Budget Breakdown: 3 months in Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Turkey

I debated over whether to write a post about my budget - I spent a lot of money on this trip and putting that out there for the world to see feels really weird. I recognize how incredibly privileged I am to have been able to afford to put money in savings each month, quit my job without a new one lined up, spend this much money on a trip just for fun!, and come back knowing I had plentiful guest rooms to stay in until I found a new job and a new home. I do not take these things for granted one bit - and I know that no matter how hard I worked for them, for many people they are simply out of reach.

I also don't want my budget to deter anyone - while this trip was quite expensive, there are a lot of ways it could have been done more affordably. I spent the first half of my trip on a backpacker budget, but during the second half I stayed in nicer hotels and splurged more on luxury activities and fine dining. Some people could travel the world for a year on what I spent in 3 months... and then there are others who could spend my 3-month budget on a one-week trip to Paris. Travel looks different for everyone and ultimately it's all about what kind of experience you want and how much you're willing/able to pay for it.

In the end, I decided to share because 1) during my planning phase, I found that there aren't a lot of budget breakdowns out there for less-visited countries like Georgia and Armenia, and 2) even though I spent a lot of money, I feel like some people might be surprised how little it was when you consider the fact that I traveled for 3 months and splurged on some pretty incredible bucket list activities. Given how easy it is to blow thousands on a weekend in Vegas (even without gambling), I consider this trip a great value, and worth every penny I spent.

I used the Trail Wallet app to track my spending by country - it made budgeting in multiple currencies super easy.


I have been singing Georgia's praises from the rooftops since I returned home - it's my #1 choice for value on the trip. A beautiful country with a lot of history and culture, easy to get around, and yet it's still incredibly affordable. It may not stay that way for long, so go soon!

6 weeks in Georgia
Miscellaneous 348.89152.77$3.64

Lodging: I stayed in hostels and guesthouses (which skewed the food/lodging budgets a bit, as some or all meals were included at guesthouses). Splurged on one night at a winery.
Transport: I stuck to local transportation- marshutky, metro, my own two feet - and was lucky enough to make a few friends with cars who occasionally helped me get somewhere for free.
Food: Except when staying in guesthouses, I ate most of my meals at restaurants and cafes because it was often just as cheap to eat out as it was to buy groceries. Breakfast was free at most places I stayed.
Entertainment a few museum entry fees and a tour that took me from Tbilisi to Yerevan.
Miscellaneous covered toiletries, laundry, souvenirs, and mailing a package home.

Getting there: Plane tickets were not cheap (I flew to Istanbul then took a budget airline to Tbilisi), but maybe due to winter or maybe due to the current situation in Turkey, Turkish Airlines currently has flights to Tbilisi starting at $550 (half what I paid!)


Even though it was cheaper than Georgia, it ranks lower on overall value for me mostly because it seemed like there was less to do, and a bit less tourist infrastructure (for instance - there's no English signage in the Yerevan metro). Also, to me Yerevan lacks some of the charm of Tbilisi... but the coffee is definitely better! Still a fantastic value for your money. 

7 Days in Armenia
Miscellaneous 1425029.87$4.27
Total 100610$210.9$30.13

Lodging: I stayed at the same hostel in Yerevan for my whole trip. Cheap, clean and conveniently located.
Food was really cheap in Armenia, even in the heart of Yerevan. I only had one meal over $10, including drinks. The kebab shops offered especially good value.
Transportation costs were low as I only made a couple of day trips outside of Yerevan. Within the city, I walked, took the occasional taxi, or used the local minibuses (pretty easy even without knowing any Armenian).


Traveling to Iran was a huge splurge. Since as an American I had to travel with a group tour, there was really no way to do this on the cheap. From what I could tell, most tours in Iran still cater to older, more affluent travelers. This means staying in nicer hotels, which is where the primary cost comes in, and traveling on nicer transportation options like a private bus. I decided that the opportunity to have this experience was worth the cost of the tour - and looking back, I don't regret that decision one bit. I would love to see Iranian tour operators start gearing more tours towards younger travelers, though - outdoor activities, home stays/guesthouses, and public transportation would all cut down on costs while offering more contact with day-to-day life in Iran.

N.B. If you have a passport from a country other than the US or Britain and can do your trip without a tour group, I'm told you can travel very cheaply in Iran by Couchsurfing!

14 Days in Iran
Tour + tips2314.15$165.30

All accommodation, all breakfasts, transportation and entry fees were included in the tour. I paid for lunches and dinners, souvenirs, internet, and transportation to/from the airport out of pocket.
I think food prices were a bit inflated as, with a group of 14, we often had to eat at more touristy restaurants/buffets.


Next to Iran, Turkey was my biggest splurge. With my friend visiting, we stayed in slightly nicer accommodations and did more extravagant activities than I would have done on my own. I also spent a lot of time in Istanbul, which is a major city and comes with major city prices on food and entertainment. It was a little rough having this come at the end of my trip!

25 days in Turkey
*nb many expenses were paid in dollars or Euro, so I didn't calculate costs in lira

I spent more than twice as much on lodging compared to Georgia/Armenia - but mostly because I stayed in actual hotels instead of hostels. I still think there's some very good value to be had in accommodations, especially if you have a traveling partner. Vineyard Cave Hotel in Goreme was an excellent choice for the money (we found it on shoulder-season sale), and the long-term stay discount at Finch Apartments made it nearly as cheap as the hostel across the street, but much more comfortable! Lodging also included our 3-night boat trip. 

Entertainment was also much higher, thanks to the hot air balloon ride, tips for our boat ride, and some pricey museum entrance fees.
Food was a crazy mix of high and low end - from a splurge meal at Nicole to $3 kebabs. Overall, prices in Istanbul were pretty high. I tried to keep food spending in check by cooking breakfast and dinner at my apartment for most of the last two weeks.

Istanbul is not a cheap city, at least not when you're coming from Tbilisi - but how much would I have spent on 18 days in Paris or London? In terms of history, culture and food, I would put Istanbul on par with any major European city --- and suddenly it's a pretty great value.

Other Expenses

There were a few overarching expenses that didn't fit into any one country budget, but are certainly important for planning. Many of these (gear, plane tickets, insurance) were paid for in advance - while I still had a job - so they didn't cut into my travel savings. I definitely recommend paying for some things ahead of time if you are able!

Plane Tickets
6 flights (1 international RT, 3 international 1-way, 2 internal 1-way) + megabus
Travel Insurance
World Nomads. Just get it - peace of mind. 
for checking bank balances/making credit card payments securely on public wifi
Chromebook, hiking shoes, sandals, tunics for Iran, etc
In-Transit costs
taxis, etc in the US
$185 for Iran (including photos), $30 for Turkey

Grand Total: $8495.16*

*I'm sure I forgot something
**I excluded the insane amount of money that I spent on presents and souvenirs in Turkey. I couldn't stop buying towels! 

So, all three of my dear readers who made it all the way through, I'm curious what you think: is this more or less than you expected? What's your favorite travel destination in terms of overall value? 


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