While I was having lunch with my colleagues, someone casually asked if any of us are planning to go on a holiday trip anytime soon.
…and 5 minutes into the conversation, we were all talking about our travel budgets and how expensive plane tickets are these days. The conversation then kinda went something like this:
(Unsurprisingly, most young people these days fall into the last category)
It was there and then I realized that I am the only backpacker amongst my colleagues, and boy—were they shocked to find out that I only spent about $500 for my trip around Southeast Asia.
(Since for most of them, $500 is easily the amount of money spent on hotels and souvenirs alone)
As such, I thought it might be interesting for me to talk about some backpacking stuff—you know, maybe explain how I managed to save money on my trips!
(Warning: Backpacking is a lifestyle, and it is definitely not for everyone! This guide is not for people who would prefer to splurge and enjoy your holidays. If you can pay for it and is willing to, by all means, go ahead. )
1) Hostels and guesthouses
Instead of going to a fancy hotel with gigantic bathroom, why not consider hostels and guesthouses? Heck, even a no-frills hotel would help you save a ton of money!
Money saved on lodgings can go a long, long way.
I may be biased here, but I love hostels and guesthouses. These are places where people from all over the world can interact with each other and make friends! Not to mention that hostels and guesthouses are generally cheaper than hotels too!
2) Cabs and Taxis
I really can’t stress this enough. Avoid taking cabs wherever possible and you’ll see yourself saving a significant amount of money!
If you absolutely have to, consider asking around the hostel/guesthouse you’re staying at! Perhaps some people are going in the same direction as you are!
Maybe they will even join you on your trip and you’ll make a lifelong friend!
3) Eat like a local
Local food is the gateway to understanding a culture and an excuse for a glutton like me to pig-out.
And perhaps more importantly, it’s the perfect way for the traveller who is on a tight budget to save on food.
Avoid cafes and fanciful restaurants and you’ll do pretty well on your budget! Personally, I find eating street food to be one of the greatest pleasures in life. However, please ensure that you have a decently strong stomach before doing that. Traveller’s diarrhea is no joke.
4) Shared tours
So, some tours actually function like this. The more people you have on the tour, the cheaper the tour becomes. Hence, it’s always a good idea to travel in a group!
Or if you’re a solo traveller, as always, ask around for people who are interested in the tour if you’re staying in a hostel or guesthouse!
That being said, I still prefer travelling without a tour group, which brings me to my next point
5) Off the beaten path
Tired of seeing what everyone else’s been seeing? Or do you simply not wish to deal with street hawkers any longer?
In that case, rent a bike and ride off into the sunset—away from the tourist traps and obnoxious tourists.
Who knows? You might just be surprised with what you see at the end of the route!
6) Flight dates Flexibility
Oh yes, it’s no secret that flights are a big part of your expenditure when you’re flying overseas(unless you’re travelling from Singapore to China on a train like what I did).
Hence it would be ideal for us to save as much as we can on flights.
I know, I know. Not everyone’s got the luxury of flexible flight dates considering our available leave days and all. However, if you are able to, you’ll see yourself saving a significant sum of money when you choose to fly on “bad” travelling dates like a Tuesday!
7) No souvenirs
I never really understood the concept of souvenirs. Many years ago, before the age of the internet, a souvenir was a nice little gesture. However, with the appearance of budget flights and the popularisation of online shopping, there are really little reasons for anyone to buy souvenirs anymore.
Unless you’re buying it for, say, your grandma who’s too old to travel and has no internet skills, then I think it’s okay.
As for the young people, please don’t waste your friend’s time by telling him/her to buy something back for you either. Import it by yourself if you really want it.
8) Keep your body fit
It goes without saying that a healthy body helps a lot when you’re travelling, especially when you’re backpacking.
I don’t exactly have the fittest body(fine, I’m actually overweight), but I can walk for miles and miles without stopping as long as there’s no running involved. At the end of the day, it’s about conditioning your body for the trip!
This way, you can also save on transport costs and medical bills should you fall sick overseas!
9) Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate
Okay, I’m actually pretty bad at this. My bargaining skills are as good as non-existent. If a shirt is worth $5, it’ll probably become $7 after my bargaining attempt.
But hey, if you’re good enough, the store owner might just give you the shirt for free and throw in a couple dollars for your ride back to your hostel.
10) Mind the exchange rate
If you’re one of those people who tend to overspend or underestimate the expenditure needed in a country, be mindful when you’re planning to exchange money at money changers.
Always pay attention to the exchange rate and do not accept any amount that’s less than desirable. There are places which value high denomination notes more than loose change. As such, expect better exchange rates for your $100 bills!
Oh and, remember to count the money before leaving and keep the money somewhere safe!
With all that being said, the easiest way to save money for a trip is to control your spending. Always remember that your needs should come before your wants! The money you save today might just become the ticket money for your next flight!
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