He Said/She Said: Budget Travel Gripes

He Said/She Said: Budget Travel Gripes


After spending nearly three years on the road, we look back on all that we put up with to save a dollar. Were all the long bus rides and sleeping at airports worth it to keep the expenses in check?


You’ll never hear me claim that there is a better way to travel than budget travel.  Getting as close to the locals’ spending as possible is the best way to understand how their life is…and isn’t that why to travel?  Not only the experiences, but also the differences between experiences in different places are enlightening. Exposing yourself to where the locals eat, stay and play will teach you more about a place than a tour ever would.

If I wanted something easy and comfortable I’d try to have that at home, not in some distant land.  Why would I put my money towards temporary comfort instead of investing in permanent comfort?  At home I want the most comfortable things possible, but on the road I want the most locally authentic experiences possible.

This does create some problems though.  It’s caused us to end up in some places where I was deathly allergic to things.  It’s led us to some pretty dirty places.  It’s made us terribly sick.  The romantic idea of living like a local is much better than it is in reality.

Here is one great example.  We thought we had scored a great deal on a place to stay in Seoul, in a student building, on AirBnB.  The listing made it clear that it could sleep two, evenings were quiet times, and there was free rice.  They had me at the price, but I fell in love with the idea of free rice.  See the photo above?  That’s how we slept for three nights.  On the fourth day I ran into the building manager, the same person who had checked us in, and he asked how we were sleeping.  I responded that we were doing fine.  Then he asked the key question, “would you like another mattress?”  Why yes we would!  How had he failed to mention this earlier, such as when the two of us checked in?

The funny situations like this one are the good, bad and learning of budget travel.  I would never experience this at the Ritz…



Budget travel is not for everyone.  It is not a vacation complete with private beach bungalows and drinks with little umbrellas.  It is hard work, long bus rides, cold showers and beds with no pillows.  It is the path we chose for many reasons, first and foremost to save money and travel longer, but also to live a little bit more like the locals.

This trip was never about just seeing the world, it was about experiencing it.  Which meant dining where the locals did, taking the long bus rides and lower class transport.  Some of my most fond memories are from the crazy things we did to save a few bucks.  But, there are a few things that I just didn’t like about budget travel:

Ordering food from right to left, when price is your main concern I often found myself reading the menu from right to left- look at price first.  Several times I passed up the item I really wanted for something more affordable.

Cold showers, I got pretty tired of trying to get the soap to lather while showering with the glacial water on offer at many of our budget hostels and hotels.  Hot water is a luxury when your trying to stay on budget.  Along those same lines I hated that space was also a luxury, bathrooms in most places we stayed would have the shower right over the toilet and everything in the bathroom would be soaked.

Overnight buses were the bane of my existence, especially in South America where averaged one overnight bus every 10 days.  Not only did you get a terrible nights sleep, but you had to worry about your stuff getting stolen, which happened to us on an overnight bus in Bolivia.

These three things may have saved us a considerable amount of cash, but I’m glad that there is no overnight bus in my future or terrible two dollar meal around the corner.  Ultimately these were small sacrifices to fund our 37 country tour and I would do them again in a heartbeat, but life is better with hot showers!

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» Bethany ~ twoOregonians :
Aug 22, 2013

Ha. I feel you! Ted and I did a pretty good job of balancing budget with comfort, but by balance I mean swing back and forth between the two. Sometimes the effort was to not break the bank, other times, we desperately needed recovery from airport-floor-backaches and cold showers and those dreaded overnight buses…

Like was said, though, “If I wanted something easy and comfortable I’d try to have that at home, not in some distant land.” Small prices to pay in the big scheme of getting to see the world!
Read Bethany ~ twoOregonians’s awesome post Seven Years and Six(ish) Continents Later

» Liz :
Aug 22, 2013

Overnight busses (or trains, in some case) are the WORST! It’s true, it seems like you are saving money but you are losing sleep, energy and sanity! Maybe taking all those overnight busses enabled you to go to that 37th country – it can all be worth it in the end :)
Read Liz’s awesome post Tasting the ‘Best Beer in the World’ at the Westvleteren Brewery

» Andy :
Aug 23, 2013

Great article, your experience can inspire people about managing their budget and expenses for their traveling.
Read Andy’s awesome post A Holiday Destination at Albany Western Australia

» Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) :
Aug 27, 2013

Oh, I can so relate to your budget travel gripes. Sometimes I think how nice it must be to just go on a 2-week vacation where splashing out $60/night on a room in Thailand or Cambodia is no big deal, or actually considered a steal! I especially hate how budget rooms get you the cramped toilet/shower combination and cold showers are the bane of Tony’s existence, though here in Indonesia, a hot one will cost you an extra $10/night, which we’re just not willing to spend. More often than not I go with the cheapest thing on the menu too, but every so often, I remind myself that spending an extra $1-2 on a meal isn’t going to kill our budget and allow myself to splurge a little bit. For us, food is such a huge part of travel that if we stuck to fried rice & noodles every meal to keep costs down, we’d just be missing out on too much by eating the same stuff over and over again!
Read Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)’s awesome post What We Ate: Hualien

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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