Regardless of where I go, I always have an ideal travel budget before I take off on a trip. When I went to Iceland I slept in my car and ate at gas stations to save money. When I went to Europe I slept on friend’s and family’s couches. When I went to the Philippines I stayed in hostels. When I went to Tokyo I only ate at 7-Eleven through the day and had nice meals at night. There are ways to travel on a budget and these are things I *usually* keep in mind.
1. Pack light. Carry on only! Unless you are MOVING abroad there is no reason to check luggage. You don’t need a blow dryer in southeast Asia, you don’t need a different outfit every day, and you don’t need more than 2 pairs of shoes. If you carry on, you won’t need to worry about your luggage getting lost! Here are some of my go-to tips for packing for a trip abroad. By going with carry on only then you can save some cash by not checking luggage. However, be wary of budget airlines who charge extra even for carry on items.
2. Eat local. A huge reason to travel is to eat! If you eat local you are guaranteed to save money. Eat street food, eat cheap, and save the fancy restaurants for special occasions. It’s OK to splurge a bit on nice food abroad, but have a daily budget.
3. Don’t buy shizzz. No one, especially you, needs souvenirs. If you really are dying to get your granny that beautiful scarf, go for it, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy something for EVERYONE. Stay sane with the shopping and make a list before you go. We all love art from abroad, but elephant pants? NO. Be practical and don’t just buy the first things you see.
4. Take public transit, bike, or walk. I walked 20 miles around London in one day. Why? Because I have feet. Take bicycles, buses, subways, or even Uber/Grab if you really need to (even though I hate Uber). Jump on a strangers motorbike! Taxis will always be the most expensive as are tuk-tuks in Thailand! Tuk-tuks are catered to tourists so up their prices. Check out the local public transit and you will for sure save money.
5. Don’t stay in hotels. Because who does that anymore? Use my codes to save on AIRBNB or Booking.com. I like staying in guest houses, AIRBNBs, and still even use private rooms within hostels for as little as $10 per night around Asia! Also, couch surfing is free or chat with that friend of a friend who lives in a city you are bound for.
6. Do free things! You can find so much freeeee stuff abroad. Hiking, walking tours, frolicking through the markets, go to temples, free museums! Etc. In Iceland I did a free city tour to learn about some of the local culture. One of my favorite things to do is just walk around and run into random sights.
7. Stay longer. If you have two weeks to play in SE Asia stick to one or MAYBE two countries. Don’t think that you can go to five different places because (1) It will be STRESSFUL, (2) It will cost a lot more to travel so much, (3) you will end up traveling more than relaxing. Your vacay abroad doesn’t need to be go-go-go.
By the way, I only take that advice sometimes. I am going to Ukraine for a week in October and plan to go to three places via 2 trains, a few buses, and taxis, and one internal flight. More on that coming soon! Luckily, Ukraine is very cheap and the night trains are comfortable and don’t cut into day time hours.
8. Use a budget app. Ever since I was 15 years old I have tracked every dollar I’ve spent. And guess what, it helps me have a sense of where my $$ is going. I really spent that much on booze? NOOOO. Oh, but I also never-ish spend money on clothing. My money all tends to go toward travel, food, and alcohol. Cause I need cold beer here in Thailand. And it’s cheap!
9. Use cash. If possible, bring your credit card for emergencies only. Withdraw the amount of cash you want to use and have that be your set amount. You can have daily spending budgets, weekly, and categorize it into “food, entertainment, alcohol, shopping.” By doing this you will have a better idea of where your money is going and how much you can use throughout your trip.
10. Go light on the booze. Yes, it’s a tip you can read in any other blog. But if you’re traveling and meeting new friends it’s hard to say no sometimes! Have a designated booze budget before you leave for your trip and (try to) stick to it. Some countries will have beers for under $1, but that doesn’t mean you should party every night. Other countries (Iceland) will have super expensive beers and will keep you in check with your budget throughout your trip.