Ten ways to save money when travelling
First published 16th February, 2007
So you've done the math twenty times but you're still a few hundred dollars short in the budget department. Here's ten ways to save money -- US$1,400 to be exact -- while travelling. Just think how much more you could do, see and experience with that extra $1,400!
1) Don't spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of hiking boots.
You won't need them. Trekking in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam isn't like trekking in Nepal or Peru. Most get by just fine with a good pair of sturdy sandals. Hiking boots are hot, they'll start to smell really bad, you'll be needing to take them off over and over again to visit temples and enter guesthouses, and they're heavy.
Estimated saving over a month: US$285 (based on an average pair of quality boots going for US$300, with a sturdy set of leather sandles for around $15)
2) Don't spend hundreds of dollars on malarials.
Unless you're planning on sleeping naked in a swamp in remote areas along the Thai/Burma border, chances are you'll not need to take malarials during your trip. If your family doctor starts writing out a script for months of malarials as soon as you say "Asia", go and see a travel doctor for a second opinion. If the travel doctor says you still need them, then buy generic equivalents upon arrival in Asia -- at a fraction of the cost of what you'll pay at home. But remember, if you are visiting destinations on the main tourist trail in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, and are not planning on spending time in remote rural areas, you do not need to take malarials. Instead use repellent, dress sensibly at mosquito feasting times (light coloured clothing, with long sleeves and pants), and use a mosquito net.
Estimated saving over a month: US$135 (Based of $3 a Doxyxyline pill for fourty five days -- a month and a week before and after. )
3) Don't spend hundreds of dollars on brand new guidebooks.
As you're reading this on Travelfish, you've already got the right idea. Regarding guidebooks, buy the book for the first country you're heading to and buy/swap as you travel for the others. Not that we support piracy, but ... pirated (photocopied or bound) versions of Lonely Planet guides are available throughout Vietnam and Cambodia -- Yup that's right, that US$20 guidebook to Laos you bought at Borders yesterday can be purchased on the street in Phnom Penh for $2. The regional guides (Southeast Asia on a Shoestring etc) are hardly worth using in our opinion and you'll be FAR better served by the country-specific guidebook for each destination. Buy/Swap/Sell.
Estimated saving over a month: US$80 (based on purchase cost of four guidebooks at a cost of $100 Vs one real guidebook for $20, then swap or buy a fake one)
4) Invest in a digital camera.
Asia is a beautiful region and you'll take photos -- lots of them. If you're shooting film or slide you'll be looking at hundreds of dollars to process all your happy shots. A mid-range digital camera (say around US$300) will pay for itself in no time at all and if you buy the right one, you'll get a video camera as a part of the package.
Estimated saving over a month: break even, but you've save money on your next trip.
5) Don't buy a sleeping bag.
You won't need it. If anything, get a sleep sheet or a couple of sarongs, but nearly all lodgings will have sheets and treks will have bedding organised. Plus sleeping bags are hot (you're in the tropics remember) and they take up space that could be filled with trinkets.
Estimated saving over a month: $190 (based on a $200 sleeping bag Vs a $10 sleep sheet)
6) Travel second class
The train system in Morocco has "C class" -- locals joke the C stands for Corpses, Crates and Cattle. Thankfully 2nd and 3rd class in Asia is nowhere near as bad. In virtually all cases, 2nd class is more than enough -- and it's generally about half the price.
Estimated saving over a month: US$50-100
7) Drink water not beer
Both beer and water are cheap in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The former makes you fat and drunk, the latter slim and hydrated. While beer is often super cheap -- say US$1 for a big bottle, water is often cheaper. Drink alcohol in moderation and you'll be surprised just how quickly the savings pile up -- and that's without even counting the greasy $5 American Breakfast you'll find yourself craving the morning after the night before. If you don't want to listen to us, listen to your Mum. Drink less booze and you'll save more baht.
Estimated saving over a month: US$90 (Based on four beers a night vs one, at $1 a beer -- doesn't include the greasy breakfast.)
8) Fan good air-con bad
You're in the tropics so you know it is going to be hot, but the evenings are often surprisingly cool. If you're on the beach, look for rooms with good window space to let in that fine sea breeze. In cities you want a room on a higher floor and preferably with a window. Oddly, often rooms on the upper floors are cheaper.
Estimated saving over a month: US$300 (based on an average for of $10 for a fan room Vs $20 for an air-con one)
9) Money management
Check with your bank before leaving to find out just what charges they have for overseas withdraws from ATMs and for cash advances. The fees may curl your hair and make travellers cheques look a lot more sensible as bank fees on a month-long trip in Asia can easily mount into the hundreds of dollars. When your bank tells you they have a US$5 charge per foreign bank withdrawal, plus an extra 5% spread on the exchange rate, you know which way to run -- either straight to a bank that doesn't, or to the closest American Express office for some travellers cheques.
Estimated saving over a month: US$100 (based on personal experience of one month in Vietnam foolishly using a Commonwealth Bank of Australia credit card)
10) Food, food, food!
Most guesthouses will offer what they call an "American Breakfast". This is normally two greasy eggs, a couple of plastic sausages, manufactured ham and a decorative tomato or cucumber. Don't be surprised when it costs US$5. Skip the overpriced fatfest, walk out the door and plonk yourself down for some fried rice or noodle soup for a dollar.
Estimated saving over a month: US$120 (Based on $5 fatfest Vs $1 noodle soup)
FIVE MORE LITTLE TIPS
1) Buy your Travel Insurance through Travelfish.
Buy your travel insurance with World Nomads through Travelfish and you'll save 5% on the policy cost. (See the Member Centre for more information -- Americans and Canadians not eligible sorry!)
2) Get your visas in Asia, not at home.
Visas for other Asian countries are almost always cheaper in other Asian countries than in the west. For example a visa for Vietnam costs A$70 in Sydney, Australia or US$30 in Cambodia.
3) Catch the bus, not a cab.
Where possible use public transport rather than taxis. Taxis remain very cheap, but the bus system, particularly in the larger cities in Thailand and Vietnam, is even cheaper. Bangkok, Saigon and Hanoi all have comprehensive and very affordable bus systems.
4) Get your travellers cheques in large denominations.
Exchange kiosks will often charge a flat fee per travellers cheque. So to change five US$20 travellers cheques may cost you $5 ($1 per cheque) while a single US$100 cheque will cost you just $1 to change. Don't get travellers cheques in anything smaller than US$100.
5) Look into the Bangkok Airways Discovery Airpass
If you're planning on a few flights between Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, then the Discovery Airpass can be a steal. Note the Airpass CANNOT be purchased in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand or Vietnam -- you must buy it in your home country.
Read 10 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (4)
- Burma (3)
- Cambodia (19)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (14)
- All stories
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (6)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (58)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (29)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (18)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (14)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (14)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.