Being a twenty year old, I’m often told I have the world at my feet, and I just use that phrase as a reason to fuel my wanderlust. If you are young, (or young at heart) you know the feeling: as the season turns, the need to experience a bustling city or a remote forest takes over you. You want to get on a train, plane—even a motorbike, and head off into the horizon. But if you are young, you know fully well that there is something stopping you—that something being money.
For a very long time, the reason I wasn’t going off to explore a new city or a town whenever the need arose was that traveling can be expensive and inaccessible. But recently, I took some measures that made my trip to Bali in Indonesia surprisingly budget-friendly. From your mode of transport to the meals you eat, I found that by some careful planning, I could experience a new country without burning a hole in my pocket. Here are some of the top lessons I learned from the experience:
One of the most obvious tips for budget-friendly planning is thorough research. You might be surprised how easily you can prevent paying extra for tickets, being cheated in tourist hotspots or save up on travel, if you go the extra mile and read up as much as you can on the place you are going to. Sure, it is always fun to spontaneously discover things about a place, but you can even dig up some valuable information without travel-spoilers. For example, some quick research will tell you that booking tickets using incognito tabs prevents airlines from overcharging you. Another tip I got before my trip: I was told to not pay anyone offering me a sarong in a Bali temple, and I avoided being swindled by a shady man outside the temple!
A huge bulk of your travel budget gets divided between your mode of transport and your stay. Unsurprisingly, this is where you can save most of your money. For planned vacations, book your tickets well in advance, since you are bound to get them cheaper the earlier you book them. If you are planning a spontaneous weekend vacation, figure out what the cheapest mode of transport would be. Depending on where you are going, it can be cheaper to take a bus than a plane ticket.
But the most cost-effective trip you can take is by planning your trip around your transport: make a road trip out of your traveling plans. Instead of flying, you can rent motorbikes and cars and drive to the place you want to visit. You will end up truly experiencing a place, rather than merely visiting it. Plus, I can personally attest that motorbiking is often the most intimate, cheapest and the most thrilling way to get to a place. You know what they say, the journey is greater than the destination!
To nobody’s surprise, the most expensive part of any trip is your stay. If you are visiting a metropolitan city like London, Paris or New York, the rent will be sky-high, rendering such a visit nearly impossible. But with some smart planning, you can actually stay affordably in your dream destination. For starters, always try to stay in student or youth hostels. Not only will you have an affordable place to stay, you also will end up meeting travellers from other cities and locals your age. Travel is about learning, and what better way to learn about the world than from its varied inhabitants? In Bali, I stayed in a youth hostel and ended up making friends with a few Australians my age. Surprise surprise, I’m now planning a trip to Australia! Tip: Check if your youth hostel has intercity memberships. If you travel frequently or are planning a multi-city tour, getting such a membership can be more affordable.
One of the parts of travel that gets overlooked, but ends up becoming a source of silent expense is your luggage. While traveling light is always recommended, it becomes hard to follow this rule when you find that you need to purchase new trekking shoes, woolens, cold cream, snow boots—clothes that you may not need in your home country. If these extra items are taking up space, you can cut down on the number of clothes you have to carry by taking only a few comfortable, reliable clothes you can wear frequently. Opt for casual gym apparels as they work great as travel outfits and can be used multiple times over one trip.
Another place you can end up spending a lot more than planned is food. It is always great to experiment and try local cuisines, but if you are traveling on a budget, it gets expensive to purchase all your meals at restaurants. A good way around this is to carry a few packets of ramen or instant foods. No matter where you stay, hot water will be easy to access, and you can quickly whip up something for cheap. Also, many hostels and homestays offer free buffet breakfasts: I remembering load up on those in Bali, so that I could keep going for the rest of the day!
- Touring and Souvenirs
Most tourist hotspots have become branded in such a way, that some places become an indispensable part of any tourist itinerary. Unfortunately, these tourist hotspots become places where you will be charged heavily for tickets and will have to wait in long queues. Similarly, if you want to buy souvenirs, they will often be poorly manufactured and overpriced. Traveling on a budget means you may have to bypass such places and items. Instead, you will have the luxury of forging your own memories. Instead of taking the road well traveled, take the one less traveled. You can end up discovering smaller, unknown cafes or beaches. You may end up learning a new activity for free. What you will end up storing are not expensive, cliched items, but memories of a lifetime.
It doesn’t take much to be bitten by the travel bug, so it doesn’t have to take much for you to follow where your heart wants to take you. Traveling on a budget is its own kind of adventure, and one that will reinstate the most important thing about travel: it is the little things that make up the memories of a lifetime.