10 Ways to Travel on a Budget

My partner Ben and I have been travelling together for the past 2 years. We are still learning little things and tips along the way, and we often still make silly mistakes! But one of our strengths is being able to budget so well, without even trying. Here is our best advice on how to stretch those dollars out…
1. Eat Local
Eating local is not only the cheapest way to dine whilst travelling, but I find also the best. Why would you come all this way to eat the same stuff you can eat at home?? I love to experience the different cuisines and local treats! We rarely eat in the touristic places, and always seek out the tiny restaurants hidden in small streets. When travelling, especially around Asia, home cooking is the most beautiful food you can try. It’s true authentic taste and more often than not freshly prepared.
In my opinion I would say to avoid the beach restaurants at all costs. Sure, it’s a nice idea of a romantic table set under the stars with candles and all that jazz; but in reality you will be left with a tasteless half portion of overpriced food with one hundred other tourists expecting the same as you. Sorry to be so harsh, but I have strong feelings towards the beach restaurants!
So, go for a walk and get lost a little, stumble upon a family restaurant and taste food the country is famous for.
Your wallet will thank you at the end 😉
2. Book Online
As everybody knows, accommodation is the biggest chunk eating into your budget. Even if you are somewhere that offers cheap accommodation, it is probably going to be what you spend most of your money on. From 4 years experience travelling many different countries, the biggest tip I have is to book online. This doesn’t have to be way in advance, I have never noticed the difference in price regarding when I book. You can even do it the same day, or just 1 hour before arriving. Some places it may only save you $1 or $2, some places it can be up to a third of the price; but if you do this every time, the savings will rack up! The 2 biggest sites to use are booking.com & agoda.com. I always use Booking.com as my base to find what I am looking for, simply because it has way more listings and the filters you can apply are like a thousand times better than Agoda! Then once I have found somewhere I pop on over to Agoda, type in the name of my hotel and book it through them. I do this because I find generally Agoda offers it even cheaper than booking.
Now, I can see that a lot of people will say that it takes the spontaneity out of travelling, being able to just turn up at a place and ask for a room. But believe me, this novelty soon wears off! When arriving at a new place and you have no idea which way to go when you get off the boat / plane / bus, you can spend literally hours searching for a place within your budget! This is especially great when arriving after a long haul journey and the comfort of knowing you have a place to stay and the only thing you need to worry about is how to get there.
Another thing with travelling is, your plans will change. Fact. And that’s fine, we do it all the time! Literally there was one day in Sri Lanka, we changed our minds about where to go maybe 4 times during that day. So the whole day was hopping on and off buses to get to our destination, working around it as we go. We had previously booked accommodation that morning for our original planned destination, but what is great about these sites is that they offer free cancellation on most of their bookings. Not all of the time, but the majority of them are.
3. Do your research. Planning is Key
If I have learnt only one thing in the last 4 years of travelling – it is always have a back up plan! I cannot tell you how many times we have turned up at a place (restaurants in general) and it has been closed. Crazier than that most of them look like they have been closed a long time. It baffles me as to why they can’t update this on their website but whatever. It happened a few times with accommodation too which was a mess. You need to prepare for this kind of scenario. Many a times it has happened to us we just spend hours afterwards wondering around, either figuring out what to do or just being moody and not finding anything good enough for us. Which we then later regret as we wasted the whole day wandering about. Now – I would like to say we have learned from our mistake – by having a back up place if the first one fails. If you are fed up you are more likely to just take something that will be out of your budget, just to stop this traipsing around the place. Check the map, look what is around your area before you get there, and have a few places in mind to check out. Less money, less stress – win/win !
4. Walk
As mentioned in the above section, again planning will be your savior. Plan around your ability to get your guesthouse/hotel and public transport. It sounds simple / crazy to say, but this probably one of the biggest changes you can make to your budget. If any of my family do read this blog post they will cry with laughter, but honestly, Ben and I walk everywhere! Even here in Chiang Mai, we average about 10km per day! It does sometimes become tedious and seem a little bit tight when it comes down to paying $4/$5 for a tuk tuk; but again this will keep adding up and the saving you have at the end will surprise you. Plus, walking is good for you. I wish that we had had a Step-O-Meter for the time we were in Sri Lanka, we racked up quite a few miles let me tell you! Not only that, the tuk tuks are a complete rip off. And to be honest we don’t have time for that anymore. If we do really need to get somewhere not within walking distance, I would recommend using Uber / Grab (depending on the country you are in), it’s a set price, its cheap and really easy.
5. Be Flexible
Yes I said it. We have all heard this one before. But when I talk about flexibility, I mean being super easy to go with the flow, but also knowing how to judge if this will be kind or be harsh to your budget. A good example of this is a time we were in Ella, Sri Lanka. Us being complete noobies in this country, did not realise that public buses do not run on New Year. So our original plan was to leave for the south that day. After waiting at the bus stop for around 20 minutes, and listening to the absent sounds of beeping vehicles we realised what was missing here. Just at that point (as if by magic) a minivan pulled up, the driver got out and asked us if we wanted a seat to our destination. The cost for this was 5000rs each (roughly $35). Now, this to us was expensive!! $70 to get to the beach! The bus was no more than $4 – for both of us !! Our guesthouse that we were staying in was really lovely, the owner was friendly and the price per night was only $22. We talked about it, but it was pretty obvious what we were going to do. We were really fortunate this trip to have time on our side, meaning we could afford to skip a day here and there or spend an extra day somewhere. I truly value this kind of luxury when we travel. So there we were – Ella for one more night! Ella is a stunning place so we didn’t mind at all! We got the bus the next day, with a total saving of around $45 !
6. Limit your Cravings. Break The Mould
I have never been a structured kinda girl. I eat when I want, regardless of the time. We don’t do the breakfast, lunch, dinner [and snacks in between] thingNever have. Now, when I say limit your cravings, in no way am I saying not to enjoy or treat yourself – we all deserve this from time to time. But I am saying to realise: it’s just a craving. I myself have been the biggest learner of this. There were times when I would not eat anything apart from what I fancied right there and then. And if I couldn’t find it I would go hungry, and then feel bad later on.
Ben and I usually don’t eat until around 11am. We have coffee in the mornings, and the hunger doesn’t hit us until later on. By eating at this time also fills us up for a good few hours, possibly have some fruit as a snack in the afternoon (there is a fruit lady near our place at the minute who does fresh cut pineapple for 20B), and then we have our dinner around 8pm. It may seem like we don’t eat much, but really we don’t feel it. Us as humans consume way too much on a daily basis and once you realise this, your craving for the share size twix or the $5 deep fried 10 chips you will get soon goes away!
7. Water
When you are travelling (especially around hot countries) you can be drinking a hefty amount of water. In Asia, it’s probably not going to cost you that much, in Australia, buying bottled water will cost you a fortune! Luckily you can drink the tap water there obviously, but sometimes if you are out and about you may crave the ice cold hydration.
What is great in Asia (at the moment I think it is only Thailand and possibly Malaysia[?] that do this) but everywhere you go you will find water filter machines. These will cost you 1B per litre. A 1 litre bottle from 7/11 will cost you around 14B and 500ml will cost around 9B. The best thing to do is buy a 6L bottle – cheapest is from Tesco Lotus at 29B – and just refill as you go. Most hotels and condos will also have them just outside their reception. A lot of them are labelled Reverse Osmosis or Ozone, but I would advise to look for the ones that  are “UV” treated. Apparently this is the only one has not been contaminated with fluoride, and I have read in a few articles that the other ones actually remove all the nutrients and goodness from the water. This is just what I have read so do your own research on that, but that is my best advice 🙂 Also remember to always take a bottle out with you! Limit the cost and the usage of plastic.
8. Find activities that are FREE to enjoy.
Yes, this does sound easier said than done. But a perfect example I will give you is this: Safaris. Unless you are in South Africa – and to be honest I can’t really comment on that one because I have never been – in my opinion are a complete rip off! Why would you want to pay $70 or whatever it is to sit in a packed car full other tourists taking pictures of the animals that are more than likely going to be pissed off that yet another car is chasing them, just like everyday ?! If you are in an area where there is chance to do a safari –  I can guarantee you you will see wildlife! And in much more beautiful conditions. Peaceful, unexpected, possibly a lot closer and intimate, and the best thing is only you are witnessing this.
You are not guaranteed to see everything in a safari all of the time anyway, which will then leave you feeling disappointed afterwards. If you stumble across wildlife, like we have so many times, imagine the feeling, the liberation of what your eyes are seeing right now. I treasure this way more than paying to do what everybody else does.
Another great tip: get lost. Just go for a walk and see where you end up, not only is this free, but you will experience something completely unique to you and your travels. Wander into the village and chat to the locals, discover hidden waterfalls that are not in the Lonely Planets, it will be worth so much more.
Appreciate where you are at the moment and what you are doing. Don’t feel like you need to do everything once you get to a new destination. If you want to spend hours in a cafe people watching and listening to the sounds of the country – do it! It is not wasted, in fact this is one of our favourite things to do! Explore the city and up your game in photography. Take some great snaps, random ones, architecture, cultural and scenic. A photograph speaks a thousand words.
9. Markets are your new best friend
Markets are great! In Asia, there will more or less always be a market on somewhere. Food markets, clothing, vegetables, second hand electronics you name it, do your research and you are sure to find what you are looking for at one of them. With competitive prices, a great assortment of stock, and the fact that you are supporting the locals and not the superstores – this is your place to be to find a bargain!
10. Transport
When it comes to travelling to your next destination, it may seem the easiest option to just get a quick flight – but it will most definitely not be the cheapest. Opt for the bus instead, or if possible the train. Yes it will take longer, but you will see sights that are just not possible 30,000ft up in the air. Plus it will be a quarter of the price. Most of the time you can just turn up and purchase your ticket on the day, but I would always advise going to the station the day before just to check in advance. Plus it allows you to see where it is located and how far away it is from your accommodation.
Hitchhiking is also a great way to save a tonne of money. We have done it a few times in a few different countries, but never long distance. So for that, do your research. We have never had any bad experiences, in fact some of the best experiences we have had have been when we have hitchhiked. We were once travelling in Chiang Rai to just the next village when a family picked us up. They couldn’t speak a word of English, but they tried their hardest to start a conversation in Thai, showed us pictures of what they had been up to, shared their freshly picked strawberries with us, and even took us right to our destination even if it was out of their way! They did not expect anything from us, and as thanks we did give them a little something from our own countries. I feel like they would appreciate this far more than just a couple of baht, it’s a memory, and I am so glad that they were the ones to pick us up that day!
Other really simple things but are often forgotten – take screenshots of everything! Confirmations, addresses, maps, names whatever! Anything that can back you up if there is a problem. (I realise a lot of this post is about Sri Lanka – but I have just come from there so it is fresh in my mind. Plus it genuinely is where a lot of this stuff came into play). When paying for your accommodation, you will notice (if you do it online) there are quite a few things added onto the price – city tax, service charge, building tax, cat tax you name it! It’s annoying, but it’s how it is. However, make sure you check this very carefully…most of the time you can pay for it along with your booking. So it is paid all in one go, but some cheeky hotels will still try and charge you for it at the end of your stay. This is where your screenshots come in handy! I am literally a screenshot addict! My phone is full of them, but I have had so many things happen to me, so many things that you would never even think of, that I do it now just for peace of mind. You never know when you will need your own proof of confirmation.
Not just for that, but for most of the hotels the address will be written in the local language. This is extremely helpful when asking for directions or if you do need to get transport there.



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