We know what you’re thinking but yes….it is possible and were going to share how!
Whilst finishing up our six amazing weeks travelling around Malaysia we sat down to tally up our total spend and assess the dreaded ‘B’ word…budget! A quick glance at our, very basic, spreadsheet we were surprised ourselves when our final spend came to just £500 each! It certainly hadn’t felt like we’d lived on a shoestring so we thought we would share how we did it and some easy tips on how to make the cash last on your travels!
1.) Make a set budget
Yep, its boring and something no-one wants to think about when they are travelling but its one of the most important aspects of budget travelling (especially if you have no time limit on your trip).
Step 1 – Accommodation budget. Set this early on as its going to be the biggest expense wherever you go (see point 2). As a point of reference for us it was £6 each a night MAX. If its more walk on down the road and you’ll normally find something cheaper, sometimes better, and it will make you feel good knowing you didn’t just jump at the first option! Alternatively…haggle, negotiate, beg.
(Some accommodation will include breakfast in the price, always ask if this is the case and take it without for cheaper and buy your own food at the supermarket if its out of budget to begin with)
Step 2 – Food & Drink budget. Of course this varies largely depending on the time you have, your overall budget or how hungry you are each day but for us this is just the rest of our daily budget (£15 each a day). It may sound measly but this is tried and tested and we only put the budget in place after spending extortionate amounts in the first week of our trip and giving ourselves quite a shock! Unfortunately, for most of us, alcohol is the most expensive thing in Malaysia so to put it simply, we stopped drinking. Fresh mind, body and soul…or wait until you find a cheap shop or duty free island and stock up!
2.) Assess your accommodation options
For us this meant almost completely avoiding hostel rooms! In our experience nearly everywhere in Malaysia it was cheaper to get a private room than paying for two separate beds in the same dorm. we had been fully prepared for dorm rooms but really this was a bit of a win. Being a couple obviously helps when it comes to sharing a double bed but twin rooms are generally the same price too! Socially not the best but you can meet people anywhere right?! Plus this also allowed us the extra cash to stay in dorms when we wanted to party, meet people or simply get away from each other (yes it happens!)
3.) Eat local
This is a rule we always abide by wherever we travel as there really is no better way to get to know a place than eating where the locals eat. Not only does it get you off the beaten track, opens you up to trying new food but also to the locals – we’ve met many just by sharing a roadside table! Malay food is centred mostly around ‘Nasi’ – rice or ‘Mie’ – noodles but with such a mix of cultures there is also some amazing Chinese and Indian cuisine to be had too. Look out for street food stalls lining the streets at night, pull up a chair and wait to be delighted…and if you find the right place the generous portions generally cost no more than £1!
4.) Two big meals a day
We know what you’re thinking, that isn’t enough food! Rest assured your stomach will shrink and we found that generally with our daily pattern a late breakfast/brunch and dinner was more than enough! After all, we are talking about big plates of rice and noodles all day, every day! Oh and as an added bonus you’ll shed a few unwanted pounds that the lack of exercise may have missed…bonus! If you find this isn’t enough then you can always pick up some cheap biscuits/snacks in a local supermarket. While we are on the subject, stay out of 7eleven and head to the local shops normally next door, it will be half the price (especially for beer) and helps to support the local community too!
Travelling is all about going with the flow, exploring and discovering amazing things in every place you visit….true, but you can still do this while knowing you have got a good deal or you are booked onto something awesome at the same time! For example, if like in Malaysia you can do a snorkelling trip on every island irrelevant of whether it is good or bad research first where the actual best place to do it is and save yourselves for that! You’ve planned, tick. Avoided the fear of missing out, tick. And saved, tick!
So there you have it…simples! Overall our best advice for creating a budget would be, think very carefully about how long you are going to be/want to be away for, what other activities you want to do while you are away (skydive, diving, bungy jump etc), what level your bank account has to hit for you to get scared about going home and how many amazing countries there are to visit on your trip! Once you have all of this get a weekly budget and take another £10-£20 off. Trust us, once you get in the habit of scrimping, saving and looking out for a bargain it actually becomes quite a fun game to play in each city! Plus with all the extra cash you have saved you can still splash out once in a while on big nights out, nice dinners or days in expensive infinity pools…and it makes it all the more worth it!
C & J