How to make your international trip affordable
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Think back to the last time someone told you about their international travels.
Listening to their exciting adventures, you may have thought, "Wow, that sounds amazing, but I could never afford it. I wish I could go to exotic locations, but it would take years to save up the money."
If this sounds familiar, you aren't alone. International travel is usually considered a luxury enjoyed by people with the means to drop $10,000 or $20,000 per trip. But I can tell you this is a myth that can be debunked, and you can read how I traveled for a year on an incredibly tight budget.
With the proper planning and careful choice of destinations, almost anyone can travel abroad for a week, or even a year. The most expensive part of international travel is the initial flight, but from there, just about any budget can get you anywhere you want to go.
Here are ways to make your dollar go furthest in three parts of the world:
Thailand and Vietnam
Flying to Southeast Asia from the United States will put you back at least $1,000. Look for dirt-cheap flights on Groupon and Peek — especially helpful if your dates are flexible—but once you get there, the costs are mind-bogglingly cheap. In Thailand and Vietnam, for example, you can eat for under $10 a day, and street food is largely safe in both countries. The biggest tip: only go to vendors who are busy serving locals. Never, under any circumstance (including a good TripAdvisor review), go to a restaurant with no one inside. There's a reason it's empty.
Hostels are around every corner in Thailand and Vietnam (Hostelling International has a good directory to reference), and as long as you're OK sharing a room filled with bunk beds, you can expect to spend around $15 per night, sometimes less. If you'd rather sleep alone, single rooms are a little more ($25, tops), and rooms with private bathrooms will run you around $30.
The backpacking community is thriving in Southeast Asia—including Cambodia, Nepal, and India—so you're sure to be within earshot of other travelers looking to save money. One of the best ways to save is to link up with these people and share housing and dining costs. There are several apps to facilitate these types of meetings, like Red Planet Travel, and backpackr.
Daydreams of wandering the streets of Paris aren't usually paired with the concept of a budget trip, but it's possible to make Western Europe affordable. The key is to travel during the off-season—not during the summer—and to get creative with your lodging choices. Instead of hotels, opt for hostels. Couchsurfing, a site that allows you to stay with locals for free (note: you're usually expected to cook one meal), can be a good alternative. Airbnb also has shared room or private room options where you can stay in nice apartments for cheap. Food can be pretty pricey in Western Europe—definitely more expensive than Southeast Asia—but you can get around this by shopping at markets and cooking.
Those who don't want to spend anything on food or lodging should look into WWOOF International, an organization that can pair you up with an organic farm. For a few hours of work a day, you get free food and a bed, but it's best to plan this experience months in advance.
Transportation in Europe is better than ever for budget-conscious travelers. The Eurail connects every country in the continent and if you buy one of their travel packages, you can get a great deal. Europe has also stepped up with seriously inexpensive flights lately. You may want to look into carriers like EasyJet, Ryanair, and Webjet, especially if you're short on time. But each airline has a baggage fee that can put you back, so it pays to check online in advance.
Australia and New Zealand
Once you get to Australia and New Zealand (flights can be expensive), you can easily stay within your budget's parameters. One of the best ways to do this is to sleep in a van. Campervans are popular in both countries and it's common for travelers to rent one for a week-long trip, where travelers drive to a town, park at a campground (nightly prices can be around $10-$20), and cook food on an open flame or in a communal kitchen. I did this for two months, and some people do it for a year.
Both Australia and New Zealand are so spread out that you'll likely want to rent a car anyway—so why not have that car double as your hotel room? There are companies that offer these rentals, and you can find them at most airports. A few better-known ones are Jucy Rentals, Hippie Camper, and Wicked Campers. It's worth noting that many of these companies also have outposts in the U.S. and Europe.
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