… or just sleep in a tent
Warm weather destinations make it easier to travel with just a tent and sleeping bag. Alex, a 37-year-old bikepacker, spent seven months pedaling around Southeast Asia, from Hanoi to Bangkok. He spent $400 on gear (bike, cheap tent, sleeping bag, duffle, a few changes of clothes), and traveled by bike. “It was very cheap and liberating,” he says.
His daily expenses were about $10 — which usually included a room, food, and a drink or two. Once, he set up camp in an abandoned farm shed in Cambodia. A woman from a nearby house saw him and stopped by, baffled. The single mother of three offered him a place to stay and dinner with her family. “She showed me every degree of hospitality I could have wanted,” Alex says.
Ditch your Lonely Planet guidebook and do as the locals do
Hostels, bars, restaurants, and other hotspots listed by big travel guides — even those flagged as “off-the-beaten-track”– aren’t a secret. Anything marketed toward tourists is likely to be marked up, even if it’s a designated budget spot. Instead, venture off the main tourist strips to find restaurants and cafes where locals go. Look for menus without English, or ask your rickshaw driver for his favorite spots.
Befriend local bartenders: they’re usually affable and know what it’s like to be broke, and can send you to neighborhood spots where you’re likely to score free drinks, says Margaret Izotov, a San Diegan hospitality worker who spent much of last year bumming around the UK and Paris. For solo travelers, she says, “be your extraverted self that you know you can be, tap into survival instincts, and make some friends.”
When you find yourself in a place with renowned, pricy tourist attractions, consider skipping them altogether. Instead, go to the market, load up on fruits and cheese, then sit in a sunny spot and people-watch. Strangely, the cheaper option is often the more rewarding.