Many people seem surprised when I tell them that I lasted 9 months travelling with about £5000-£6000. Personally I know that I could have done it much cheaper and I didn’t really feel like I was particularly holding back with my spending at any point. But there are a few key things that I learnt in terms of how to save money. There are so many little things that you can do to make every penny last that little bit longer but here are my…
Top 5 Tips For Travelling On A Budget!
First things first, you gotta eat to survive. And I am BIG on my food…
1 – Eat Local
So you’ve just landed in Bangkok and you head straight for Kao San Road to eat a Whopper at Burger King. I actually met a Swedish guy on Kao San Road who was going to Burger King to buy some food for his girlfriend because she was ill. Yeah great choice of ‘get well soon’ food full of nutrition mate. Not!
Wander the streets. Thailand for example has amazing street food. I pretty much lived off the street pad thai’s for a while and they cost less than a dollar in many places. If you are in India, head for the local restaurants or in many parts of South East Asia, look for the restaurants with the little plastic chairs outside. Observe where the locals are eating. Ask the locals where they eat! Don’t just spunk all of your money on fast food and in expensive ‘tourist’ restaurants. It’s a waste of money and if you do truly want to immerse yourself in the full experience of travelling then you have to eat local as well. No doubt about it.
Eating on the street in Bagan, Myanmar. This photo was actually taken by a friend of mine….so thanks Laura! 😉
A food market in Laos. Get your cheap food here!
Hmmmm, maybe you don’t need to go quite as far as drinking from an insect infested stream in India. Jimee here testing out the Lifestraw. Amazing stuff really!
2 – Travel On Night Buses Or Trains To Save On Accommodation
Whenever I needed to get from place to place (and wasn’t travelling by motorbike!) I would always try to get an overnight sleeper bus (or train). By doing this you are saving on one night’s accommodation. Pretty simple stuff really ain’t it!? It will probably mean that you won’t really get to see much of the scenery on the ride from place to place but I guess that’s the price you pay for trying to save money!
In India the sleeper trains are a great experience, even if it may not be the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had. Just watch out for those drunk Indians trying to touch up your boobs whilst you sleep…man they would just not give me a break! Haha, jokes. This is of course if you are a woman. Just make sure to travel with guys, that’s my advice. Someone tried to force their way into the toilet cubicle after my girlfriend on an Indian train, so she did the only sensible thing left to do – punch him in the throat! Haha, legend.
In China I took one bus (well it was two actually as I swapped buses half way) that lasted pretty much 24 hours. I did the same again in Vietnam. It may not be as comfortable as a flight but the prices are usually a lot more competitive.
On the top bunk on a sleeper train in India…look how excited I am!
And if you are really pushing the budget, just sleep in the bus station!
3 – Don’t Spaff All Your Money On Drink
And by drink I mean alcohol of course. Something that many people don’t know about me is that I actually quit drinking in January. I was in Shanghai in China. In many clubs there white people get free drinks all night in order to attract more foreigners. They apparently believe that it makes their establishment more ‘high class’. They obviously haven’t met me before then! I wasn’t complaining though and I was necking drink after drink without hesitation. “I’ve hit the jackpot!” I thought. After 5 days in Shanghai, and much of it spent in bars and clubs I started to think to myself “why do I even drink? What benefit does it have to me?”. Living a healthy life has always been something I aim for and drink certainly doesn’t help. I don’t have any confidence issues and I certainly don’t need any encouragement to get on the dancefloor when I am out!!! Let’s ‘av it!!!
Drinking seems to be a huge part of travelling for many of the people I met. One guy asked me recently if I thought that £5000 would be enough money to cover a couple of months travelling through Thailand and SE Asia. Bloody ‘eck mate, I would be using gold leaf to wipe my buttcheeks with that amount of money for that period of time! So although booze may seem cheap when you land in Asia, when you are getting wasted every night, it all adds up and soon you realise that you’ll be homeless in foreign lands if you’re not careful! No-one wants to be a hobo in Ho Chi Minh! So just calm it with the drink alright!? Got it? Good!
Some crazy Austrian getting on it in Varkala, India. I wonder what the guy on the left is thinking. Probably something along the lines of “Bloomin’ ‘eck, I’m English and even I can’t understand how the hell this guy isn’t lying in a pool of his own vomit right now”.
WARNING: A night of drinking may lead to blurred vision on cliff edges like in this photo, taken in Varkala, India on the cliff.
4 – Share Rooms And LOWER Your Standards
Self explanatory – if you share a room with one other person you are instantly halving the amount you would ordinarily pay by yourself…duh! Alternatively if you are by yourself then stay in hostels. A great way to meet new people whom you can then travel and share rooms with.
Something else to say on this one as well is that if you want to live cheaply, lower your standards. If any of you have read any of my other stories you will have heard about rooms infested with flying beetles with hoardes of angry dogs outside waiting to eat me. I’ve stayed in so many places where you pretty much have to hug the wall in order to have a shower because it is trickling out of the head with no power at all. Once I even had a shower with the bum gun when the shower head stopped working mid wash! Expect hard beds, dirty sheets, and if you can, check the internet for reviews on the best/cheapest places to stay. This leads me on to the last tip….
My friend on our luxurious double bed inside a mosquito net…cosy! I shared a room with this crazy guy for 3 weeks in India.
5 – Haggle, Haggle And Then Haggle Some More!
So when you get to these budget places, no matter how cheap they appear ALWAYS try to haggle. Haggle, haggle and then haggle some more. You can’t be afraid. If they say $10 per night then ask them if they would accept $5. Lie through your teeth and say that someone has already offered you $5. Haggle shamelessly like there is no tomorrow. They expect it in many places anyway. So haggle as if your life depended on it. Haggle as though a man has a gun to your head and tells you that if you don’t get a better deal he will blow your brains all across that painting on the wall of Ho Chi Minh…… Hmmmm, maybe I went a bit far. But you get the point. And sometimes when you refuse to pay their price and walk away, they will often shout at you to come back and they eventually give it to you for a lower price. Don’t feel bad, they wouldn’t sell it if they weren’t making a profit.
I have many times simply refused to get in tuktuks or buy clothes or stay in places because they refused to push the price down by even as little as the equivalent of 10 pence. Like I said before, it all adds up! If you know you are going to be staying in one place for a few days then use this in your favour. If it is low season then use this in your favour. You may feel as though you are being a cheapskate but just because you have different colour skin to the locals shouldn’t always mean that you have to pay extortionate prices.
Don’t let this tuktuk driver’s tough image put you off haggling!
So as long as you learn to live basic and follow all of my simple rules, then you should be able to make your money go that little bit further!
And If you do all of the above and it’s still all going wrong for you budget-wise then there is clearly no help for you at all. Be off with you already!