Bram Reusen knows how to travel without going broke. As a travel photographer who's cycled, backpacked, and road-tripped around the world, he knows the importance of keeping to a budget, as shown on his blog Travel. Experience. Live. He spoke with us about how to experience the world and still have a little left in your bank account.
What are some misconceptions you see online about traveling on a budget?
The biggest misconception about budget travel, in my opinion, is the very definition of budget travel. Sometimes, I read or hear that there are particular destinations where it's impossible to travel on a budget. That's not true at all. Most people know that Southeast Asia, Africa and South America are generally cheaper destinations than, say, Europe or the United States; but that doesn't mean that you can't visit Europe on the cheap.
There are people who travel around, for example, Southeast Asia and claim to be budget travelers. However, just because you travel around in a cheap country doesn't mean that you are traveling on a budget. Budget travel means seeking out deals, finding great accommodation for a cheap price, working for room and board, or cooking your own food.
Where should budget travelers start when planning a trip?
With making money! While traveling on a budget can and probably will save a lot of money, it is good to have some back-up money stashed away somewhere. In fact, it really is just common sense to have some extra money "just in case." You just never know; you may get into an accident or something may happen back home requiring you to buy a last-minute ticket back.
Planning the actual trip is best started with setting an actual budget: a total amount of money that you're looking to spend on your trip. There are usually three big expenses: transportation, accommodation and food. Designate a budget to either one of them, but also keep some money for other things like activities, souvenirs and the like. When you've set your budgets, you can then start looking around for actual places to sleep, plane/train/bus tickets and the like.
What are some ways to save money on the road?
There are so many, it really is overwhelming! First, I always try to walk everywhere. There is no better way to get to know a new place than by exploring it on foot. Pick up a map and just start walking. Cycling is another good option too, and it allow you to cover greater distances. There is no cheaper way to get around than to use your own body. However, if you are in a massive city, it may be best to buy subway or bus tickets; and usually there are weekly tickets that cost much less than the sum of a bunch of individual tickets.
Museums may have days on which it is free to visit; bars have happy hours; restaurants sometimes serve dinner food at lunchtime for cheaper prices; visitor centers may sell combination tickets to attractions. There are a lot of ways to save money on the road, if you are willing to spend some time researching!
Your food budget can be cut greatly by cooking your own food. To do that, though, you will need accommodations with a kitchen. Luckily, there are such things as hostels and apartments, which are generally also cheaper than hotels. It's truly a win-win situation. Couchsurfing allows you to crash on someone else's couch or floor or bed for the night, while Wwoofing involves you working in exchange for accommodation and meals.
How should budget travelers deal with unexpected costs?
As I said earlier, work and make sure you have back-up money. Do not spend all of the money you can spare on a trip; that's just asking for touble.
Should you adjust your budget while traveling or stick to it?
If you have researched your destination well, planned your trip properly and set a budget accordingly, than there won't be any need to adjust your budget! The key, however, is researching. This enables you to make an accurate estimate of your actual costs.
What are some of your favorite destinations to visit on a budget?
Surprisingly, my favorite budget destination is Scandinavia, aka the most expensive region in the world. Despite being so expensive, it is in fact possible to travel around fairly cheaply in Sweden and Norway. There are great bike paths that allow you to explore the cities and countryside, and public transport is excellent. But what makes it such a great budget destination, if you are adventure-minded, is the existence of the so-called "everyman's right" or "freedom to roam'" This essentially means that you are allowed to hike, canoe, kayak and camp on all public lands. Being able to pitch a tent virtually anywhere and basically sleep wherever and whenever you want is a fabulous way to save money in an otherwise expensive region. Getting around on foot or in a boat minimizes your transportation budget as well!
The one thing to avoid, though, is alcohol. That's insanely expensive.