1. How can I plan a world tour without a lot of money?
For example, the most expensive thing on my trip so far was sailing from Colombia to Panama. I read that you can go to the port and offer the captain of a commercial vessel some alcohol or a nominal payment and ask for transport. Big savings. Similarly, if you know how to operate a sailboat, there are websites where you can hitch a ride places in exchange for your labor on board.
Another way to save money is to stay in your local area – that is, not to fly. Or, fly once and make your way home by land. I haven’t flown too much on my trip, but my intercontinental flights have all been free thanks to frequent flier miles and a flexible schedule.
There is no magic solution here. But as I said before, the more you adapt and live like the locals, the less it’ll cost.
2. How can I manage the visas for several countries in advance?
Luckily, this is a problem I haven’t had to face too much. It’s complicated as if you plan to be on the road for a long time, the visa you would get in your home country may not be valid long enough to work. But where possible, get the visas you’d need at home before you travel.
That said, sometimes you need to provide detailed itineraries with visa applications. That can be complicated when you aren’t completely sure of your plans.
Another issue is conflicting countries. If you want to enter India, it’s best not to have a Pakistani visa in your passport. So apply for the Indian one first, then the Pakistani one. Similarly for Israel and the Arab world, etc.
3. What precautions should I take?
This depends on you, how much you’ve traveled, what your sense of adventure is, what your minimum expected level of comfort is, etc. But you should have all vaccinations you need, a basic medical kit, travel insurance, and other stuff you can find on my gear page.
I will say that it can pay to read a simple summary of the places you’ll head to on pages like wikitravel. I have been made aware of many scams I didn’t know existed from reading about places ahead of time.
Now that I have a smartphone, I really don’t know how I traveled for seven years without GPS. A smartphone with GPS can be very handy. Just make sure it doesn’t get stolen.
Otherwise, this is really a case-by-case situation.
4. What’s the minimum amount of money I will need?
Same, very case-by-case depending on where you’re going and the level of comfort you expect. You won’t be able to find a $5/night room in Paris. Still, you’ll need some money. I hate to pull a number out of the air, but maybe a year’s worth of rent is a good amount. How far it’ll stretch depends on you, your destinations, and your traveling style.
It also depends on whether you are able to earn any money on the road.
5. What about medical or financial emergencies?
For medical emergencies, I have international health insurance. It only covers emergencies as normal medical care is generally cheaper on the road. Many of these insurance plans also have some coverage in case your belongings get stolen. They often fly in a family member if you are really sick as well.
As for financial emergencies.. there’s always Western Union for someone to bail you out. I guess this is something I haven’t had to deal with (yet), but it’s true, unexpected expenses are the norm, not the exception. It never hurts to have one or two $100 bills in your wallet (unless you are robbed, of course). That won’t get you an emergency intercontinental plane ticket, but it’d get you out of most quandaries.
6. Security issues?
I covered security issues in this post. Not much more to add to that besides reiterating the “listen to your gut” advice. It’ll tell you when something’s wrong!
7. Language barrier?
I talked about this here, but at that point I was still in Latin America and my Spanish was getting better daily. Now that I’m in Asia, it’s all different.
I had problems in The Philippines and India even though both have English as an official language, and had almost no problems in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Of course, it all depends on where you go and who you (try to) talk to.
Now that I have a smartphone, I can conduct one-way conversations via Google Translate. Still, not everyone can read and I’ve ended up reading Hindi using transliteration with minimal success. But more often than not, the language barrier will mean your coffee comes with sugar even though you asked for it without. Not a huge problem.
If you are staying in a hotel or hostel, they usually have business cards. Take one with you and you can give it to the taxi driver, tuk-tuk driver, etc.
Luckily, most street signs are written in Latin script (if there are street signs at all), in touristy areas the people will speak English functionally for their purpose.
I guess my point is that it’s not as big of a problem as you’d expect. You just have to have the right attitude, and not get upset when conversations dead end very quickly.
By the way, one of the quickest ways to endear yourself to locals is to learn a few words in their language. If you’re off the beaten path, the people won’t be used to hearing their language spoken with an accent and it’ll be fabulous entertainment for them 🙂 It’s also a matter of respect and manners to learn basic words like please and thank you.