Planning a Trip on a Low Budget – How to do it
It’s been 3 months into the new year, and I hope you are doing really well. Usually, this is a time for people to think about what happened in the last year, and with the hopes that the new year is bringing us good luck and better fortune. Might be a good time for planning a trip on a low budget. Agree?
Personally, I feel very lucky that I am in a situation where I can travel easily. Having traveled around the world, I know that there are just so many reasons why one can’t just hop on a plane and leave their current situation and choose a life of travel.
Here are the steps on how you can plan a long trip and travel in a low budget:
Whatever everyone tells you, it all starts with your “WHY“.
This is true, not only for travel, but also for many of the big things we want to accomplish in life. The bigger our goals are, the bigger the effort it requires from us. So, it is always important to know why you would like to travel long. Listen to yourself, and what you really want. It is never bad to try. A lot of the people I met who has traveled long has loved it. That’s why we all can’t stop doing it. But don’t pressure yourself.
A lot of people love short travels, too. Or love staying with their families and friends in their own countries. Some people give their hearts to their startups, businesses, to their own local initiatives, so to each his own. If you want to try if traveling longer is for you, go ahead and travel for a few weeks if you can. Remember, make your “WHY” clear in your mind. If you focus on the reasons, you will find a way on how to accomplish things.
Looking for the best travel backpack to bring to your trips, you can check this bag
Here are some of the few but biggest reasons why people travel longer:
- There’s just so many things to see around the world. And life is just not fun not exploring the beauty of the world.
- Because it’s cheaper than living in your own country. (Trust me, it is)
- Because they found themselves more aligned with the culture and beliefs of the new people they met and places they’ve been to.
- Because they want to change something about the world, and thru traveling and telling their stories, and working on their goals, they are making the first steps on making that change
- Because they need to break from the everyday monotony of life and work
- Because they are searching for something bigger that they haven’t found yet
- Because they found their passion and love in travel
For me, my reasons are simple. I found meaning in seeing all the different faces of the world. So, I want to live, continuously seeing all the beauty the world has to offer. Figure out your why. And figure out why your why is bigger than the life that you have now. Then set out for planning a trip.
Planning a Trip on a Low Budget
How to check for information.
To get you started with some planning, you can do your reading and research. You can start with all the amazing travel resources available online (ahem!). Travel Guides can guide you in choosing destinations or getting a feel of how it is to travel long. l read travel guides and travel blogs on the internet or ask friends who has visited the countries you want to go to for more information.
Once you’re done reading some information about the places that you are gonna visit, try to make an itinerary. You don’t need to follow the exact route, you will change your itinerary continuously. Touristic places that you want to see. Not so touristic places and off beat places. It’s good a combination from all of them if it’s possible.
Choose some destinations and dive deep for information.
When you’re decided that you really want to travel long, it’s time to take out all those pictures and magazine clippings you’ve been keeping all these years. Time to plan your long trip. Which countries do you want to visit? Which places have you been dreaming to see? Now, at this point, you shouldn’t be worried about the complete “how” of the plan yet. Get inspired. Collect ideas and gather inspiration. You will be able to focus on details and edit any plans later on.
Begin with some destinations you have in mind. Have been dreaming of visiting Turkey? Always wanted to meditate in Bali? Or maybe you want to start off in a city near your home town? Write down a few of the destinations you would love to visit, check where they are in the map, get online and dive deeper for more information (culture, food, people).
Again, this is for keeping you inspired and to begin having some ideas of where you would want to go during your long trip. If you have a friend who has traveled to places you want to visit, check out with them, too. Some of my favorite resources are Travel Guides who will explain to you how to travel in Thailand.
Now that you are ready with some ideas and more information in your hands, time to draft an itinerary. Again, don’t fully worry about the how yet. An itinerary is a basic travel structure that you can follow and you can break. You want to avoid not having a total clue about your plan because this is going to be a long trip and not a quick few days trip where you can just stay in one place to relax. Longer trips need to start with some structure, which can easily be changed once you’re at it.
Here’s an example of my last South East Asian itinerary beginning from London (a one year trip):
- London – Singapore – Malaysia – Thailand – Myanmar – Laos – Cambodia – Vietnam – China – Macau – Hongkong – Philippines – Indonesia
Check flights and prices
Now that you’re armed with way better ideas and information about the long travel that you want to do, you can begin to check flight prices. Using the list you have, pick a starting point and check for flight prices. This will be the most expensive part of the travel. Once you buy your first flight ticket, you might decide to later on travel overland, which is much more fun and definitely costs so much cheaper than flying to every country.
The time from the initial draft of itineraries and comparing flights to actually buying the flight where you want to begin your long trip, might take from a few weeks to a couple of months. Why? This will all depend on how far along are you in deciding, plus the money you have available for flights. In my case, I usually think about a long trip months before I really dive in to start researching details about flight details and prices.
If I am already on a trip, I always have a next long trip destination brewing in my mind. So I have a rough idea, depending on my budget, when and where I need to stop. When I was doing my South East Asian trip (the one outlined on the sample itinerary), I was six months in when I decided to stop in Australia to work for one month. With that money, I continued to travel 6 months more.
The most important thing to remember, whether you have money now, or you plan to buy in the near future, is to book at least 2 months before your expected flight. You can usually get cheaper flights when booking in advance. It will also give you the necessary time to prepare for the long trip ahead of you.
My top website for searching flights is Skyscanner. There are other websites like Momondo, Kayak, Googleflights, and Cheapflights. Make sure to check information, compare flights and get ready to purchase your flight ticket!
Planning a Trip: Routes and itineraries
Following my itinerary example, you can get a one way flight from Europe to India. Let’s say you bought one from London to India (Delhi). You can then spend a few months traveling around India. You can travel 2-3 months. Also, you can get a cheap flight to visit Sri Lanka (2-3 weeks) from Chennai (South India), followed by going overland to Nepal (1 month) and Bangladesh ( 2 weeks).
Planning a trip from India (Kolkata), you can fly to Malaysia ( Kuala Lumpur) and from there, going down to Singapore (and spend a few days). Go back to Malaysia (2 weeks stay) then go next to Thailand. You can go and visit South Thailand (visiting Thailand beaches) then move to North Thailand (1-2 weeks) and go overland to Myanmar (1 month). After Myanmar overland to Thailand visiting the North Thailand (1-2 weeks) and going overland to Laos (2-3 weeks). From North Laos going down to South Laos.
And visiting Cambodia (2 weeks), don’t forget to visit Angkor Temples and visiting a few days to relax in Cambodian beaches. From North Cambodia going down to South Cambodia and get into Vietnam for Mekong River. Vietnam from Saigon (South) to Hanoi (1 month) and going overland to South China (20-30 days, it’s tricky Visa).
After China you can visit Macau (a few days) and go by ferry to Hong Kong (1-2 weeks). From Hong Kong get a flight to North Philippines (1 month) and going down to South Philippines. Where you can continue your trip in Indonesia with a cheap flight or visiting Australia or New Zealand.
In Australia, maybe you can get a Working Holiday Visa and make some money for starting another trip. If you have enough money, you can travel around Australia. Check the list here, if you are eligible for a working Holiday Visa in Australia. Or maybe, you are eligible for a working Holiday Visa in New Zealand.
Expenses for the itinerary
Planning a trip from London to India, 300-400 euros flight ticket (one way).
Flight from India to Sri Lanka, 100 euros (return ticket).
Flight ticket from India (Kolkata to Kuala Lumpur), 100 euros (one way).
Visas India (60-80 euros for 3 months), Nepal (30 euros for 1 month), Myanmar (25-30 euros for 1 month,) Vietnam (50-60 euros for 1 month), Laos (30-40 euros for 1 month), China (30 euros for 20 days) and Cambodia (25-30 euros for 1 month).
Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia give free visa for the most of Citizens from United States, Canada and European countries. But you should check before your trip to make sure that you have updated information.
After these expenses for the flight tickets and visas, plus an optional travel insurance ( 120-200 euros), you can travel in $10 per day in all the countries that I mentioned in the South East Asian itinerary. I wrote about how you can spend $10 daily on your trips extensively
How to save money for a long trip?
If you are planning a trip in a low budget, you can start saving a few months before the trip. Let’s plan 6 months in advance.
First of all put a deadline for your work. In 6 months, there is enough time to plan your long travel in a low budget. If you are renting an apartment, you can try to move and rent just a shared room in an apartment. You will save on expenses not only in accommodation but also in bills. Or you can do like the Spanish way, living with your parents for a few months.
If you are planning a trip, you can finish your phone contract and use a prepaid contract. So while you are traveling, you won’t have expenses anymore. The bill phone is an example and if you have the chance to do with the other bills would be perfect for your budget.
Try to buy food in the supermarket and cook by yourself. Look for the white brand in the supermarket. Small money a few dollars every time that you buy something. It could be a day of expenses in Thailand. Think like that! So, you will be ready for traveling. Going outside your comfort zone before traveling, it’s gonna be good to get use to before your trip.
Try to find cheap plans with your friends or plans for free during the weekends. Try to go out less times than usual you do or at least taking care of not spending so much if you are planning a trip.
Don’t buy clothes and gadgets when planning a trip that you don’t need. Maybe, you can buy clothes during your trip at cheaper price than in your country ( Get information about that. For example clothes are very cheap in Thailand).
Don’t go crazy buying things that you don’t need for the trip, just leave with the essential things. A few clothes that you have and some toiletries is enough. A sleeping bag and tent is gonna be useful if you are planning a trip in a low budget.
When you check information about your trip, you can do ALWAYS for free. In the library or in internet reading blogs. You can avoid buying guidebooks of every country that you are planning to visit.
Try to get a debit card that isn’t gonna charge commission while you are withdrawing money abroad.
Luggage what to carry
When traveling long and cheap, big luggage can be a burden. Now trust me, I’ve seen a lot who backpack like they carried their whole room with them. However, for a much better experience, I strongly suggest to travel lightly. Forget about the suitcase. I usually travel with only an 8-kg backpack, and that’s including a sleeping bag and a tent.
What do I usually bring? 3 pairs of underwear, 3 t-shirts, a pair of jeans, a cap, jacket, and toiletries. An essential thing that you should always have with you is the flashlight. This has helped me a lot when putting up my tent. Also, bring other essentials like soap for washing clothes as you can easily run out of things to wear.
It takes a few minutes to wash clothes and shouldn’t hold you back with whatever schedule you may have a for a certain day. Wallet, passport, cash, credit card cellphone and charger. Smartphones will help you connect to internet and take pictures of the amazing scenery you’re seeing. There are also very good apps that can be very useful to you while you are traveling. Do you want to know what we are carrying for a long trip?
Make sure that it is the right season for traveling to your destination. For example in South East Asia, July and August is rainy season. Your plans can change because of the weather. If you are planning to visit a beach and it’s gonna be raining the whole day during a week, you need to check and make your own choice. On the other hand, traveling during lean seasons cost much cheaper.
At the end of the rainy season it’s good time for traveling. Less crowded and prices are cheaper. Its perfect if you want to travel in a low budget. If you travel high season prices are more expensive and some places are very crowded. Check properly about the minimum and maximum temperatures, so you will make sure that you are carrying proper clothes for your trip.
Make sure that you are well informed about visa concerns. Try to have a new passport or have a lot of free pages as possible. Make sure that your passport has more than 6 months before the expiry date.
You should check your destinations where are you going. Try to make a check with your doctor before leaving to make sure that everything is alright. Usually you need a vaccine against Yellow fever. It depends on which country you are visiting.
Ask for information before leaving your country about your next destinations. They can recommend you to get hepatitis, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, take pills against malaria. You should check properly in advance.
If you are planning to travel long in a low budget, I can recommend you to have a Travel Insurance. You can get insurance for 200-300 Euros for a year. A basic one should be fine to make you feel more safe during your trip.
If you don’t have money, it’s not the most important thing, but then again, you should be ready to take that risk. In cases that you feel sick, or if you have medical conditions, make sure that you are fit for travel and get an assurance from your doctor. Remember, time and health are very important, not only for travel but for your life.
Many people think that the most important thing is money, and you knew me well (yes, you do) to know that I don’t agree with that. I’ve been using Travel Insurance for 6 years traveling and I’ve only used once for a dental thing, not big deal.
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Are you planning to travel alone or with someone?
If you are traveling alone, your trip it’s going to be different as if you do with someone. You can be more flexible with your itinerary and you don’t need to plan so much in advance. If you are gonna travel around South East Asia or South America, sometimes it’s good if you have a travel mate for sharing expenses.
If you plan to pay for a room for example, you can split the price for two people which is great when you travel in a low budget. Maybe, you feel more confident if you travel with someone in your first trip traveling alone. But, if you can’t find someone who travel with, a long travel doesn’t have to feel scary. Check more information here.
Cash and Credit Cards
I can recommend to you bring a credit card to withdraw money abroad. If you travel in a low budget, you need to check about ATM commissions. There are some countries that charge 4-5 USD everytime that you withdraw money from your bank plus your bank commissions. There are two choices if it happens.
First one, withdraw as much as possible, so you won’t be charged that commission again. And the second one, try to look for an ATM which isn’t charge commission. It’s good if you can bring a credit card that isn’t gonna charge a commission from your bank, if not you can get double commission ATM and your bank.
For cash, I recommend bringing USD and Euros since these currency are very useful especially when crossing a border. You can sometimes get better rates with people who exchange money on the road. Also keep your credit cards intact.
Every time that you are gonna cross overland the border line. Make sure that you change all your currency before leaving the country. Otherwise, they will offer low rates in the new country that you are visiting. When you can tell that they are offering low rates because it’s a touristic places or you are in the border with the commissioners. It’s good if you can exchange small bills like EURO or USD. Until you can get a destination who will give you a fair rate.
One of the most important thing if you want to travel in a low budget, is to avoid paying for sleeping. There are websites who provides many details for you to connect with locals and for many, let you sleep in a free space in their house.
I have met so many amazing people from different cultures and have spent time with them, and see how they really function inside their real homes. For me, this is one of the best parts when you travel in a low budget.
This is my favorite one. Anyone who has the real spirit of couchsurfing knows that this is all about meeting new people and exchanging cultures, and not about taking advantage and hurting anyone.
You have to complete profile, tell people who you are, why you are traveling, even add some quotes, or funny anecdotes about you. This will make it easy for potential hosts to understand who you are, and might help them think about what they want to do with you. I can vouch for how fun couchsurfing is.
There is a system of references – I cannot make this even more clearer, but checking references are of utmost importance. You need proof that the people you are meeting, who will host you, or you will host have a great history to support them. If they are seasoned hosts or travelers, or users of the site, they will have a good no. of references from hosts and guests vouching about their personalities, and telling you how was their experience with them.
There are more websites for free accommodation
Trustroots.org for hitchhikers
Warmshowers.org for bikers – This is another good site, however I didn’t use it when I was traveling by bicycle, because it was easier to find a host by couchsurfing .
Bewelcome is working in the same way that Couchsurfing.
If you want to know more information about how to sleep for free while traveling.
Traveling as a group
If you’re traveling as a group, or with family, vacation rentals give you a lot of bang for your buck. All the amenities and comfort of being home but at prices offer cheaper than hotels, this form of accommodation can really work for you on a budget.
There are some hostels that are very cheap. You can also sleep in bunk beds, and share the room with more people. There are common zones like kitchen, toilets, bathroom, but that should be fine. The kitchen will help you avoid going to expensive restaurants, the common living room where you can have a beer and meet other travelers like you (trust me there will be a lot).
There are some websites that will help you book in advance like the hostelworld.com, hostelbookers.com, and booking.com. I usually don’t book with hostels in advance as I prefer meeting and staying with local people. I learn more about their culture and experience the real life with them, and will hear new stories.
I like these better than relieving travel stories in backpacking places to be honest. A common thing in the hostels is talking about your trip several times per day with different people, so you may easily get tired of talking about the same subject. Choose what works for you.
If you are travel in a low budget, you can ask in some hostels for free food and accommodation. In exchange, you will work a few hours with them. If you are planning a very long trip, it will help you a lot with your budget. There are websites which can help you to find a place where you can work a few hours for free food and accommodation. I think the best website for that is workaway. You need to pay 25-30 USD and you can use the website for two years.
Don’t forget that you can sleep for free in your tent when you travel in a low budget.
This is my favorite one whne planning a trip in a low budget! I love doing hitchhiking and it’s so different in every continent. Its the most flexible way of traveling. A lot of people are going to tell you that no one is going to drive you or it’s not safe in their country, but I will ENCOURAGE you to go just check yourself! There is always someone ready to help, who will be happy to drive you, and you just need to look for that ride.
The most important trick for hitchhiking, don’t be shy, smile and enjoy the experience.
If you feel like hitchhiking is not for you, or you are not ready to try it for the mean time (I hope that you give it a try, at least), there are other websites that can help you secure a ride.
You can check websites like blablacar, carpooling, carsharing, or liftshare. I have not used any of these sites yet, but I did ample research and found out that a lot of travelers had success with these sites. You will have to share expenses with the people you will ride with.
If you want to travel in a low budget, you can go by local buses is very cheap in many countries. Getting a night bus or train can be an option if you want to travel in a low budget, you will save on accommodation. And will even save you a ton of time if you are in a hurry. A great experience of mine is traveling by train. If you get a second class ticket, you will travel with the locals and this will not only save you money, but will also give you a very memorable experience.
If you want to travel in a low budget. There are some places which are very touristic that you will be required to pay an entrance fee. At least try to avoid going on packaged tours. Try to go by your own. If you have no choice to avoid the tour, try to bargain the price as hard as you can.
How much money do I need to travel in a low budget for a year?
The most expensive part is the flight ticket. It depends on your destination. You need to add some Vaccinations and Visas. Maybe, you need to buy some accessories (backpack, sleeping bag, tent) for your trip. You can check where is your destination, maybe buying accessories in another country is cheaper than in yours. But it’s gonna be a big difference of quality, just check yourself and decide it. You need to add a Travel Insurance if you finally decide to get it.
For flights (1 000 Euros) just one way ticket (not coming back to your country)
For Visas (400-600 Euros).
For Vaccinations, Passport and some Accessories (100-300 Euros).
Adding a Travel Insurance (100-300 Euros)
Apart of these expenses, once you start traveling. You can travel in a low budget from $10 per day. You can go down or you can go up from this amount. It depends on how you want to travel. It means that you can travel with 6 000 Euros for a year if you travel in a low budget.
If you pay for accommodation and transportation, you will go up from this $1o budget per day. If you don’t pay for transportation and accommodation, you can keep traveling $10 per day very easy. It depends of how much you want to leave your comfort zone. Or how much time you want to extend your trip.
The most of the expenses if you are planning a trip in a low budget is eating and drinking. But, you can manage with $10 per day. In same places, you can eat in local markets and even have a few beers. In other places, as Western countries, you will be able to buy some food in the market and cook by yourself.
How can I extend my trip?
If you want to extend your trip, there are many ways to do it. You can do volunteers jobs like farms, teaching a language, working in hostels. They will provide you food and accommodation. You can’t stop in the middle of your trip for a few weeks or a month, and not spend money.
If you are traveling around South East Asia and you are under 30 years old, you can get a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand for a year with the possibility to extend another year. If you are traveling around South America, you can get a working visa in Canada. It will make you earn a lot of money to continue your trip. I was working in Australia for a month in a farm. It was hard job, but with that money, I was able to travel a few months in South East Asia.
There are some places like schools where you can teach a language, Spanish or English for example. And you can get some money or maybe free food and accommodation. It will let you rest from your trip and get energy to keep hitting the road.
You can work online. There are many jobs like virtual assistant, you can create a travel blog and write about your experiences or you can also translate texts.
If you go visit a developed country, you can try to work for a few days in a bar or in a restaurant. You can try to work in a farm. You will work for a few days or a few weeks and you will be able to get some money to extend your trip.
As you can see it’s not difficult to prepare a long trip to travel in a low budget. If you follow your dreams, it’s going be easier than you think. As alternative, you can also cut costs on a bicycle tour.
I’ve been traveling around the world for 6 years and I’ve met many interesting people. I’ve learned a lot of things that I didn’t know before. I’ve tried different gastronomies over the world, very different to mine. If you feel that being on the road and being always on the move is for you, or you feel even a tiny bit of “wishing” you can even try, give it a chance. Find your why. Plan, save, buy your flight. Take charge and take chance Because you’ll never know until you try.
I hope that with this information, you will be ready to go for planning a trip in a low budget. NO EXCUSES. Follow your DREAMS.
Give love and support by sharing this post! Your friend might just need to read this to start their dreams, too.
Cheers to a happy new year!
About the Author: Ruben, co-founder of Gamintraveler.com since 2014, is a seasoned traveler from Spain who has explored over 100 countries since 2009. Known for his extensive travel adventures across South America, Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Africa, Ruben combines his passion for adventurous yet sustainable living with his love for cycling, highlighted by his remarkable 5-month bicycle journey from Spain to Norway. He currently resides in Spain, where he continues to share his travel experiences alongside his partner, Rachel, and their son, Han.