No matter how carefully you budget for your backpacking trip something always crops up when youâ€™re on the road that leaves you thinking â€œif only I had a little more cashâ€. Whether itâ€™s an unplanned excursion to somewhere exciting, ending up with a slightly more expensive meal or room than youâ€™d bargained for or to cover an emergency purchase, youâ€™re virtually guaranteed to find yourself in need of a little extra backpacking budget from time to time.
Fear not! Here are 10 simple but brilliant ways to stretch your backpackerâ€™s budget even further.
- Shop around before you set off
Before you can sink that first chilled beer in some far-flung corner of the world youâ€™re going to need to spend a chunk of cash getting there. Thankfully, world travel is a highly competitive business even at the backpacker end of the scale and fantastic new travel deals appear daily. If you know where youâ€™re going keep an eye out for deals and promotions from airlines and tour operators, use cheap flight comparison search engines and check out the user forums on sites such as Money Saving Expert to ensure you donâ€™t miss out on a brilliant travel deal.
- Do dorms in hostels
Hostel accommodation is less expensive than hotel or guest house accommodation.Â And if you can forego a private room with an en-suite bathroom and sleep in a shared hostel dormitory, even if itâ€™s only once in a while, your accommodation budget is going to look healthier.
- If you can walk somewhere, walk
Often the best way to experience the culture and atmosphere of a new place is to explore it on foot, and besides which taxis and public transport cost money. If you can safely walk to that landmark or attraction, the railway station or airport or your accommodation not only are you saving a fare, youâ€™re also getting a better feel for your destination and will a little more deserving of that next snack or drink.
- Choose the location of your accommodation wisely
Not only is choosing budget-friendly accommodation important but picking somewhere that is well-located for all of the places youâ€™d like to see as well as ongoing transport links will help to reduce transport costs. A hostel in the middle of nowhere may be super-cheap itâ€™s a false economy if you need a bus or taxi every time you want to go into town.
- Cut the cost of communication
Of course, staying in touch with friends and loved ones is important when youâ€™re away backpacking, but mobile phone, messaging and data costs can quickly become cripplingly expensive when youâ€™re abroad, as can internet cafes. Nowadays coffee shops, bars and even supermarkets worldwide offer free wi-fi internet access, so if you have a smartphone or tablet computer with you take advantage of this to communicate cheaply, and install Skype for free or low-costÂ phone calls home.
- Eating and drinking out are not compulsory
Itâ€™s nice to eat out when youâ€™re backpacking but visiting the local supermarket and stocking up on fab food and cheap beer or wine can save you a pretty penny if youâ€™re happy to cook for yourself at your hostel or grab a takeaway to eat in your room. If you are eating out, most times youâ€™ll have a better and cheaper meal if you eat where the locals eat rather than in places aimed squarely at tourists.
- Free is a magic number
Youâ€™d be amazed at just how many sights, activities and experiences including museums, galleries, parks, religious and historical sites and natural phenomena all over the world cost absolutely nothing to enjoy. Check the internet, local guide books or ask the staff at your hostel or hotel whether there are any unmissable and free (or, failing that, very inexpensive) highlights at your current destination.
- Venture off the beaten tourist track
Sometimes the most interesting and memorable areas of a destination are those that have not yet succumbed to blatant tourism. In cities youâ€™ll often find a secondary and less expensive shopping street that the locals use in preference to the main globally-branded and over-priced area aimed at extracting visitor-money. Seeking out the â€˜hiddenâ€™ attractions and highlights that mainstream tourists never see can be both rewarding and budget-saving.
- If appropriate, haggle for a better price or make compromises
In some countries haggling is virtually expected of travellers and can be a very fruitful way of nabbing bargains as long as your remain calm, diplomatic and reasonable. In other places there is usually no harm in tentatively asking for a discount and if you feel that, on any particular occasion, you can get by without an air-conditioned room, an en-suite bathroom or a free breakfast when enquiring about accommodation a compromise may help stretch that backpacking budget a little further.
- Be money exchange savvy
Foreign currency exchange is a minefield and is rarely slanted in favour of the traveller. Itâ€™s not a good idea to keep huge wads of currency about your person, but it is worth checking out whether youâ€™re better off withdrawing local currency from a cash-point, paying for goods and services with a credit card or using travellerâ€™s cheques in any particular country, as bank charges and commissions can quickly and unexpectedly mount up.