5 Tips: How to Budget for Backpacking and Long-term Travel

It’s a fairly common question that most backpackers will ask or at least google when they begin planning a trip but you’d be surprised how difficult it is to know how much to save. Here are our top tips for budgeting…

1. Always over estimate

Sounds obvious but it is way better to have too much money for your stay than too little. If you have a little extra it means you can splash out once in a while or do an expensive activity you’ve always wanted to do. For us it was a scuba diving course in Koh Tao.

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2. Use the £1000 a month rule

When we were travelling through multiple countries in 6 months we used the rule above. Whilst during a month in Australia we spent a quite a bit more than £1000, what we saved during our two months in South East Asia, meant it averaged out. So if you are travelling through multiple countries that vary in how expensive they are, this can sometimes be a fairly straightforward way to get started.

3. Spend an afternoon in a bookstore or library. The Internet can be a minefield of opinions on budgets.

It would be very expensive (and not to mention it would weigh a lot!) to buy a travel guide for every destination on the average backpackers itinerary. However we found it very useful, when initially planning a trip, to browse the travel guides and maybe take a few handy snaps or notes on your iPhone…ssshhh we know it’s frowned upon. Travel guides generally have a section near the front or the front of each country section that will give you an average daily spend. Often this daily spend is in the form of a basic, comfortable and luxury budget. Find out the “comfortable’ or midrange daily spend and times it by the number of days you hope to spend there, and if you keep yourself frugal you should be covered for most of the stuff you want to do!

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This isn’t a bookstore, it’s just a random book shelf in a hostel…in case you had forgotten what a book looks like…

4. Have a separate budget for extras

On this trip the Inca Trail and scuba diving are the must do activities. When we started planning we kept these separate in the budget to insure we would be able to them. I.e. we had an extra £500 for the Inca Trail set aside. In writing this I’ve realised we should probably also have some money separated for a flight home…we don’t…so it’s probably also a good idea to budget for this if you don’t have all your flights booked from the beginning! Either that or get yourself deported…but that’s really not recommended!

5. Keep an eye on the news

If a country isn’t doing too well financially, any prices listed in guide books in the local currency may become useless. Thankfully the daily budgets mentioned above are usually listed in US dollars so they are fairly safe to plan from. However with Argentina we found all the prices listed for activities were completely wrong due to inflation. On the flip-side keeping an eye on the news meant we quickly became aware of the blue dollar that has saved us a lot of money.

Oh and one more…

Don’t forget to budget for insurance, flights, immunisations, anti-malarials, and your kit and rucksack etc. Again keep this separate if you can, as all this can add up quickly! As for the travel kit – speak to friends and ex-backpackers as they may well have gear you can borrow.

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