Asia is hot among backpackers, and there’s a reason why! It is the place to be if you are looking for breath-taking nature, stunning beaches, exciting adventures and delicious food without paying a fortune. If you travel wisely, you might end up spending less money than you would have spent just staying back at home. No kidding!
Sleep for free or work for your comfy bed
Accommodation usually takes in a big part of your travelling budget. Luckily, there are different options available that will help you find a free couch to sleep on. Or how about working a couple of hours a day in return for free accommodation?
On Couchsurfing you can find a free couch (or bed if you’re a lucky bastard) to sleep on. It is a good way to meet locals and to learn more about the local culture and cuisine. Couchsurfing is free, it is just very common to give a small thank you present to your host. You can use CouchSurfing back home as well. You can host people at your place, show them around, share exciting travel stories and… who knows… make a new international friend.
Wwoofing, HelpX and Workaway are other online platforms on which you can find places to stay for free in return for a couple of hours’ work. The type of work usually varies from organic farming to wildlife preservation to petsitting and more. It is another great way to have a more authentic experience of the country’s culture and to get to know some tips & tricks from locals.
If you’re travelling from one city to another, it’s a good idea to travel overnight by train or bus. That way you save at least one night of accommodation to pay and you get to see some beautiful landscapes along the way (at daylight obviously). Travelling by night train or bus is part of the backpacking in Asia DNA. So if you want to call yourself a backpacker rightfully, book that sleeper train, make yourself as comfortable as you possibly can and let the soothing bumps along the road lull you to sleep.
Haggle for your bed
No need to book accommodation in advance. When I was in India, me and my friends just walked around, visited several hotels/hostels/guesthouses, haggled for a good price and then we decided which option to go with. That way you also don’t end up booking a room with lovely looking pictures online, but with cute little cockroaches and bed bugs in reality. Gotta love face-to-face deals!
Markets, supermarkets and street food
Make sure you’ve localised the nearest supermarket. That’s where you want to buy your water, cookies and other snacks that will stop you from buying expensive food and drinks at any tourist highlight. It will also make you more popular with your fellow travellers if you’re the one shouting “Who wants a cookie?” several times a day.
Local markets are the place to go! Not only will you be amazed by wonderful colours, you might even get to taste some local specialities here and there. I always buy bread or noodles, fruit, nuts or banana chips (my favourite) at a local market. Then all that’s left to do is organise my own little picnic in the nearest park or other nice location.
If you’re going to Hanoi, Vietnam, you might learn from a local how to hunt for cheap food at local markets. Visit a market accompanied by a local and then learn how to cook a home-made meal in a cooking class.
When in Asia… do as the Asians do!
Platforms like CouchSurfing do not only help you find a free place to sleep. They can also serve as a tool to find locals who would love to hang out with you. They can show you around, take you out for a night on the town and tell you all about the must-visit places in their hometown. So what are you waiting for! Find a warm and friendly local to show you around. Not only will you see plenty of places that tourists generally don’t know about. You might also get lots of tips & tricks about where they serve the cheapest breakfast, where you’ll drink the cheapest beers and where you’ll finedine for almost no money! Before you know it, you end up in a religious festival surrounded by dancing locals who just drag you along in their celebrations.
Is Bangkok on your destination list? Then how about jogging and having breakfast with a local? A yummy breakfast and lots of valuable insights will be forever yours after this adventure.
Freebies for the win!
Shout out to my fellow freebies out there! Once you get used to travelling on a budget, the word ‘FREE‘ makes you the happiest person in the world. Apart from keeping your eyes open for free stuff to get or things to do, you can proactively search for free activities. Google will do the trick. And this counts for travelling in any place, not just Asia. Just type in ‘free walking tours’ + the city/place you are visiting and browse through the hits you get. At the end of the tour, you can decide how much money you want to give to your guide.
Or how about good old Lonely Planet? It’s oldschool to have one with you, but oldschool is nice and doesn’t require WiFi. You’ll find free walking tours and activities in there as well. So if you’re like me and you sometimes like to have a digital detox while you’re travelling, investing in a Lonely Planet is a great idea and will leave you with incredibly valuable tips and knowledge about the places you’re travelling to. Knowledge is power!
Cheap deals on the world-wide web!
You’ll find heaps of travel agencies in Asian cities that offer cheap tours. But… if you do some research online, you might end up finding the same tours at much lower prices. Or if you’re really lucky, you can even score some promotions. It might be a good idea to subscribe to newsletters of several online travel agents. Yes, it will make your mailbox slightly more messy. But just keep an eye open for words like ‘DISCOUNT‘ and ‘PROMOTIONS‘ in the subject line and you will thank me when you go on your -40% discounted multi-day jungle trekking tour.
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