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5 tips for your budget trips from ‘3rd World Traveler’ author

Travel tips from the Filipina who wrote the book on traveling on a shoestring budget

TEMPLES OF BAGAN. Inspired by Lonely Planet's winning photo, Rica recreated the picture during her own trip to Bagan in Myanmar. All photos from Ricasrucksack.com, reposted with permission

MANILA, Philippines – Traveling is a hobby often associated with a huge budget. Some would even go as far as saying that traveling is just for those with tons of cash to spare. 

However, travel book author Ma. Patricia “Rica” Yulo says it’s only a matter of knowing and setting your priorities. Being a corporate slave earning an average monthly salary should not stop you from buying a ticket and seeing what lies beyond your comfort zone.

Here are tips on how to travel cheap we picked up from the experiences of the author of The 3rd World Traveler: A Guide to Fulfilling Your Travel Dreams on a Shoestring Budget:

1. Save by traveling without checked luggage 

Rica suggests that you should always be on the lookout for airline promos so you can get your tickets cheap. But aside from that, you will save more money by traveling light. If you can, try bringing just your large backpack, without checked luggage. 

She survived traveling to Singapore without one single bag, by placing all her essentials in her vest pockets. She admits that though it won’t work for everyone, she learned a lesson from that trip: all your essentials can fit in one small backpack.

How, you might say? In her book, Rica suggests the following:

  • Bring only one pair of comfortable shoes (the ones you are wearing)
  • Underwear should equate to two per day. Don’t bring way too much
  • Check the weather in your destination – you don’t have to bring that jacket if it isn’t cold
  • Leave the internet behind. Don’t bring a laptop. Enjoy
  • One book is enough. Rica says most hostels have interesting books which you can borrow
  • Don’t bring too many gadgets – a cellphone that can act as an alarm clock, a camera, and an mp3 player should suffice
  • Bring things in basic colors so you can wash and wear them without looking like you’ve been wearing the same thing over and over
LOCAL TOURISM. The author also spends time seeing the beauty of her own country

2. Stay in dorms or hostels

When Rica traveled to Singapore, a city known for its high standard of living, she stayed in a dormitory room shared with other travelers and students. This cost her between P400-700 per day. “Traveling is about roaming the city, not staying in your hotel room the entire day. So why spend so much in a room if you know you’re going to end up staying there for a short time only?” she writes.

For the intrepid folks with a bit more experience in traveling, there is such a thing as a ‘couchsurfing‘ community where travelers get to stay with hosts in various countries.

3. Go for a cheaper commute

While there are some countries where cab fares are relatively cheap, it’s still a good idea to take the train or bus. Some countries even have a tourist pass that will let you go around the city taking unlimited rides. 

Map out the city before you go; is it a walking city, or will you need a car to get around? If English is not the common language in the country, take the time to download or find a map in English beforehand. If you waste time or take a wrong turn, that cheap commute won’t be so cheap anymore, especially if you have to take multiple trips to replace your steps. 

4. Research goes a long way

Before heading to any of her destinations, Rica spends a huge amount of time researching about the place and the people she will encounter. Look  for places where locals eat or drink and go there instead of the tourist hubs which tend to sell the same food and drinks for double the price.

Learn lessons from fellow travelers by joining travel forums.

Plan your itinerary. Which sites would you like to see? Is there an entrance fee? Take everything into account. If you’re trying to squeeze tons of activities in a single day, did you factor in the time spent in line? In some countries, you can preorder museum tickets so you won’t have to spend hours waiting to buy your ticket, for example. Others let you buy tickets in bulk. 

BIG CITIES. Rica says backpacking is not confined to rural areas. Backpacking in big cities is as much fun

5. Safety is top priority

Don’t risk it. Rica related that she and a friend were on their way to Siem Reap in Cambodia by land when when their hired car stopped in the middle of the road and a man forced himself in demanding for their money. They gave their money up.

If you’re alone, let plenty of people know where you are back home. Memorize a loved one’s phone number so that you have someone to call even if you lose your phone. 

Don’t risk your life by eschewing safety measures in order to save a little more money. In the long run, the extra safety measures may help you avoid costly accidents and detours. 

Try this: traveling alone

No, it’s not boring at all and it should be quite an experience. The dynamics of traveling in a large group are very different from traveling alone. (READ: 5 tips in planning your first solo trip)

Just remember to dress appropriately, avoid staring too hard at people (Rica says this might lead to confrontations depending on the culture of the country you’re in), always carry the address and number of your home country’s nearest embassy, and stash your money in a hidden part of your outfit – not necessarily your wallet.

Always be calm and try to be friendly. It will be good to meet a local that will tell you about places in their country that travel guides never mention. (READ: safety tips for women traveling solo)

At some point, you might be lonely but take the time to find solace and enjoy the view.

PITSTOP. Rica ended up in Monkey Beach while trekking in Penang, Malaysia

Getting started on your adventure

You will need money. Even if it’s cheap, backpacking stills entail saving and spending. In her book, Rica recommends looking into yourself whether traveling is actually a priority for you. If it is, saving should be easy. Looking forward to seeing new places will make skipping that unnecessary purchase a whole lot easier – just put the money in your travel fund.

Specificity is key. Choose your dream destination, stick with it, work towards it. Saying “I want to visit Japan during cherry blossom season,” versus “I want to travel so bad,” makes your dream all the more real. 

Rica adds that travelers should also take into account their savings back home, continuing to build at least the emergency fund even as they see the world. 

The next step will be the adventure itself. Don’t be in a hurry. Travel to where your feet and your budget can take you. The author always says that traveling is about seeing the world, one step at a time. THE THAT LUANG. Taken during the author's trip to Laos where she spent her time with a local to learn about their culture and everyday life

What’s next

Rica has made a decision that will make most mothers wince. She quit her job will be leaving the Philippines soon to travel – indefinitely. She admits that it’s a road not often taken by the average Filipina, but she’s going to take it.

She dreams of going to Norway just as soon as she figures out how she will fare in the country whose capital Oslo is known as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. 

How will she support herself in this long haul journey? She says she will take odd jobs and even do volunteer work to move her forward. She says she will figure it out along the way. And she will – like she always does in each of her adventures. – Rappler.com

The 3rd World Traveler: A Guide to Fulfilling Your Travel Dreams on a Shoestring Budget‘ is a self-published book by experienced backpacker Ma. Patricia Yulo. It’s available for order and shipment. For details and to follow her next adventures, visit her travel blog here 

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