12 Tips For Budget Travel
I am no travel expert and I started my travel venture at age 30’s. Starting with Hong Kong. But I learn a little to a lot since then. Lost my passport at Hong Kong Airport and left alone with very little money, while my mobile phone is dead and all I have is few dollars left in my public phone call card. I only memorized 2 phone (contact) numbers in my whole life and had to survive alone in the land of strangers before my next flight in 2 days time. I also experienced stepping into hotel’s reservation office in Arrowtown, New Zealand and retrieved my own booking from their computer after they unable to track my room booking via agoda and made new friend with strangers along the way.. what I can say is – it is a bitter and sweet experience.
If any of you haven’t get an opportunity to do so, nothing is too late. Below are my tips, genuine tips, based on my own experience and calculation and I hope it may help you a little.
Before that, I really would like to stress out that traveling does not necessary requires a lot of money. While vacationing does. Everyone can travel. But not everybody can afford a vacation.
Travel = Safe place to stay, a bag pack, visit as many as places you can, cheap food and camera.
Vacation = 4 to 5 star resort, 2 luggages for short stay, fancy food, being lazy ass relaxing at hotel facilities, shops and Instagram.
So, here we go;
1) Travel in two or more.
The more the merrier. Some of the hotels can accommodate to a maximum 4 adults in a room. You can always look up for 2 bedroom apartment or a Family room category. By this way, you can split the cost of the accommodation among 2, 3 or 4 of you. If you travel abroad, I advise you NOT to do the “Malaysian way” – book 1 room for a 10 group of people. I know some of you do not mind cramping like sardine in a can and sleeps on the floor, but please bear in mind, hotel’s reception ALWAYS collect the passport upon hotel check in and make photocopy out of it. They also requires you to fill registration forms and they do the head count. They somehow able to find out if you break their maximum number of room’s policy. (Hotels installed cctv in the hallway, lifts and balcony)
2) Hotel location.
I know people always tend to look at the cheapest price in the list of booking engine when they looking up for the room. But do you know cheap room price comes with the reason? Usually hotel located far from / outside the city center is always cheaper than the one that centrally located. And sometimes, it is located near the airport where there is nothing going on except highways and runways.
The smartest way to pick the location for your accommodation is the city center. The price might cost you a little bit, but you can save a lot in terms of transportation and time. City center is where you can mostly walk around (when I said walk around, I meant BY FOOT) to the city attraction, shopping malls and plenty of restaurants. Light train and bus station usually concentrated in the city center area. You do not have to worry about taxi midnight surcharges if you over party in town since you can always WALK back to your hotel. You can find a lot of Tour booth / Travel agent in the city center and usually they do the free pick up and drop off (for day tour program) for guests that staying in city center area.
Hotel staffs and locals who stay in the city center usually are fluent in English compared to the one that located / stayed outside the city center. So you can save your time from getting lost since you can always ask for directions and suggestion from the locals.
3) Hotel’s complimentary Services
Besides daily breakfasts, coffee/ tea maker facilities in the room and WIFI, there are lots of other services you can dig and utilized from your hotel.
If you still can’t afford the hotels located in the city center, you still can get the cheap hotels situated outside but ALWAYS try to get the one that offers complimentary services. I always go for the hotels that offers airport transfers and free shuttle service. Free Shuttle Service means the hotel provide pick up and drop off by minivan for the guests at certain hour, to the city center. From my experience, hotels always provide free shuttle at 10 AM, 4 PM and 8 PM. Meaning, those who pick the 10 AM shuttle service, can choose to return back to the hotel at 4 PM or 8 PM. But those who pick the last shuttle which is 8 PM, then has to figure out their own way to return to the hotel at night.
4) Hotel’s Promo Package
I know that many of you prefers hotel booking engine since it offers great rate such as Agoda, Booking.com, expedia.com to name a few. But do you ever noticed that hotel itself came up with tactical promotion to encourage the guest to book direct from them? Yes, it looks like a room night rate is pretty cheap from booking engine. But if you spend your time a little to check the hotel’s official website, try check under PROMO & PACKAGE or HOTEL PROMO tab. You will be surprised with what you can get by paying extra few dollars. Airport transfers, BBQ dinner, Snorkeling Trip, City Tour, 60 minutes massage at spa, fruit basket and 10 to 30% discount for early room booking are among popular offers packaged up into your room stay by the hotel itself.
Try to work backward the costing by putting together the accommodation, special meals, spa, tour and airport transfers on your own and you will be surprised that your low budget travel isn’t that low budget anymore!
5) Book your air ticket (in advance) and go.
You can’t start your first traveling experience if you keep thinking your saving is not enough for the trip. The truth is, it will never be enough when it comes to money. Book your ticket in advance (like 4 to 6 months in advance) or while there is promotion running. Inform your office and apply your leave (in advance too). You might think I am crazy, but yes, I sent my leave application 6 months in advance. I booked the date before other staffs do and your office have a plenty of time to figure out the way to continue its operation without you.
Once you have your plane ticket in hands, you will do anything to make it happen. You will automatically cut your spending habit on shopping or eating expensive fast food so that you can have decent amount of money for your upcoming trip. Trust me, by having plane ticket purchased in advance, you already manifest 50% of your day dream to reality.
Do not tell me that in 4 to 6 months, you unable to set aside a little money for the accommodation and food? Most of the hotel booking engine and hotel itself only require your credit card for reservations and they will only charge / collect payment from you upon check in or check out.
6) The road less traveled.
Choose less popular destination can help you save a lot. There is always something to see and learn in places other than your own city / country. It became less popular not because it has nothing to see. It is because of lack of advertisement and promotion. For example, flight ticket to Bandung or Bali is always expensive than Makkasar or Semarang. Flight to Beijing and Shanghai is always more expensive than Wuhan or Chongqing. It same applies to hotels. Popular tourist destination is always expensive than ‘just city’. Although it is a different cities, you are still visiting the country. If you choose your destination based on what your friends
‘showed off’ posted on facebook / Instagram, then you will always find traveling is expensive.
Believe me, by choosing less popular destination, you will be posting nice story and photos which is totally different than the rest. And maybe, you will be the person who makes that less popular destination become popular!
7) Learn about low, shoulder and peak season
Well, you still can go to the popular destination but you have to do some research a little bit. Hotels and flight ticket price fluctuate mainly by the season. Usually hotels throw crazy deal during low season in order to keep their business running. You need to do your research about festivals’ date and expo season on the country you wish to visit besides your home country’s. Hotel price is the most expensive ( triple times, plus surcharge) during Festivals and Expo. Summer is the peak season in Gold Coast, Australia which is between November to February and low during winter. By the way, it is not like you will do the beach surf when you visit Gold Coast in summer. Thailand is crazy expensive during winter because that is the time tourists from four seasons country flocking to Thailand and country with similar climate to enjoy the warmth of the sun and beach. Japan and South Korea is expensive during Spring but cheap during summer.
My point here is, it’s okay to go to your dream destination during low season. What really matter is – you finally there!
8) Few cities at one time
Yes. Not everybody able to visit same country multiple times. So once you have the plane ticket to one, make the most of it. There is always cheap ways to commute around, public transportation such as coach, ferry and train connecting between cities. By this way, you are able to visit few cities in 5 days instead of 1 (for example). I did Hong Kong and Macau in 4 days. Phuket and Krabi in 5 days. Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Tokyo in 10 days. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in 5 days and many more. Yea, something like that.
9) Skip shopping (*note to myself)
Maybe fridge magnet and a t-shirt will do. You already have tonnes of pictures taken, bazillion check in’s on Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare. what else better than that to validate your visit?
10) Basic food
Please, please leave your kampung throat at home. It just for few days for God sake. If everyday you eat rice, sambal belacan and chicken curry in your home country, but during travel you have to get your tekak (taste buds) quickly adapted with basic food around you during your travel period. Not all countries allowed foreign food at airport immigration, so try to settle with just seafood, wheat products, fruits, eggs and greens (for Muslims) and cheap weird local food (for non Muslims). Because, I never heard people died abroad just because they cannot find rice and gulai singgang.
It is not like you cannot find Halal / home country food abroad, there are plenty of it. But please bare in mind, the cost per plate / meals can be triple than what you paid at home due to the currency, restaurant’s cost to get the raw material and foreign cook. That my friend, will defeat your plan to keep your travel budget LOW.
11) Local simcard
I must admit Malaysian Telco service and price is not the best and cheapest in the world. Roaming charges can be pain in the ass to deal with when you return home. So what I always did is to get prepaid local sim card with data. I believe all of us carrying android, smart phones these days so contact number, message history in wechat, whatapps, viber and all is still there and it’s just a data away. You still can contact them like normal even you changed your sim card. Smart phone is really a smart phone!
12) Courage and faith
Above of all, what you need is courage and faith. None of the eleven tips above may work If you do not have courage and faith. Not even THE strongest and the most fierce keyboard warrior on social network can do simple budget travel adventure without it. Takat panjat Mount Kinabalu or snorkeling dekat Redang boleh lah cerita. Kau terrer mengaji pun belum tentu boleh sembang dengan Pak Arab kat UAE kalau kau sesat kat Padang Pasir. No, it’s not about language or the money that ensure how interesting and meaningful your life journey is. It’s all about courage and faith that you have it in you.
So, those are my 12 get away for a cheap, budget travel that I truly applied into mine. Somehow, my tips are feasible to singles and couples with one kid. I do not think they are suitable for a family with 3 to 4 toddlers, or if you have old grand parents, uncle and aunties with you. Maybe you can use half of my formulas, but to appoint travel agent is my best advice if you travel in big family with small kids and elderly.