Travel Budget Advice or How Do I Know How Much I Need?
Budgeting for a big trip is tough. How are you supposed to know how much you will need to spend before you get there? And what about extras, like excursions? You might want to go white-water rafting, but not necessarily know in what country or what the cost is!
Here are our hints and tips to make life easier!
The big one is pretty easy. Once you have decided on where you want to go, you can use the airlines own websites, or aggregators such as Kayak or Skyscanner. If you are planning a round the world trip, visiting specialist agencies to put your route together, might get you the best deal. For us, with our unusual RTW plan, we found it was easiest to buy 3 single one-way tickets! Also, if a one-way is too expensive, take a look at the cost of a return, even if you don´t use it, as it may be cheaper!
If staying in hotels, then your best bet is to look at the travel sites, such as Expedia or Lastminute. These will list all the hotels in a given area, which will give you a good idea of the average price for different types of hotel.
If staying is hostels, then Hostelworld and Hostelbookers will do the same.
Once you know roughly how many days you will be in each area, and the average cost of each area, it’s pretty easy to come up with a rough idea of what you’re going to need.
Food and Drink
There are a few ways that you can do this. If you are staying in hostels, you have the option of either cooking for yourself, or eating out. If you are staying in hotels, then you are pretty much restricted to eating out. Either way, a good rule of thumb is to spend as much on your food and drink as you do on your accommodation.
The amount that you are going to spend on land transport really depends on how much you are going to be travelling around. Many of the major bus companies have airline style booking websites. From these, you should be able to figure out a price per hour (long distance bus travel tends to be measured in hours, not kilometres) for a given region. This may not always be entirely accurate, but it at least gives you a rough idea of what the costs may be. Many travellers underestimate the cost of their land transport.
One common tip is that if you are travelling for more than eight hours, it can make sense to use an overnight bus, since it saves you the cost of one nights accommodation. The only thing to be wary of here is if you have to cross a national border at night – some borders are not open at night, and those that are, usually have skeleton staff (so the crossing takes longer). You will certainly have to get off the bus, so you won’t have a full nights sleep.
The same applies to local flights as it does to long haul flights. In some countries, the price available within the country is better than that available externally. Local travel agents should be able to help you with this, so sending a few emails could help you save a little here.
There are budget airlines in North America, Europe and Asia, so local flights can be fairly reasonable. Note that this is not the case in South America, where air travel is still quite expensive.
Most airports (and some bus terminals) are not in the city centres, so it is necessary to get a transfer. This could be a local bus, a taxi, a metro or a hostel/hotel pickup. A taxi is usually the most expensive option, but also the most convenient. If you have just got off a 30 hour bus ride, it’s sometimes much easier to get a taxi, than to figure out the local bus system and where it drops you off in relation to your accommodation.
In many countries, it is not possible to drink water from the taps, so it is necessary to buy bottled mineral water. It’s usually fairly inexpensive, but it’s not free, so set aside a little cash for this.
If you’re going to be on the road for a while, then you’re going to need to wash your clothes. You can wash clothes in a sink yourself (buy a universal plug and a travel washing line before you go!), but know that not all places allow hand washing in their sinks. Or you can use a local launderette. Prices for this vary considerably between countries and even in different cities.
Different countries have different tipping customs (see the tipping page) which you should think about budgeting for. Not tipping can generally cause offence, and can cause you problems. If you do not tip the guy that loads your bag onto the bus, do not be surprised if it never reaches its intended destination. The amounts are generally pretty small by Western standards.
The amount to set aside for excursions/trips will vary greatly depending on where you are and what you want to do. These can sometimes be quite expensive (even in countries that are considered cheap), as they are targeted at the tourist market and not the locals. The Lonely Planet guidebooks and website will give you a rough idea of what is available in each area, as well as a rough idea of the price. If a website is given for a particular tour operator, then it’s always a good idea to have a look at that, to see if the prices have been updated.
Beware that SOMETIMES, once an operator has been listed in a guidebook, they may put up their prices, let their standards slip, or both. Local hostels are usually able to book excursions, and they will have knowledge of some of the smaller, unlisted operators in an area. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, it may be worth dropping them a line to see if yo can get a better deal.