Updated: Jan 11
I am a budget traveler and I know most people ask me this most common question "How are you affording being able to have these experiences abroad?"
My first tip of advice is... is there somewhere you have been itching to go to or see? I suggest you just go for it! I know unfortunately it may be awhile until travel restrictions are lifted, but when it is I plan to live more free and more with the moment than I was doing before. I want to be brave and just go see all the things and really live it up! I have been itching to see more of South East Asia and only time will tell when I can get back to it.
I have a deep love for travel and I honestly am new to the world of travel, but I have explored in Morocco, Spain, Egypt, Thailand, Laos, and Malaysia. Half of these have been solo travel and I had to think for myself in regards to what I want to do, budget, planning -all of it. I have spent a lot of time connecting with others as I keep traveling. I connect with others on social media forums and when traveling I often talk with others about their fun adventures abroad too. There are so many forums if you are apart of the backpacker community. I prefer the backpacker style and because of it I have gotten endless information from that supportive community.
Okay realistically now so how have I been able to afford this?
First, what kind of traveler are you? This will determine your costs. There is the backpacker lifestyle, mid range cost, and the luxury high cost.
I prefer backpacker style, but nevertheless South East Asia has some of the cheapest countries that a traveler can visit in terms of all around costs. I remember the thrill of my decision to move abroad to Thailand and I had been waiting and waiting for the perfect day to leave. I wanted a cheap flight and I found it here from Expedia. I can highly recommend Expedia, because they offer cheap flights to places worldwide.
When I arrived I couldn't believe how affordable everything was; the food, accommodation, transport, medicine, rent, entertainment, and attractions. If you chose a backpacker lifestyle, you will meet so many like-minded people.
Some people I have met have dropped everything to backpack across South East Asia or other popular places is across Europe or South America. It has really inspired me meeting these people. A lot of people were not satisfied with living in the West, they sold everything and came to Asia. Others they started young. Others have made online businesses, Youtube influencers, teach English online, and journalists. If you want to learn more about teaching English online I have more information about that here from my blog. You can become a teacher online too. There are so many options for remote work abroad and especially if you speak English.
Budget backpacker lifestyle
I really have created a whole new lifestyle for myself and I must say travel consumes my every day agenda. It is what I live and breathe. I am more keen to slower travel. I prefer to live in a place for awhile, which is why living abroad as an expat is an option I like.
I lived in Morocco and saw a lot of Morocco, by learning from friends, locals, other student expats on what to do, budget, etc. In Thailand, I came to live here as an expat for teaching. I meet lots of people whether they are locals, travelers, or other expats living here. Connecting with people truly can help you budget and learn about the ins and outs of a place. I do trips every now and then. These trips are either around the country I am living in or when I have a holiday or visa run I need to do I go to a neighboring country. I always am saving my money and thinking about my options of places I would like to visit. I converse with people about what they think of the place and I just keep gathering my information. I watch travel videos and read blogs - all travel related, because it is what I have found to love. Because of this, I meet similar people and am determined to see more of the world. When travel restrictions lift in time I will start this up and see more of Asia.
Live like a local
In Thailand I save a lot of money simply by living a more local lifestyle. I understand some people occasionally will miss their home country food, I have been itching to have Mexican food and pizza. But, I have created a budget where am very aware of where I spend most of my money, it is on the cost of my rent and food. However, I have minimized my food cost by eating mostly Thai food. I eat at local Thai stalls, Thai restaurants, and with eat with my local friends. Even if you don't always eat Thai food, you can keep it in an affordable budget. Also, I do not buy much when here, I want to keep my bag light and honestly I have given away some of my possessions to friends or to the temple so they can give it to those in need. Also, I have tended to stay in hostels or a low to mid range cost bungalow. In hostels you meet a lot of travelers and it can be good information or it can turn into a travel friend. I save a lot of expenses by doing these things.
What are your travel priorities?
I ask myself one simple question when I go to see a place. What is it that I want out of this experience?
What I have learned along the way is that I prefer the experience over the pictures or souvenirs. I honestly don't always make it a priority to see all the tourists sights you will read on the web. This is of course my own opinion and my personal preference. Another main thing I do is stay in cheaper accommodation, like hostels, home stays, or Air BNB's.
I love to travel, but a big reason I love to travel is because I love to learn about the culture, maybe learn some of the language, and understand the country more. As for tourist attractions, I will pick a few to do and do my research to see if it is worth it in my opinion. In super touristy places its can be a bit of a money trap because of tours, souvenirs, tickets, sellers etc. I do in fact support going to touristy sights 100%, but they are not always what you would expect.
For instance, in Bangkok there are a list of temples and other tourist attractions that the travel sites recommend. When I first got to Bangkok, I decided to go to a local temple by my apartment instead.
I went because I wanted to learn about what a temple is like, what they do there, and went to meditate. I had a wonderful experience doing this and learned a lot that day. I observed people coming in and out to pray, meditate, and give alms to the monks. This temple was beautiful, sure it wasn't a tourist attraction.
When I decided to go to Wat Arun (a famous temple tourists visit) I didn't see many monks, it was overcrowded, people were picture queuing up for every opportunity and people kept trying to sell us amulets, scarfs, and boat rides. I think it is a beautiful temple and I enjoyed it, but at the same time I know I preferred the local temple I went to; I also think it is just as beautiful.
Wat Arun, Bangkok
Wat Arun, Bangkok
Wat Arun, Bangkok
I prioritize experience over pictures always and because of that my travel experiences have been really rich. It is your agenda though, so do what you want and see what you want to go see. I still go see the tourists sights, but I have tended to lean towards just wanting a more authentic glimpse into that countries culture.
So there you have it! This is my personal experience on how I save and budget travel in South East Asia.