Budget Backpacking
For The Frugal Traveller 

Is budget backpacking for you? Well that very much depends on what you are hoping to get from your travels and or course just what sort of budget you have.

Backpacking is normally the realm of the teenager wanting to see the world before having to settle down to university life or getting a regular nine to five job.

However teenagers are not known for their large bank balances and so only budget travel is an option for them, and so backpacking is the most frugal option.

However I won't be ageist here and I do know of some very seasoned travellers in later years who absolutely love the backpacking life.

So it is down to either your budget or your taste in vacations that will determine if a budget backpacking trip is for you.

What is frugal backpacking?

Traditionally backpacking holidays consist of travelling light, staying in youth hostels, working for your keep and travelling by the cheapest methods possible.

It also means not staying in one place for too long with the intention to see as much of the world as possible.

If you are not prepared to sleep in the most basic of places, and not knowing where you will stay from day to day and to have to wear the same clothes for more than a few days then perhaps this type of holiday is not for you.

But just like camping backpacking does give you a tremendous sense of freedom and can be the ultimate frugal vacation. You can pretty well do what you want to, when you want to, with no one else looking over your shoulder.

Budget backpacking strategies

Usually budget backpacking vacations are much longer than normal vacations and so spreading out your money is one of the major considerations. So to be a good frugal backpacker will take quite some planning ahead of your trip to make sure that you use every penny wisely.

Plan your budget - decide in advance how much you are going to spend on things like food, accommodation, travel etc and stick to your daily plan. If you don't, you may find yourself having to cut your vacation short. Put your frugal head on and spend your money wisely.

Travel Insurance - This is not an expensive layout and in fact could save you thousands if you are unlucky enough to become ill or have an accident whilst away. Use companies like Atlas who are relatively cheap to use but who provide good insurance options.

Plan your route carefully - find out the best and cheapest ways to travel in the countries you are visiting and remember to always keep yourself safe. Here are a few travel tips:

Don't hitchhike unless you are not alone.

Walk if you can, a five mile walk to another town won't be that much of a hardship and will allow you to see more of the country.

Use local buses rather than taxicabs

Accommodation - Hostels are the cheapest option for your budget backpacking vacation; find out where they are at your destinations before you go so that you won't waste time on your trip trudging around looking for somewhere to sleep all the time.

Bigger travel sites like Expedia have plenty of resources to help you find hostels in any area, be it Europe, Asia, or New Zealand. If you're going to be covering a lot of ground, make sure you know where you're going to be each day so you can plan accordingly. 

Hostels are also a great way to meet other travellers and find out all the little money saving tips others have come across.

However there is even a better and cheaper way of finding somewhere to stay. Sites like Globalfreeloader.com and couchsurfing.com list places to stay for free.

These places are offered by local people who enjoy meeting different people and are prepared to allow them to sleep on their coach or in the spare bedroom if you're lucky. This is a great option if you want to meet local people and really find out all about the country. However be safe and always let people know where you will be staying if travelling alone.

Entertainment - The last thing you want to do on your budget backpacking vacation is to scrimp on actually doing things. So here are a few tips to ensure you get as much from your vacation as possible without breaking the bank but still being frugal:

  • Invest in an international student card before you go, these cards will allow you to visit all the major museums and galleries and other major tourist attractions at a reduced rate.Check carefully that they will cover the places you want to visit.
  • Tag on the end of guided talks. I have done this many times, they hardly ever notice that you have joined their group and if they do spot you, just smile sweetly and walk away, no point in arguing.
  • Drink the local brews rather than going for the big brand names. Search out the un-touristy places to drink and experience local life.
  • Plan to sample the local restaurants at least once a week. There's no point travelling half way round the world if all you're going to eat is bread and cheese.Plan a meal out once a week into your budget. The rest of the time, eat simply and make use of local supermarkets.

Budget backpacking essentials

There are a few things to make sure you pack on your backpacking vacation to make sure that you are fully prepared for your trip.

  • Maps and guidebooks - these are essential to making the most of your vacation and stops you wasting time wandering around lost. Also by making sure you have them all from the start of your trip you won't have to waste any precious money
  • Water bottle - don't buy water on your trip to drink instead use tap water and drinking water fountains to fill up your bottle, this can be a big money saver during your trip (make sure the local water is drinkable though). Theres no pint being frugal if you're going to end up sick.
  • Backup money - it is important that you have some way of accessing extra money if something unforeseen comes up. This may be a credit card of your own or borrowing a family members card that you promise only to use in an emergency. You will have to be very strict with yourself and not be tempted by that little plastic friend in your pocket.
  • Telephone numbers - be prepared and know how to use the telephones in any country and what the international telephone codes are for you to contact your family.I have often come across travellers in London looking blankly at telephones and not understanding how to use them and why the normal telephone number for their parents won't work. I have had to help out many upset and confused traveller.

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