The golden rule on this one is to always have more than you think you need. You never really know when you will get injured, miss your connecting flight, get fined or have to bribe your way out of a cell. It also helps to have a little extra to treat yourself to a little luxury now and again. Sometimes a night in a hotel or a few nice beers can be great for moral after slumming it as much as possible. In Japan, I stayed in 24 hour manga cafes to save money but after a few nights of very little sleep a basic cheap hotel was the like a 5* resort.
The big costs are things like flights, long distance trains and high end accommodation. Travelling open ended and not really knowing when you are returning home means that it can be near to impossible to get an idea of how much you need. All you can do in that situation is squeeze every penny until it starts to dry up.
This chapter assumes that you have an end date and know exactly how long you’ll be away for. The points below highlight the factors you need to take into consideration when calculating your spend.
There are things that you will know the cost of before you ever step foot on a plane. These include, visas, insurance coverage, travel gear and your vaccines if you think you need any. These are fixed costs and won’t change no matter how you travel…unless you extend your trip of course.
The daily basics
Everyday, unless you are working for it, you are going to have to fork over some hard earned cash for your bed, some food and something to drink. Street food/convenience store snacks are a great way at eating cheap although not so healthy at times. Staying off the booze is a great money saver no matter where you are. Well maybe Tajikistan actually, as it’s the cheapest place for beer in the world. Keeping the basics down takes determination and discipline. After a while you crave a private room, steak dinner and some wine but stay strong.
I’ve mentioned it before but land travel and an efficient route will keep your travel costs down but these are generally the most unknown as we generally don’t decide where we are going until a few days before hand or even sometimes on the spot. In fact, not travelling and simply parking up for a while in a place is a great way to save money. Learn a language or start teaching one. Maybe help the hostel out with some simple duties and get to know the locals more.
These are things you are really going to want to do: cooking classes, bungee jumping, rafting, canyoning, skydiving, snorkelling, scuba and the million tourist traps you’ll almost certainly find. The cheapest ones are treks as you simply need to just put one foot in front of the other or snorkeling where you rent a mask. The goal here is to evaluate what it’s worth to you, does anyone else do it cheaper and who is taking commision. You might be able to get it cheaper by booking direct. Either way, limit how much you are willing to spend daily on activities.
Exchange & Bank Fees
This is a cost that can be hard to factor in. €20 can turn into €18 after an exchange, especially banks and they take a lot. Bank fees can be 3-4 bucks each time you draw money out and you’ll never even think about it. It’s a small cost but after 20-30 withdrawals it all adds up!
There are some practical site out there that once you put the costs above in, they’ll give you a budget or a daily spend (practicalmoneyskill.com). Ideally when you work it out, you should only take your daily budget with you on your day out. Much easier to avoid temptation when it’s not an option. No more wooden frogs or novelty fans.