One of the largest obstacles people face regarding travel is money. There seems never to be enough of it to spare. Almost daily I encounter people who have the desire to travel, but not the means. Or so they think. Travel can be done cheaply— on a shoestring budget— if planned correctly. It usually takes some strategizing, which means all avenues are typically well thought out in advance rather than on the fly. The content that follows will provide tips and tricks for that drifter who isn’t ballin’ just yet, but still wants to see the world.
Choose destinations where your money is long. Find out what your nation’s currency is worth and how far it will take you in various places. Do some research and get a general idea of what things cost. For instance, in the UK, the British Pound far outweighs the American Dollar. What’s more, the cost of living is relatively higher. So if you’re traveling on a shoestring, the UK might not give you the biggest bang for your buck. Somewhere like Peru or Thailand on the other hand— where the dollar surmounts the Sole and the Bhat respectively, and the cost of living is lower— might be better suited to your situation.
Stay away from hotels. Hotels can easily drain the funds in your budget, as they charge astronomical prices per night— and in some cases, per person. Sure, it’s comfortable, but do you really need all those extra amenities when the only time spent in the hotel is to sleep? To keep costs down, stay in a hostel or a guesthouse, or if you’re traveling with a larger group, pull your funds and rent a vacation home. Hostels can be as cheap as $10 per night— in some cases even cheaper! They are like dorms; rooms are often mixed, but can be single-sex. Single/En suite rooms are often also available, but for more money (If you like to party, there are a number of hostels that cater to that, providing access— and drink vouchers— to the hottest bars and clubs). Guesthouses are akin to, say, a bed & breakfast or inn— but privately owned and usually lacks a staff. Vacation homes are my favorite option, because of the independence, privacy and comfortability that comes along with renting one. ***If your budget lacks the wiggle room for even one of these options, don’t fret; you can always sign up for couch surfing, an organization that is a bridge between travelers [on a budget] in different countries who are seeking/providing free guest accomodation.
Spend some time volunteering. Get creative! There are a lot of places abroad where you can trade your time for accomodation. For instance, an organization called WWOOF links volunteers with local organic farms. Free food and lodging in return for a few hours of work each day. In Asian countries, there are often Buddhist monestaries that will put you up in return for a little elbow grease.
Relegate time spent in touristy places. In other words, once you’re done seeing a particular sight, don’t hang around that area to eat or shop. Chances are goods and services will be overpriced and watered down. Instead of shopping in gift shops, check out local shops, markets and bizarres. Find side streets and/or more low-key, residential neighborhoods. Prices will be substantially lower, you’ll get better quality and quanity for your money, and you’ll have a more authentic experience, as you’ll be in with the locals.
Keep away from group tours. Some of them can be pricey. See the city on your own. Buy a map or city guide; it’s loads cheaper, and you’ll experience a lot more on foot/public transportation.
Make regular visits to the local grocer. Cooking one’s own meals can be a life saver when on a budget. There are a lot more options, and you don’t have to pay restaurant prices. It’s especially convenient in a group when renting a vacation property, or staying at a hostel or guesthouse with kitchen access.
Find alternative ways of getting around. You might find yourself in another country (or continent) wanting to hop around from place to place. A lot of times, as foreigners, we hop on the convenience bandwagon: what’s advertised as the quickest, most comfortable option. Instead, find out how locals, or students, get around. If you have time, take the longer route (For instance, in Japan, catching a boat to South Korea is usually cheaper than flying). In most cases, there are budget airlines, cheap coaches, boats and discounted train tickets; it’s all available with a little bit of digging.
Utilize your network. Oftentimes you know more people than you think: 6º of separation. Chances are, someone you know knows someone in the place you’re trying to visit. So, after you book your plane ticket, send out a quick email blast letting your network know of your plans, and be sure to make it known you’re in the market for assistance!
Figure out what’s important to you. This will be the biggest factor in how your money is spent. Ask yourself what you want to get out of your travels, and go from there. A lot of times we go by others’ recommendations and don’t take into account our own interests and abilities (Remember that saying, “What’s good for the goose…”). Essentially, knowing yourself will make it easier to follow all of the abovementioned suggestions.
***Be mindful of the money you have to work with. Your travel budget should never be the whole of what’s in your pocket. Remember: things happen! Always have backup for the unexpected.
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