How to travel on a shoestring budget

We travel for varied reasons. Some travel to explore, visit family and friends, experience new culture, unwind from stressful workload, get out of the ordinary and see something new. Some just simply to enjoy or have fun. Others may travel to fulfill their lifelong dream of seeing the world or for adventure. Some travel to get new ideas for business potentials. For all these reasons, I love to travel because I’m always curious. I want to learn from the places I am traveling. It exposes me to new possibilities, new ideas and opportunities which I haven’t experienced back home.

As an expat living in Oman, I’m given vacation leave/holidays once or twice a year, around 19-26 days per vacation as part of the benefits working under Ministry of Health. It is of the various benefits I get, why I am enamored to travel to different places. I don’t have a lot of money to travel but I have learned ways how to make it more affordable. Here are some of the tips I have learned on how to do it on a shoestring:

Research before you travel

When I had my backpacking trip last year in SE Asia, I did an in depth research 2 months before my trip. I like doing the research part. It gives me an idea of what to expect of the places to visit. Get detailed information on the places to check, food to try, accommodation to stay closest to the tourist spots to visit, activities to do and transportation to use around the place. Use google as your best friend for research. By these you get an idea how much everything costs and how much your budget will be. You can inquire to travel agents and compare prices based on your own research. Travel agents can offer good deals sometimes.

Travel on budget airlines

Check websites to compare prices. Subscribe and see promos before you travel.  Buy tickets in advance to get cheaper rates. Try local airlines. When I had my backpacking trip to Thailand-Cambodia- Vietnam, I booked tickets with AirAsia. I don’t mind taking the budget airline if the travel time is short.

Use public transportation

I used a lot of public transportation on most of my travels. Buses and trains are very accessible and the most convenient way to go around. Act like a local.  Check online apps for transport schedules on the city you are visiting (if applicable) to see what time you can catch up the next bus/ train to save money, time and effort.

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Eat local food

Wherever you travel, eat local food all the time. It is more authentic. Get information on where locals eat and drink on various websites and apps. Find a place filled with locals. Have a culinary food tours. Attend cooking classes or market tours to the country you are visiting!

Get affordable or free accommodation

You read it right! You can actually get affordable or sometimes free accommodation when you travel. How? As traveler you can connect with the locals who are willing to let you stay and experience hospitality. Using the site Couchsurfing you don’t have to pay anything and I have used it once to stay with a local in one of my travels. Couchsurfing is a website for travelers around the globe. I have met great friends using the website. So far my experiences were great!

If you are not comfortable to stay with a total stranger then stay in a hostel, lodge inn, dormitory which are cheaper than a hotel. Check out Agoda.com, Booking.com, Hostel.com, AirBnB or trip advisory for reviews and get the best deal out of it!

Connect with your long distance relatives or friends to see if they can host you

If you are thinking of a place to visit, think of relatives or friends who are staying to your travel destination. When I went to Japan years back, I stayed with my relatives in Tokyo. It is a pleasant experience to be hosted by your own relatives or friends. You get free accommodation and the best tips in town! Remember to be a good guest and never abuse the hospitality. It is good to be hosted and return the favor in the future.

Get travel insurance

When I went to Japan 3 years ago, I got into an accident. I slipped straight on the floor when I tried “Onsen” (Japanese bath) and had a huge hematoma at my back. It was a wakeup call for me to get travel insurance every time I will travel.  It will cover the cost of travel emergencies. Aside from that it will cover trip cancellation, loss of baggage and other benefits which will leave you worry free. Charge will depend to where you are travelling, how long and to which company you will get the insurance.

Look for cheaper destinations

Last year, I went home to the Philippines. I took the chance to travel neighboring SE Asian countries since it is cheaper to travel from there. Take local travel too.

If you are in currently working outside of your country, take the opportunity to explore the neighboring countries around where you are working. If you are in the Middle East, plan a visit to other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries that are visa-free/ visa upon arrival. Plan a travel to Europe or Asia. I went to Turkey 2 years back, flight was 5-6 hours from Oman and the airfare was reasonably affordable.

Find a travel buddy

Based on my experience, it is always good to travel with someone. Booking a hotel good for one is almost the same if you will book for two or three. You split money on transportation, activities and food as well.

Haggle

Learn to play the game of haggling to countries where it is possible. There is no harm if you want to get discounts for activities, transportation, and items you wish to buy. Do research and know the current rate. There are numerous guidebooks available like Lonely Planet. Remember before you say yes, check the offer, negotiate then select.  The most important thing to get a good price is banter. 

Walk

Walk around instead of taking a cab or bus. Enjoy the surrounding and observe what the locals do. Pay attention to the details around you. You may learn something new by immersing with the locals. Also, walk is good for the body, environment and to your wallet.

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Strolling along Venice Beach in California

Pack light

Travel with just the basic necessities you want to use. Plan your wardrobe and bring clothes right and appropriate to your travel adventure.

For local or short travel distance I like carrying my 35Liter backpack bag. It is comfortable and I can easily walk around.

Read Blogs and Talk to the Author if you can

Blogs are good source of information. Authors give tips and share their experiences. Don’t be shy, just approach and ask!

Talk to the locals

Befriending a local means getting worthwhile information to your visiting place. A good chance to learn more about their culture and to learn their daily routine for more immersive experience. A good start is talking to your taxi driver as he knows every corner of the place.

When I was in Thailand , I have met few locals. We tried local food, shared experiences, had good laughed and became friends. It was an incredible experience.

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Check out free things to do

There are times you don’t have to spend hefty chunk of money to enjoy your travel. Do research of tourist attractions and activities that are free of charge to visit.  Go for walk on famous parks and visit museums open to the public without admission fees.

Sleep at the Airport

If you arrived at the airport night time and you have a local flight early in the morning, booking a hotel for 3-4  hours stay seems like useless idea. Find a comfortable place where to lay down and wait for your next flight instead of going out of the airport. Just make sure to take care of your stuff.

Negotiate with the Taxi Drivers

Research how much is the local fare to your travel destination. Ask reliable local for the rate before getting into the taxi. If you just arrived at the airport, ask at the information booth or any local who has no interest to rip off money from you. Ask the staff in the hotel /hostel you are staying how taxi system works and the fare price.

Check if the meter is working before getting into the cab. Some countries don’t have metered cabs. Negotiate before getting in.

Get advice from the people/ friends that travel

You will never go wrong with the firsthand information.

Get mobile internet

Roaming charges are be expensive. So whenever I travel I get local sim with mobile internet data on it. (The reason why I never purchase postpaid line, I like unlocked phone) I can save a lot of money by connecting to my family and friends through WhatsApp, FB messenger or Viber compared to a regular call.

With my mobile data on the side, I am not afraid to get lost in the city knowing I can rely to Google Map.

Avoid overspending and stick to your budget

I know how hard it is to resist temptation but try to avoid some impromptu purchases. There is nothing wrong to try 5 star hotel or fancy restaurant if you can afford it. If you don’t have a budget then don’t do it on a regular basis.  Create a daily cash allowance for your food, transportation and activities.

Don’t buy “pasalubong”

It has been part of the Filipino culture to buy pasalubong (bringing gifts from the travel destination to people back home) but time to break the tradition. Be kuripot (stingy) at times!  If it can’t be avoided, allot a budget for the gifts.

Any tips you want to add more? Share with us on the comments below.

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