Warning: If you travel for leisure, this post is not for you.
If you're planning to go on a budget solo trip, you'd want it smooth and worry-free as much as possible, right? The Internet is filled with tips and tricks for first-time solo travelers. You might have even been reading forums on Lonely Planet to reassure all your plans will work accordingly.
Recently, I made my first out of country backpacking trip to Cambodia and Bangkok with only $220 (PHP 11,000) in my pocket. No extras. "Oh my god! How is that even possible?", "Damn, do you still eat? Where do you sleep?". Hold your horses! I'll show you that there's no need to splash cash to have amazing experiences. You just have to play your cards right.
I only spent $149 from my pocket money. So, here's how I did it:
You have to keep in mind that "sacrifices" are to be made in order to achieve your goal of traveling within budget:
First is comfort. Hotels will rack up your expenses. If you're not particular in having a room shared with complete strangers, hostels are great option for accommodation. Many hostels in Siem Reap and Bangkok offer different dormitory types: all-female, all-male, and a mixed dorm (an all-female dorm will cost you few more bucks, hehe).
Second would be food. Aside from hotel, foods can add up quickly. I will not be a faker but here in Philippines, I tend to splurge on munchies. During my trip, I stayed away from fancy restaurants and fast-food chains. Find local gems-- do as the locals do. There are many "can't miss" affordable food destinations, you just have to ask them where to go.
Third (on my list) is local attractions and tours with tour guides. Some attractions tend to charge you expensive entrance fees. Well, you gotta decide if you're willing to cash out on it. Arranged tours with (or without) tour guides? Ditch 'em! Do things on your own. Walk. Steer clear of taxis and tuktuks. Make use of a map. Research and inquire. Spending less will lower the barrier that separates you and the culture you've traveled to experience. Honestly, when done well, budget travel has a little to do with sacrifice but has a lot to do with inventiveness and flexibility!
"Wait. PHP 1,800 for Manila-Siem Reap-Bangkok-Manila ticket? You're kidding, right?" No, I ain't. I booked as early as 11 months to get cheaper flight. I'm a night owl and I regularly check local airline sites for seat sales. Mind you, booking a seat sale is not an easy task. It is an ultimate test of patience.
Watch out for my Siem Reap-Bangkok-Ayutthaya travel tips and photos to be published soon! ☺