criticize Ukrainian service in vain and for no reason at all. In Ukraine you can come to PrivatBank, and they will look at you with zero emotions, but they will solve the problem. In Egypt, all the staff are very happy to see you, they call you by name, but cannot solve the problem, and this is a lot more frustrating than the PrivatBank consultant who forgot to smile at you.
In the USA, it was expressed in a little different way. You can ask the waiter what the coolest thing on the menu in the Ukrainian cafe without being misunderstood. In the States, I had five waiters quite arrogantly point out to me, like, man, read the menu. This is just one example, however, I felt it in many ways. I did not like public transport. The USA has huge cities with very inconvenient infrastructure. I would not want to live, for example, in New York and spend so much time just getting around the city.
I remembered Brazil for its high crime rate. After the Olympics in Rio, the government went bankrupt there, they imposed martial law, there are constant wars with drug lords and they are not very successful. In Kyiv, in any area you can run into trouble, but it is rather a matter of chance. And in Rio it is better not to walk home at night, there are areas in Sao Paulo where it is generally better not to appear at all. I personally did not get into trouble there, however, there is a huge number of people with machine guns and shotguns on the streets.
What Ukrainians might like in Argentina is about Ukrainian prices in stores.
How did you plan the trip, what services did you use? How did you save?
I approached the journey as if I was doing some big project: I created a Google-table with prices breakdown. At first, I tried to search for the cheapest hotels by aggregator, but it turned out that there could be up to 10% variation in prices depending on the site, so I looked for everything on Booking.
I also used Skyscanner. There is a trick: Skyscanner has a top location switch. If you buy a ticket from Miami to Rio de Janeiro, and Ukraine is on location, it costs $700-800. If you switch the location to Brazil, the price will drop to $250. I saved about $1000 using this tool.
How to solve the problem with transport, did you rent a car on the ground?
I spent a day or two in each city, I did not rent a car, I took Uber in poor countries, sometimes it was cheaper than some other transport to the airport. For example, in Argentina it is cheaper to take Uber from the airport than taking a bus. I do not know why it is that way, but according to my observations, if it’s a poor country, Uber works well in terms of prices, however, in America and Europe it is expensive.
I used Wikitravel and Google Trips, I read about ground transportation applications at the airport before departure, and as a rule, I had to try hard to find cheap buses and trains.
How did you organize mobile communications, the Internet?
The last two years I travel a lot and I stopped using TravelSIM since they are ineffective. I traveled with the Kyivstar sim card, used the Internet for roaming, it cost me about UAH 1,500 per month, which is very cheap. I tried to save on traffic (I loaded maps prior to traveling, and did not watch YouTube), but in most cases I did not limit myself to google something.
Important: you should always have a SIM card on which your hotel and tickets are booked. If something goes wrong, the airline will call you, and if you do not pick up the phone, you can skip an important flight.
Tell us about payment systems, maps, calculations – were there any difficulties or problems with that?
Each country has its own pros and cons. When you travel around Europe, you can pay by card anywhere. But in, let’s say, Brazil, you cannot just pay with the card, you need to consider its type. In half of the places they only accept debit cards, which means only the Brazilian cards.
I traveled with a PrivatBank card, in North and South America during each transaction my card was blocked, and they called me from a bank. I was asked if I was paying with it. It seems that you can travel freely and withdraw money all over the world from a PrivatBank card, but in India and the USA they called me regularly, it’s obvious that these countries are considered to be a risk zone. And if I had TravelSIM, the bank could not call on it, and I would be left without money.
Usually there were no problems with payments, however, there were difficulties with cash withdrawals. There is such a feature: MasterCard and Visa have an international transaction system (Visa Plus and Cirrus) and if you see its sticker on an ATM, the commission will be at the level of 5%, which is very cheap. However, if the ATM converts the payment through its system, it means they have crazy commissions. I tried not to withdraw a lot of money so that there was no “dead” cash, I had $20-25 in cash to pay where they did not accept the card. When the ATM was not working on the Visa Plus/Cirrus system, withdrawing $25 could sometimes mean paying a fee of $10.
I did not keep a lot of money on the card which I used the most. The main amount was on the electronic card, so I was transferring money from it on the card that I used to pay with. I calculated how much pocket money I needed for every day, which was about $100 or a little less, and automatically set this number in the system. Each day a certain amount “dripped” from the electronic card to the main one. I did this for security reasons: if somebody hacks it, then it would cost me $100, but not all the money I have.
There’s another trick: there are a lot of places where you need to leave a deposit, I’m talking about car rental services, hotels, etc. They block some amount of money on the card, as a rule, for 14 days, but the thing is that if you travel around the cities in a fast mode, you will run out the money on your card pretty quickly. Therefore, it is better to have a credit card with a limit of $3000-4000, on which you register such payments.
Did you have to buy something on the go?
Was everything planned so perfectly?
I did not miss a single flight, I am proud of my punctuality. By the way, I am very glad that I managed to travel in the direction to the west. When you fly west, it’s like moving the arrows of your watchbackall the time, and you just want to go to bed earlier. If I flew to the east, I would be so exhausted by my fifth or sixth flight, I would miss my plane.
What can you recommend to those who would like to go to the Around the World tour?
This fall I gave a lecture about it in the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. To be short, here is a list of online services that may be useful for you:
- Rome2rio.com is transport planning for difficult trips.
- Visalist.io is an interactive visa requirements map.
- goeuro.com is an aggregator of bus and train tickets around Europe.
- Skyscanner.com is search for tickets with switching countries.
- google.com/flights is a convenient ticket search engine.
- Google Trips for planning a day in the city.
- Wikitravel.org is a good introduction to every city.
I advise taking these things with you:
- Promate PowerCore-C – the only and compact phone and laptop charger (USB-C PD) with nozzles to all countries of the world.
- Rock W2006T – large one (20 000 mAh) also with USB-C PD.
- The LG G5 is the only non-ancient phone with removable batteries known to me. One battery is in the phone, the other one is in the pocket, the third one is charging in the hotel. It’s perfect for traveling.
- Urban Planet B4 is a very roomy rolltop backpack, durable, lightweight and comfortable. Ideal in size for all low-cost posters of the world. Bobby Urban, as an alternative.
- Banana bag, because at times it’s safer and more convenient than keeping everything in your pockets.
Would you like to travel around the globe again?
No. Going to around the world trip is cool, however, traveling around the globe twice is not as good as it is once. There are many more things that I want to do.
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