How to travel for $35 a day. Yes, it IS possible!
I know some of you must be thinking "that's literally impossible" but I can attest to the fact that it's totally do-able! I began writing this post in Costa Rica, a popular tourist destination which has prices to match. Prices there are the same as Europe, which is fine when you're on a short trip i.e. you have a job and are making back what you earn. But if like me, you're on an extended trip and aren't working, you really need to make those pennies stretch. I set my budget to $35 (US) per day, including accommodation and was determined to stick to it. Whilst travelling through countries where you can eat for $2 such as Mexico, Belize and Guatemala this was an easy task. Upon arriving in Costa Rica however, I felt sure I would go over my daily budget and would therefore be unable to write this post. But alas! fast foward and I can honestly say that I managed to stick within budget. It meant separating needs from wants and indulging in zero luxuries, but if it allows me to see and experience all of our wonderful world, not just the developing parts of it then I'm ok with that.
Set a limit for accommodation and stick to it
As above, my total daily budget is $35 and that includes accommodation. I set the budget for this to $15 per night (per person, so $30 for two) and am completely ruthless about it! that leaves $20 for everything else. I always try to find places that are even cheaper, and quite often have successfully done so. One thing I haven't done however, is go over the accommodation budget. First it starts as a dollar here and a dollar there and before you know it you're spending the entire daily budget on accommodation, rendering the whole thing pointless.
Book ahead and don't be fussy
If you're happy to stay in hostel dorm rooms then booking ahead isn't usually necessary, but if you prefer a private room in a guesthouse or BnB style accomodation, it pays to use sites like booking.com, trivago etc and book in advance. Doing so means you can stay in a nice double room for the same price as a bed in a dorm room. I'm super organised and have booked all of our accomodation for this trip in advance, you can't get deals like that off the street! it's only through booking ahead that in majority of places I've managed to get more value for my money. The only downside to this is that your itinerary becomes pretty inflexible. The other benefit of sites like booking.com is that you can filter your search results to only show places which are within your budget, you would be surprised how many decent places you can stay for so little!
Eat where the locals eat
No matter where you are in the world, the locals like to eat out too! Across Asia, Africa, most of Central and South America, and even parts of Europe and Scandinavia you will find what I refer to as 'street cafes' they look like hot dog stands and will be serving traditional meals/snacks. In Belize this was fry jacks, in Mexico it's quesadillas or tacos, in El Salvador it's papusas, in Iceland it's Icelandic hotdogs, in Australia it's meat pies etc. Seek these places out! whatever they're selling will be amazing and it's always far cheaper than eating at a restaurant, why do you think all the locals are there?!
When you're travelling through undeveloped countries eating out is always affordable, if however you find yourself in a place where the price of eating out even at local hot spots makes your eyes water then it's a good idea to stay somewhere that has a kitchen you can utilize. Hotels don't have this as an option so you are forced to eat out for every meal, which is fine in Mexico but not so fine in Iceland! Hostels always have a kitchen you can use as do some guest houses. Apartments are a good option too so check sites like Airbnb and HomeAway. Plus, when you're travelling long term it's actually really nice to do some home cooking once in a while!
Use public transport
There are numerous ways of getting around anywhere you go, you can take taxis, private transfers, shared transfers, or public transport. I always suggest using the public transport! yes it's a bit daunting sometimes, it's not as comfortable and it will take longer but it's literally a fraction of the price and for me the extra you pay for transfers isn't worth it. Plus the public transport is way more fun! you always end up with a story to tell. We rode a bus in Guatemala with ducks on board, a giant mattress down the aisle and a guy perched on the roof.
I'm referring to tours here, I've found that you can almost always get the tour you want for cheaper if you do a bit of scouting. For example in Belize I wanted to do a snorkel trip and there were numerous companies offering exactly the same thing, I made it my mission to find out which one would offer the best price. The first price we were quoted was $70 for a full day trip, the second was $60, and the one we eventually went with was $55. Always shop around! compare prices and don't be scared to ask "is that the best price?", especially when there's lots of competition around.
Keep track of your spending and be strict!
It's no good setting a budget and then five weeks into the trip realising you have absolutely no idea how much you've spent! and don't go thinking you will remember everything you bought because you won't. At the end of each day you need to list your expenses, including the small things like water. This makes it easy to calculate on average how much you're spending each day and if you need to, you can reign it in. And you MUST be strict about sticking to your budget! otherwise what's the point? If it's the end of the day and you only have $1 left but are hungry for dinner, my friend you have two choices; you can either pick up an apple from a grocery store, or you can blow your budget and eat out. I think you already know which one I would suggest! Think of it this way, every extra dollar you spend shortens your trip... hmm, an apple it is!
There you have it! my tips to help minimise your travel expenses. It's really not hard to travel on a budget, even one as tight as mine. You just need to be prepared to put in a bit more effort than those who have a larger budget (lucky ducks!) And of course there will be days where you overspend but that's ok because the next day you'll spend less and it will even out, just be sure to keep track and be strict!
Over and out x