If you find yourself on travels for an extended period of time, whether it's making the most of a career break, the end of university, or have some time to make use of between jobs, sticking to a budget if you don't have income coming in can be daunting if you're on the road for a few months. Fresh off the boat, I've just completed 4 months travelling the world after a long 8 year stint working in London. I've compiled my best tips for how to best budget and be careful with your dollar whilst on the road below, followed by a dreamy video of an underwater adventure to Nusa Lembongan, meeting some of the extraordinary locals (below) whilst free diving.
MAD TO LIVE TIPS How To Budget Your Travels
- Call hotels/hostels to see if they can offer a discount for paying upfront in cash. You'd be surprised at how many of them offer a discount in return!
- Download Booking.com, AirB&B and Hostel Bookers to your phone for fast access to last-minute deals, you can find some quite extraordinary offers, even at 5* hotels if you're purse strings are a bit wider.
- Make sure you've saved all your bookings and are conscious of their cancellation policies. Some spots charge the full rate if you don;'t cancel in time if that's what you need to do, and make sure you confirm your booking again/remind them of your arrival.
- If you're in a group of friends, source rooms that are quads or even for 5, 6 people. Makes it way cheaper per head and packs you all in.
- Buses are cheaper than trains and planes (obviously ;)). Explore good local bus companies. Most long-distance bus rides are pretty comfy experiences with TV's, reclining beds and more.
- Check out buget airlines for cheaper rates between neighbouring countries.
- Food wise, it can be tempting to blow the budget on meals out. Unless you are somewhere like Indonesia where you can actually eat out for less than £5 for a meal, most continents (Europe, North and South America, Australia) have fairly average prices. Don't be afraid of browsing streetfood stalls, they can be swamped with sizzling, delicious, fresh local fare. Just avoid the spots with pale, sweaty looking fried meat ;) grilled is best!
- Browse local markets and farmers markets to buy fresh produce and cook for yourself. Easy, inexpensive meals using tasty local vegetables and produce.
- Avoid super touristy restaurants, ESPECIALLY those plastered with pictures of their "delicious Heem-burgerz" or "omlet with Frinch frie"). Go local, find where the locals eat. The menu may be smaller but chances are you'll find the best (and cheaper) spots in town.
- Figure out your daily budget for accommodation and food and try to stick to it. Don't beat yourself up though if you end up blowing a full days budget on a margarita fueled all-nighter. Life is for living, and just make it up with some frugal meals the next day ;)
- To avoid getting done by your credit card company with expensive continuous withdrawal fees/charges, get yourself a travel credit card (e.g from the Post Office or Virgin) where you pre-pay an amount onto the card, and can download the app to keep adding money. You avoid the repetitive fees of using your normal cards, and also it gives you an extra card if you find yourself in any sticky situations or in the unfortunate position of someone with light fingers having nicked any of your cash/cards.
- Steer clear of exchange bureaus that don't clearly show the buying and selling rate, you can get stung hard which I unfortunately learnt in Colombia with an $80 add on fee. With both rates in front of you you should be able to figure out the profit margin which should be within 5%. If they ain't showin', chances are they are hiding the insane profit margin they would be making!
- Haggle at markets but don't take the mick. Yes, they do go in for the high-sell to begin with so whilst you shouldn't be paying for example £3 for an avocado, you won't get anywhere arguing to pay for one for 30p - bad for your concsious and the local economy too ;)
- Figure out how much you'll roughly need before you leave - and then add an extra £1k. There are always incremental costs, unexpected situations, experiences and missions that will come up.
- In my opinion it's worth spending more on experiences than any unnecessary frills (do you need to buy an expensive pair of shoes on the road?;)). You'll remember and value the memories way more than any material purchase.
- Cruise the web for awesome local-led tours of where you are, across food, art, history and more. One of my best experiences was a free street-art tour in Cartagena, Colombia which we found on a flyer. If they are free, offer a tip though if it's good!
- Good hotels should have access to better deals for any trips or experiences. Our mission to see manta rays in Nusa Lembongan (as in the video below) was organised by our hotel (Song Lambung Huts), who got us a killer deal with a local guide - and it was just us and him the entire trip which was amazing.
Check out the video below, a dreamy underwater wrap of that trip where I soared 20 feet under the water with a huge manta ray, found a deep caven and cruised above the insanely beautiful live coral reefs of Indonesia.
Shot on the new GoPro Hero 4 Session
With thanks to GoPro and Canoe INC.