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How to travel cheap? help please

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1. Posted by xbc (Budding Member 6 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi folks,
One "simple" question: how do you travel cheap??

I just spent a month in NZ and managed to spend more than I would have liked (though luckily, not more than I could afford at the time). I'd like to go RTW but need to get this budgeting thing sorted out better before I do. So any input on how you travel cheap without feeling like your missing out or not really getting the travel experience would be much appreciated. Both practical advice (ways to save $$, ways of deciding what to do and not do) and philosophical advice (eg on the mindset you take) would be appreciated.

Thanks heaps,

2. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Main ways to travel cheaper is to stay in hostels in the dorm rooms, or to use sites like to do homestays with people. Saving money on a RTW trip also invloves limiting your time in the more expensive places, and extending your time in the cheaper places. For example if you are on a tight budget, you don't want to spend 4 months in Western Europe or much time in Scandinavia as your money will get eaten up very quickly there no matter how hard you try to save. Spending more time in Asia will let your budget stretch further if you are not staying in the upclass hotels or deliberately trying to go on spending sprees. I got a small cabin with double bed and shower in it in Phnom Penh/Cambodia for $2US a night, the closest equivalent thing in Europe you'd be looking upwards of 40Euros a night and that's probably an under estimation. By no means was the room the best place I've ever seen, but I've stayed in far worse and paid considerably more for it. Remember you are in a place to enjoy the city or town, unless you are ill you wont be spending the majority of your time in the hotel or hostel other than when you sleep. So you don't need 3star+ places to stay in, as you just need a bed to sleep in and preferably in a location easily accessible by public transport, instead of having to get a taxi which will just add a lot more to your expenses.

Another way to save money is get your fitness levels up, and walk where ever you possibly can within say 10km, instead of getting the public transport so that you save on transport costs. That lets you see a place a lot better, saves the money on transport, and makes you be able to feel the culture better. One day that meant me walking 40km in 36C heat, but I wouldn't recommend doing that much walking in one day even if your fitness level is pretty high, as I certainly wasn't good for a couple of days after.

If you enjoy your alcohol, instead of being a drunk all the time like lots of British blokes and plenty of Australian people in their 20's seem to enjoy doing, drink occasionally and at that time don't drink a great deal. Instead of eating out at restaurants often, buy food and drink from the supermarket (particularly buy the drink, as if you don't you'll probably want a drink here, there and other places and pay 2 or more times the price you would have had you bought it in a large bottle at the supermarket). Always have that supply in your daypack, that way when you feel the urge to eat or drink, you can do so eating cheaply instead of having to splurge at an expensive corner store. If you eat out at restuarants, be sure to leave them for special occassions but eat as cheap as possible most the time.

Depending on your age (if you are under 26), get an International Youth Travel Card from STA travel. In some places mainly in Russia and some other areas of Europe, you will get considerable discounts on tourist attraction entry fees. If you are a student, be sure to bring your student card or get an ISIC card from STA travel, because almost anywhere in the world that will get you considerable discounts. If you aren't elegible for one of those, when you are in Thailand, have a look out for a place that does fake ones, because only trained eyes can pick out the fake from the real cards. Egypt is one country fake cards get caught out, because 5 people in my tour group had fake cards and I had a real card, and all the people with fakes got caught out, but some people said they'd used it in dozens of countries.

Instead of travelling like a rich tourist (ie by plane within a smallish country which has easy to use bus or train), well do what locals do and get the bus or train. You don't always need to get the more expensive option of two, because I got the cheap option of buses in Cambodia and they were good enough quality for me but an option twice the price existed. An example of using the bus instead of planes is in Vietnam they have this open tour bus ticket which goes all the way from Hanoi-Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City and it cost only $20US(mid 2006 price). A tour in this travel brochure I got on Vietnam cost $1590US including the internal flights. I saw and did the exact same things but I did it more thorough as I stopped in more places using the open tour bus and I estimate it wouldn't have cost me more than $300-$350US including everything and the accommodation wasn't crummy either. So not living it up like a king can save you big bucks!

If you want to do tours, a good thing to do is wait until you get to the country and then look, because in South East Asia tours are often very cheap, like I did this Island hopping tour in Nha Trang/Vietnam and it cost something like $8US if I remember correctly and it went all day. If I had of got that included in a tour purchased back home, I would have paid well in excess of $100US for it. A 3 day 2 night tour through the mekong delta from Saigon-Phnom Penh cost next to nothing (I think it was less than $20US) when purchased in Saigon, but getting it in a tour purchased back home costs something like $600.

Deciding what to do is kind of up to your interests and how controlled you have been with your spending. I usually like to just see all of the main touristy stuff, with the odd treat here and there when I have not gone over my daily budget for a while so have saved money.

I don't know what you did whilst in New Zealand, but I know when I was there in 2005 it wasn't particularly cheap. If you did any activities in Queenstown, well there is where your budget has blown out a lot.

A good way to get ideas is to get travel brochures of where you want to head, and look at the tour itineraries. If you are an Australian resident like your profile suggests, you can get brochures mailed to your door for free by going to That site has one brochure in the asia section which mentions worldwide, and that is a very good one to look through if you are unsure where to start as it contains 153 pages of tours covering Asia, Middle East, Africa, Central America and South America.

I've got plenty of websites that might interest you if you have started to get the itches to travel more, and know quite a lot about travelling on a budget having been to 48 countries now all on a shoestring budget where ever it is possible. So if you have any other questions, or their is something I haven't answered in this essay length message, you can just send me a message by clicking the send message link on the side near my username, because I'm probably unlikely to check back at the post.

Have a great time travelling when your time to travel comes.

[ Edit: Edited on Jan 5, 2007, at 5:15 AM by aharrold45 ]

3. Posted by xbc (Budding Member 6 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Thankyou for the detailed response, the information and the links were really useful.

I think in NZ I got bombarded by the sheer number of activities to do, and even though I didn't try to do all of them, the ones I did do started to add up. I also probably got slightly brainwashed into believing that all the activities were the key to having an exciting and interesting trip - whereas, on reflection, the people I met, the connections I made were what made the trip special and make up many of the more memorable moments. If I had been better prepared, perhaps known more about the specifics of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see, perhaps I would have made better (cheaper) decisions too. Also, while I did stay in hostels, I didn't always take the cheapest option, and probably should have. I also spent too much on food.

I think in some ways I still think too much like a "tourist" and not enough like a backpacker or wanderer or such. I see things I've not seen before and want to bring at least some of it home. Next time I'll try to be a lot more discriminating about what is interesting at the time and what is truely unique, meaningful and worth carrying.

I'd love to hear more ideas about how people approach travelling cheaply.

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