I recently got asked to do a blog post on how to budget for your trip. It’s actually quite a hard post to write, as everyone is different, wanting a different experience and it also depends where in the world you’re going. Someone who’s heading to New York for a weekend, is going to have a different budget to someone who’s heading to Thailand for 2 weeks. But I can help you how to plan your budget.
First of all, you need to decide if you want is as cheap as possible (but not being tight and missing out), or whether you don’t mind splashing the cash. This post is to help those who want a cheaper option, such as backpackers.
If you opted for the cheap way, you have a few different options, some of which are even FREE! Yes FREE!
Couch Surfing – A lot of backpackers use couchsurfing.com to find a free place to sleep for the night. It can be a spare bedroom, or someones sofa to sleep on. It means you get to hang out with the locals, which usually means you’ll discover things you wouldn’t have done had you stayed in a hostel or hotel. You can become good friends from the experience, and end up staying in touch, which is always handy! A lot of people think couch surfing is unsafe, but this site makes it safe. People are left references/reviews, and they get to tell you a bit about themselves, meaning you’re not going to end up with some crazy person that is nothing like you!
Hostels – Possibly the most popular option if you’re on a cheap budget, is staying in a hostel. Hostels can be as cheap as £2 a night, depending where in the world you’re staying. Most have private rooms, so if you want to pay a little more, you can have your own space. This still works out cheaper than a hotel most of the time, and you still get the social vibe of a hostel. Not all hostels are grungy and dirty, and a lot are actually really nice. I’ve found ones with rooftop pools, for as cheap as £4 a night! Hostelworld.com is a really good site for finding hostels.
Air BnB – A really popular site, with some quirky stays, such as treehouses etc. If there’s a couple of you, it may work out cheaper doing it like this, rather than staying in hostels/hotels. You get the whole apartment to yourself, and if you’re splitting the costs, it saves hell of a lot. A good example of this is for my upcoming trip to Hong Kong. It’s quite expensive for accommodation in Hong Kong, and a decent hostel is costing me £75 for 4 nights. It’s still cheap, but compared to my £5 a night accommodation in Thailand, it’s a lot more. An apartment on Air BnB popped up, in the same area as my hostel, for £60, for the same amount of nights. I’m paying more for a hostel, sleeping in a bunk bed with 7 others in the room, than I would have for an apartment to myself. And there’s a double bed, so had I been going with someone else, that would have been £30 each for 4 nights. Unfortunately I can’t cancel my hostel reservation, without them charging me. On the plus side, I’m going to be able to meet people. Being in an apartment on my own might have got lonely after a few nights.
Do a bit of research and see what kind of activities you want to do before you go. You may find trip ideas on Trip Advisor and there will be organised tours to book, but these can work out more expensive than doing it yourself. For example, to do a guided hike in Hong Kong, it was £60. Or I did a bit of research, found out about the route, found how to get to the starting point, and it’s going to cost me a couple of £’s on the bus to get there. That’s saving myself over £50! Sometimes the tours also charge you for something that’s free to visit. So be aware before you book anything. Sometimes they can work out good value for money, but I’ve found it’s very rare. So always do your research! Research also gives you a good idea of how much things are going to cost, which can help you plan your budget a little better.
Food & Drink
Read up on sites, travel guides, and blogs, to get a rough idea of how much food and drink will cost you. You’re going to need some breakfast, to keep you energised for the day. And definitely something to eat in the evening. Sometimes I find I can skip lunch, depending how much I had for breakfast, which saves me a few £’s. Or I’ll go to a local supermarket and pick up some snacks to keep me going, such as crisps. If you want cheap, stick to your street food/fast food places. Usually restaurants on floor level are more expensive, so if somewhere’s hidden upstairs, or off the main street, it’s usually a little cheaper. Again, do your research. See where’s recommended on Trip Advisor, blogs etc, as the last thing you want to do is suffer from food poisoning and ruin your trip! In the past, I’ve found most of my money has been spent on alcohol. It’s not the cheapest in some cities, and I’ve paid as much as £15 for a pint before! (Ouch!) Head to the local supermarket, as it’s usually cheaper to buy some beers from here, and have a few drinks at your hostel before you head out. Or better still, go t-total if somewhere is quite expensive for a drink. You can still have a good night out! Also avoid day drinking, as this can soon add up. Especially if you then still head out for the night.
How are you going to get around the city? Metro, bus, taxi? Some cities are really cheap for taxi’s, such as Bangkok. Whereas places like Singapore, it’s a little expensive, so works out cheaper to use public transport such as the metro or bus. Or you can walk, which is FREE! It’ll take a bit longer to get to places, but you see more of the city. Plus you’ll keep fit, which is always a bonus.But bare in mind, I thought I’d walk everywhere in Bangkok to save money, but it’s HUGE! Plus the humidity, it was just a no no. Luckily public transport, such as taxi’s and tuk tuk’s were really cheap. Always ask for things on the meter, and never agree a set price, as it’s usually more than it would have been on a meter.
Always research how you’re going to get from the airport to the city. Sometimes the airport can be miles away from the main city, so can end up costing you a fortune in a taxi, especially if you’re alone. Every airport I’ve been to has had some train/bus service from the airport to the main city, and it’s loads cheaper than a taxi. The bus from Hong Kong airport to the city, which also drops me off pretty much outside my hostel (lucky me), is going to cost me around £3. The train would have cost me £10, which would be quicker, but drops me off miles from my hostel. So I would then have needed to catch the metro, so would have been another couple of £’s. A taxi would have cost me around £30-£40, depending on traffic.
Rome 2 Rio is a really good site for planning transport while you’re away. It gives you all the options, from train, to a bus and taxi, so you can easily see which is the cheapest. It also shows you how long it would take to walk, so you can see if it’s a lot further away than you originally thought.
Take into account you might find things to do while you’re over there that you didn’t know about beforehand, so always plan to take a bit extra. You might also come across unknown costs, such as some places have to charge you a city tax. You might get a fine for something, etc. Plus you might want to buy some souvenirs to take home.
Once you have researched, and got a rough cost from the things above, you can plan your budget per day. Always take a bit extra, don’t make it to the penny, as it’s likely you’ve not got it spot on. You don’t want to be counting the pennies all the time on your trip, and letting that dictate how much you do and see. When you’ve been there for a day, and got an idea of costs, you can re-evaluate your budget. You might decide you can spend a little less per day or you might find you need to budget in for a little more. But if you’ve researched properly in the first place, it’s usually not far out. This will give you a more accurate budget, and won’t leave you left short at the end of the trip. I’ve met a lot of people on my travels that have heard things such as Thailand is really cheap. They don’t actually research the costs or anything, end up taking a few hundred £’s to last them a month. It’s cheap, but not that cheap! You still need to be able to live!
I usually say £1000 a month is a good estimate for across the world, if you’re on a small budget and will be sleeping in places such as hostels etc. Some places you will find that you’ll have some left over from that, but it can go towards your next trip!
Want me to write a post on something specific? If you have any ideas for my future blog posts, post them below, and I’ll try my best.