The cheaper the better right? Especially when it concerns a constant expense for budget travelers…Well that isn’t always the case when it comes to choosing transport. It’s easy to say just to chose the cheapest budget travel transport option but in reality cheapest is not always practical nor good for your sanity. However the choice is yours.
In this post we will cover them all, from getting around locally to getting around nationally without breaking either the bank or your back. You will have a better understanding of what to choose for your future travels.
Although you might be a budget traveler, you are all going to be in different situations, some will be able to afford more than others, so choosing what type of budget travel transport you go for is your prerogative.
It’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions beforehand though:
- What is the most affordable option for you?
- What’s the most practical way to get around?
- What are you most comfortable with?
- What is the safety aspects like – For you and your belongings?
- Are you traveling alone or with others and can share costs?
- What is the location, terrain, or landscape like?
- What transport is available where you are?
Those are some basic things you want to think about or ask yourself before deciding which budget travel transport option to take. As mentioned before sometimes the cheapest option is not the most practical, safest or comfortable – And that can become tricky
Can’t work out exact costs until you are there
While It’s great doing your research before hand, and there is a plethora of information, there are comparison sites and posts like this making you aware of your budget travel transport options, you will not get exact prices until you are paying for the transport.
There are reliable and trusted websites (Which I cover later in the post) that are great to get a general idea of costs but the best thing to do once traveling is get local knowledge.
- Check out local timetables – for buses and trains
- Ask locals how they get around, get insights from them
- Watch what people pay for transport – sometimes there are local prices and tourist prices
- See what transport is used more by locals
- Get an idea of what and how you will feel comfortable traveling in
These little things will make traveling and transport costs much smoother as your journey develops.
12 local and national affordable transport options for budget travelers
Let’s dive right into it. What we are going to do is spit it into two sections. The first half of this budget travel transport post we will look into getting around locally.
Your most common and affordable transport options are:
- Walking, Cycling , E scooters
- Tuk-Tuks/ Caminos/shared taxis
- Local buses/chicken buses
While not the most popular option, walking is one of the best ways to get around locally. By just walking around you can feel what the local area is really like.
- It’s free – saving money instantly
- Its good for your health
- Get a true grip on your bearings
- Figure things out for yourself
- Get used to local layout
E-scooters and renting bicycles are becoming increasingly popular the world over, they are cheap, get you around quicker than walking and can be fun and quite scenic if you head out of heavily populated areas.
Tuk-tuks/Caminos/shared taxis are cheap budget travel options
In certain regions of the world especially South east Asia and Central and South America, Tuk-Tuks, Caminos and shared taxis are very common and in most cases the cheapest budget travel transport option to get around locally.
Most of the time they cost next to nothing but you do have to be aware of a few certain things before using them:
- Make sure you agree a price before getting in the Tuk-Tuk – there will be some haggling needed. However if you do not agree a price before hand, they have the right to charge you whatever they want. (It’s like an unwritten rule)
- If a Tuk-Tuk driver starts off with a ridiculously low price, It’s a scam, walk away. In most cases they will present a stupidly low price, but instead of taking you directly to your destination they will detour to many shops and merchants they have a deal with and implore you to buy something in the shops or from the merchants as they get a cut.
- Check what locals are paying on other shared transport like Caminos, and shared taxis and make sure you have the right change or close to it
Local buses/ chicken buses are great budget travel transport options for you - If you're brave enough!
Every town, every city has some sort of local bus that runs through to take you around the local area. Some will be straight forward, getting you from a to b with no issues and others can give you the fright of your life or even take you on an adventure.
Things to be prepared for with local buses in certain regions:
- Being overcrammed
- Livestock on transport
- Holes in buses
- Buses falling apart
- Experiencing culture shock on the bus
- Not being the most comfortable
Without being overly paranoid do have your wits about you and keep your personal belongings in a safe place. Do watch out for pickpockets.
Try and not to stand out too much as a tourist, be courteous, even learn a few words to get by, and remember you might not be used to their customs or ways of doing things but you’re a guest in their country. And also It’s always worth just having the right change for the ride. Often when you give larger amounts they will not have change to give; they’ll either refuse letting you on, or just pocket your money.
Sometimes you will find different levels of local buses ask around and keep your eyes peeled for the normal local buses and others that may be lower in quality but cheaper.
Most major cities and some towns have networked public transport systems whether they call it a metro/subway/underground train lines. They cost next to nothing and can be the quickest way to get around local or close destinations within a certain radius.
Timetables, schedules, platforms even how to buy tickets can feel overwhelming at first, especially if they are written in a foreign language but most are very simple to use. If you feel yourself being overwhelmed just take a step back, relax, or ask somebody for help. The first time will be the hardest but It’s easy to get used to.
They can be very light on your budget It’s well worth looking into:
- Discount cards
- Daily/weekly/monthly passes
- Zone passes
- Check if there are bundled options like activities/tours/entrance discounts to places like museums, churches, galleries included
The more you can get out of them the better It is for your own budget.
Again like with local transport, use your common sense, have your wits about you and keep you personal belongings to yourself.
Uber/grab/privatised taxis/traditional taxis
A taxi ride of any sort will inevitably be the most expensive backpacker transport options but sometimes there are no other options, and you have to bite the bullet. Depending on what type of country you’re traveling within, be wary of taxi scams, do a little research into official taxis.
Do make sure before getting into certain taxi’s
- They are legitimate companies, there are fake firms that disguise themselves as the official ones (do your research into them beforehand so you know which ones are legitimate)
- Make sure they put the meter on. A lot will try and convince you it’s cheaper off the meter but they’re likely to overcharge and scam you
- If you do go off the meter, then you need to haggle and agree on a price before you get in
- Be wary of airport taxis and those outside bus/train stations, some are not real, and others will over charge you because of airport tax. It’s easier just to walk away from the airport and catch one from a quieter area
- If people hound you or try forcing you into a taxi, stay well clear
- Download the official taxi app if they have one, it’s a much safer way to book
Uber operates pretty much globally and other similar private transportation companies like Grab in South East Asia, operate all over the world and can be a lot cheaper, safer and more regulated than regular taxi’s.
That’s about it for your common local transport options, as you can see they are all very cost effective, will not put a too much of a dent in your budget.
National budget travel transport options
Lets turn our attention to the second section: Budget travel transport for longer distance travel, getting around nationally that has the potential to burn a hole in pockets if not chosen carefully.
- Nationalized buses
- Organized tour buses/ Hop-on, hop-off buses
- Buying renting vehicles
Let’s get this out the way first!
Before we get into the national budget travel transport options available for you most of them will offer the chance of taking an overnight ride. In theory this is great – It transports you overnight so you don’t miss out on a day, and it saves on a nights rent – Perfect right? – NO! – Overnight journeys, especially for budget travelers can be the bain of your traveling life.
Not all are bad, there are some that are comfortable, and you will not step off in the morning cursing everything you can or vow never to take them again. But (there’s always a but) it is game of Russian roulette.
Your typical choices for overnight buses are:
- No frills: budget transport, no meals included, the bus feels like a tin can about to fall apart, no heating or air-con, and seats ready to break every bone in your body
- Mid-level: No meals or drinks included but snacks may be, offer slightly more comfort, seats/beds may not recline all the way back or just stay reclined with the bus in a little better condition
- Luxury: Offer meals and drinks, have comfortable seats/beds, offer more security, suspension in good working order, heating/aircon works and, most of the time, newer buses. The most luxurious ones offer similar service to planes and come with bus attendants
If the country you are traveling through has a nationalised budget travel transport option while they may seem like the safest and most trusted option there are a few things you should do before committing.
- Compare prices with different companies
- Prices can vary depending on time of journey, when you book your ticket and even the day you want to travel
- Check the route – Will it be using highways or taking back roads
- Check if the bus goes directly to your destination or if it stops in another place and you have to complete the journey by local transport
- Look into the terrain you will be traveling through – Sometimes it may seem like a simple journey, but the terrain can make it arduous
- How long the journey will be
- How many stops there will be in between
- Check reviews but read between the lines – that they deliver on what they say
- Check if you need to pre-book and if so how long in advance
When looking at cost take into account if they provide food and drinks or not. Some offer the option and include it in the price (I was once given a McDonalds during a long distance journey).
Taking local transport for long distance journeys
If you cannot deal with or cope with long distance journeys or want to break your journey up or just want to take your time discovering local towns before you reach your end destination there is also the option to take local transport.
You can take a local bus to the next town, and once you’re ready to leave take another to the next. This can work out to be more cost effective, but your comfort may be lower. You will just have to find the right bus stop or station and the right bus, jump on and head to the next town.
With either option again, remember to take care of your personal belongings. There can be theft on buses from people not paying attention and keeping an eye on their belongings. For instance, don’t just push your bag under your seat with valuables in it and not pay attention.
Backpacker tour buses are a popular choice of budget travel transport option
If you are not comfortable or feel safe taking public transport, or want to be with other travelers there can be the option of backpacker tour buses to not just get you around but do activities in groups with fellow travelers.
What they do for you:
- Have your whole trip planned out for you
- Pre-determined routes
- Will only stop at places on their itinerary and at well-known attractions
- Sometimes meals and accommodation is organised for you
- Get to travel with other travelers
- Everything paid for in advance
There are different types of organised tour buses all over the world and with the right research you can find the one that suits your needs. You anything from Gap year party buses to relaxed quiet tour buses.
While everything is normally preplanned, booked and pre-determined for you it does take away your freedom to travel how you want.
Hop on-off buses
If you like the idea of having your route set out for you but do not want to strictly travel within organised tour restraints you can look into if a hop on-off bus pass is available.
With this option, your whole route is laid out, you pay for the tickets in advance but you get to choose when to get off or leave a destination within a certain timeframe.
This is a good option to look into if you are on a tight budget, are traveling for a set timeframe but with the flexibility to stay in one destination longer than another.
Another budget travel transport option with the right research is to take a train, many countries around the world have long distance and sleeper trains. However just like with overnight buses they can be arduous depending on if you choose 1st 2nd or even 3rd class.
However taking a train through a country can be very scenic and there are some picturesque routes around the world.
Although trains will be a quicker option, they tend to be more expensive than bus journeys, so you will have to decide on what would suit you best.
If you’re planning on backpacking through Europe, a cost effective way is by train. There are multiple interconnected countries you can travel through and a lot of backpackers choose to buy train passes. There are a selection of passes, ranging from single trips to monthly.
Renting/ buying – campervan or other vehicle
Many budget travelers traveling long term chose to have the ultimate freedom and rent or buy their own vehicle. If you have an international drivers licence and confident to travel on foreign roads then It’s a viable option for you.
As with all budget travel transport options you will of course have to do your research and due diligence. If you don’t then it could work out to be very costly for you.
There are a number of options to buy and rent vehicles while traveling:
- Showroom cars
- Budget travel and backpacker specific rental companies
- National and international rental companies
- Bulletin board and notice boards
- Local knowledge and insights
Sometimes backpackers buy their own vehicle, once they are done traveling will sell it on to the next traveler.
Life in a camper can be fun, you can save money on rent by camping out or in the vehicle but do make provisions for breakdowns.
Flying can sometimes provide good budget travel transport options
It might not sound like a good budget travel transport option for budget travelers but sometimes it can be especially in regions like Europe.
It’s always worth checking out the price of domestic or regional flights, especially within Europe with EasyJet, Ryan Air, and Wizz air and South East Asia with AirAsia. The obvious benefit to flying is that it gets you to your destination quicker, sometimes you just can’t handle another long distance bus journey. And that flight which takes 40 minutes instead of 9 hours on a bus will just be too enticing to miss.
There are budget airlines all over the world, that can offer flights, sometimes for the same price as a bus or train journey and can be a good budget travel transport option if you book at the right time. Like I mentioned, It’s always worth to keep an eye on them; they might just save your sanity.
Just the thought of sticking a thumb up, getting into a vehicle with a complete stranger, sometimes not even knowing the end destination is a scary skin-crawling thought to many people. Yet so many travelers swear by it especially budget travelers. For many it’s the only way they will travel.
Before you start hitchhiking, you should get familiar with certain aspects, including the culture and etiquette of the roadside in your particular destination.
Things to do before and during:
- Check the rules of the road.
- Is hitchhiking permitted or frowned upon in that destination?
- Are there any cultural codes you need to know
- Get accustomed to the roads
- Pick a safe spot to stand in to get picked up
- Have enough food and water
- Be prepared for people to ignore you
- Make sure you are visible—wear bright clothes
- Make sure your backpack (or other luggage) is visible
- Have a friendly demeanor and smile
- Women may get picked up quicker than guys
- Be clear about where you want to go
Your safety should be your paramount priority. If you feel uncomfortable, then evaluate your surroundings. If it still doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it, don’t get into a vehicle with somebody you feel uncomfortable with.
Useful websites for budget travel transport options
In most cases your best budget travel transport options are to seek out budget travel transport options locally when you arrive at your destination, however below are some websites that can be quite helpful when looking into or booking transport.
- Check my bus – A good site that lets you check and book local bus journeys all around the world.
- Routes international – Covers every mode of transport from all around the world.
- The man in seat 61 – One of the most comprehensive and reputable train travel guide/search and booking portal on the internet. Includes local, trans-country and trans-regional train journeys from all around the world.
- Rome to Rio – A global trip planner by any mode of transport in any country around the world.
- 100 useful budget travel websites – This page lists some very useful websites you can use throughout your budget travel journey
For the best underground/subway/metro maps, you need to look up for each individual country.
Do you have a better idea of what budget travel transport options are available
Has this budget travel transport post provided more of an understanding of the different types of transport you can fit around your tight budget?
As you can see as you’re moving around there will be different options, different cost effective ways to move around but you will have to get local insights and do your research.
The more money you save on transport the better use you can put it to but remember to find that balance between price and comfort.
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