Thursday, May 29, 2014

Keeping budget within during Backpacking

Just how I always open every piece of what I write in this personal site, I always say, I'm that traveller who's just so spontaneous without prior reading, etc.

Well, for this long term backpacking trip, i've made a few reading about backpacking Southeast Asia. Not enough to be close to the reality though (I realized).

Some of those I've read suggests an average of $10-$15 as a minimum budget per day which seemed very encouraging. There also, I have a friend who has done Southeast asia backpacking for the same budget (around $12) per day, so I was confident I can do it as advised.

My first stop was thailand, which I have accepted as that which will take the bigger portion of my costs pie. This is why I have tried to limit my stay in thailand as less as necessarily interesting.

Malaysia's the same (and in fact, I'm expecting it to be more expensive than thailand, though I don't really have much in my list for Malaysia, so that's fine).

Indonesia came next; Of all the countries I will be visiting, Indonesia is that which I am most interested with as I think it mirrors a lot of my country; Not only the beaches, and mountains, and reefs, but also when it comes to culture, social issues, etc.

It would have been easiest and most convenient for me to put Indonesia in the last of my list (since it's quite close to my country), but I did not want to end up not being able to visit Indonesia because I've overspent somewhere and I have no more remaining funds for this country. 

This is why I put it ahead.

Based from what i heard before from other friends who's gone Indonesia, and also from a colleague back in the Philippines who's an Indonesian, I am not expecting to spend even the average ($12/day) in this country. In fact, I decided to make my trip to this country for 2 months, to help even out what I may have been spending in thailand and Malaysia.

Lombok was my first stop, and while I was expecting our planned Mt Rinjani climb to cost a lot, I did not expect the rest of the other things like food, accomodation, etc to be costing close to the average. 

Apparently, I am wrong. 

So far, I never availed services of laundry. It has been a month of travelling, and while I have been tempted to do it in thailand, since it's pretty cheap using those laundry machines on the road, I was telling myself, I'd rather not spend on anything not necessary no matter how cheap it goes.

By the time I run out of money, it would be difficult to even perhaps take laundry service from other backpackers I may be meeting just to get money to fund my travel further.

In Krabi, upon my arrival, I took out all my dirt clothes, and perhaps took 1.5 hours in the washroom tackling the stains; To my recall, there's probably 7 shirts, 5 shorts, and 4 undewears I washed.

At my exit from the toilet, I saw a sign, which I saw too on my way to toilet but did not bother, that said, NO WASHING OF CLOTHES OR WE CHARGE DOUBLE OF YOUR ROOM RATE.

I rushed to get into my room, so as not to be seen holding (a lot of) laundry.

There would be times when there is nowhere to hang clothes, so it will be handy to bring a lightweight yarn/nylon to hang around. Whenever possible, I don't waste the chance to clean up some clothes, no matter if it's just 2 out of 8 waiting (to be washed) or the whole set (if possible anyway).

It feels awkward to be hanging underwear everywhere, as it seems people send their underwears to the laundry too, but what i did was cover them with a thin textile, like my headware, so that they don't attract attention.

For transpo, it's cheaper to book in groups rather than individual. You may want to ask around the people you meet for their plans, iti, or destinations. Keep searching on social media such as facebook groups, using hashtags, and searching through forums. May not be as much saving, but it is still savings. It will also help a lot especially when you are in places where there are no dorm rooms, or just that the price of dorm room is almost the price of a room.

If you plan to stay longer, if legally possible, you can probably consider buying (and sell later) a motorbike. This is especially useful in Vietnam where you can sell your bike later in Cambodia where bikes are more expensive.

For Food, around 90% of the time, I would proabably be eating nasi goreng (from Thailand, to Malaysia, to Indonesia). Back home, I try to stay away from Rice, but for now, since it's the most filling at the cheapest price I can get, I just sticked to it. In vietnam and thailand, you can easily get cheap rice meals everywhere. It will also be handy to keep photos of food you normally order so in cases where there is no English menu available, or pictures of food they serve, you have something to show them.

In Malaysia, there will even be rice in coconut oil that sells for 1-2MYR. good enough for breakfast with coffee (0.7-2MYR)

In Luang Prabang in Laos, you can eat less on the streetside for lunch, and stack up in the evening on the vegetarian buffet for just $1.20.

Whenever there's a huge serving, I get it on take away, and eat the rest for the next meal.

There are also some probably not so cheap restaurants but with great view or fancy seating. What i did was order the cheapest I could, just so I can get the view and the seat. In this restaurant in Vang Vieng, Laos (where food is expensive) I ordered steamed rice inly and a fruitshake (which was a good buy at $0.60), an took out my $0.30 sardine can and lounged there for hours.

In Lombok, where accomodation itself is already almost $10 since there are no backpacker dorms and below this rate (except in Gili Meno), i bought myself a kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and decided to have this for at least one meal of the day (topped over white rice which would cost only 3000IDR).

Also, if you are in places where cheap food is almost nowhere, try looking for an opportunity to cook. Some hostels allow use of their kitchen, or give free hot water. That case, you can probably stick onto instant noodles at least for that time. There are also cheap and handy water heaters that you can probably buy around.

You may also want to bring your water bottles so you will not need to buy drinks from the restaurant. In case you see 5L/6Liter water, go for that for the savings. You also help in keeping the community ecological. Also, i've trained myself to not beingg so particular with water. The more that you try to protect yourself, the more harm than you give yourself actually. You just make yourself super sensitive. Train yourself to drinking from tap. Unless you are in some complicated and highly urbanized and crowded cities, check if you can drink from tap instead.

In thailand (seen in Krabi and Chiang Mai), there are refilling kiosks on the road where you can refill a liter bottle for just 1 THB.

In case you're a coffee person like me, you may want to buy your instant coffee (3in1) and ask for water instead from your guesthouse. In case you are an addict as I am, for instance, in Vietnam, you can buy your filter for $1, and your granules for $3 per 500g. You can just ask your guesthouse for hot water then (and there was even a case we used shower heater water for our coffee.)

For the lack of dorms, luckily, upon arrival in Kuta Beach, I met a French Vietnamese surfer who was cool enough to share a room and others available for sharing, like the motorbike. We took a room in Ketapang homestay just in the beach road for 120K/night, so each is just 60K.

The Rock Backpacker Dorm in Ko Phi Phi, thailand

Gecko Guesthouse in Langkawi, Malaysia

75 Traveller's Inn in Penang, Malaysia

There are also some volunteer work in exchange for accomodation (and meals at times depending in the hours of work per day) which you may be interested in taking. Some sites like and or provide listings (for a registration fee) though some of them may be outdated. Helpx provide details of the last login and last update info for the hosts, but so far, out of the, probably 10messages i sent, i have not gotten a reply. 

Also, i did not want to spend for a registration fee in this site, and luckily i met a this indian guy in koh lanta who was willing to share his account with me. We just changed the password into something that we can share. Then, I just put the story on my emails to the host, to let them know i am co sharing an account (though i am not sure if this is a reason for not getting a reply til now). Of all three sites, wwoof is the one i've seen with most (and new) listings, then (between helpx and workaway, from the feedback i got from backpackers I met), it seems workaway is better.

Nevertheless, i see some replies from hosts through the messages sent by this indian cool guy, so it probably works; just not for the specific listings that i was sending messages to.

I also bought a local wine at cheap price compared to beer or cocktails in the bar, and put it in my thermal mug. It's what I drink when I go to the bar, and order water instead (which anyway, anywhere, is nearly the price you'd get it from a minimart).

You may feel some self pity after doing some of this (especially if you're probably not from a third world country or a third class family like me) but again, luxury is the last thing you'll need in travelling;  And the sight, sound and feel of travelling will make it so much worth. It's just about humility, self control, and extending your capabilities, experience and outlook. There may be times when you'd envy on the villas, buffet, speedboats, etc.. But these people don't have the same living freedom that you get.

Going around, try and see if you can join some local groups. More than the company, you have authentic information right from locals, and in cases, they could give you more tips on how to tour their place for cheap (if not tour you around themselves).

Most of all, stick to just what you need. Avoid yourself from buying unnecessary stuff such as souveneirs and such. Keep your fancy train, bus, boarding passes, entry tickets to museums etc. This is added baggage to your luggage too remember, which, in a good chance, will end up as rubbish after a few years.

I'll keep the article updated as I progress from my #limbonisASIA trip.

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