Welcome back to Part II of my blog post. If you have missed the first one then check this out (Confession of a Backpacker – Part – I, Secrets to do Budget Backpacking). By this time I would imagine you would have figured out how simple it is to travel on a low budget. But the grind will be there. As said earlier here are some more interesting ways to travel on a budget backpacking. 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.
If you want to be a true budget backpacker here are some of my secrets.
Street food: If you are a traveller then you need to develop a pallet for various types of food. And this is a good thing especially when you are on budget backpacking. Street foods in many places are normally economical and safe, simple reason, people are eating from there daily. Whenever you are in a particular place try to look for the most famous street vendor, who has been there for ages. This ensures that the quality and hygiene is well maintained, well it is a simple logic that he has been there for ages and people are liking what he dishes out. So go for it. In case you want to sample more different types of food items, then it is better to collaborate with other backpackers like you in that area. You all can decide to order a different dish and then share. That way you can taste more variety at the cost of one. In any place street food is generally cheaper than the restaurant, that’s a no-brainer, but you need to know there also people can take you for a ride. So better ask for the price first before trying it out. When I was in HK there is a lot of street food, so I would make friends with fellow backpackers and then plan dinner or lunch. We all would pool in money and make a dinner or lunch kitty. Then we go to the streets, try out different food and pay from that kitty. You too can try this out, it is a wonderful way of experiencing various food at a very low cost. As far as possible pay after you have eaten, if you pay the money before there are chances that the shopkeeper might purposely or by mistake will forget that you have paid, this can result in a very nasty conversation.
Accommodation: Today with Airbnb and hostels, etc., accommodation is not much of a challenge for the budget backpacker. However, the joy is to beat the price that Airbnb and hostels offer. Generally, if you are going to some other country you need one address for VISA purpose. For that I suggest book your stay via Airbnb or get some hostel. You should book it only for a night; you need that address for VISA only. When you land there, walk around and find some homestays that are cheaper and offer better facilities (like wifi, free breakfast, some cultural experience, etc). You also need to bargain with the homeowner. You need to show the homeowner more value that he or she is going to get because of your stay. You will be surprised to know that people appreciate value addition from travellers. They get so many travellers who stay at their place but most of them are transactional if you can figure out a way to add value to their life or living standards they would love it and you will get a better deal. They look at it as an investment for getting more travellers. For example when I was travelling in Cuba, and I did not know Spanish. I was using the offline version of Google translator. Why I specifically mentioned offline version was because in Cuba there is almost no internet, so offline version come in handy. My entire journey in Cuba was with the help of Google translator. I had gone to a place called Santa Clara, where I was looking for a place to stay, after trying 6 houses (Yes 6 houses, when you are doing budget backpacking, you might have to go to multiple houses to get a house that fits your budget) I came across this beautiful house. I loved that place and said to myself that I have to stay here. But I was sure the price will not be in my budget. But if you don’t try you don’t know what you missed out. So I went in and met this gorgeous lady in her mid-60s, she was the owner of the house. I tried talking to her in English but realised she doesn’t understand, she knew basic English of telling the price. She told me the price and I was like that is way above my budget. Then I stared negotiating with her via Google translator. She was very impressed with it. Then she asked me how did I do this without the Internet. I explained her the entire process. Then I told her that I can teach her how to use various other apps to increase the rating of her beautiful house so that she can get more travellers. I also offered her to make signboards in English and set up her account in Airbnb. This thrilled her and she herself gave me a price that was just literally free for me. It was like 20% of the initial price and that too with breakfast. Always think what more value can I add to the homeowner and you will get good deals.
Takes advantage of anything that is free: Budget Backpacking and free go hand-in-hand. I would suggest while travelling you should begin your day by thinking the ideal amount of money you want to spend that day and how not to spend that kind of money and still do all the things that you were supposed to do that day. Always give a challenge to yourself. Trust me you will experience way more and yet it will be economical. When you put such a challenge to yourself your mind starts coming up with innovative ideas. You will be surprised that you are so creative and it will be fun. For example, water is the most essential thing that you will need, but you should not buy water, always carry a bottle with you in which you can fill water. Most of the countries have very safe drinking water. You can fill the bottle before leaving from the house where you are staying, or you can ask restaurants, for normal drinking water, they do not say no. It’s only in our head we imagine they might say no and it will be embarrassing for us. Just think about it they are in the business of service so they normally don’t say no because they are worried about a bad review. In most of the cultures giving water is considered to be good, so people generally don’t say no to water. At least I have not experienced anyone saying no to water. Always check the quality of water to be safe, in case you have doubt you can use iodine tablets, they help in purifying water.
Getting water is not that big a deal, but getting free food can be fun. You need to figure out the local community places where they server food, in India near famous religious places you get free food, which is of very high quality. Getting yourself invited to some parties and functions are interesting ways to understand their culture and some authentic free food.
You should always help yourself with napkins and paper toilets from the restaurants; this is generally helpful while travelling, so no need to spend on this. These are easily available all around you for free.
The biggest challenge we face is how to get free wifi. Most of the hotels and restaurants offer free wifi to their guest. Suppose you are staying in a house, which does not have wifi, in that case, you can find out the nearest restaurant that gives free wifi to people who go there. Visit that place once and get their wifi. Next time you just have to go around that restaurant and access the free wifi. Most of the restaurant people do not bother to change the password daily. You can also make friends with someone staying in the hotel and ask for their password. Most of the travellers like to help each other.
Just remember one thing there is plenty of stuff that you can get for free, but never get it via unethically means. That is just bad Karma for you. Your aim should always be to provide value in return of whatever you get free, you have to find a way to do that. I also make it a point to do my bit for the fellow travellers when I am back home. I let them stay free of cost at my place. I take them around if I have time and generally ensure that they are taken care of in my city. As a traveller, I feel it becomes my moral responsibility and if we all start doing it, the world will be a wonderful place, people can travel more and experience more cultures and diversities
Be an expert at finding the cheapest deals: If you plan your travel well in advance then you can get really good deals. One of the biggest problems is we do everything last minute and then cry why prices are so high. The airline tickets just shoot up. But if you are smart no matter what time you can still get a good deal. While booking flights always book a flight on credit card one day after your billing cycle, that way you get longer credit period. Try to book flights either on Tuesday – Thursday, the data suggest the flight rates are lower during this period, also look for odd our flights. Avoid taking direct flights. Plan in such a way that you fly into a major hub and from there you should take local carriers. Take advantage of free stopovers. Once I was flying Emirates with a layover in Dubai. I called the airlines, and arranged an even longer, 24-hour stopover, and had a blast. I did camel rides in the desert, did dune bashing, went to the Burj Khalifa, indoor skiing, and had dinner with a caught up with an old friend.
If you are flying to Europe then check out Icelandair, they offer you seven days free stopover if you connect in Reykjavik.
Do your shopping for travel in advance during off seasons when sales are on. You can also take the option of renting clothes these days. While travelling try to get multiple days pass or all-in-one pass. There are other plenty of ways to travel by taking advantage of the cheap deals. I will cover this in another blog article especially dedicated to this.
Earn while you travel: Recently I have started setting a target to myself and that is to earn 50% of the travel money while travelling. I must confess I have been successful only to get 43% so far. But I am sure very soon I can reach up to 75%.
When you think of it earning while travelling is very simple, you just need to develop some skills that people like and which enable you to make money. Ideally, these skills should be entertainment based, so that you don’t feel that you are doing a job while travelling. And you should not venture out with the sole purpose of making money, your mindset should be to have fun and if some money comes along then it’s more fun. For this talent needs to be developed. For example, I do tarot reading, and this is a big hit when I travel abroad. I can teach jiving to people. So if I am staying at some place I offer the homeowner the opportunity to make some money using my skills and in the bargain, I make some money. If you are a photographer then you can get some awesome pictures, which can be sold, on various platforms. If you can paint then it is great, you can paint there and sell it immediately. In short, whatever talent you have can make money for you while you travel. So develop some talent.
These are some of my secrets for budget backpacking. If you have ticked a few of these boxes then you are awesome! You are on your way to master the budget backpacking game.
Also, do write to me and let me know some of your tricks and tips, it will be helpful for all of us. We all fellow travellers will only gain more as we share more.
Wish you all a wonderful New Year filled with travel.