This is a continuation of planning solo budget travel pt 1
Part 2 covers:
- Searching Accommodation.
- Researching and booking flights.
- Travel insurance.
- Researching getting from airport/bus station to Accommodation.
Another thing that’s changed over the years is how I book my accommodation. I always used to book in advance for a set amount of time; at least 3 nights. (longer if I was planning on staying in 1 place long-term). However that’s changed, now the only time I book in advance is when I’m to arrive in a new country and only for 1 night. Just like with researching a country, finding accommodation is a quick and easy streamlined procedure now.
- Find the Backpacker Areas. – Most countries cater to travelers more than ever and most will have backpacker areas. These area are full of hostels, cheap bars and tour shops close to central attractions, so that’s where I’ll look to stay initially.
- Searching Accommodation. -There’s so many different options depending on your budget and preference. If you’re a budget backpacker like me then you should look at couch surfing, guest houses and hostels. I normally use Booking.com or HOSTEL WORLD to compare prices and availability.
- Other options. – If you really want to save on money, have a look at camping or volunteering. Research if the country you’re heading to have campsites dotted around the area. Or maybe you’re looking to hire a mini-van, again so many countries cater to this and offer campsites.
- Booking initial night’s stay. – The only time I book a hostel in advance now, is when I arrive in a new country.
TIP: If you’re looking at a hostel for the first time, don’t compare it to a hotel, facilities are not gong to be hotel standards. Also Hostels are communal places where backpackers alike come together and great places to meet people.
TIP: Decide if you prefer party hostels or quiet ones – you don’t want a shock when you arrive.
TIP: Many hostels don’t advertise online, by walking around the area you may find better and cheaper places to stay. That’s why I only book 1 night in advance, so I can look for myself once I’m there.
Researching and Booking Flights.
After countless long-haul flights, I’m quite picky with my flights. When it comes to booking flights I really shop around for the best option. You should bear in mind, if you’re on a 10 hour plus flight, you will want some kind of comfort. Take it from me and I’m not the tallest guy but there is nothing worse than being crammed on a crappy plane for so long. Sometimes the cheapest option is the worst option.
- Shop around. – I always shop around for Airfares, use different compare sites likes Sky scanner, Kayak, BudgetAir.co.uk, Expedia, google, Local travel agents (although they are normally the most expensive) or directly through air companies.
- Try backpacker sites like STA travel. They offer discounts for students and sometimes offer good
package deals or cheaper multi flights. Even though I’m not a student, I used STA for my last trip to South America. They are good with Flexi-flights.
TIP: With sites like Skyscanner play around with country of origin. In the settings you can change what country your booking from. I.E when booking a flight in New Zealand I changed the country of origin to England and found cheaper flights for the same companies.
- Different Options. – Play around with different routes, sometimes separate flights work out cheaper than a direct connecting flight.
- Long layovers. – Sometimes it’s nice to break flights down and have a long layover especially in nicer airports. And also you don’t want to be rushing to your connecting flight.
TIP: make sure you have enough time between connections – If you’re a smoker like me then you’re going to want to find a smoking room during the connection.
- Different Airports. – Look at flights from different airports not just the main Airport. I.E If I’m flying out of England I’ll compare flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham Airports.
- Timing. – I’ve learnt to play around with when to fly out, certain times of the day work out cheaper.
- Specific days. – Another thing I’ve picked up over the years is air fares are cheaper on certain days. I.E Flying on a Tuesday is nearly half the price as on a Monday.
- Return Flights. – As I travel with no timescale I very rarely buy a set return ticket. Mostly I buy just a single ticket and on occasion I’ve bought an open-ended return ticket. (Keep in mind, return ticket only stretch 6 months in advance)
TIP: If you buy a return ticket or multi flights, check there is no penalty on changing dates or cancellation.
TIP: You should Double check the route of your flight. You don’t want to get stung with more stopovers than you thought. (It’s happened to me before, when my brother booked a flight home for me)
TIP: – Sign up for Air-miles! Something I regret not doing from my very first trip.
A necessity to some, a nuisance to others. I’ll be honest I hate buying travel insurance. Why do I hate something so important? Well because I have to spend money on something I never want to ever use. I’ve been lucky enough to not have any major incidents over the years (except for a few bruises, scrapes and stitches here and there.) but I do begrudgingly buy travel insurance. And, you should too! No not really – it’s up to you if you want to buy it. You, like myself will come across backpackers that think they’re invincible and tell you they have no use for it and never bought travel insurance.
Buying the correct travel insurance for you can be quite difficult and a real headache, especially if it’s your first time. I’m not going to lie, I’m no expert on travel insurance I don’t know which is the best or not.
However I can let you know that there are hundreds of travel insurance companies on the internet, and everybody from your bank to your supermarket can offer travel insurance depending how long your trip is.
- The correct type – There are so many different types of travel insurance, so I’ll make sure it’s the right on for my trip.
TIP: cater the insurance to your needs and make sure it covers your type of travel. I.E, if your planning on a lot of extreme sports make sure it covers Extreme sports. Does it have adequate medical cover? Cover theft? Cover electronics?
- Cater it. – Like with other types of insurance there are add on’s and things you can take off. I’ll cater mine to what I might need. I.E medical, luggage, electronics,
- Shop around. – Like with everything else I shop around when looking for travel insurance.
- Compare sites. – I will use sites like Travel Supermarket to compare different companies.
- Value for money. – I’ll make sure I’m getting value for money but also I’ll recognize that if the insurance payouts sound too good for what I’m paying then it probably is.
- Ask – Simply I’ll ask travel buddies what they use.
TIP: Read the small print: find out how long payouts take and what circumstances they might not payout etc etc.
I get quite confused when I see other travelers and backpackers with folders full of documents. Some people carry a copy of everything they don’t need to have. All the paperwork you think you need – you don’t. Yes we are traveling to foreign countries, yes we need proof of who we are and the purpose of our visit but That’s it. I understand the need for some paperwork but we do live in the age of the internet. I will keep copies of documents on my hard-drive or on my Email.
Physically I will only carry:
- Visa entry agreement. (if needed)
- Bank letter with phone numbers. (In case there’s an issue)
- Initial Flight itinerary.
- Small notebook.
On my hard-drive, phone or Email:
- Photocopy of Passport.
- Travel insurance documentation.
- Copy of Visa entry agreement. (if needed)
In 6 years of traveling the world from Australia to Peru on different types of Visas that is all the documents I’ve needed.
How many of us crammed as much as possible into our backpacks or suitcases on our first trips ? At least 2 pairs of everything for everyday? Prepared for every eventuality because, just in case we needed it! Honestly who even took just the one backpack with them ? Something pretty much every backpacker does on first trips is over-pack.
My first backpack was so full, all brand new clothes and more trainers and shoes than I needed. I didn’t think logically, that, this backpack would be on my back every time I moved on. With that weight I might as well have carried a bag of bricks with me; and worst of all I didn’t even wear half the clothes I took. However the more I’ve traveled the less I take with me; but packing for a trip if a funny one. There are things to factor in like the weather, terrain, if you’re traveling through different continents, what activities your planning on doing etc etc.
While the general consensus is you should pack as light as you can, it really depends on what type of trip you are taking. Is it a general backpacking trip through a country? Or is it a specialized trip like Hiking, camping, skiing? Is it long or short-term travel? Is it a summer or winter trip? It all bares a factor in how you end up packing. So you should pack accordingly to your trip.
TIP: Remember you will be carrying your backpack as much as you move around. Keep it practical but light as you can.
Personally, I pack for general trips through countries, I keep my backpack light as I can. Through my research of the country, I’ll know what season I’m traveling in so I’ll pack accordingly.
NOTE: This is how I pack, it might not necessarily be the right way for you:
TIP: rolling clothes into a sausage rather than folding saves on space in your backpack.
My backpack generally consists of the following:
Underwear/socks (a pair for each day)
2 long pairs of bottoms (1 pair of light weight jeans, and 1 pair of joggers)
3 pairs of shorts (board and swimming)
2 hoodies/jumpers (1 heavy one light)
2 pairs of trainers (1 for everyday use, another for messy activities)
1 pair of flip-flops.
1 bath towel.
(If I need anything specific at the time, I’ll buy something cheap and end up leaving it there once I leave.)
TIP: It’s a good idea to invest in a good quality rugged backpack. They will get thrown about, manhandled on buses, planes, boats so the last thing you want is for it to rip mid-trip.
TIP: A backpack with good back support will make it feel lighter than it is and won’t weigh you down as much.
My backpack has survived 6 years of travel.
My toiletry bag consists of:
Hair Clippers and a guard.
Tiger balm (essential, it’s a game changer)
Sun-scream (Brown people burn too)
Mozzy spray (life saver)
My hand-held bag consists of:
Phone and laptop charger.
Documents (Only if I need them)
TIP: Remember your backpacking and not on holiday – You don’t need to bring your best clothes. And if you do be prepared for them to get ruined one way or another.
Researching getting from airport/bus station to Accommodation.
There is one last piece of research I do, Something I learnt from a fellow long-term traveler and that’s to check my best option on how to get to my hostel from my starting point.
There’s a few reasons why I look into this now.
- Not to get scammed. – So many backpackers get scammed by unregistered taxis and there are a lot of them that pose as official taxis but aren’t.
- Stops me getting hounded. – After long journeys I’m pretty ratty all I want is a smoke in piece, So I get so frustrated with taxi drivers hounding me. With having done some research I can make a beeline to my choice of transport without getting hassled.
- Safety. – No matter how long I’ve traveled or how savvy I am traveling there are countries that are dangerous.
- So I don’t get stuck or lost. – Nothing can be worse than arriving in a new destination and getting stuck or lost because you didn’t check a bus timetable, or don’t understand it.
TIP: Google your route, have a screen shot of it or a physical map and make sure the driver follows the quickest route.
TIP: Check bus schedules online before hand.
TIP: Check if there are other options – Taxi’s, Tuk-tuks, shuttles, buses or metro systems.
TIP: Ask hostel if they can arrange a pickup.
This doesn’t have to be an in-depth research, I will simply look into the best method, check bus or train timetables, check prices, what taxi is official, if there’s tuk tuks or uber running in that country. All I need to know is which is the cheapest, quickest but safest method. And I will check if my hostel does a shuttle. (I Will cover taxis, and transport options and haggling with drivers in more detail in a future post.)
And this is how I go about researching my solo budget travel trips, is there anything you do differently when planning a trip? Did you find anything helpful ? Drop me a comment below to let me know what you thought of this post.
Don’t forget to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already 😀
The next ‘my personal budget travel tips’ post will cover Airports, making the most and coping with long haul flights, lay-overs and arriving in a new country.