22 Tips - How to travel on a budget
“Oh, I wish I could afford travelling, but I just don’t have enough money”
How many times, did you hear someone saying that (or even maybe saying it yourself?)!
We heard it thousands of times! But now we want to show you how you can travel with a really low budget! We will be super honest with you and tell you our tips and tricks.
Traveling on a Budget might be challenging and it requires discipline, but that's what makes it fun! Finding the best restaurants at cheap prices, digging into the local markets to find the best deals and being a professional in the art of bargaining will make your trip have more "personality" and will bring you closer to the local people.
We never felt ashamed to tell anybody that we are on a really low budget. Because we would still find our way to nice pools, restaurants and sightseeing spots.
How we managed to travel for 10 months with a very small budget! Learn some tricks going through our 22 Budget Tips and have fun with our own stories and experiences!
Tip 1 - Do a split!
No, not really a split. But split your costs! Every time you can split any type of costs with one or even more people, you will save money. We were already lucky that we always travel together, so we can split almost all the costs. Accommodation, Taxi, Uber and more. Usually you get better prices for everything when you are in a group.
Ask people at the airport to share a Taxi. Like that you can save some money and already get to know people!
Tip 2 - “You can make a better price, right?”
Negotiate, always! In the beginning of the trip, we were a bit naive and also too shy and polite to bargain or ask for lower prices. But you need to know that in some cultures it’s even asked to bargain and it’s rude if you DON'T do it. You have to be fair though. Do some research of the fair prices beforehand. Now, we are pros and we always try to bargain!
Always try to make your first offer 50% less than what they said first. Then you slowly go higher until you meet at 40% from the first price. So if they say 10€, you say 4-5€ until you meet at 6 or 7€. Usually always works. (Once in Morocco we managed to drop a 20€ necklace for 2€. Yes, this is true and I'm sure the seller did get his fair share of the deal also.)
Tip 3 - Right timing!
Some things might be cheaper to plan ahead, others will be cheaper to book last minute. We realized that flights were usually cheaper the more ahead we would book them. Also you can already organize a Pick up (through groups on Facebook) to pick you up at the airport. Like this you can negotiate the price before and don’t have to go around and will be overcharged by the taxis standing there.
Our home ticket from Indonesia to Portugal was pretty cheap because we had just decided the period until when we would travel. Knowing that we would stay until the end of April helped us find a cheap flight and we saved more than 800€ on that flight.
Tip 4 - Follow the locals
Find out where locals shop, eat, hang out. Usually they know the best spots in town for the best price. If you spot a restaurant full of locals, probably it will be cheap. If you see yourself surrounded by tourists the chances are big that the prices will be higher. Locals are your budget best friends!
Ask your taxi driver, surf instructor or even the shop owner next door, where THEIR favorite restaurant is. Don’t ask for the most popular restaurant. Ask for their personal favorite.
Tip 5 - Make your own souvenirs
Making your own palm tree hat in the Philippines or a nice shell necklace in Indonesia is easy! Take something with more value and a new skill home! Sending a postcard is also a cheap way of remembering someone and your words will define the value of the gift and not how much you paid for it.
Liza made her own batik towel together with a self sustainable community in an island of Thailand. More than a souvenir, it was an amazing experience sharing this time with the locals and we learned a new skill!
Tip 6 - Private Window
Whenever you search for flights use a private window and make sure you clear your browser cookies. Websites have a tricky way of tracking what prices you’ve been quoted in the past. Then the prices will be higher everytime you check those flights and when you make the final booking. Get cheaper prices with this small trick!
It is pretty easy opening a private window and it will save you some money!
Tip 7 - Fake websites!
Make sure to use official websites and that you are not randomly sent to a different website than the one you wanted. During our research we ended up on a website that looked like the official immigration website of Sri Lanka. There it said we need a Visa to enter and we ended up paying for a Visa that we didn’t even need. Luckily we got our money back. There are a lot of travel blogs or facebook groups that will tell you the right sources and what you really need and what not.
Tip 8 - Breakfast for free
A lot of accommodations have breakfast included. If you can find a place with a fair price that includes breakfast you will always save money (and time, because you don't have to cook yourself).
Tip 9 - Eat local
Avoid eating in restaurants serving dishes like pizza or burger. These places are usually made for tourists and the prices will always be higher than local food! We found some of the best food we ever had, in small, local street food restaurants. Sometimes we didn’t even really understand what we ordered. But it was always fun to try new local food.
This food car was our best friend in Georgetown Malaysia! Every stick had something delicious and unique that you had to cook yourself. It was incredible cheap (5cents / stick) so we could easily have a meal with 1€ with different and very unique options.
Just next to it there was an Italian restaurant charging 10€ per Pizza!
Tip 10 - Public transportation
Always choose public transportation over taxis or Uber. It is way cheaper and you will get to experience the daily life of the locals. Save money and have fun at the same time!
Using public transportation in Sri Lanka was just an amazing experience! The tuc tuc drivers are funny, the buses are crazy and the train rides are beautiful! Even though we would never ever drive there ourselves. The traffic was crazy!
Tip 11 - Avoid high season
Some countries don't have a very defined seasonal time. Try to book your vacations for countries that have good weather all year round or just before or after high season. This allows you to get way cheaper prices for everything. Probably the weather will not be that bad anyway but you avoid having a huge amount of tourists in the sightseeing places!
During our trip in Asia we visited a few countries during the rainy season and we still had amazing weather! Maybe we were lucky but it allowed us to visit some amazing places without being surrounded by groups of tourists! The rice fields and waterfalls in Indonesia are a lot more beautiful during the rainy season than the dry season.
Tip 12 - Sneak into some pools
In many places you can have a fancy afternoon in a five star resort pool if you just get yourself a drink or a meal. We are not recommending that you should sneak into some pools without asking (because it didn't really work out well for us!) but it's a common practice in a lot of countries to allow clients to use the pool facilities if they are consuming something.
Ask right away if you can use their facilities so you can enjoy these places a bit more relaxed. Not asking might get you into trouble!
Tip 13 - Talk with other travelers
There are more people travelling on a budget in the countries you will visit! Talk together to find the best spots in town and it's always good to have some recommendations from people that travel in the same way or understand your financial situation. Hostels are a good knowledge source because you will meet experienced travelers that know all the tricks and schemes in advance! Be curious!
There are no words to describe the amazing people we met in our trip! We had an amazing time and we learned a lot!
Sharing experiences, stories and advice are one of the best things you can do on your trip!
Tip 14 - Local markets
If you are into shopping or you are searching for something specific, try to find it in the local markets where all the locals go! There is a high chance that it will be cheaper. But again, make sure you know more or less the fair prices before entering the market. Knowing some sentences in the local language also helps a lot!
Not only you will find cheaper things, you will also see and discover unique items and people. This photo was taken on the weekly market of Weligama, Sri Lanka.
Tip 15 - Ask yourself "Do I really need that?"
Avoid buying things on a hunch. You will be easily attracted by local sellers and cute products that you probably don't really need! This will only make your luggage heavier and your bank account lighter. Buy things that you really need and thought about before and always ask yourself before "Do I really need this?"
This might be more difficult for people like Liza, who like to shop. She had to get used to not buying everything she wanted, even though it was so cheap. Even if it’s just one small thing here or there. In the end it will sum up. It is also a really nice life lesson. You will see how less you really need in life!
Tip 16 - Always compare different prices before you decide
Search for different options before you buy that surfboard or you rent that scooter for a month. Try to bargain as low as possible and see who actually drops the price. This is how you can find the lowest price.
It's very frustrating when you find a cheaper price after you spent your valuable money.
We both bought surfboards in Bali. But we went around all the surf shops for an entire day, to find the cheapest price. In the end, we spent half the price from what we got offered first. We both got really good, new boards for each 220€ including fins, leash, pad and surfboard bag.
(We always say, we have more time than money. This is why spending time on research was extremely worth it for us!)
Tip 17 - Buy a local sim card
Communication costs can be a nightmare when travelling. If you can use Whatsapp to communicate with your family and friends, get a new sim card with data for each country. You will have WIFI almost everywhere. Keeping the same number will always be more expensive than changing to a new local SIM card.
Me and Liza were travelling together so, instead of having 2 SIM CARDS, we decided to only have one and share the data with hotspot. This helped us save some money and we always had ways of contacting our families and friends.
Tip 18 - Get a discount when you book for a long period
A lot of times it's cheaper renting a scooter for 30 days straight than booking it in separate weeks. We found out that renting a scooter for 1 month in the Philippines was almost the same price as for 2 weeks.
Tip 19 - Be a loyal client
If for you it doesn't matter where you rent your surfboard, always go to the same place! This will create a trustful relationship and it will be fair asking for a small discount (only works if he has a lot of competitors around).
The business responsible will be happy to have a loyal client and you will be happy if he helps you with your budget. It worked for us in restaurants, hostels and also in rental places during our trip! We created really nice relationships with the owners, who were happy to give us a small discount knowing we would come again or even recommend their place to other people.
Tip 20 - Don't buy anything in or close to the airport
The closer you get to the airport, the more expensive everything gets. Food, taxis, scooter or accomodation. As you read in tipp nr. 3, get your taxi via facebook groups in advance and get from the airport directly to your final destination. Only then try to buy the local sim card. Rent the scooter and so on.
We always try to avoid spending any money at the airport. We bought our food, booked our pick ups from and to the airport in advance and in some airports like in Kuala Lumpur you can even refill your water bottle for free.
Tip 21 - Use booking platforms for search but book directly
We agree that using booking platforms like skyscanner or booking help finding flights or accomodations. We use these platforms a lot. But If you can book directly on their website or even go there personally and ask for availability, it's always cheaper. Because you don’t have to pay the commissions that these platforms usually charge.
In Thailand we saved some money going and booking in person. It was not only cheaper but we could also directly see if we liked the place or not!
Tip 22 - Keep track of your budget
There's no way you can survive a trip on a budget without keeping exact track of how much money you are spending.
We used an Excel Budget Planner (that Tiago created) to make sure we always knew how our expenses were and how much money we could still spend.
Without tracking your expenses you will probably spend more than you want or even go back home earlier!
Extra Tip - Be fair
Traveling on a budget might be challenging but always value peoples work. Try to bargain with fairness. Common sense and respect is something you should not forget to carry in your luggage.