The whole point of backpacking is to allow travelers to see and experience more of a place, while keeping costs down to a bare minimum. It’s more than just an alternative mode of travel; it’s a lifestyle.
But while some people can readily adapt to backpack travel, others may find the whole low cost thing a bit discomforting. They would often spend way more money than what is necessary, thus throwing the real essence of backpacking out the window.
Going on a budget trip does not mean putting up with shady hotel rooms and crappy meals. For the backpackers out there who have trouble sticking to their travel budget, the tips below should make your every penny count for that dream trip.
Invest in a High Quality Backpack
Nothing is worse than owning a bad backpack: your belongings could easily get drenched in a thunderstorm, your clothes could spill out at the most inopportune moments or you could get sore from having ill-fitted straps digging into your shoulders all day.
When it comes to backpacks, bigger does not always mean better. Make sure what you choose is proportional to your size; the thing here is that the weight should be balanced evenly on your back so that you won’t experience backaches when you lug your backpack around for the duration of your trips. Most sports/camping supply stores will allow you to try on their backpacks with weights so you can see if it’s a comfortable fit for you before purchasing.
A good backpack is one that can withstand the rough-and-tumble of backpacking trips. It should be water-resistant, multi-compartmented, have a sturdy internal frame and padded shoulder straps. But don’t go for those that are priced over $250 – these are unnecessarily expensive. There are decent backpacks that will only cost you anywhere from $100 to $200.
This is a no-brainer. The rule of supply and demand is always at work when it comes to airfare and transportation costs. The summer season can be a great time to travel, but it’s also the most expensive compared to other seasons throughout the year. If you must travel during a lean season, book flights early to save yourself from the skyrocketing prices later on. Also, you might want to travel during weekdays, when flights are priced cheaper.
Eat As The Locals Eat
Shun hotel meals and ignore fancy restaurants! These are usually priced at tourist rates and are definitely more expensive than what the locals would normally eat. If you really want to eat cheaply, look for popular hole-in-the-walls or restaurant joints that locals frequently go to. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try street food. In all corners of the world, there will always be street hawkers who are selling their specialties for a dime. Eating street food is the best way to experience local cuisine at its finest.
Try Alternative Accommodations
Youth hostels are often the best choice for backpackers who want the cheapest sleeping accommodations as possible. Hostels offer dorm-style rooms (i.e. rooms shared with other backpackers/renters) at extremely affordable rates. Higher end hostels even offer amenities like kitchens, free meals, WiFi connection, and laundry service. Since you are most likely sharing a room with other backpackers, hostels also give you the chance to meet new friends during the course of your backpacking trip.
Among younger backpackers, CouchSurfing is fast becoming a popular option for overnight accommodation. It is a practice wherein locals from all over the world offer spaces in their homes or their own couches for travelers to stay in for free. You only need to cover the costs for meals and such. There is an online community dedicated to this where you can see reviews and connect with the hosts that you are interested in staying with for the duration of your trip.
Another option is to sleep in airports, trains or overnight buses. Though it might not be that comfortable, it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Learn How To Haggle
Tourist hotspots often sell knickknacks and items that are way too overpriced. Don’t buy anything from the first shops you see outside the airport; it’s always best to look around and compare prices before buying anything. Master the art of haggling and learn what the normal prices for most goods are in your area of travel.