What does budget-travel actually mean (to me)?

I’ve been traveling for 139 days in 3 continents and 9 countries. That’s about five and a half months!!!

***Jaw drops to the floor***

It’s been a wonderful five and a half months but I’m not here to talk about how amazing this trip has been and my adventures. I’m here to talk about budget travel ~ I recently calculated how much I’ve spent, was a little bit proud of myself and got inspired to write.


A little bit of ‘history’…

Before I went on this trip, I told many people about all the countries I planned to visit. I planned to go for one year and had a relatively small budget.

I was shut down and told that I was overly ambitious…

Most people told me that I was going to struggle…

At first, I was a little shocked and upset that I might not be able to live my dream but then I eventually accepted the idea of not seeing every place or traveling for as long as I intended to (in hindsight people’s pessimism made me more aware and accepting).

It also led me to challenge myself to stretch out my budget as far as possible.

In almost 6 months and I’ve spent about AUD$5,800 (USD$4,137)

That includes all my flights, accommodation, transport, tours, food, drinks, medicine, etc. and even includes my phone contract which I have to pay monthly and the fines I’ve had to pay on my journey. However, Malaysia almost doesn’t count because my mum and relatives paid for a lot of my things

Side note: I don’t really like talking about money because most people have strong emotions when it comes to that stupid man-made thing which which enslaves us, but I wanted to give the figures for some context.

Even though I haven’t done as well as other budget travelers who spend virtually nothing, I’m VERY proud of myself (especially compared to how much I used to spend when I traveled. Put it this way ~ on my 2 week trip to Japan, I think my ex and I spent about $8k).

What does budget travel mean to me?

In short, it’s minimising costs while traveling…

In other words, it’s traveling for usually as cheap as possible…without luxury and convenience…and for the most part, with less comfort, space and privacy. I guess you could also add in that budget travel is a little bit riskier.

Now, I haven’t entirely skimped out on eating nice food, going on tours and doing touristic things but I’ve definitely given up a lot of things I normally enjoy doing and done some interesting things to keep the cost of traveling down…

Things I’ve done to keep my costs down

  • Avoid shopping unless it’s absolutely necessary
  • Eat at local markets/restaurants or cook by myself – I rarely ever eat out at restaurants because they usually come at a very high cost
  • Make coffee at home – for most of my trip, I’ve given up on drinking coffee at cafes even though I love doing this in my home town 
  • Don’t drink every night – drinking is an expensive hobby
  • Walk instead of catching a taxi – I find that when you walk, you tend to see so much more than when you’re in a train, bus or taxi.
  • If I don’t have time to walk or the place was too far away, I’d catch public transport – it’s usually less than 25% of the price of a taxi 
  • For long journeys, I’ve caught the bus or train instead of a plane – yes I would save HOURS by plane but buses and trains (usually buses) are usually so much cheaper and have been some of the most memorable experiences for me.
  • For really long journeys – search for transport in incognito mode – I regularly check prices and learnt it’s better to search in incognito mode in your browser so that the cookies doesn’t inflate the prices
  • If I must catch a taxi, I use Uber instead (or the cheapest company in that country) – in South East Asia, it’s GRAB, in India, It’s OLA
  • Do my own tours – almost every time I want to see something, I decide to make my own tour instead of relying on someone to take and show me around. Tours usually end up costing about 50-75% more than the cost of doing it yourself.
  • Hunt around for the cheapest price or best value – whether it’s for transport, accommodation, a tour, beer or food, I usually take the time to ask around for the best price. In South East Asia, I would check all the different apps and also ask a hostel what their walk-in price was.
  • Stay in Hostels instead of Air Bnbs and hotels
  • Couchsurfing and Workaway – I cannot stress these things enough. They are the BEST! Not only do you get to meet amazing people, you also get a more local experience that tours don’t usually give you.
  • Use my water bottle as much as possible – I have a re-usable water bottle which I fill up with tap or filtered. I can’t even begin to think about how much money and plastic I’ve saved with this. Admittedly though, I’ve had to buy a few because I’ve either broken them or left them behind
  • Rely on places of accommodation to provide me with new toothbrushes – it’s included so why not!
  • Sign up for a bank card with no international fees
  • Spend time relaxing and doing nothing – my body needs to rest and can’t be exploring 24/7. When I take days or weeks off, it not only saves me money but gives my mind and body the break it needs from time to time.

Things I’ve given up to reduce costs

  • Looking pretty all the time – I don’t wear or carry much makeup with me. I don’t have many clothes.
  • Looking after my hair – I got one hair cut before I went on the journey and that will be the only cut I’m getting. I sometimes don’t even use conditioner and quite often, I use whatever shampoo the place has
  • Regular washing – not every place has a washing machine or gives free washing. Sometimes I hold out, not washing my stuff for like 2 weeks. Sometimes I wear the same outfit for days and only wash my undies by hand with the bathroom soap

Other things I can do to further reduce my costs (if I really want to)

  • Stop buying sim cards and rely on wifi – not going to happen
  • Buy a menstrual cup – yes it’s a girly thing and it’s going to happen!
  • Hitch-hike – not sure about this one yet
  • Stay in Buddhist temples – must try!
  • Give up my travel insurance – definitely not! It’s served me well

That’s pretty much all I can think of at the moment but I will come back every so often to update this list 🙂

I hope you enjoyed!

4 thoughts on “What does budget-travel actually mean (to me)?

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