Budget travel or cheapskate?
Budget travel – the ability to move around at cheap cost.
Cheapskate – The ability to put your life at risk, health in disarray, body through hours of discomfort and friends through torture to save an extra 5 cents.
So you’re really becoming a connoisseur in the realm of budget travel that can find deals where there are none to be seen?
The way I see it is if you can do things for 25% cheaper than everyone else, you can stay for 25% longer (compounding interest aside), and that really adds up… an extra week every month, or extra 3 months every year… good on ya!
But where do you draw the line? At what point do you say, “Screw it, let’s pay it”
After all, there are many things to do, things to see, and experiences to live that will require a certain amount of expenditure that is unavoidable… No one gets this right the first time, you will normally end up doing something too cheap and hopefully come away with a good lesson and no lasting effects. Here are a few categories to help steer you in the right direction, or in the very least, let you know when you’ve gone astray.
A major part of being a tourist is, well… being a tourist. Get out there and see the sights! Get to see the sites that you find interesting (don’t let others tell you what is ‘must see’ and what ‘is not worth it’). When you’ve been travelling for long enough and have started to think in the local economy instead of converting back to yours, you’ll find that major tourist sites, like the Taj Mahal or the Alhambra, seem ridiculously expensive. This is the time to put it into perspective, budget before and after, and spend as long as possible on site. You won’t regret the $20 you spent… you will regret not going.
This depends entirely on the person. Personally, I find that really shady places provide some very interesting stories… however, there are limits. If you can lie down in your room and touch all four walls at the same time, you’re going to be a little cramped… seriously. Even this won’t be too bad unless you have bugs crawling all over the place. The moment you catch a cockroach in a cup and leave it in the middle of the floor you know you’ve committed to a bad place. Another great indicator is if someone quotes you a price by the hour… no good! If you consider putting deodorant under your nostrils just to mask the smell of the place, you’ve screwed up. When you go to bed with your knife in your hand, and wish you had a gun, you’re risking too much. When you try to use a mosquito net to keep the mice and rats at bay, you’re pushing it too far. Just a few guidelines to keep you from a sleepless night wishing that you had paid the extra 50 cents for a better room… damn 50 cents!
Okay, so the whole point of travel is about the journey and not the destination, right? However, once we start moving around, we spend as little as possible on the buses, trains, plains, boats, goats, tuktuks, rickshaws, motos, and bikes, kind of odd isn’t it! While taking an overnight bus is a brilliant idea because you can save the price of a hostel for a night, it becomes a brutal idea if you do it on a chicken bus and don’t have a place to sit, thus don’t sleep at all and ruin the next day.
Really, the cheapest transport you can find is the best with a couple of exceptions. The least you can pay without being robbed on the way or arriving entirely exhausted whilst whimpering like a wounded puppy, is the fare you’re looking for.
If the guy beside you asks you what’s in your bags that you’re holding like a security blanket, you’re probably not on a great bus… and the correct response is ‘clothes’. If the locals refuse to take the bus that you’re taking, walk away. If someone shakes your hand before you get on the bus saying something like ‘I just want to shake your hand for trying’, you might want to keep your head up. If the bus driver tells you that everyone on the bus is a thief, you might want to stay aware. When you get off the bus and have multiple colours of sweat on you, it’s probably a good sign that you were too cramped. If your driver hits a guy on the street with his door, keep your eyes open. If you are awoken by a huge bump that can only be a crash, but the driver doesn’t stop, watch out… and if your driver pulls over to get in a fist fight with the guy he crashed into, but tells you it’s okay because ‘he’ll go to the police’… you might want to rethink the way that you travel… just saying.
Anyway, hope that a few of these lessons I’ve learned along the way will help you know when to quit.
Be a budget traveller… but don’t get carried away and become too cheap!