It’s been a long time since I wrote an article on this website. A lot has changed. I’ve quit my job, bought a one way ticket and left home. I’ve now been on the road for more than 5 months. I wanted something new; being in another environment for a longer period and see places in the world that I haven’t seen before. As I wanted to stay on the road for a longer time than I ever did before, sticking to my budget is more important than on any of my previous trips.
My average daily budget is 20 euro per day. That includes all travel costs (food, hostel, local transport etc.). Only international transport is additional. I have to admit that my standards are low. I’m totally fine with sleeping in dorm rooms, although I have had a private sometimes when there were no hostels or when I could share with someone I met on the road, which made it even cheaper than a dorm. I prefer cheap street food over eating in restaurants, so most of my dinners were under 2 euro. I don’t drink every day and when visiting bars I limit my drinking.
Here’s a short summary how I managed to stick to my budget, what drove up the costs and what helped me to save money in a destination.
I only had less than 1 day in Kiev, as this was just a lay-over between my flights. On my previous visit to Kiev I had made some friends, who hosted me for this night. Since the crisis Ukraine has become incredibly cheap, even cheaper than it already was. In those 17 hours in Kiev I spent only 5 euro.
Beijing was another lay-over. It was the same price to fly directly from the Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur as it was with lay-overs in Kiev and Beijing, so I decided to break up the long journey and take advantage of the free 72 hours transit visa for Beijing. The costs of travelling were cheaper than expected and for less than 2 euro you can get a delicious meal. I arrived in Beijing airport at night and in contrast to the information I found on internet there was no bus into the city, so I had to take a cab which added up the cost significantly. I also paid 7 euro entrance fee for the Forbidden City. It was absolutely worth it, but the cost is relatively high. I spend 65 euro in total for 50 hours in Beijing, overspending my budget a little.
I visited both the peninsula and Sabah, Borneo. Sabah is slightly more expensive than the peninsula, but much nicer. The people are more friendly and welcoming and I found more places that I liked. Actually I was a bit disappointed by the peninsula. Although it is easy to stay under 20 euro per day on average, visiting the tropical islands as a daytrip and a 3 day jungle trip added up the costs a little. I paid 75 euro for a 3 day (technically 48 hours) all-inclusive trip into the jungle from Sandakan. This included 4 river cruises, 2 night walking safaris, 1 village walk, another jungle walk, 3 meals per day and an afternoon tea, accomodation in a 4-bed dorm chalet and transport to and from Sandakan. This was an absolute bargain compared to the amount some companies charge and safaris in other parts of the world. As for the costs of living, Malaysia is more expensive than most countries in South East Asia, but cheaper than Singapore, Brunei and Timor Leste. Dorm rooms are 5 euro on average, while street food will set you about 1,5 to 3 euro back. In Malaysia is spent approx 19 euro on average per day.
Brunei is a small country in Borneo surrounded by Malaysia, but far more expensive than most other destinations. Hostels don’t exist, so I ended up booking the cheapest AirBNB, about 2 kilometres from the capital’s city centre. It was 14 euro per night. You won’t find much street food in Brunei and a cheap meal in a Indian restaurant starts at 5 euro. I was lucky that there were festivities when I was visiting and there were extra night markets. Here I managed to buy meals for less than 2 euro and got the opportunity to meet locals. The people in Brunei are more open to foreigners than in other places in South East Asia and often they gave me some extra food ‘to try’ after a short conversation. I overspent my budget by a few euro per day in Brunei, but that was forseen.
Singapore is known as an expensive destination in South East Asia, but actually I was suprised how affordable Singapore is. It’s true that Singapore can be very expensive, but only if you eat and drink in the very centre and visit one of the overpriced attractions. Singapore however is also full of free places to visit. The prices of excellent street food in China Town or Little India were about the same as they are in Malaysia. However, accommodation is relatively expensive and I spent about 13 euro per night for a bed in a dorm, 3 times more than most places in South East Asia. Alcohol is also very expensive, in particular in bars, so I didn’t visit any, but sometimes bought a beer in the supermarket for about 2 euro per can. I managed to stick to my budget in Singapore and spent 20 euro on average per day.
Indonesia was together with Bangkok the cheapest destination and also the destination where I had the most fun. I just kept running into nice people. I spent between 4 and 7 euro per night for a dorm bed and sometimes even had a private room for the same price. Food is extremely cheap, I often had a great dish with rice, meat and vegetables for less than 1 euro. If I didn’t order a meat dish, I often spent 50 cents or less. It was really delicious and most days I ordered I rice dish 2 or 3 times per day. Some days I rented a motor bike to travel around, visit places for which there is an entrance fee of a few euro and took 6 or 7 massages for about 5 euro and went out quite a few times, which added up the costs, but still I spent only 17 euro per day on average.
Timor Leste is South East Asia’s most off the beaten country. It’s a beautiful place, but I was literally the only traveller in each hostel I stayed at and locals speak no English, except the last night. I started to feel a bit lonely and had a desire to go back to Indonesia after a week, so I left Timor Leste earlier than expected. I don’t regret going there though, as Timor Leste is a great country from a cultural perspective. Even though it was a bit pricier than other places, I kept the costs down to 19 euro per day by doing no other activities than walking around and taking a return trip to Baucau from Dili.
I had a flight booked to Mauritius and I had 12 spare days since my Indonesian visa expired, so I decided to book the cheapest ticket to a place I hadn’t been to before. I didn’t have a desire to travel around the country and rather took it easy, so basically I have just been hanging out in Bangkok and went twice on a daytrip. I spent only 14 euro on average per day in Bangkok. Bangkok is cheap; good street food can be bought for about 1 euro and I paid about 5 euro per night for a dorm bed. On the second day Thailand’s king died, so all pubs and clubs were closed for several days and there was neither any alcohol for sale at shops, which also helped me to save some money. They daytrips were also very cheap. No entrance fee was charged in Ayuthhaya and the railway market and floating market were also for free. The 2-hour train ride to Ayutthaya was less than 1 euro, while the bus ride to the markets were only 2 euro.
Mauritius was the last destination in my first 4 months on the road. It is a 7-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, but as AirAsia just started this route they had a great promotion so I paid only 70 euro for this flight. Mauritius is mostly about its beaches and therefore attracts many package tourists that stay in expensive resorts. There are however a few places that cater budget travellers, but hostels don’t exist. Most places catering backpackers cost approx. 20 euro per night. In Grand Bay I found a 2 bedroom appartment for 13 euro per night and the son of the owner even took me for free on a tour for Diwali. The place was a bit filthy, but moneywise an absolute bargain. Local food and public transport can be cheap though. I spent 10 days in Mauritius and spent 25 euro per day on average.
20 euro per day
When I left home, I didn’t know if I would manage to stick to my budget of 20 euro per day. After 4 months my average spendings were 18,92 euro per day, so I even stayed a little under my budget. However, I have now set foot on the African continent, which is significantly more expensive than South East Asia. I’m travelling around Southern Africa and the prices here are close to those in Europe. I knew Africa would be more expensive, so I raised my budget to 25 euro a day, although that seems very tight too.
Before I left home I had quit all my jobs, as they all required me to be in the Netherlands. As of October I picked up a small writing job. I write articles about destinations and hostels on hostelz.com to provide the users of the website better and reliable information about a the hostel scene in a destination or a particular hostel. Hostelz.com (with a ‘z’) is a website that compares all hostel booking website and helps consumers to find the best fares. Previously I only used booking.com and sometimes Hostelworld to book a hostel, but since I work for Hostelz.com I realize that I can sometimes get a better deal on another website and thus I started to use hostelz.com instead, as it saves me a little bit of money. I can also work as a massage therapist, but I haven’t done this often on the road. I feelt his people often react a bit hestitant when the topic comes up, so I don’t put too much effort in making a business out of massage on the road. I don’t get by from the income I receive on the road, but it is a nice bonus at least. I expect that I will have earned one month of travelling back by the end of January.
The way I’m travelling now allows me to stay on the road for a few more months, but some time in spring I will have to find a way to make some serious, which can either be back home, but I much rather find something that allows me to stay on the road for much longer.