Travelling with a Round the World Ticket
Travelling around the world means literally to travel around the entire globe and cross every single longitude at least once during your trip. This is obviously a very unidirectional trip and you usually travel in a more or less straight line, either continuously East, or continuously West, throughout your entire trip. This might seem very limiting, but on the other hand it gets you exactly where you want to go, around the world.
When to use a Round the World Ticket
Using an RTW ticket is quite likely the best option for you if you want to go around the entire world and cover many countries within the one year period that the ticket is valid for. For many people who are new to long-term traveling, it is preferable having a certain overall structure to the trip, as well as peace of mind once all major travel arrangements are made. This leaves you free to enjoy your trip without constantly having to worry about finding the next good deal for an ongoing flight. Plus, if you opt for the online ticket version, which is strongly recommended, you can even change all the dates of your flights for free.
Does this sound almost too good to be true? Well, there are a lot of ins and outs involved in a Round the World Ticket and I will try to explain a few of them. First of all there are many different companies around and they have very different offers. The two biggest companies offering an RTW ticket are probably Star Alliance and One World. While I looked up all sorts of different tickets before I left, in the end I decided for One World because they had the better coverage in the areas I wanted to go to. With that in mind, everything you will read here on this page mainly relates to the One World Ticket, simply because that is the one that I personally used.
How the Round the World Ticket works
First of all there are two different types of Round the World Tickets, the Continent Ticket and the Mileage Ticket. With the Continent Ticket you pay a fixed amount of money for each continent that you are visiting, whether with the Mileage Ticket you are paying for a certain mileage bracket, meaning for a certain distance that you are travelling. Depending on where you want to go, one of the two tickets should be cheaper than the other and better suited to your trip.
Both tickets are also limited to a certain number of stops that you can make. You can only have a maximum amount of 16 destinations and you cannot make more than 4 stops in one continent. How each continent is defined, needs to be looked up separately. You should also remember that there can only be 2 stops in the continent of origin and you have to finish in the same country as you started. It is possible to have a surface sector, which happens when you arrive in one place, travel via surface (bus, train, etc.) to the next place and then continue your Round the World flights from there. But it is important to note that both places, of arrival and of departure, count as a destination. In reality what having a surface sector means is that you are basically giving away one of your flights, because you are limited to 15 flights between 16 destinations in total.
The next thing you get to decide is if you like to have open paper tickets to be used as a voucher for flights, or rather have an online ticket with fixed dates. As mentioned above you definitely rather want to get an online ticket. First of all you don’t have to carry the paper tickets with you, secondly you cannot lose the tickets and third you don’t have to go an airport every single time when you like to reserve an actual flight and fourth you can still move all the set dates at any time for no extra cost. You only have to double-check and make sure that the airplane has a seat is available for you when you move the dates.
With the online ticket you could also change the destinations, but that would cost you a fee of about 150 dollars, so it’s better to avoid doing that. Also, if you decide to change a flight to a surface sector or, vice versa, a surface sector to a flight, you still have to pay the 150 dollars changing fee. Only changing the dates of the flights is for free, but that is worthwhile when you are traveling and you want to be able to stay a little bit longer in a place that you really like. I personally took full advantage of this during my trip and, after the first two flights, I started moving everything around.
My personal Round the World Ticket
When I first laid out my trip and decided on the destinations, I did the math and realized that the Continent Ticket would be the cheaper option for me. Out of the 7 continents I decided to cover 5. Antarctica was not even possible to be reached by plane and Africa simply seemed impossible to cover. The price for the Continent Ticket at the time I was planning my trip was 1000 US dollars per continent, which meant that I could travel around the entire world for 5000 dollars.
This still seemed like a substantial cost, but when I researched the prices for every individual flight that I was trying to take, I came up with a grand total of 13,500 dollars. After seeing this number, and knowing that I had the flexibility to change flight dates for free, the Round the World Ticket was a done deal for my trip.
Since I was living in Boston when I left for my trip, the initial ticket looked like this: Boston – Lima – Sao Paulo – Buenos Aires – Santiago – Easter Island – Papeete (Tahiti) – Auckland – Melbourne – Perth – Singapore – Hong Kong – Tokyo – Beijing – Berlin – New York.
But when I tried to book the ticket, it turned out that one of my most expensive flights, the one between Tahiti and New Zealand, would not be covered in the Continent Ticket. So I had to choose between buying a rally expensive flight on my own, or switching to a Mileage Ticket. For some reason this Mileage Ticket included to some sister airlines, and so I was able to keep my original route. The only problem was that with the trip as laid out above, I ended up in a mileage bracket of 6000 dollars.
Luckily there was a solution. I decided to start my trip from Miami and end it in New York. This still only gave me two stops in my original continent, I started and ended the trip in the same country, plus I managed to eliminate enough miles to just come down into the 5000 dollar mileage bracket. The best of it all was that I still had enough airline points to actually get to Miami for free. But even if that were not the case, it would still have been worthwhile buying a cheap ticket down to Florida to save 1000 dollars on the RTW ticket.
Considering that I also needed to add a stop over in London and lose a stop in South America, my final ticket looked like this: Miami – Lima – Sao Paulo – Santiago – Easter Island – Papeete (Tahiti) – Auckland – Melbourne – Perth – Singapore – Hong Kong – Tokyo – Beijing – Berlin – London – New York.
In order to make the best use of the Round the World Ticket, I used all the fights besides one part that I converted to a surface sector. This section was between Beijing and Berlin, because I had the dream of taking the Trans-Siberian Railway through Russia and basically travel all the way from China to Germany by train. Another good thing about the Round the World Ticket here was that, if anything had gone wrong, I could have changed my ticket from surface to flight and paid only the 150 dollars fee to get to Europe.
The Round the World Ticket in actual use
While in theory everything seemed great about the Round the World Ticket, once in actual use, a few things did not turn out to be that great. The main issue was the fact that the RTW only allowed me to travel in one continuous direction and that I lost an entire flight if I chose to include a Surface Sector within the trip. The result was a travel pattern that only allowed for circular travels around the destination of the Round the World Ticket.
My first destination on the RTW ticket was Lima (Peru), which meant that I would also leave for my next destination, Sao Paulo (Brazil), from Lima. In order to see anything around the city, I basically had to travel in a big circle and buy additional flight tickets. I ended up buying one flight from Lima to Quito (Ecuador) and then another flight from Quito to La Paz (Bolivia). Finally, from La Paz I went by bus all the way back to Lima, in order to catch my next RTW flight.
The second destination was Sao Paulo and from there I travelled up the coast by bus. I went through Rio de Janeiro all the way to Salvador da Bahia, but then again I had to buy an extra flight back to Sao Paulo in order to continue with my RTW ticket. This became basically the pattern throughout my trip, and I ended up buying a lot of extra flights, in order to always return back to the original destination.
The funny thing about this is that if you look at the Round the World Ticket map it looks like I was travelling in a nice straight line, but in reality I was only travelling in small circles around those destinations, which meant that I was also buying an equal amount of extra flights to get back to them. In Southeast Asia this was not a big deal because travel by bus was easy and flights were cheap, but in South America and Australia or New Zealand the extra flights added quite a substantial cost.
So the bottom line is you should consider very carefully if a Round the World Ticket is really worth it, if you plan on seeing a lot of things around the destinations. If you are just staying locally in the areas close to the destinations, then the RTW ticket is probably the cheapest solution for you.
Pros and Cons of the Round the World Ticket
Overall structure of a trip around the world
No constant search for flights while traveling
All changes of flights dates for free
Advantage at immigration where onward tickets are required
Good value for the amount of flights included
Some remote and expensive stops are possible
Set flight cost at the beginning if the trip
Fixed travel route at the beginning of the trip
Only valid for one year
Travelling in circles around the RTW destinations
Extra flights necessary to return to destinations
Lose flights by using Surface Sectors
Only travel East or West possible
Limited amount of stops within one continent
Only use of airlines within network
Requires more planning before the trip start
- Travelling the without RTW ticket
- How to use Individual One Way tickets
- My personal travel route and my experiences
- Pros and cons of travelling with individual tickets