Paul Sisolak, GOBankingRates.com (TNS)
When you combine all of the expenses that go into travel, like airfare, hotels, food, sightseeing and more, the idea of picking up and exploring different corners of the world can seem too expensive for the budget-conscious adventurer. The good news is that some of the most exotic and unique international locations can sometimes be the most affordable.
Off the beaten tourist path, visitors can immerse themselves in new destinations without spending a fortune. Before planning your next global trek, read on to find out how these travelers saved money while vacationing around the world on mere dollars per day.
Visiting this Southeast Asian gem is so cost-effective that it must be experienced to be believed. “Cambodia is the land of $2 dorm beds, 50-cent beers and cheap food,” according to HostelBookers. Even after factoring in costs like admission to Angkor Wat, you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $20 a day here, according to the travel site.
When traveler Wes Rogers took a tour of Cambodia, a $5-per-night rate afforded him guesthouse accommodations with amenities comparable to a high-end hotel. But it was dining where he saved the most money. “With food carts and noodle/curry houses abounding, eating great food cheap was the easiest part,” he said.
“I concluded it was cheaper to eat out in Asia than to cook at home — by far,” said Rogers. “For simplicity’s sake, I’d say I’d spend $1 per meal, sometimes $2 for dinner. At the end of the day, you’d have a couple bucks left for a few beers,” he said. “Not a bad life for $10 a day in some fantastic, exotic locations.”
Laos is another Southeast Asian locale where lodging can be found for under $10 and food and drink for only a dollar or two, according to HostelBookers. “Laos is where you get the most bang for your buck,” said Alex Gordon, a realtor from Oregon who traveled to Laos. “When you get to a new town, find out where other backpackers may stay — or where a local would recommend to a backpacker — and hoof it around the area,” he said. “You’re going to find some awesome guesthouses for dirt cheap and likely more friendly (than hotels).”
For food and beverage, eat and drink as the locals do, Gordon suggested. “Eat where you see the locals eating,” Gordon said. “These are poor countries, so you won’t find some Thai scarfing down pizza. Rice and chicken can be found cheap if you find the right spot.”
“Buying locally can stretch your budget,” said Keisha Blair, who traveled cheaply in premium-priced, tropical Jamaica during a sabbatical. “I found that when I purchased imported foods, my food bill was astronomical. Five dollars to $10 per day is doable.”
Blair recommended travelers cook their own food. The easiest way is to simply lodge where the food is. “Choose to stay in a location where you can shop at the local market for fresh fruits and vegetables to prepare at home,” she said. “Local fruits and vegetables that are in season are extremely cheap.” Blair also noted that selecting affordable transportation and rooming with family or friends are key to living the island life on a tight budget.
The Chinese countryside is a beautiful destination with many opportunities for savings, according to Thrillist, such as rooms for less than $20 a day, food for $2 to $5 per meal and local city transportation for less than a dollar.
Brett War managed to rent an apartment in Shenzhen for less than $5 per day and recommended staying away from developing cities like Shanghai or Hong Kong if your budget is limited. Instead, opt for places like Lijiang, Dali, Kunming, Guilin and Sichuan. Maximize your savings by rooming in hostels, not hotels, by booking cheaper flight plans through Chinese, not American, travel sites, and by avoiding vacations during Chinese holidays.
Unlike in the West, everything is negotiable in China, according to War. “When buying souvenirs, barter down to half the price,” he said. “In China, no price is fixed, and if they don’t accept your recommended price, walk away. They will usually stop you and accept your proposal.”
Fiji is a South Pacific country of more than 300 islands with a reputation for seeming expensive, according to Thrillist. The site recommends skipping the $1,000-a-night resorts for dorm rooms, hostels or all-inclusive guesthouses that go for $25 a night instead.
Beaches are free, traveling the island is cheap and you can find beautiful, low-cost sites to enjoy, such as the Taveuni waterfalls or the Nadi open-air souvenir market.
Paul Sisolak writes for GOBankingRates.com (http://www.gobankingrates.com), a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.
Photo: Laos is dirt cheap, and is one of the best bangs for your buck if you’re looking to visit Southeast Asia. (Khánh Hmoong via Flickr)