Confession of a Backpacker – Part – I (Secrets to do Budget Backpacking)

You don’t have to be rich to make your dream of travel come true.

This blog post is for all those who want to travel at a very low budget. I love travelling and I have done some unbelievable trips at some unbelievable prices. I have spent almost a month in Nepal with just Rs. 12,000/- ($166) including travel, stay, food, etc. Did SriLanka in Rs. 25,000/- ($ 347) for a month and there are other trips that I have managed in insane budgets. Whenever I told my friends about this their eyes always popped out. It is possible with proper planning and the right mindset. And when you would have done one trip like this you would be a changed person, I guarantee you that.

I am giving out some of my travel secrets these have been the results of learning from my mistakes and beginning to master the craft of backpacking on a budget

I am sure you have guessed it by now that the backpacking I am talking about is just a cheap way of travelling at a very low budget. In this kind of travel, you will have more experience and adventure over luxury. This type of travel is a good example of the fact that you don’t have to be rich to see the world. It’s all about getting creative and saving money wherever possible.

Agreed this type of travel might not be always comfortable, but then it will be filled with adventure and experiences beyond imagination. When I travel I keep bumping into other fellow travellers who have been doing this for ages. Some of them are very rich too. I met this girl who was from New York, she is insanely rich (I know that now because we have been friends for the last 6 years) but she was travelling the world for two years with just one bag. She told me that it was one of the best times of her life. She completely changed the way she looked at the world. I yet have to come across a backpacker who is not happy travelling with low budget. They are always full of life experiences, adventures and stories that keep you awestruck. It’s more fulfilling and more rewarding than other styles of travel and it is something that I have never heard someone say that they regret trying.

Now there are different types of travellers, like the “the flashpackers”, “the weekenders”, “The party animals”, the “tourists” and various other types. And then there are the true budget backpackers. The ones who stick to the backpacking essentials and are always on the lookout for a good deal.

If you want to be a true budget backpacker here are some of my secrets.

1.      Be a master at haggling: If you are an Indian it should come naturally to you, otherwise shame on you (pun intended), If you do some homework then haggling becomes very easy. Always remember wherever you go there is one tourist price and then there is the local price. And most often than not the local people can tell you that you are a tourist or new to that place. They will try to take advantage of you. So first before you go anywhere, talk to the local people who are not interested in making money from the tourist. People who are waiting at the bus stop, or at the ticket window, or old people who are sitting and discussing random things. Go up to them and start talking. Most of them would love to talk to you. They will start telling about the place, where is a good place to eat, what they like to do in their area, what is the best rate and who are the people you should stay away from. Believe it or not, this always works. You have to talk to multiple people and see which are the common stories between all. Then next thing you need to know is what is the fuel price, go to the local vegetable market and find out the price for food items, this will help you gauge the basic living standard of that area. When you bargain you can use this information to your advantage.

Like I actually go to the restaurants and bargain on the menu card rates and I have been successful many times. You should also know where do you get good cheap food and home to stay. Prefer to stay in someone’s house, that way you can help them with some money and at the same time have good cultural experiences.

2.      Walk: Walking is a very good asset to have. No matter whichever way you look at it. Walking not only saves you money but also keeps you fit. When you walk on the local streets you get more time to experience new things and meet some wonderful people. I remember once walking on the streets of Habana, Cuba; I met this couple that was just doing salsa on the street. I walked up to them and the lady asked me if I would you like to dance. And within the next minute, they were teaching Cuban salsa to me, it was so beautiful. Then their friends came along and we all clicked very well. The next couple of days I partied with them in the most beautiful places, absolutely free of cost. I got access to the underground music and dancing scene, which if I would have not walked and approached them would have never happened.

3.      Hitchhiking: You must have heard of stories of hitchhiking, and that is correct, it is one of the best ways to travel. I have hitchhiked with truck drivers, tempos, and bikes, bullock carts and at times been luck and gone by Mercedes and BMW. One thing beautiful about hitchhiking is that all the way you build a good connection with the person who you hitchhiked with. They are normally chilled out people and have good intentions. You as a responsible traveller should never try to take advantage of them. If possible you should offer some food or snacks that you are carrying with you.

I have had some good ones. In fact, recently I hitchhiked to Ziro (a stunning valley in Arunachal Pradesh) My friend and I was stuck at Potin approximately 100 km from Ziro Valley, after a lot of effort we found a Fortuner car with some cool young people. My friend took this opportunity and asked them for a lift to Ziro and to our luck they obliged. Thus started another journey of fun, these were young guys and girls who were headed to Ziro valley for the music festival, they were very familiar with the route and the best part was they were from the valley of Ziro. When they mentioned they were Apatani tribal people my mind was totally confused, because when I hear tribal my brain forms an image of a man with no shirt, tattooed faces, some kind of sword, without shoes, etc. but to my surprise here we had people who were totally modern, shorts, Adidas shoes, Fortuner car, etc.   One of them was a cousin of the main organisers. This part of the journey was filled with beers, smokes, stand-up comedy, music, ghost stories and occasional halting in the dark just to experience the eeriness of the place. Mind you the roads on this stretch were treacherous and the corruption topic did pop-up, but overall the journey was focused on fun and reaching Ziro in one piece.

Like this, you too will have wonderful experiences. One word of caution, always take a judicious call with whom to hitchhike. My suggestion would be to look out for a family like if there is a couple or group of friends with a mix of girls and boys, it will be safer. In case you are hitchhiking with truckers then prefer daytime. Avoid hitchhiking with drunk drivers and during the night

4.      Develop the habit of sleeping anywhere: When you travel on a low budget at times sleeping can become a challenge. Best will be to learn sleeping while travelling at night. You should plan your journey from one place to other by train or bus at night. This not only saves one day of stay but also utilises the night time when nothing much can be done, well depending on the place you are travelling. There are exceptions. But be prepared to sleep anywhere, as I have slept at railway stations and bus stops. This normally happens when you are not well planned and not done your homework. So this is the biggest thing I have learnt from my travel, always do your homework and arrive at a place. Then immediately talk to the locals and figure out the actual situation in that place. Carry a blanket with you, it will be helpful. Also here is my pro tip ‘practice sleeping on the floor without a bed’. 

There are plenty of more tips, which I will cover, in my next series of ‘Confession of a Backpacker’

Meanwhile, have fun and start thinking of your next trip. In case you need any help reach out to me.


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3 Comments Add yours

    1. Vincent P says:

      Thank you. I will be posting the second part soon


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