5 Tips to Travel with an Extremely Tight Budget

The definition of “cheap” differs from person to person and from country to country. While travelers from Sweden may find $30 hotel room cheap, traveller from Thailand may think it’s a bit costly (that’s only an example, not generalization). At eTramping we specialize in extremely low budget travel, so we thought you may be interested in reading our tips to travel for little.

#1 Learn to haggle.

Haggling is a skill, and just like with any other every skill – it is possible to learn and become better at it with practice. Don’t hesitate to ask for discounts, people who don’t ask – don’t get. In the worst case scenario they will decline, otherwise you’ll get something cheaper.

a girl smiling
Locals are often happy when you haggle with them

#2 Plan ahead.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. While traveling it’s very important to go with the flow, but that doesn’t mean you can skip researching the place before you arrive. If you know the area where the cheap places to sleep are before you arrive, you avoid being pressured to go with a more expensive option. If the city is expensive wherever you go, consider couchsurfing, sleeping in a tent or other options – all of which need preparation and planning ahead.

Cez riding a bike
My well-planned day in Laos exploring local villages by bike

Same goes for food. Instead of buying food when hungry, you should consider visiting a supermarket and preparing your own food. When we cycled Vietnam, we spent so little (less than $10 a day), because we cooked our food. There’s nothing stopping you from doing the same.

#3 Avoid unnecessary spending.

Taxis are a great and comfortable way to get to your accommodation. However, that’s usually the most unnecessary cost of all, during any trip. Not only you avoid being ripped-off from time to time, but also you expose yourself to a variety of new experiences and adventures, when you travel by other means. I would have never met and befriended so many local people if I went for a taxi instead of asking for directions (walking or a bus).

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Same applies to tours instead of venturing yourself, flying instead of using a train or a bus, dining out instead of cooking, air-con room instead of a room with a fan, or partying instead of embracing the culture, etc.

#4  Avoid mainstream attractions and tourist areas.

I’m not saying you should not go to Angkor Wat or Taj Mahal only because there’s a lot of tourists, but Bangkok has a lot more to offer than just Khao San Road (if you were there, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Ha Long Bay in Vietnam is beautiful, but did you hear of peaceful and equally picturesque Ninh Binh? Get off the beaten path and you’ll see that people won’t perceive you as a walking ATM, instead you’ll save money and experience things reserved for those brave and open enough.

Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Stunning Ninh Binh, Vietnam

#5 Smile!

There’s no person who gets more from life than a person with a smile. Smile opens doors, creates opportunities and changes a negative experience into a positive one. It does not matter how much money you have, smile often buys things that cannot otherwise be bought – local hospitality. Have your smile with you at all times and you won’t need that much money.

Some people are keen to pose for me
Smile is contagious

What’s your way to keep the costs down and adventures up?

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Cez Krol
Cez Krol
I’m always positive and never bored – there’s just so much more to see and experience! I began my journey around the world in 2011 with just $400 and one-way ticket to Asia. Still going and blogging today. You can typically spot me working on a laptop or rock climbing.
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51 thoughts on “5 Tips to Travel with an Extremely Tight Budget”

  1. Great post Cez!

    I remember at the beginning of my travels this year thinking that $30/night was a sweet deal in Indonesia, but I quickly realized this was not the case! By the end of the trip if any accommodation was about $10/night (private double room) I’d squirm.

    Love the last photo – that lady has a great smile (despite the missing teeth ;) )


    1. Thanks Kilee. We’re going to Indonesia soon and it’s good to know the prices are similar to other parts of SE Asia. All the best in the New Year!

  2. Katie Featherstone

    This is a great list. I hate taxis anyway, just because you put yourself in such a vulnerable position and seem to get ripped off far more often then in any other means of transport. Local busses are the way to go! Tours really arent my thing either- I kind of feel like its cheating and you should just avoid Khoa San Road for your own sanity rather than anything else.

    Nice to read about some other tramps!

    1. Hey Katie, we’re even happier to see there are more tramps like us around :D

      We always avoid taxis – in places like Khoa San Road, even if you agree the price upfront, they can still rip you off in one way or another.

      Thanks for your comment and all the best in 2014 !

  3. Hi, My daughter and I will be travelling in Vietnam for nine days this January Arriving in Hanoi and leaving from Ho Chi Minh. Could you recommend an itinerary please. We are thinking of using the Open Bus ticket and other cheap means of transportation as we travel from Hanoi to HCM. We are interested in history, culture and tradition, off the beaten path; and local arts and crafts.

    1. Hey Corazan, you’ll love Vietnam. It’s filled with historical places and you’ll hardly find a spot where there’s nothing about history (mostly the recent war) and culture. If you’ve never been to Vietnam before, you may be culture-shocked, so get ready.

      Best way to get off the beaten path is to have your own transport. Consider renting a scooter in Hanoi and agree to send it back by overnight bus when you arrive in HCMC. It is possible and I met people who did it, just look around travel agents and such. We’ve cycled the full length and there’s a lot to see, so if you get a motor to help you cycle it will be fast and great for discover.

      Have an amazing time in Vietnam!

  4. Good tips. We travel on a budget therefore we know how difficult it can be to still enjoy yourself when you don’t have a lot of cash to spend, but it’s possible. I still cannot haggle though, I don’t think I’ll ever learn to :)

    1. Thanks. I must say that I’ve learned a lot about money on the road, and having little money taught me the most. I love haggling, but I’ve seen the transformation Agness went through and I’m proud of her. When she started she sometimes argued the price with me for the benefit of the seller, but now she won’t bend even after I would already agree. I’m sure you will learn too.

  5. Stefania - the Italian Backpacker

    I agree with every point. I always try to avoid taxis and tours, but cooking while travelling is still a no-no to me. Maybe it’s because I always want to taste local food. I have never travelled for a long time, but in that case I guess it makes sense. For short trips I use small restaurants, and always ask for suggestions to other travellers or local people.

    1. We also try local dishes, and then we try to cook them ourselves too. Not too often we are successful in doing so, but we save some money. Thanks for your comment and good luck in 2014

  6. Great tips Cez and with your experience of economy travel you are a prime example of making these work.

    My father always quoted that “failing to plan is planning to fail” to me. It is true in many instances and can certainly be good advice when organising accommodation. You don’t want to arrive and find all the preferred hostels are booked up or miss out on an early booking discount.

    Haggling can be great fun if you are in the mood for it. Every time I go to China I have be prepared for the haggling moments. I love the walking away as if not interested then have them chasing you down the street because they are desperate for you to buy.

    Happy New Year to you and Agness. I wish you even more success in 2014!

    1. Can’t agree more with what you said (and your father). Unfortunately, they don’t chase buyers too often in China, but Thailand or Sri Lanka is a land of desperate sellers – it seemed to me.

      All the best to you too and see you soon in China!

  7. Bridget @ A Traveling B

    Great tips! I have never been the best at haggling, but I tried it recently in Venice with a gondolier and he gave me 20 euros off! Planning ahead is my favorite of your tips. I have never been a super last minute traveler and feel that booking ahead always gets me the best deals (especially on the big things). Great tips for people who want to make their money go a little further! All the best for 2014!

  8. Pedro @ Travel with Pedro

    Great tips, Cez! I remember the first time in my life I had to haggle. I was in Melaka in Malaysia and wouldn’t dare asking for a discount. I had to rely on a friend to do it on my behalf, but nowadays I do it naturally. It helps you not only in places like Asia, Africa or the Middle East – every year my accountant complains I pay him less than his other clients. :)

    1. Hahaha, that’s the best example of transferring the skills learned on the road to the “normal life” scenario. Thanks for your comment!

    1. Thanks Billie. There’s not a lot of hotels that offer kitchen facilities, but plenty of hostels do. In Vietnam we ofte got rooms for $5 or less with a fridge, which was a lot of help.

  9. I always wondered what tips you two had for even further ways to cut down on costs and here it is! And you answered my question about haggling – great advice. If that is you on the boat in the Vietnam picture – nice King of the World pose ala Dicaprio in the movie “Titanic”! I always try to remember the power of a smile just in day to day life too. Fantastic post,Cez, and great to hear from you! :)

    1. Thanks Mike! Unfortunately, I’m not the one on the boat, but you’re not the first person to ask. I also love this photo. It’s a traveller from Czech Republic we met.

  10. I was spending an average of 4/5€ a day in Thailand and Malaysia. I had a total of 600€ for 3 months and 3 countries and managed! Same with India+Nepal 600€ for 6 full months!

    4/5€ a day is usually my budget, but I met several Germans in SEA who said they’ve never traveled with so little money. When I asked what their monthly budget was, they said 1000€, hahaha That was almost the double of what I had for 3 months, so yes… it differs greatly :)

    1. That’s the kind of travel we do, and I’m happy to hear from others travelling with similar budget as us. Yara, I’m sure your experiences were as good if not better than those of the Germans you met.

      Good luck and more travels in 2014!

      1. Absolutely. Coming from a poor western country (Portugal) saving for traveling can be really hard and usually everything out there is expensive for me, because our financial power is quite limited. Northern European countries have a different sense of “low budget”. What they call tight budget, is the equivalent of an upper middle range one for me. I think it’s quite similar for the Poles who live in Poland.

  11. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    All great tips, Cez! We’re budget travelers even more so when traveling with kids so these are wonderful reminders. I’m not a haggler but maybe I need to but I do plan way ahead. We love supermarkets and renting apartments to keep the costs down. We’ll be in Bangkok this summer so we’ll definitely go off the beaten path. Thanks for these! Happy New Year to you both! Wishing you safe and heathy travels in 2014!

    1. I never travelled with kids (because I don’t have any), but I’m sure that the same rules apply when it comes to saving. Do you also cook on the road? Renting places is a great idea to extend the time in one place and not spend too much. Thanks and all the best in 2014, for all of you!

  12. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary

    Great tips! I agree with all of them but I especially agree with #5!! I always say that ‘Any situation can turn into an awesome experience as long as you approach it with a positive attitude and smile :).’ Happy 2014! Hope it is off to a great start!

  13. These are great tips, even for travelers whose budgets aren’t super tight but just want to maximize their experience!

  14. Mike | Earthdrifter

    Walking to your accommodation is also great exercise and eating out of grocery stores is often healthier than eating out.

    I’m impressed by how well you guys write (no grammatical mistakes even), considering English is not your first language.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Mike! I usually visit local markets to get some fresh fruits and veggies when travelling. It’s healthy and cheap :)!! Cheers!

  15. Adam @ Visit Flyover Country

    Totally agree about taxis being a rip off! The bus is always a great cheap option, or WALK! Laziness I think leads to a lot of extra expense….

    Great post!

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