“I can’t travel because I’m poor”
“How can I travel, I don’t even have money!”
I’ve been reading a lot of comments from Filipinos about my articles on travels. Most of them are assuming that my parents are rich, which is how I can afford this around-the-world-backpacking lifestyle for two years now from South East Asia to South America. No, my parents never gave me money (nor my boyfriend) and we don’t even have or use a credit card (we are debt-free). We’re actually earning money while traveling!
So how do we do it?
Backpacking is not yet a common pursuit for us Filipinos, but it’s the cheapest way to travel; staying in shared dorm hostels, hitchhiking, volunteering, and crossing different borders by land transportation instead of flying! If there is one thing that’s holding back a lot of Filipinos from traveling more often, it’s the style of travel that most people are accustomed to–staying in hotels, flying between locations, and using expensive organized tours. Many people still think traveling is all about these things. (I will write another article about the visa guides for Philippines passport holder based on my experience. It’s not a disadvantage to be a Filipino if you decide to travel abroad!)
If you’re willing to give up some of these things in exchange for cheaper and more fulfilling experiences, then keep reading!
Here are 10 tips I can share with you fellow wanderlusters:
1. Book cheap flight tickets
Our generation is very lucky with all of the low cost airlines around these days. Wait for the peso deals and book it! It’s even better now that they’ve removed the fuel surcharge! Be flexible about when and where you will go to grab the best deals.
2. Stay in hostels
Hotels are expensive. It’s as simple as that. They’re fine if you specifically want a romantic break for two or you have the extra cash to splash, but if you’re trying to save money and meet lots of other travelers at the same time, then hostels are where you want to be. Shared dorm rooms are super cheap and are a great place to meet fellow travelers.
These are the cheap dorm rooms from $3 to $10/ night
3. DIY tours
As Filipinos, we usually think that booking everything with a travel agent is the best way to plan our trip. It’s cool if you have plenty of money and limited time, but if you decide to travel at your own pace and you have a limited budget, why not do a DIY trip? Read blogs, ask Google–there are different guides online to help you with DIY trips. When we arrived in Peru, we didn’t have much money, but we wanted to go to Machu Picchu. We couldn’t afford the $250 trekking tour, so we asked the locals and did our own cheap route. We walked for 30 km to reach the town of Machu Picchu and we were able to spend $50 per person just to see one of the world’s most beautiful creations.
DIY trip to Machu Picchu, Peru for only $50 all-in (per person)
4. Go hitchhiking
Don’t tell me it’s dangerous if you’ve never tried it before! I’ve been doing this as a solo female backpacker in South East Asia and, just recently, concluded a big hitchhiking trip in Patagonia, Chile. It’s free and you’ll just be surprised how great the Universe is and how friendly and generous people can be.
Hitchhiking in Patagonia, Chile
Instead of paying for all of your accommodations while traveling, try volunteering. It’s a great way to get a free bed and food while doing something good for the world at the same time. You can teach English or some other skills. You can offer help to build or work at an organic farm. Just make sure that you never pay to volunteer. Your time and dedication should be enough.
6. Learn skills and earn money from it
Volunteering is awesome as it can stretch your budget, but if you decide to earn money while traveling then you have to invest in your skills–it’s called Sustainable Travel lifestyle (you can read about our experience here). You can make jewelry and sell it to your fellow backpackers, get a yoga certification and teach, learn how to give a massage, and so on. You can earn money while trading your skills and you can move around from city to city. Remember, you’re a backpacker and not an OFW!
Teaching yoga and meditation in Vang Vieng, Laos
7. Join Couchsurfing or Bewelcome websites
These are great community inspired sites that allow travelers to connect with one another and even give each other a bed to sleep in for the night. The profile and reference system allows you to check out your host, so it’s a very safe system as long as you’re sensible.
First Couchsurfing experience of my siblings in Thailand
8. Eat street food
It seems to be the way of thinking for Filipinos that eating abroad means eating in expensive restaurants. But often, the best way to know and experience the local cuisine in foreign countries is through street food. The cuisines of Thailand and Vietnam are unbeatable and if you eat outside with the locals, then you only need a dollar or two to enjoy the local cuisine!
Really cheap Thai street food in Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
9. Take the local transportation
It’s easy to throw a lot of money away on taxis, especially if you get charged the tourist rates. With a little bit of research with the locals, you can just as easily take a local bus for about a tenth of the price. This way you’ll actually get to interact with a lot more people, too.
3rd Class Sleeper Train in India–it’s freaking cheap!
10. Handle “pasalubong” smartly!
Most backpackers rarely buy souvenirs–perhaps a ref magnet or a postcard would be enough. I understand that we, Filipinos, have this “pasalubong” culture, but your family and friends would understand if you have a tight budget. Surely, they will appreciate a postcard from where you are just as much. It’s a great souvenir, too!
These are my best tips for Filipinos traveling on a tight budget, so don’t cut yourself down before you’ve even started. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Have your own tips to add? Comment below with your own great money saving tips!