Once you have sorted out your pre travel expenses such as flight tickets, your next big budget expense will be your accommodation. There is a misconception of backpacking that you will have to rough it in some really dodgy dorms with bed bug infested sheets and disease inducing shared showers, but this isn’t the case.
Yes many backpackers do stay in hostels and dorms, but outside of some of the more expensive westernised countries, there is so much competition between hostel accommodation that prices are extremely low and quality can be extremely high, in some cases better than the cheaper guesthouses.
Depending on where you travel you can get some really nice places for relatively very little money. How much you choose to budget for your accommodation is completely down to how you want to travel and what type of accommodation you want to stay in.
Prices vary a lot around the world and from location to location, some countries are vastly cheaper than others and more rural, less visited places will be a lot cheaper than well trafficked cities. However, there are some averages you can take into consideration. If you are backpacking for an extended period then odds are you will be staying in budget accommodation.
This type of place can be a hostel bed, a small beach hut or even an often basic quality room to yourself, perhaps with a fan instead of air con for example, and most often with a shared bathroom. Although at this level accommodation may be basic, remember that it doesn’t always have to mean bad. I have stayed in some amazing budget accommodation throughout Africa or South East Asia that can put some package hotel places in Europe to shame! Beach huts right on the beach itself or modern, clean and comfortable hostels can cost less than a beer or two back home per night and are perfect if you plan on staying somewhere for a little while.
A weeks accommodation costs can add up to less than a meal out in a restaurant back home! Amenities such as TV, air con and swimming pools are usually thin on the ground but the quality and cleanliness of what you do get may be very high indeed, and the prices are good. Ask yourself do you really need anything more than a bed, a fan and a bathroom?
There are of course really bad places too, and for every good budget place you find there are bound to be a couple of really bad ones nearby, usually right next door, often going for the exact same price. That is why it is really important to look around at a few and check out what you are getting before you commit.
You can get a decent hostel bed or a beach hut from between £3 to £10 GBP per night in many places and prices are usually very easy to haggle with. Often good savings can be had if you book over the internet in advance or even haggle once you arrive for those places who don’t have a website. Prices can often go up in cities or tourist popular areas and will soar during public holidays or special festivals, but competition usually stops these prices from going too high.
Mid range accommodation is the type of room that varies the most in quality. This can range from fleapit hotel rooms and fancy hostels, to unique stays (such as pod rooms) and even really high quality boutique hotels.
The prices vary just as much too, and you can usually find a really nice place for around £10 to £40 GBP a night. However in some of the more expensive countries, Britain or Europe for example you can expect this level of accommodation to cost double that or even more. On average in places like South East Asia, parts of South America, Egypt or India for just a few examples, £15 to £20 GBP or less a night will get you a really nice private room, air con, a TV and an en suite shower room.
Most backpackers will supplement staying in hostels with perhaps a few nights in midrange accommodation when they fancy some time alone or a bit of privacy, and at mid range prices in many countries it can easily be budgeted for.
You can really raise your expectations with this quality of room, and you can find some extremely nice places at really reasonable rates if you are prepared to look around a little and bargain hard.
Walk in rates are often a lot higher than what they are prepared to sell room rates at however, so always ask if that is the best rate they are prepared to offer. More often than not you will get an instant discount.
Discount rates can also apply if you book in advance over the internet too. I stay in this type of accommodation frequently, and I always try to explain to people who dismiss backpacking out of hand because they have a fixed idea in their head of hostels and a lack of comforts and amenities that this simply doesn’t have to be the case.
I constantly find very nice rooms with a TV, en suite shower, air con and other amenities for anywhere between £5 and £20 a night depending where I am, simply by walking in to a place I find once I get there. In many cases the rooms and hotels I have stayed in have been far superior to the pictures of package holiday rooms friends have shown me on the return from their all inclusive holidays, and at a fraction of the price too! Luxury accommodation really needs no description, it is what it says.
Luxury hotels and complexes, private villas and unique buildings with all the amenities, often with spas or swimming pools on site, staff on hand to cater to your every need and everything you could want.
The rates are usually really high, especially in developed countries, but quite often these are the type of rooms that can usually give you the biggest savings too, especially if you are in a less economically developed country, in off season or if you search out internet deals.
If you are lucky, and just a little bit cheeky, you may be able to walk into a really fancy luxury hotel and blag a room for the same price as the mid range place you looked at down the road. You may also be chased off by security the second you walk into the atrium with your Khao San Road dreadlocks, fisherman pants and backpack, but hey, it’s worth a try!
If you feel like spoiling yourself or giving yourself a treat, then there is no harm in trying! Unless you are secretly loaded staying in places like this will be a rare treat, but it can be worth splurging on occasion if you can get a great deal. Sometimes it can be really nice to spoil yourself for a night or two before flying home or after an extended adventure trek.
Food Safety Tips When Traveling Abroad
After accommodation eating will be your next big expense, and again your budget will depend almost entirely on how and where you like to eat.
You really can eat on a few pounds a day or blow hundreds on one meal depending on where you are and where you eat. Backpackers can often find they can eat for very little by buying fresh food at local markets and existing on raw fruit and vegetables, sometimes using the kitchens in hostels or home stays to cook up some rice and meat to supplement their meals.
This is a great way to keep down costs when you are travelling over the long term, but it really isn’t necessary to do this all of the time. You will want to experience some genuine local food and enjoy yourself too, so by all means prepare your own meals to keep costs down, but try and get a little balance too. Street stalls are perhaps one of the cheapest options for eating in many places abroad and are often some of the nicest places to eat. Many people who have never travelled have a misconception about street food that it is unhygienic or unsafe, but this is absolute nonsense.
From Kushari in Cairo to Pad Thai in Bangkok, you will get a real taste of local culture at these places and some of the best food you will ever taste, and you can often get a great meal for a pound or two. For backpackers and travellers on a budget, street food really cannot be beat. Another cheap alternative to street food is the food courts and hawker centres that locals regularly eat at. These are often essentially still street stalls, but in a fixed location and sometimes within fixed buildings. You can pick up really tasty, cheap meals at places like this for next to nothing and are perfect for travelling on a budget.
Local cafe’s and smaller restaurants are also often fairly cheap, and can often offer great meals at really great prices. You can budget around £5 to £10 GBP a day eating all of your meals in smaller local restaurants. Hopping from fancy restaurant to restaurant on the other hand, or even eating at some of the fancier hotels, can eat up a backpackers entire budget in a single meal, you can blow hundreds of pounds on one sitting in some places, especially in
some of the larger cities, so whilst there is nothing wrong with budgeting to allow yourself a nice restaurant meal once in a while, doing so every single night will be very difficult on a tight budget.