The short guide: Bangkok on $50 a day, Singapore on a lot less, and every other destination you dream of.
Croissant in Paris, ice-cream in Florence, sushi In Tokyo, padthai in Bangkok. Yes, India is nice, but sometimes we want to go overboard. Relax in those places whose tempting pictures just pop out whenever we open Facebook… even though we really don’t have enough money to go there.
But maybe we do?
I travel on a very low budget. $60 a day is a lot for me. And usually it doesn’t even get that high.
But sometimes I feel like I had enough of remote villages, local busses and pictures of Gali milking a buffalo with her little hands. No matter how much I love it.
So how do I manage to sneak the padthai in there, without going overboard?
Not a problem.
Here is the short guide on how to travel in places we simply can’t afford:
1. Those destinations aren’t in the plan. They come in when possible. When it fits. Not on purpose.
2. Flight: the best way to sneak them in “without meaning to” is to squeeze them between two cheap destinations. Either coming or going.
A. A flight from Vietnam to the Philippines costs the same whether it’s direct, or with a layover in Singapore. And three days in Singapore are a must. Here is an example:
A flight from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, to Cebu, Philippines:
On the other hand, a flight from Saigon to Singapore:
And from Singapore to Cebu:
Meaning a direct flight costs $142 (and it’s not a good flight, meaning we’re likely to choose a better one that costs $231). Compared with a great flight, with a layover in Singapore, the whole way, Vietnam-Singapore-Cebu, costing a grand total of $123.
B. A flight from the Philippines to Hong-Kong or Japan, round trip, is sometimes so cheap that it hurts missing the opportunity. Keep your finger on the trigger, because for every destination there is one ‘best friend’ destination, and the flights there are very cheap.
C. Bangkok, for example, is a central destination, where a lot of flights stop anyway, you can split the flight to your comfort, book a flight to Bangkok, spend 3-4 days there and continue to your final destination, with a local ‘lowcost’ airliner. There’s even a chance the whole thing will cost less than a direct flight. .
D. Another example- from Israel to Vienna, three sweet days in Vienna, and from there a train to Italy. I’ve done it. It was wonderful. Even brought my dog.
Always check what might be on your way. What can happen if you looked, without raising the costs of the flight and in the most practical, efficient, and adventurous way. Be creative.
3. The amount of time in that destination we can’t afford needs to be very limited. 3-4 days max.
4. Accommodation: after neutralizing the cost of flights, we need to take care of accommodation costs. Example:
A. here is what I do. I never pay for accommodation in an expensive destination. Zero is the new sum total.
B. hospitality clubs- search now in google: write down the name of your specific destination followed by hospitality club. These are clubs that offer free hosting, even for families. Here is one such website.
C. Homestay- same principle, only for a symbolic payment. And it’s not just a place to sleep, you also get guidance and advice from a local (read below what fun we had in Bangkok). Here is one website, and here is another (there’s tons).
D. frequent traveler points- many of the clubs have not only flights but also discounts and packages on hotels. That is the time to use them.
5. Food: easiest and cheapest solution is to not eat for a few days.
But if you really have to, or if the kids insist…
I always eat at the most local places I can find. With the host’s help I can find the most authentic restaurants in the local prices. Don’t let the eye popping lists confuse you “10 best restaurants in Barcelona” don’t interest me, in fact, I don’t look for or waste my time on those lists.
You don’t have to visit the expensive restaurants just to fill a checklist of the destination. The opposite. Go eat with the locals, and see what ‘check’ you’ll feel you did…
and when you come back home and they’ll ask you if you ate at the famous ‘Sultana’, you’ll have a fascinating story about the small restaurant you found where they greeted you so nicely because they’re not used to tourists and they let you taste from this and from that and showed you how that red drink turns purple when you add lemon and when they saw you excited that made you they gave you a taste from that drink whose name, despite every good intention, you just can’t remember but they make it on the spot from some really pretty flower and in the end they didn’t even want to take any money for the meal because Gali is so sweet and reminds them of their daughter when she was her age but of course you paid… and they asked you come tomorrow also and they’ll make something really special, and bring the older kids too, so we can get to know them… 🙂 ~true story
In addition, because I often stay in fully furnished apartments, I prefer to cook at home something tasty and nutritious, and buying the ingredients at the local supermarket is for me an experience into itself.
6. Attractions and luxuries:
Alright, since we managed to eliminate the costs of flight, accommodation, and half of food expenses- you can treat yourself to some attractions, that good ice-cream, and maybe even some shopping.
Also- it’s always worth your time to google your destination together with “free” and “things to do for free” you’ll be surprised how many results you’ll get.
And to close, a recent example:
The plan was to get from Nepal to Vietnam. We split that in two: Nepal-Bangkok, stay three days in Bangkok, and then fly Bangkok-Vietnam.
Accommodation: I booked homestay rooms through Airbnb with the Thai man O. the price was $40 a night for two rooms, but as I said, I didn’t pay for them at all.
Food: we only ate in local restaurants that our host took us to. The food was amazing, the price was about 150-200 baht a meal ($5-6)
We did laundry in the neighborhood for 20 baht per load, $0.5.
Transportation: we took taxis or the sky train (42 baht for the most expensive ticket). The taxis in Bangkok aren’t expensive, especially for a family.
Experiences: we went with our charming host to tours in the city, including Chinatown, the floating market, the palace, and more. In the evening he took the teenager with him to the local pub, to watch the season finale of a popular that gameshow, meet his friends and see the real lives of the locals.
I and my older daughter went on a shopping journey…
Of course we went to have real Thai massage, every evening, in the small neighborhood parlor. I paid 450 baht for me and my two daughters for an hour ($13 altogether)
We got 3 amazing days that left us with new friends, exciting experiences, and lots of new knowledge, great stories, and a good taste.
I paid less than $50 a day, on average.
As you can see, it is possible to travel large on a small budget, even as a family. Please click and download my new ebook “How to travel with kids for 1400$ a month (or less)”.
And you can always try this airline which I usually find very cheap.