Travel on a budget – 10 budget travel lessons we had to learn too

We travel the world since 2015 and in the meanwhile we learned a lot about budget travelling. If you have plans to travel around the world, want to become a budget traveler too or are just curious as to how we travel on a confined budget for such a long time. This is your blog. Learn all about how to travel on a budget. 

Before we started to travel I would spent my money easy. I didn’t give a second thought to the question whether to order a fourth beer or to go out for dinner. Neither was I very conscious of how much money I was spending on which items.

I became a budget traveler

Since I travel I became more aware of the real value of money. I transformed into a budget traveler. It was a gradual process but a serious change. It started with the most important question there is: ‘How do I want to live my life?’ In this blog I will not inspire or bore you with answers to this question. But if your are interested I am happy to share my insights about reshaping my lifestyle into an Out of the Box lifestyle. Let me know.

Back to the topic: ‘Travel on a budget!’ If you plan to make a big trip – which is great and I encourage you to do so – you want to know; ‘How am I capable of paying for all my travel expenses?’ How do I travel as a real budget traveler? In this blog I give away 9 valuable tricks to save money and travel like a budget pro. Do you miss important budget hacks that make you a great budget traveler? Please write down your advice in the comments below.

Travel on a budget #1 : Buy less

If you like to party, to dance all night, drink mojitos and smoke cigarettes your travel expenses will be much higher than if you don’t. The most easy way to cut your expenses is by consuming less things that have a price on their head. Obviously. Every day there will be a possibility, choice or excuse to buy something that is not necessary to survive (or travel, because that is what you are here for).

Does this mean you have to stop smoking and can’t drink anymore? Not at all. The reason we tell you this is that your single (small) expenditures add up. That only becomes clear at the end of the month or year. Don’t be surprised when the money flows faster than you wanted and expected. Be aware of your consuming pattern and make conscious choices with respect to the ‘fun’ costs. Real budget travelers keep doing the stuff they really think is worth the money, and skip less interesting stuff.

Travel on a budget #2 : Be tough and disciplined when you are tired

During your travels there will be moments you are weak. The reasons is simple, to travel is also hard and exhausting. Especially when you just have been kicked out of the night bus after 16 hours and they drop you in a unfamiliar city centre or bus station. You are tired, hungry, grumpy or all at the same time. At these moments it is likely you are going to spend more money than your budget goals allow you. On convenience, taxis and too expensive restaurants. It is so tempting to get rid of the budget traveler in you for a moment. 

I can empathize with the behaviour but it is not necessary. It is true that they will leave you at the place where the vultures are (taxi drivers, tuk tuk drivers, middlemen for accommodation; those kind a guys). They smell your weakness and want to earn your money. They attack your budget travels. Always avoid these vultures and theirs services. Be tough. We know you can do that. It takes discipline but don’t let your emotions to easily guide you at these moments. Don’t stop at the first place where you can eat and don’t say yes to the first available room. Walk or travel by local bus instead of grabbing a taxi. Earn some valuable dollars and join the club of budget travelers.

Travel on a budget #3 : Travel in pairs – share your room

Traveling on your own is more expensive than traveling in pairs or even bigger groups. When you travel alone it pays off money wise to search for a budget traveler mate to share a room with. It can be fun too.   

Travel on a budget - sharing a room in Amed on Bali
Sharing a room on Bali – your choice two single beds or a double

Travel on a budget #4 : Prepare your own meals (in expensive countries)

When you are in Asia it is impossible to cook your meals more delicious or more economical than the local food stalls do for you. But when you are in more expensive continents like America and Europe it is budget wise better to cook your meals yourself. During the half year we spent in Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba, we used to prepare a tropical fruits oatmeal breakfast every morning. This saved us 4 dollars on our travel budget per day (2 persons). That is 120 dollars in a month. If you travel on a budget longer than 6 months you save more than 700 dollars. Only with your breakfast! Without sacrificing on tastiness and location.

Travel on a budget #5 : Eat local and learn to appreciate new flavors

If you want to be sweet to your budget avoid spending your dollars at your hostel or hotel like almost all travelers do. If you want to be a budget traveler you can do good budget business by eating out at local places. Leave your ho(s)tel, walk for 5 or 10 minutes and sit down at a place bustling with locals. Is this safe? Don’t I get sick? No you will not get sick. Locals know good food and are your guide to tasty and good value for money eateries. Two wins: good for your budget and an interesting local experience.  

Travel on a budget #6 : Start to think in the local currency as soon as possible

As a budget traveler, the first thing you have to do upon arrival is to reset your mindset about normal prices. You are used to pay 4 dollars for your Latte Macchiato so 1,50 dollar is a great bargain. I understand your feeling. But how can you justify that a nice hipster place in for example Bangkok earns more than 1 dollar on your latte while the average loan is 390 USD per month?  

That doesn’t make sense. Adapt as soon as possible to the price standard of the country where you are in and pay normal local prices. This way of traveling will guide you to more local and authentic places as well. If you want to support local living give your money to people who need it and don’t support the people who are already wealthy.

Travel on a budget - coffee
Your fancy but (relatively) expensive coffee – to do or not to do?

Travel on a budget #7 : Start to see negotiating as an important element of the local culture, and adapt to it – so start to negotiate

We noticed many budget travelers choose not to negotiate when they buy fruits, book a room or buy souvenirs. Their point of perspective is clear. These people don’t earn much and this is how you can contribute to local lives. It is a clear statement and I do understand this point of view. Nevertheless I want to present you a different angle on this matter.  

Locals negotiate too! It is part of the culture. The asking price is probably 30 – 50% higher than the price they aim for. That is the way they do business. And they are smart. Negotiating is an emotional process and they will use emotion for their own benefit. They know you feel shit when you negotiate so they give you an extra puppy eye. Don’t let yourself be fooled. If you travel on a budget try to keep this in mind as well. And negotiate for your room, taxi, souvenirs and fruits.

 

Trip preparation
Read here how to prepare a (long) trip in 22 easy steps

Travel on a budget #8 : Trust your guts and do it yourself

When you travel you often run into people coming to you to offer their help. We advise you not too easily trust the stories of these people. In most cases their interest collides with your goal of staying within a certain budget. These ‘tourist hunters’ are mostly active in backpacker areas and public transportation stations. They want to sell and might tell you little lies about closed hotels / roads / sights.

It takes time to develop a sense of who you can trust and who you can’t trust. When you let others guide you to a place you will pay more than when you do it yourself. A general rule is better approach someone for help yourself than to be approached with an offer. The first person doesn’t have an interest and the second one has.   

And the bus does function and the place still exists. And no the sight is not closed because of a special holiday you don’t know. Stick to your plan!

Travel on a budget #9 : Travel like a local – avoid organized tours

Do you like to travel on a shoestring and do you like local authentic experiences? Use public transportation and avoid the organized tours and fancy transportation that has been set up especially for tourists.

How funny is it to be packed in an Indian train and suddenly a goat needs to sit next to you? Sometimes this way of traveling sucks – think delays, packed carriages, buses not leaving. But the experience is priceless. The best stories are always the ones where things go wrong and you end with a laugh and a beer. And most of the time you will have a very positive experience with nice meetings, locals sharing their food and helping you out with information.

Travel on a budget - train travel in India
Traveling by local transport is one of your best sources for adventures and nice meetings! On our way to Bikaner in India.

Travel on a budget #10 : Travel at a lower pace

If you want to travel for a long time with a limited budget then slow down your pace. The general rule is the less you move the more you save. If you slow down you stay longer at one accommodation so you are able to make a better price for your nights. You will need transportation less often which saves you a lot of money too. You will get less frantic to do or see something spectacular every day. That is our guess.

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Further budget traveling reading

After more than 2 years of nonstop traveling we can call ourselves budget travel experts. Are you curious as to how to budget travel New Zealand for only 777 US dollar a month? Then read our blog. Or more interested in our budget advice in Cuba on the cheap

Happy budget travel reading! 

 

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