Despite popular belief, it doesn’t have to be expensive to travel for an extended period of time. Last year, I spent roughly 1500 GBP travelling around South East Asia for 2 months (flight from the UK not included).
This isn’t exactly a high price to pay for a once in a lifestyle experience and believe it or not, I didn’t spend the entire time poverty-stricken either: I travelled to five different countries, ate out three times a day and could afford to so some amazing activities – such as swimming with whale sharks.
So, how did I do this for such an affordable price? In this blog post I going to be sharing with you three tips on how you can travel on the cheap.
Before we get into it, let me just point out that the travel destination will play a large role in your expenses. South East Asia is a notoriously cheap place to travel and this gave me a huge advantage going into trip. I was also ‘backpacking’ and not just going on a standard vacation. I had a budget mindset and was purposely keeping an eye on how much I was spending.
Anyway, below are the 3 tips, if you stick to these I can guarantee that you will be able to travel on the cheap:
1) Stay in Hostels
This one is HUGE.
I think one of the most common misconceptions people have if they have never been backpacking before is the way in which they view hostels.
This applies to me too. Before I left on my travels, I was under the impression that hostels were going to be ultra-basic and not very enjoyable to stay in. While I was more than prepared to do this, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it either.
I quickly realised that I had been totally wrong about them. Not only was every single hostel I stayed in liveable, but many of them were closer to hotels than what I mentally projected staying in a hostel would be like.
I stayed in hostels with roof top pools, double beds, pool tables, games consoles, bars, free breakfast, incredibly friendly staff and more.
You have to keep in mind that in these areas that run off tourism, there are a huge number of hostels available and all of them are competing with each other to bring in as many travellers as possible. Therefore they will often try to make their hostel as nice as possible to build a positive reputation and attract more people in.
Sure, you have to share the room with others but the standard room only contains 4-8 beds and I personally found that most of the time these rooms didn’t fill up. There were even occasions where I was the only person occupying the room.
It’s also worth noting that staying in hostels is by far the easiest way to meet people, which is nice if you are travelling alone.
I’m sure that there are bad hostels out there but remember that there is plenty of choice and you can pick out the best ones in the same way you would with a hotel.
Staying in hostels are an amazing way to save money. In the two months I was out there, I never paid more than $8 per night which is a huge discount compared to the amount you would be shelling out on hotels.
I now love staying in hostels and I think that you will too.
2) Pick your activities carefully
If there is one thing that can drain your money in a blink of an eye while travelling; it’s organised activities. By organised activities, I mean paid for activities that have been specifically designed for tourists.
Now this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t do any type of activity that involves pulling out your wallet but just be aware that constantly doing this is going to play a big role in increasing the overall cost of your trip. What I would suggest is picking the activities you want to do carefully.
While some of these activities can get a little expensive, the overall cost of the activity will still be a hell of a lot less than it would be in a western country.
The point I’m trying to make is that you that you should do the paid for activities that you are keen on but don’t get carried away with them if you want to travel on the cheap. You can find plenty of enjoyment travelling without constantly having activities planned. For me, just the act of travelling and exploring new places was all the experience I needed. Anything else of top of that was just a bonus.
3) Haggle Wisely
It was almost midnight when I collected my baggage at Manila Airport in the Philippines. I was ready to begin my adventure and had a quiet optimism that this trip was going to be a success.
Five minutes later and I was being ripped off by the taxi driver outside the airport. Paying WAY more than I should have for the short journey to my hotel. I remember being really annoyed at myself and thinking that if I can’t even make it through the first five minutes without losing a chunk of money, how the hell am I going to make it through the entire trip.
Well, long story short, the first few times I found myself in haggling situation after this were kind of awkward but soon enough I was used to it and determined to get the best possible value on everything. In fact, I started to really to enjoy it. There was a (probably unhealthy) satisfaction in being able to haggle someone down to an awesome price.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure I saved quite a bit of money by having this hagglers mindset. The main things you can haggle on and get good prices are products, transportation and accommodation. However, your ability to do this is going to really depend on the situation.
While you should always be haggling on products, the best time to haggle on transport and accommodation are when you think there is more supply than demand. For example, if you are in a place with loads of hostels/guesthouses crammed into one area, you can quite easily play them off it each other and get the lowest price possible. The same applies for local transport.
That’s it for now. I’m sure there are loads more ways you can save money when travelling that I will think of later, so I will most likely make a follow up post at some point in the future but this just sticking to these effective tips will dramatically reduce your costs and allow you to travel for longer on the cheap!
Also published on Medium.