Budgeting for Backpacking

The truth for most travellers is the fact that we would keep travelling for as long as possible if we could! The thing that often stands in our way is the money needed to do and see all of these amazing things in the world. This makes budgeting one of the most important things to consider in order to get the most out of your adventure.

SunsetTao2Before we decided to go on a four month trip through South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, we  had both graduated from university in Canada. This meant we didn’t have much money to spend on a trip abroad. We worked our butts off for four months during the summer and managed to save up enough for our trip… BUT had we not employed the use of a flexible daily spending limit and some money saving tricks, our adventure wouldn’t have been possible. Check out some of these tricks in our 12 Ways to Save a Little Money post a while back.

We’re going to go through some broader ideas to help you with planning your trip as well as some things specific to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand!

***Keep in mind that we travelled as a couple, and therefore our averages and advice are geared toward people travelling with friends or a significant other where you can share some of the costs. For example, we could share a private room and the cost for each of usPackingPic1 individually was less than it would be for one bed in a dorm style room. Tuk tuk and taxi rides were cheaper split between us and we could share food deals! However that doesn’t mean this won’t be relevant to solo travellers too.***
Let’s start with the big picture. Our budget individually was around $10, 000 (CAD), including our international flights. We’re talking about four months paying for every single night’s stay, meal, drink, transportation, activity and souvenir. We’re pretty proud of sticking to that budget because the spending builds up fast and it can easily get away from you. Here are some of the things we did to keep the basic costs down.

Look up when low and high seasons are for the places you want to go. Prices for everything sky rocket during high season, including flights. If you really want to save money, plan your trip around the shoulder seasons; the beginning or end of the high seasons. If you go during a low season, some activities and hostels may not even be open! Flying out in September 2015 gave us a nice price advantage as we arrived in Asia just as many of the summer travellers were heading back to school, and we were there before high season in December.

Do not settle on the first hostel you find when arriving in a new town. We took half an hour or so to walk around town, ask to see the rooms, ask for any deals they might be willing to offer, and to check if anything was included. For South East Asia we would be checking for included breakfast, wifi, toilet paper (no they don’t all supply that for you) and drinking water.The shoulder season advantage also comes into play when looking for hostels and activities. Ask them if they have any “low season prices” and they may knock off a few dollars! Even if its only a few, it makes a difference in the long run.

SunsetDonDetIn Australia and NZ, we found some hostels had deals with local restaurants for discounted dinner and drink combos. Your aim here is to stick within the price limits you have pre-set for yourself.

To keep your costs in check for food, try to limit eating out at fancier or popular places (because a lot of us have the exact same travel books) to only once every few days as their prices are almost always higher. It’s easy to get sucked in to the first restaurant you see, but ask to see a menu and compare prices with other places!

The best way to describe this is to show you the budgets we aimed for, and what we ended up spending! Devon kept track of her spending during the entire trip, so check out what to expect for each place we went. Keep in mind these are the averages, as some days may be more expensive when doing paid tours or special activities. In no way do you have to spend as much or as little as we did… it’s all personal preference (and how many souvenirs you want… Devon wanted a lot).

South East Asia

Daily Budget: $50.00 CAD each

Our Actual Daily Average: Lowest was in Laos at $38 a day and highest was $86 a day individually in Thailand (this was due to scuba diving in Koh Tao!).

Accommodation Budget: $10 CAD each– We stuck with this and actually stayed under most of the time (closer to $5 each) but sometimes paid more for included breakfast! budget-post(Note: ASK what the breakfast is; one time all we got was a sad bread and butter spread and others a full buffet!) Usually, western food is more expensive than the local food there, so try to accustom yourself to those local options to save money AND to immerse yourself in the country you are visiting.

Meals: We didn’t budget our meals specifically, but they ranged from $1.50 (delicious street Pad Thai) to $6.00 CAD each.

Transportation: Expect $25-$35 CAD each depending on how far you’re going.

Australia and New Zealand

When it comes to Australia and New Zealand, be prepared for a jump in costs and somewhat of a culture shock if you are coming from Asia.

Daily Budget: $80.00 CAD each

Our Actual Daily Average: We quickly found that $80.00 a day each for Australia and New Zealand put us in a good place for simple days. However, if you are interested in doing tours in Australia (such as Great Barrier Reef Scuba Diving, Whitsundays or Fraser Island), these are added costs and will cost you anywhere from $100 – $400 depending on the luxury and length.

Accommodation Budget: $35 CAD (in Australia) – $38 CAD (in New Zealand). Keep in mind these are for private rooms ($70-$75 CAD per room) but dorm beds were often that price as well.

Meals: $7.00 CAD each for grocery store meals, but restaurants and even fast food went up to $15-$20 CAD.

Transportation: $519 (AUD) each for a hop on hop off bus pass in Australia, and about $90 (NZD) total per day for a rental car in New Zealand (including cost of car and gas). Keep in mind that our trip through NZ was a LOT of driving over only 9 days, so if you book your rental car early and spread out your trip more, you can save waaaay more than we did. Check out our transportation post for more specific information, but expect to pay quite a bit in these countries!

The most important tip for budgeting your trip, is be flexible with your costs and averages; some days will be more expensive than others! As long as you balance those days with cheaper ones, you’ll be fine. And always bring more than you’ll think you need, just in case!

Any questions? Looking for more info? Email us at whirlwindtravellers@gmail.com

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