(Last Updated On: June 17, 2018)

Budget travel transport options.

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Budget travel transport options.

As ridiculous as it sounds, one of the biggest pains about budget traveling can be the actual traveling from point A to B. It can be such a headache figuring out a balance between comfort, convenience, and cheapness.

When choosing budge travel transport options you might be tempted just to seek out the cheapest (and sometimes you have no other choice) but trust me when you’re traveling long-distances you need some comfort to make it through the journey.

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Sometimes you hear about the glamour of traveling but the nuts and bolts, the in-between’s don’t really get a mention because it’s not glamorous.

I’m just being real with you, as a budget traveler you will endure different levels of comfort and some journeys will be a nightmare. However, with the right research, you can find some bargains and get a good balance in comfort and cost.

So the question is – What are your transport options as a budget traveler?

Intercity/ local traveling.

Most countries will have a local option, these generally tend to be the cheapest. In underdeveloped countries, you’re likely to find Tuk-Tuks, Caminos, chicken buses, local buses, even horse, and carriage.

 

You should keep in mind, although local transport is the cheapest, the drivers will know you’re not a local and will try to charge you a little extra. There are a few simple ways to combat this, try speaking a few words in the local language, don’t act like a tourist, have a local companion with you, see how much others are paying and just give the right amount of change.

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Public transport – buses/trains/metro systems.

Most developed countries have networked public transport systems whether that’s buses, trains or interlinking metro systems. If you are planning to stay in the region for a prolonged amount of time it’s a good idea to invest in passes or discount cards. For budget travelers, they can really help with your budget. There will be different types of passes, daily/weekly/monthly, some will be unlimited travel, zone passes and some with come with activities included or discounts on activities so these are great budget travel transport options.

In smaller villages and towns, you can typically rent bicycles or just walk around. If it’s within your means you can rent cars or mopeds too.

Taxi/Uber/other private transportation.

A taxi ride of any sort will inevitably be your most expensive choice 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 that they have a meter, if they don’t, you should haggle and agree on a price BEFORE you sit in the taxi. Remember if you think it seems too expensive then it probably is.

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Bluebird taxis were regulated taxi’s in Bali and always on the meter.

Uber and other private transportation companies operate all over the world and can be cheaper than regular taxi’s.

Long distant traveling.

Overnight buses.

An overnight long distant journey is something you will need to get acquainted with as a budget traveler and they can be the bane of your life. So why take them? Well, in theory, taking an overnight bus saves you on a nights accommodation and you’re not wasting a day by traveling.

However, the practicality of it is, yes you are saving a night’s rent but in some cases, you sacrifice a night’s sleep. What I’m saying is don’t expect to get much sleep, you might nod in and out but your journey can be bumpy, uncomfortable, too hot/cold, even too noisy. And, there is no logical reason for this but bus drivers love to blast the air-con (no matter how hot or cold it is) in the dead of the night and blast local music always around 4 am!

In choosing buses for long-distant travel you’ll normally be greeted with a choice ranging from no-frills tin pots to luxury budget options. And, in certain countries, the luxury budget options will not put you out of pocket so I highly recommend going for them, for your sanity to remain intact. Luxury options generally come with meals included, regular stops and comfortable with fully reclining seats or makeshift beds.

Local buses.

If taking long-distant journeys are off-putting, then depending on your time-frame, you may consider breaking up your journey by taking smaller trips on local buses. This way you can go from town to town and see more of the country before you get to your desired destination. However, this option is quite time-consuming and can get tiring and also might just turn out more expensive.

Backpacker tour/ hop on-off buses.

A popular choice amongst first-time solo and budget travelers is to take either a tour bus or a hop on-off bus.

Backpacker tour bus.

Essentially they’re party buses catered towards gap year travelers, which are organized by tour companies. If you have a set time in which to travel, like your itinerary laid out for you, want to meet other travelers and want a party along the way – this would be your ideal choice. Most companies will offer various routes through a country with pre-determined stops, activities, excursions, and accommodation for you. With this option, you’ll spend a set amount of time at each stop; which can range from a few hours to a few days. The packages will be pre-paid when you book. If you are looking to travel solo for the first time but afraid that you’ll be lonely, this is a good option to combat that.

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Hop on-off buses.

If you want more flexibility and don’t want your itinerary laid out for you but you are looking for a set route, this might be a better option for you. There are a number of different options that come with Hop on-off buses, you have the freedom to choose your starting and finishing destinations as well where you want to stop along the way but you have to decide that before you book the ticket. Most typically with this option, your trip will be for a set amount of time, however, you have the freedom to stop in a particular destination as long as you like within the set time period.

There are both advantages and disadvantages with Hop on-off buses. The advantages would be that your route is laid out for you, you have the flexibility to stop where you want and how long you want and you’re not stuck a whole journey with the same people. The disadvantages are that sometimes the bus will only run through a particular destination on certain days or at certain times, so that takes away some of the flexibility, sometimes drivers can be funny with you, sometimes your bus doesn’t turn up.

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(Note: In most cases, you have to call or get in touch with the bus company 24 hours before you intend to move destination to confirm your seat on the bus.)

For both of these options, the most popular traveling destinations and backpacker tour companies have a number of choices available for you. For example STA travel: – package tours.

Trains.

Another alternative is to take a train, many countries around the world have long distance and sleeper trains; some train journeys can be quite scenic. Just like with the buses, trains come will offer different levels of comfort, I know some people who have vowed never to take a sleeper train ever again but others who loved the experience. There are some countries where taking a train ride is an adventure in itself.

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.

Budget travel transport options: Renting.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a good ol’ road trip? Renting a car or a campervan lets you take the road trip to the next level. If it’s within your means and you can drive then renting is a highly recommended option. Renting a vehicle provides you the ultimate freedom. You are the master of your journey; take the route you want, travel when and how you want, as fast or slow you want. And also another benefit of renting is you can save on accommodation costs; rent a campervan and that’s your transport and accommodation rolled into one.

The majority of countries around the world allow you to rent vehicles and there are so many services on offer for budget travelers.

However, there are a few things to consider before jumping into a campervan. You should look into fuel costs, reliability, will the terrain be too difficult for you to navigate? Will you be driving on the same side of the road as you’re used to? Are the rules of the road the same as what you’re used to? I.E driving in South East Asia and South America is totally different to driving in a Western Country.

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Flying.

Sometimes budget travelers automatically assume flying is too expensive but that’s not always the case. It’s always worth checking out the price of domestic or regional flights, especially within Europe and South East Asia. The obvious benefit to flying is that it gets you to your destination quicker.

An example of this would be during my time in Colombia, rather than taking a 9-hour bus ride from Medellin to Bogota, which I had heard from other travelers to be treacherous, I opted for a 1-hour flight and only cost me a couple of dollars more than the bus ride.

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Hitchhiking.

You might be surprised to hear that hitchhiking is actually quite popular with budget travelers and less dangerous than you might think. Hitchhiking not only gives you a sense of adventure, you never know who you’re going to meet but also it’s free! And for a budget traveler, anything that is free is a win!

Of course, if you are to hitchhike, then you do have to use your common sense and be careful of who you decide to ride with.

I’ve met travelers who have traveled through entire countries and regions by just hitchhiking.

Are you game to try hitchhiking?

Boats/water transport.

Another mode of transport you’re most likely to encounter at some point is traveling by boat. Boat’s will not only come into factor when traveling to Islands but also offer border crossings. If you’re a fan of the open water this could a viable choice for you.

Boat trips will come in all shapes and sizes and comfort for traveling to Islands, channel hops, border crossings, cruises, and excursions. As with all transport options make sure to do your research. The more touristy areas and Islands will have a plethora of boat ferrying companies willing to take you back and forth and some will try over-pricing you. There are some cheap options out there for you, you just have to look.

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Useful links to transport websites.

In most cases your best budget travel transport options are to seek out 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.

For the best underground/subway/metro maps, you need to look up for each individual country.

STA travel worldwide bus passes – Offer passes for bus companies around the world.

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Did you find this backpacking Budget travel transport options post helpful for your impending trip? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know about Budget travel transport options.

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As ridiculous as it sounds, one of the biggest pains about budget traveling can be the actual traveling from one place to another. It can be such a headache figuring out a balance between comfort, convenience and cheapness. This Budget travel transport options post gives you an idea of your choices.

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  1. Couldn’t agree with you more on this, most of the travel budget is actually spent on transportation. It definitely needs to ve discussed more often and thanks for sharing the helpful guide on budget transport. I have bever heard of backpacker tour bus, that sounds very interesting! Hi

  2. You’re so right – often people post about how great a place is, but they have failed to mention anything about the journey they’ve taken to get there! I always try to include the journeys and transport details in my posts, as like you say, it’s sometimes half the fun of the trip. You’ve included hitchhiking in here Amit – is this something you’ve ever done yourself? I’ve not, and I’m not sure how open I would be to it as a solo female traveller (seen way too many horror movies which put me off the idea), but I think if I was with a guy I’d hitchhike. Safety in numbers or so they say 😉 x

    • I’ve had so many trips where the journey has been a better adventure than the actual destination. I’ve hitchhike a couple of times but they have only been short distances but I’ve met people both male and female travelers who have done long-distances and some will only hitchhike – I would like to give it a go (but like you I’ve watched way too many horror movies haha)

  3. We’ve traveled to a lot of countries in Europe and that is where we’ve enjoyed the most variety in transportation options. It isn’t always best to rent a car! We did have an adventure taking a city local bus to Delphi from Athens. Started out on the wrong bus, because the signage wasn’t in English, but we did learn our mistake before leaving the station and found the right bus. Saved us over $120 to use this bus instead of a tour! You’ve pretty much covered every form of public transportation I can think of!

    Tami recently posted…How to Find the Best Views in HawaiiMy Profile

  4. I’m not a backpacker, but there are some great tips for budget transportation. I don’t think I’ll every try hitchhiking, it’s too risky for me. The backpacker bus is an excellent idea, and I’m sure it gives peace of mind for solo travellers too. I always use Uber if they have it!

  5. Of these hitchhiking is something which I haven’t tried yet.
    I look for some comfort for long distance travels and sometimes prefer local vehicles just for the experience. Especially the tuk tuks of Bangkok.

  6. Quite the review. I’m a big fan of public transportation and traveling with locals. This is the first time I’ve seen so many options laid out for consideration. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  7. I usually think of cost vs time spent. If I have lots of time to spare, I go for the cheapest —- iF i have big bags then I prefer some comfort. If I don’t have a lot of time then I look for promo flights. There are lots of options—even combining two options is possible but then again it boils down to how much you are willing to spend and how much time you have. Informative post 🙂

  8. I’m so with you on long overnight bus rides! Often in Asian countries they love blaring super loud music out on bus rides – whether it’s night time or not! We LOVE taking the train and find that train travel is normally the cheapest method after the bus, particularly in Asian countries. The train in Sri Lanka was wonderful – easily the best train journey I’ve ever been on. I loved that for the kids they literally tore a ticket in half and they had one half each!

  9. This is a really thorough overview of the pros and cons of so many budget travel options! I do not like sleeping in vehicles either. 🙂 I did a Contiki tour around Europe as a young adult. It was a good “starter” way to see a continent, and it equipped me to feel confident to navigate it solo after that.

  10. I will do anything to avoid any long commutes, of course, if it is affordable. We did use local transportation (bus and train) in Europe and it was affordable and comfortable and got us to our destinations in a short amount of time.

  11. I agree with you. It’s hard to find the right balance between convince, comfort and affordability. Transportation is indeed quite expensive almost everywhere, but I would rather pay some extra money and travel in comfort than get squeezed in a bus full of locals who didn’t see the soap and the water in a few months. As far as I am concerned, I don’t have to travel by all means. I’ll only do it if it gives me pleasure and if I can afford it.

  12. I’ll do almost anything to avoid super long bus rides- so I’m not an awesome no frills traveler. In fact just recently caved in and took a 3.5 hr ‘bus’ in Bulgaria due to no train option for my route and then found that the bus wasn’t a bus it was a small van with no shocks, no seatbelts and super dirty, that horrible ride during which I was sick the entire time ) I get car sick in back of vehicles) reminded me to definitely just rent a car or stick to places with train next time! I do Wish I was a better budget transportation traveler though!

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