The first time I ever ‘traveled’ anywhere was in 2010. I am Nigerian so go figure, it had to be London.
I like to call myself a ‘budget traveler’ but I have found that the term ‘budget’ is relative to your pocket. For instance I won’t spend $100 on a room per night outside the US – I don’t care what, why or where. Maybe if I have a travel buddy or am traveling with my partner and we share the same room, ehen. Otherwise, me, Kiah, born of proper Ijesha stock, spend how much on a common room? Shior…
However many fellow self-decorated budget travelers consider that price very alright. But I have also read of budget travelers that take sleeping bags with them and sleep in parks etc. My Ijesha miserliness has not reached like that please. At the very least, I want a bed (no bed-bugs!!!) and a clean bathroom.
I know y’all are going to complain about how the dollar is showing the naira pepper so you can’t travel and blablaba but I am going to tackle that argument real quick. Ghana, Cuba, Senegal, China, Thailand, Gambia etc…all these places don’t spend dollar. You just have to want something real bad and be willing to make sacrifices. This year for instance, I have refused to go clothes shopping. My clothing fund has been converted to my travel fund. It went a long way. (I however couldn’t resist when J.Crew had 40% off sale on sweaters!!! It is J.Crew please)
Anyway here are some tips that have helped me see 2 new countries for less than $1,000 each in less than a year. The third which is in Asia will cost a bit more but the target is less than $1,500. So far, flights and hotel prices are cooperating very well. After that, my next big thing is to see the Balkans. If you want to donate to my cause, Paypal please. Otherwise here we go…
- Not every time AirBnB – I have used AirBnB once. In Montreal. I find that for cities where hotels are really pricey, this is a good option. But if you are going to a touristy place where hostels and inns abound, please look on booking.com or hotels.com first. Also with the latter two you can change your mind but AirBnB charges you for your prevarication. My entire Costa Rica trip was on booking.com. We attempted AirBnB but it was more expensive all round.
- Layovers are your best friend – Straight flights are more expensive than those with one or two stops. I try to avoid two stops but if you are looking to save on your flight ticket, consider those layovers. Learn to love airports- they are interesting places that add flavor to your trip.
- Get a travel buddy – This tip is somehow. It should be ‘get many travel buddies’ because people are generally wishy-washy. If one person fails you, you can at least fall back on another. Travel buddies are great for sharing rooming costs mostly. And because it is always great to have someone familiar in unfamiliar places.
- Sign up to TravelZoo and other travel newsletters online. There are so many tips and deal alerts out there. Also follow airlines on social media. (Don’t follow Spirit airline – nothing good can come out of having anything to do with Spirit).
- Research – Do your research on where you are going – what to see, how to see it, when to see it. TripAdvisor is great for this. Print out maps of places you are going if you can – don’t always rely on your phone as batteries die. A printed itinerary is great as well but be flexible.
- Behave like a local – There are advantages and disadvantages to standing out as a tourist anywhere. One of the latter is that prices are always higher for you than for a local. On my return trip to the airport in San Jose, I took the bus like a local. It was so simple and cost way less than the taxi we had taken on our arrival. Another example is meals in touristy restaurants in Costa Rica cost $20 on average (almost same price as dear old USA) but when we went to the sodas, it cost us an average of $5 to eat really good meals and sodas will even give you ‘fisi’. Besides you are helping the less privileged (including yourself) this way so do the right thing. Ehen.
- If you can, limit yourself to one hand luggage and one backpack. You are going away for 1 week and carrying two humongous suitcases? Why? What are you taking please? I always carry my most battered small suitcase and fit everything into it. Saves you luggage fees. Also the risk of the airline losing your luggage reduces considerably.
- Every place has its high and low season. Travel during the low season. Flights and everything else are cheaper then.
- Snacks – I always take at least 3 packs of Great Value Granola bars with me. Each pack has 6 bars. The longer the trip, the more the packs. These bars save lives. I have made friends with these bars. When you are going on tour or on a hike in the middle of nowhere and suddenly hunger pangs hit you, just reach for a bar. Oh and please granola bar is different from Snickers; Snickers is not the answer. Leave Snickers at home.
- Ask questions – your waiters, taxi drivers, the hotel staff, fellow travelers. They are an invaluable source of information that will make your stay much better. Don’t be shy.
- DO. NOT. CHANGE. YOUR. MONEY. AT. THE. HOTEL – Airport too but those are even better than hotel. If you can wait till you find a bank, wait please.
There, now you are ready to travel like a rock star. Go on then, have an adventure and let us know how it goes.