Traveling Abroad on a Shoestring Budget

Story and photos by Nick Vu

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Not many people are fortunate enough to get three months off out of every year—certainly not recent graduates at entry-level jobs. Now is a great time to start saving for next summer, so go ahead and tell mom and dad you need to travel to South Africa to “find yourself.”

Here are a few helpful tips on how to make the most of your trip overseas on a shoestring budget. 

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The journey is important, but so is the destination.

You probably already have a place in mind on where you’d like to visit. Don’t settle for less! You don’t want to spend your summer vacation wishing you were somewhere else. However, you will want to have a rough idea of your projected daily costs. London, for example, is a notoriously expensive city. It costs about $16 to take the subway from the airport to Central London, where you can find Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. In contrast, you can have a smashing good time in India or Southeast Asia for $25 a day, lodging included. Really!

Extend your trip by a week—or three.

The cost of an international plane ticket can be substantial, and prices are at their peak during the summer. There’s no getting around this hurdle if you plan on traveling abroad. However, once you get to your destination, you’ll find there are many opportunities to pinch your penny. Taking an extended vacation won’t necessarily save you money—the opposite, in fact—but you’ll be getting more value out of that expensive one-way ticket to Tokyo, or Morocco, or wherever you decide to travel. It will also give you more time to sink your teeth into the place’s culture without feeling rushed. There is value in that, too.

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Pack light, and carry-on.

Catching a flight on a budget with anything larger than a carry-on is no bueno. Ideally, you’ll want a sizable duffel or backpack with enough capacity to bring five sets of clothes and basic necessities. Whether you leave for two weeks or two months, pack lightly and thoughtfully! Having to do laundry occasionally is preferable to hefty baggage fees and a strained back. Your body will thank you.

Familiarize yourself with public transportation.

Unlike sprawling Southern California, many major cities around the world have wonderfully robust and affordable public transit. In Seoul, South Korea, you can travel anywhere in the city for less than $2, and bus fares in Bangkok are, on average, 25 cents! It may be intimidating at first as all of the signs are in a foreign language, but it will be worth it. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the transportation system and consult with Google Maps often. 

The best things in life are free!

By all means, go to that Real Madrid football game, or that concert of your favorite K-pop group. After all, that’s why you’re there! But most of your travel activities should be of the free variety if you want to get back home with both kidneys intact and unsold. A stroll around Sydney’s botanical garden or a nighttime wander through the Neon Streets of Hong Kong will cost you nothing.

Every day is an adventure when you are in a foreign land. If you look carefully, you’ll find that every major city has unique attractions and events worth experiencing.