When I was 18, 19 years old, I was oddly proud of how I squeezed my last dollar to maximise my travels. Eating baguettes with ketchup to save money in France. Staying in 16-bed dorm rooms in the outskirts of Fukuoka city. Walking for miles in Boston instead of taking the subway. I look back to these memories with mixed feelings - a sense of pride for my tenacity to do more with less, and a sense of embarrassment for being a "beg-packer" (not cool!).
Six years since, the size of my wallet has increased but my motivation to do more with less is still fresh. I still love reading & blogging about money saving hacks that I often use in my #solotravel.
Set Aside Budget for What YOU Truly Enjoy
If you have set out to travel solo or in a small group, you have the freedom to not compromise on what you love doing best in your travels. For me, I love the countryside of any country, which often requires me to set aside budget for express trains, comfy buses or private vans. And the compromise I happily make is to skip touristy stuff of the big city I land in. Don't be bothered by the myth of "It's like I went to Paris and did not see the Eiffel Tower 😱". Who cares! It's your travel, your money - so it's your decision. Trust me, you will thank yourself for doing the thing that interests you most instead of what is most popular on Instagram or TripAdvisor. And if it is a place or activity with little information online, find a trusted local on Solopacker.com to go with you. They'll be glad to help a traveler who has come to do more than just take pictures in their hometown.
Be Prepared with some DIY Meals
My go to DIY meal is a small loaf of sliced bread, cucumber and sliced cheese. Of course I try to grab breakfast at the guesthouse or hotel if available, and of course I would much rather try local delights in the night markets. But a DIY Meal gives you the freedom to choose a more affordable option if you happen to be in an area with limited food options. Have you seen the price of a simple cheese sandwich at the airport. How about a cold bowl of noodle soup up in the mountains for $10 (or higher, depending on how desperate and hungry your face looks after the hike). I know I would not want to be cornered into buying lousy food and save that cash for a feast of my choosing.
Checkout the Local Broadcast when you land
I've traveled across about 46 countries and nearly each of them had a pattern of attractions the local tourism board want you to see and those which the local people want you to see. Take for example the hawker food centres in Singapore. Most of the posts and reviews online are of those near the world famous Marina Bay Sands. But if you ask me or any other local to take you to an authentic yet delicious hawker centre, we are not gonna bring you to those around Marina Bay. This is not just about food. When I went for a short business trip to Jakarta, I logged into my #Solopacker app to find a local who can take me to a trusted shop to buy a formal Batik shirt (if you're tired of the boring blue-white-black office wear, I recommend Batik). It was a neighbourhood shop with the finest materials and even finer discounts for walking into the shop with my new local friend.
Now, I don't mean to judge shoestring budget travelers - heck I was one as a teenager! But part of being a responsible traveler and a truly global citizen is to strike the right balance between saving money and contributing to the local commerce of the country you're traveling in. In my personal view, being a #begpacker is not striking that balance. There are better ways to do that! =)
If you are a local who wants to help travelers visiting your beautiful hometown, you can do that on the Solopacker app with full control over your privacy.