August 8, 2016

How I Visited Every Country in the World

 …on a Budget

After more than 850 flights on over 200 different airlines, I have finally completed my project of visiting every country in the world. It took me more than ten years, and in the last six, I have travelled full-time to reach this goal.

So how did I do it on a small budget? Prior 2010, I travelled on a low-budget by looking actively for low-cost airlines’ promotions, where I flew for under five dollars many times on Ryanair and Air Asia. Instead of staying at hotels, I used Couchsurfing to stay with local people and to keep my cost down. I especially enjoyed my low-cost tour of Australia in 2009 with Tiger Airways, staying at many private homes.

Welcome amenity at Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, Qatar.

In 2010, I finished business school back in Denmark and decided to open a blog to see if it could help me travel the world. I focused on luxury hotels as I have been fascinated with great hotels and of course, also as a way to keep my cost down. Early on, I set a goal to visit the best hotels in 100 countries, to have a project hotels could be interesting in supporting. I only asked hotels for one night in low season and planned my travels according to the hotels availability. In the beginning, I had to pay a media rate as I had no references and only a few articles on my blog.

Time went by, and as I had more articles and references, it was easier to get complimentary accommodation at the world’s best hotels. I enjoyed the luxury travel in comfortable countries and 2012, after visiting more than 100 countries, I decided to go for every country in the world. The only problem was, I would need more money. The bank was happy to give me a loan, but I would need a lot more to visit the remaining countries.

Airlines
I began contacting airlines asking for a complimentary ticket to support of my journey to every country in the world. In exchange, I would have to do an article, social media or both. The first couple of airlines said no, but then Tanganyika Flying Co. agreed to fly me to the Singita Grumeti Reserves in Tanzania, which has been voted the best hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure. I continued to e-mail a lot of airlines. Some said yes, some said no. In total, I ended up with more than 100 carriers supporting my journey to every country in the world. I have an agreement with much more for future trips and maybe I will reach 200 by the time I hopefully complete every territory in the world. If you have a unique project and need airline support, my advice would be to start with the smaller carriers in less-travelled destinations that don’t receive many requests, as they would be more likely to give you a chance, than an airline that receives many requests on a daily basis.

What Anyone Can Do?
If you don’t want to open a blog, there are many other things you can do. I have already mentioned Couchsurfing, which I consider the best advice, but there are many other things you can do to finance world travel. Below are some of the things I also did:

1. Points and miles
Most valuable for people located in countries with lucrative credit card programmes. I am not an expert in this field as we don’t have these possibilities in Denmark. Instead, I would recommend following the following blogs: The Points Guy, One Mile at a Time, Million Mile Secret, Frugal Travel Guy and Extra Pack of Peanuts. Although I have never had an airline or hotel-branded credit card, I have been able to get a lot of miles and points by learning the tips and tricks from the leading expert in this field.

2. Avoid restaurants. Eat at Supermarkets
Don’t eat in restaurants while travelling the world. Go to the supermarket and put together the cheapest meal you can.

3. Follow actively on Twitter
Follow travel bloggers and deal specific accounts on Twitter not to miss out on free points, miles, promotions and incredible deals.

4. Never take taxis: Hitchhike
I have hitchhiked with more than 1,000 cars around the world. Taking the first step is difficult. I would recommend doing it on a Pacific island for the first time, where everyone does it and where it is considered completely normal. I met an American in Kiribati that didn’t like hitchhiking and took expensive taxis in the Pacific. We ended up travelling together around the Pacific. I insisted we should always hitchhike. Today, he is a hitchhiker himself and loves it as much as I do. There are many places where hitchhiking is hard but hardly ever impossible. I would recommend using Hitchwiki.org as an excellent guide for hitchhiking and, of course, my guide to hitchhiking the world. If you for some reasons don’t plan to visit the Pacific anytime soon, you might also try on the smaller Caribbean islands. However, for the warmest experience, I highly recommend Iran where I refused to pay for an overpriced taxi and instead put out my thumb at the international airport in Tehran and was taking straight to my hotel room by one of the warmest people I have met in my travels. The Iranians are the friendliest people in the world, and I think it will be a real tourist destination in the future. Oh, you can get a visa on arrival easily in Tehran with a letter from a tour operator. Time to visit Iran? Click here to find my guide to hitchhiking the world.

5. Low-Cost Airlines and no check-in bag
Low-cost airlines are the way to go, and they are all over the world. Sign up for their newsletters with special offers and get tickets for close to nothing. Ryanair, Easyjet, Air Asia, Tiger Airways, Spirit Air (small handbag, only), Wizz Air, Norwegian, Wow Air and Fastjet are all highly recommended. Just remember only to travel with a handbag.

The Afghanistan visa was easy to obtain in Dubai.


6. Be creative with visas. 
Visas are probably the number one thing we, world travellers, dislike about what we do. If I could buy a special passport with visa-free entry to all countries, I would have been to all countries two years ago I’m sure. It’s hard work and research pays off. All embassies are different. In Europe, you might need an invitation to an African country you want to visit, but you can get it in one of their African embassies in a day with no requirements. I can recommend the following: Sudan visa in Aswan, Ivory Coast visa in Nouakchott, Cameroon visa in Libreville, Central African Republic visa in Pretoria, South Sudan visa in Nairobi, Ghana and Burkina Faso visa in Abidjan to just name a few. Rabat, Morocco is, however, the number one place to get visas for African countries. Rent an apartment for two weeks in Rabat and get as many visas as you can. Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Niger and Liberia were all easy to obtain with no requirements besides passport photos and filling the forms. If I had the time, many other African countries were also possible including Mali, Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast that all confirmed it would be easy and take a day or two. Finally, contact local tour operators and ask if they can help with a visa on arrival in countries where you need a visa. I was surprised to know I could get a visa on arrival in many countries where I thought I would need to visit an embassy in advance.

Read more tips in my two upcoming books about my journey to every country in the world. The first one will out later this month.

Eritrea, my final country to visit.

Future?
Now that I have visited every country in the world, I will continue to travel. Especially chase the territories I have left. I will also complete all American states and then there are no travel lists left for me. If I manage to do all three goals, I will travel even more extensively in the countries I love. The only other goal is not a list to complete, but to stay at 100 private island resorts in the Maldives. It would be a neat thing to do if you ask me. After this, I expect to live and travel further in the countries I love and destinations I find interesting. I also plan to do expeditions to remote places after visiting all countries and territories.

Interview?
To interview me about my journey to every country in the world, click here to get in touch.