Traveling on a budget

So many times, I hear people say how they would love to travel but they can’t because they don’t have the means. Well, my friends, I come bearing good news: traveling is not as impossible as you might think.

Money is such a personal topic that it’s hard, and actually not even correct in my opinion, to start arguing about what one can afford or not. Still, on a general level, I believe that very often it’s not about having the money or not, it’s about what you decide to use it for. I have the means to travel because I do what it takes to have a little extra, and because traveling is what I decide to put my money into, same as somebody else would put it on a nicer home or monthly sugaring, eyelash extensions  and manicure or designer clothes. So here is my first point: budgeting is about making priorities, so if you want to travel, you might have to place it higher on your priorities and drop something else lower. Obviously, there are situations when you simply can’t put money into traveling because you need to put it all into necessities, but I challenge you to think whether traveling is something you really what to do, and if yes, do whatever it takes to be able to do it.

Second, traveling doesn’t need to be expensive. Traveling can be just as cheap or expensive as you make it. There are so many ways to travel, and we all have ways that we’re more used to than others. If you’re on a budget, you might have to jump out of your comfort zone if traveling is something you still want to do but you’ve usually stayed for example in high-end hotels or flown everywhere and you don’t have the money for those right now. But no worries! Traveling can be just as fun without those, and you will get so many new experiences you haven’t had before when you open your mind to different options. I gathered a few tips for traveling for cheaper, so you can change your wanderlust into an adventure even on a tighter budget.

Destination

It may feel like a bummer to have to limit your possible destinations according to your budget, but it may be a smart move. You can go anywhere and look for the cheaper options in your destination compared to the general price range there, but it’s pretty clear that life will be cheaper in Thailand than in Dubai for instance. It takes a bit of research to find the price range in different places, but it’s worth doing it. The further you go, the more you’ll pay for transportation, so looking at destinations closer to home may be cheaper even if the price range would be a bit higher than a place on the other side of the world. This depends on many things, for example the length of your stay (the longer you’re planning to stay, the more other things than transportation weight in the budget). Also, you might want to get out of the touristiest areas, as often the prices are way lower as soon as you’re in more local spots.

Transportation

Transportation is often a big chunk in travel budget. But it doesn’t have to be. Obviously, the further you go, the more likely it is that you’ll have to pay more for transportation, so a destination closer to home may be cheaper especially for a shorter stay. But you can find some really good flight deals by actively looking at prices on different websites, both ones such as Momondo or Skyscanner that gather deals from several other sites, and airlines’ own websites. There are also websites specifically putting together some really great deals, such as Lentodiilit in Finland or VoyagesPirates in France.

Remember also that flying is not the only option. Busses, trains or even boats might be a lot cheaper, and it’s pretty sure to be more eco-friendly. Taking a 12-hour night bus is probably way cheaper than a 2-hour flight, plus you’ll save one night’s accommodation. It’s not as comfortable as sleeping in a bed, but if you take it as an adventure and part of the fun, it’s really not that bad. Except if the seat happens to be too small, the aircon off and the roads bad, but that’s the risk you gotta take 😉

You can also plan your itinerary in such a way that you can avoid flying altogether, whether that is for ecological or budgetary reasons. It takes longer to move by land and seas, and it limits how far you can go if you’re on a time limit, but it can also be a fun challenge!

When it comes to moving around in your destination, walking is free and a great way to see more. I seldom take public transportation or taxis when traveling and will walk even long distances, because I find it to be such a fun way to see what life is like where I am. If you do need to take some means of transportation, look at the different options. If there’s several people, an Uber might for example be cheaper than a bus, although it is at the same time less eco-friendly and you don’t see as much on the way.

Accommodation

I feel like this may be something that takes the most getting out of one’s comfort zone for many. Where you sleep and live when traveling is such a big part of a trip and we all have our own habits concerning that. Breaking those might feel like ruining a trip. But it really isn’t. If you’re used to having your own room in a super clean and nice hotel every time you travel, a cheap hostel dorm might feel like a shock, because you have expectations from your previous experiences. But the trick is to look forget all those expectations and think if the whole trip as a different kind of experience. Hostels are different than hotels, they can be horrible places with no privacy, a lot of noise, and questionable hygiene, but they can also be fun, sociable places where you meet many other travelers in a more relaxed, home-like atmosphere. It’s what you make of it.

When it comes to accommodation, there are also plenty of other options, such as couchsurfing, homestays or airbnbs. Look at the price range of each option and see what’s the best for you according to the kind of trip you want, the number of people you travel with, and the prices in the destination. If you’re traveling alone in Southeast Asia for example, a hostel or a homestay can be the cheapest and the most fun option, but if you’re with friends, an airbnb might already be a more affordable and convenient option.

Food

First rule: eat local. This means foods that are produced locally, but also local dishes. It will be way cheaper than international food, and you’ll get a more authentic experience, learn about the culture and possibly meet locals too. Try to avoid tourist traps and see where and what the locals eat. Chose accommodation with free breakfast included and see if cooking meals yourself from time to time would be cheaper than eating out all the time. It’s not always, but again, it depends so much on the destination and your way of traveling.

Find the free things to do

You do it at home, so why not when traveling? There’s plenty of places to see and things to do that don’t cost anything, and it just takes a few minutes of googling to have a whole list ready for your exploration. This might also take you to wonderful places you would have otherwise completely missed, as you would have done the “basic” things everyone does instead of getting off the beaten track. Again, a way to make your trip more of an adventure.

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Enjoy this picture of me enjoying myself for completely free in a park that I found by accident in Chiang Rai when wandering around aimlessly

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