As I mentioned in the last chapter, activities such as outings and package tours can eat upa huge amount of your budget and have you left with very little room to do anything else afterwards. For the most part, you are paying a big fee because someone else is getting paid to have gone through the effort of putting it all together. Then, someone else gets another chunk for selling it to you. It’s commission and almost everyone in tourism is earning commission somewhere along the way and this is in every country. Sometimes it’s more obvious than others. Now if you’re cool with this and have the budget, then by all means fire ahead. It can be much easier to have someone come pick you up and move you about but if you don’t have the money and are really up for still doing it, then there is always a way. I saved on buying a guide, accommodation and food package while trekking in the Himalayas and managed to save enough to travel Indonesia for a month. However, if you are determined, here is what you do.
1 – Homework
Look up the suggested route or itinerary of the tour. See where it’s going, how long it takes between points of interest, how long they spend there, how much the attractions cost and who local providers of certain services are. Take an hour or two to learn the details and you’ll be surprised how much more you know about where you are going. It makes the experience a more intense experience too. Grab a map and start marking off everything.
2 – Getting & staying there
Go local transport all the way. It;s confusing at first but there is nearly always a local who will help you out and the internet nearly always has a walkthough for figuring this out. Buses will be cheapest or maybe a taxi if there are a few of you and you all pitch in. This means you avoid more commissions from organised stops along the way. Pick accommodation that is as close to your starting point or that you know will be able to give you more local insight when you get there. Stay as local as you can, homestays where you get more than you bargain for are always a great choice.
3 – Save locations
Save the locations you are hitting up offline on your maps and be sure to make stations, where you are sleeping and how long it takes to get between points. Driving in the dark or missing connecting buses will leave you stranded or struggling
4 – Take out money in advance
Don’t depend on ATMs to be where you need them to be. Have way more than you need if you can afford to have it on you.
5 – Leave loads of time for wiggle room
One of the main benefits of making your own tour/trek/adventure is that you can get distracted and do what you like as you are on your agenda and your agenda alone. Giving yourself time means that getting lost won’t be such a big deal. You will most definitely get lost a few times but that’s part of the magic.
6 – Useful phrases
Think of phrases you are going to need in advance. It’s good to learn a few phrases in the local language but some unique ones about your activites will help you get what you need a little faster
7 – Get savvy on the details
You won’t have a guide so you have to educate yourself. Read a wiki page or download a free walk though map online. This also means you avoid the obligatory “oooohs” and “aaaaah” everytime a guide would quote an interesting fact as you nodded in approval struggling to hold back your yawns.
8 – Feed yourself with cheap snacks.
Avoid crisps and snacks that don’t fill you up. Cook pasta and rice dishes in your hostel and bring them with you. Think college dinners and you are on the right track.
Some reasons to avoid tours, outings and day trips:
- You’ll get dropped off at many gift shops because your driver is getting paid to do so
- You’ll be brought to tourist restaurants and road stops with inflated prices
- You’ll have items in your package you probably didn’t want to even visit
- The schedule offers no flexibility
- You spend a lot of time waiting for everyone else to catch up or regroup