This page looks at the estimated cost of travel in the USA. Read on for our suggested shoestring and more comfortable USA backpacking budget for those looking to get the most out of their trip. We also have some sample prices and info on how to pay for things across the States.
USA Cost of Travel in 2023
Shoestring Backpacker Budget
Much of the advice we gave in our Canada backpacking budget applies here too. Like Canada, it is a very large country but with considerably more places of interest so your expenses really depend on how ambitious you want to be.
Focusing on just one area of the country for example California or Florida, then a USA backpacking budget of $75/day is realistic enough in most cases. That should just about cover budget accommodation, food, transport and some daytime or evening activities, although you’ll need to be really prudent to stick to that kind of budget as there are so many ways to spend money in the US and backpacking costs are among the highest in the world.
As of early 2023, the Dollar is also strong relative to most major currencies which also has an impact in making it expensive for international visitors.
The other major problem for shoestring travellers, particularly those backpacking solo is the real lack of real budget accommodation. Whereas in other parts of the world you will find plenty of hostels with dorms in even the smallest towns, that isn’t really the case in the US. The biggest cities do of course have them but not that many and given the lack of competition they are not that cheap and therefore accommodation costs tend to take up quite a big chunk of your budget.
More Comfortable USA Backpacking Budget
To get the best out of a trip to the US, particularly as a solo traveller, you may want to increase your budget to around $100/day. It’ll be easier for couples or groups of friends to stick to the previous budget as you can split accommodation costs with the cheapest private rooms often not a lot more than a dorm bed.
In areas such as New York and New England, you will often have to pay $40 or more for a dorm bed which doesn’t leave a lot left over for anyone looking to see and do a lot during the day, whilst sampling the nightlife and eating out in restaurants.
Increasing your budget to $100/day will also give you a bit of room to take a few domestic flights that will allow you to see more of the country. If you are a group of 4 or 5, then renting a car might even prove more cost effective as getting around some parts of the US by public transport can be a challenge.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to see all the main tourist attractions in the cities you visit, you can also end up spending a lot more than $100 in just one day visiting sights in New York for example where some of the main attractions cost up to $50. So you’ll have to be a bit sensible even to stick to this budget in some places. However out in more rural parts of America, like the Glacier National Park, you should find it easier to cut costs to a minimum providing you can find affordable accommodation.
How much are things in the USA?
|Flight from New York to Miami||From $30 + Baggage Fees (Book at least 2 weeks in advance to get the best fares)|
|Bus from San Francisco to LA (8 hours)||From $40|
|Meal in an affordable local restaurant||$12-22|
|Local beer in bar/restaurant||$4-6|
|Dorm bed in a hostel||From $35/night|
|Budget private room||From $45/night|
|Empire State Building Observatory Ticket||$44|
|Travel insurance for backpacking the US||Depends on your age/circumstances – Get a quote from Heymondo in under a minute!|
There’s no getting away from the fact that the United States is an expensive country to visit. Food and drinks may not cost a lot more than in parts of Europe, but costs add up when you factor in the tipping culture in the States with 20% considered standard in most restaurants. All things considered, your daily spend will add up to around 4 times as much as the cost of travel in Sri Lanka for example.
One tip for cutting down on accommodation is to consider signing up to Worldpackers and finding work placements where you can sleep for free in exchange for a bit of help. In the USA, one night’s free accommodation alone can cover the cost of the annual Worldpackers membership ($39 if you sign up using our Worldpackers sign up offer).
Currency – US Dollars
£1 = $1.22
€1 = $1.08
These exchange rates and the prices in the previous section are accurate as of March 2023. Contactless payments are increasingly common across the US but it’s still useful to get some dollars and smaller notes, particularly given the tipping culture.
This USA backpacking budget was last updated in March 2023.