Confessions of a budget traveller

I’m known, among every one of my friends, as someone who never seems to have money. This hasn’t changed since I’ve travelled, so I’m here to tell you (if you always say you don’t have the money to travel) you do. If there’s a will, there’s a way!

I started saving for my travels post-Australia way too late. As in, five months before I left. I had all the good intentions of saving for the year preceding my travels but then Christmas hit, and then unemployment hit…twice.

My plan was to do the rest of Australia, Bali, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Vietnam. Then New Zealand for 6 weeks. Well let me tell you, the majority of that is not going to happen. I think there was way too much optimism and not enough money for that pipe dream. Goodbye Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Vietnam – I’ll get ya next time!

So how much did I have left for Asia and Aus travels (total 3 months) after paying for flights, insurance, and putting aside spends for NZ? $3000. Or £1600-ish. Yep. Would it have been better to have more money? Of course. Is it doable on such a little amount? Sure, here’s how:

Don’t be a typical tourist: don’t just pay for tours all of the time, live like a local. Tours are fun, and you should definitely include some  on your trip (I do one per place now) but just grab a map (paper copy or download – like an offline google maps) and wander around, eat street food (if it doesn’t look like it’s going to serve you cat), and get lost.

Stumbled across a flea market in the grounds of a temple (Chiang Mai)

Grab some cheap accommodation 

Cheap doesn’t have to be bad, and that’s definitely not the case in Asia. On the hostelworld app I literally filter by price and go for the cheapest hostel with good reviews. From $14 a night to $4 (basically half it for gbp conversion) and I’ve not had bedbugs yet…touch wood.

Cutest hostel in Penang, and only $7 a night

Think about travelling between: this is a tricky one, because if I had the money, I’d probably go for the nicer options (trains/flights) but I don’t hugely mind a long bus journey – especially when it’s a third of the price. Plus I’ve had a couple of pretty good journeys (and some awful ones!). I even go for night buses sometimes to cancel out a night of accommodation. So thrifty.

Got given a blanket, bottle of water and biccies on one bus journey

Don’t buy unnecessary things: it’s so hard to not get swept up in buying case loads of stuff at markets (and why not? You can buy things for less than a pound!) but in the interests of being thrifty, maybe keep it down to 8 pairs of elephant pants, 20 bracelets and anklets and 10 souvenirs 😉

I can’t resist a market (Singapore’s Chinatown)

Research free stuff in the area: there will ALWAYS be at least one genius that has compiled a list of free things to do. Do them.

Costs $0 to wander the street art trail in Penang

Haggle, haggle and haggle some more: they love it here. It’s difficult at first but you get better. The general rule is third what they’re asking for and go from there. You haggle tuk tuks, taxis and pickups too, or just download the ‘Grab’ app – Asia’s cheaper version of Uber. Easy peasy.

Volunteer: I’ve not done this yet, but I’ve applied to a few hosts through so I’m just waiting on responses. I’ve already had two: one at a dog sanctuary and one teaching english. Not only do you get to give something back to a local community, but you can quite often get accommodation included too!

I won’t lie – with another 5/6 weeks to go I’m pretty nervous about my lack of funds, but in no way will it ruin my trip. So if you’re thinking about travelling and you’re just desperate to get out there, but always say you don’t have the money… Take a leaf out of my book. Put your social life on hold, save £2000 and get out here!

An amazing trip awaits you!

P.s I’m always keen to hear other thrifty tips. If you have any, hit me up!


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