BITS and Pieces

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Budget travel

When your travel budget is the only difference between going on a travel adventure hopping from city to city and marinating in self-pity on your office chair regretting not having enough money for your trip, fantasising about visuals you see on TLC and Fox Life is not the only option.

What you need in such a case is to adopt budget travel not just as a process, but as an attitude. Budget travellers are arguably – and ironically – the world’s most satisfied souls. There is nothing more liberating than pulling yourself out of your comfort zone and making travel about simplistic yet purposeful journeys, rustic yet enlightening exchanges and highly local yet remarkably global experiences. Here’s your cheat sheet for achieving this.

What’s the brouhaha all about?

Budget travel is all about uncomplicating and making simple choices. First simple choice: travel alone. Other than saving you a ridiculous amount of money, nothing will help you soak in all that you experience better than a journey where you only have yourself to look after.

Budget travel is also about putting your destination above your comfort and your preferences. It is about allowing your destination to dictate the choices you make. If a particular choice, for example, compromises the level of comfort but enhances your experience by giving you a sense of the local flavour, go for it. In short, travelling on a budget needs you to get rid of all your inhibitions. This helps you make the most cost effective choices for accommodation, food and transport.

What to look out for?

To plan or not to plan? Are spontaneous choices the cheapest ones? Well, not necessarily. If you are travelling to Europe, for example, plan your accommodation. Choose youth hostels, become a member of a group where you can host people and then hope to be hosted, plan your itinerary such that you can spend a night on a train journey and finally, choose a place that’s close to the city centre, which means you can easily walk your way around the city.

Regardless of the city you choose, resolve that you will only travel by local transport. It is much cheaper and, in some cases, very efficient. In Asia or indeed in Europe, for example, buses are your best bet for inter-city travel. For moving around within the city or village, hire a two-wheeler.

Visit a tourist attraction only because you want to. Not because people say you need to. If you are not into art, culture or music, a museum – no matter how famous – should not make it to your itinerary. Always be on the lookout for possibilities that will increase your chances of integrating into the local style of life.

What about food cravings?

Every destination has its own cuisine that it is very proud of. Your travel budget will benefit considerably if your gastronomical choices include locally-prepared cuisine. For example, if you’re in a coastal city, the local sea food has to be your first choice. The best places that serve this local cuisine will probably not be the ones that offer the most breath-taking view but they will definitely give your taste buds something to cherish for a long time.

So hunt for the little by-lanes serving peculiar street food platters or the most uniquely prepared drinks and thirst quenchers. Look for small kiosks or cafes that serve meals with local dishes at extremely affordable rates. Also, try to arrange for at least one meal with a local family. If you have been provided with the basic kitchen equipment, head to the supermarket, buy your essentials and cook your own meals.

How do I get there?

There are, unfortunately, some expenses that you cannot get out of incurring. Air travel is one of them. You can of course soothe you financial pain a little by booking your tickets well in advance or choosing a low cost airline. If possible, don’t opt for air travel at all. Choose the most commonly used modes of public transport to sink into the local experience.

Any travel tips?

If you’re in a city whose currency is stronger than yours, your choices need to be more Spartan than usual. That doesn’t mean they can’t be fun. Walk or hitch a ride to a particular destination if you can, interact with as many locals as you can to get street smart travel tips and get youth discount cards or student discount cards wherever possible.

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Anoop Deshpande - Senior French & Italian-English translator, BITS Private Limited With a terrible weakness for interesting conversations, Anoop, a political science graduate, entered the world of languages unintentionally but now cannot get it out of his life. Always willing to connect with people, he is a fanatical travel aficionado and irritatingly systematic. He is a sports enthusiast, a chef at heart and will work to watch films. He also wishes he could charge people for his patience.