36 Ways 
of Backpacking Cheap

"Are you backpacking on a budget?"

Or did you spend too much money on beers and tours, and have to tighten up your backpacking budget for the rest of your trip?

The tips in this article is not intended to make a cheapskate out of you. That's because it's not fun to think about what you can, and can't buy during a backpacking adventure trip.

But, let's face it... There are certain times when you override your budget, and have to think at least twice about what you purchase. Many travelers backpack cheap to balance their budget again.

Another scenario: You might encounter practical money problems during your trip.

For instance: When you're on a vacation from your job, you mistakenly don't receive your payment when you're abroad. That happened to me...twice! And I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has experienced this.

Don't panic if you run out of money! If it's just temporary, ask for money help from someone at home!

Yes, it's humiliating and a pain to ask for money, but you don't have exactly a choice do you...?

It's either that or go home!

In the mean time, here are 36 ways of Backpacking Cheap!

Cheap accommodation 
in Asia

Piggy bank, ©iStockphoto.com/urbancow
  1. Book a room in advance, especially during the high season at popular places (like Ko Phi Phi). Don't assume that you'll get a room when you get there... If all the budget places are taken, you have to crash at an expensive hotel/resort.
  2. Find a hostel or a cheap guesthouse.
  3. If you can't find hostels or it's packed, try to find a guesthouse which provide fan rooms with shared bathroom. They're a lot cheaper. The following day, go to the hostel to try to get a room again.
  4. Share a room with a fellow traveler(s) and split the costs.
  5. Pay only for one night when you arrive at a new hostel/guesthouse. If you like the place, stay there. If you hate it, you move on. If you automatically paid for 3 nights and hated the place the 1st night, you just lost money! And that's is not backpacking cheap!
  6. If you decide to stay a couple of nights at a hostel/guesthouse, negotiate a price for all those nights.

Food and Drinks

  1. Eat at food stalls or buy your dinner from food vendors, instead of restaurants.
  2. Go easy the first weeks in a new town. Find out the prices for food. It occasionally happens that a vendor will charge you a higher amount, even if their neighbor vendor sells the same food.
  3. On the airplane: There's usually stuff that are practical (thin blanket, plastic knife, fork, spoon, napkins, salt and pepper).
  4. If there's a McDonald's in town (like Bangkok), you can get packets of ketchup, salt, pepper and napkins there.
  5. Buy snacks, food and fruit from family shops instead of bigger stores or 7-11s.
  6. Buy big bottles of water instead of many small ones.
  7. If staying at a hotel for a few nights, don't take anything from the minibar! Sneak in your own supplies.
  8. Buy local beer, instead of Western-produced beer which is more expensive. Thailand imports beers like, Corona, Budweiser and Guinness with expensive duty.
  9. If you are a group of travelers eating together, arrange a buffet of your own. 

Here's an example: You're at a local restaurant with five other travelers (you're 6 people). Order four/five dishes and put the dishes in the middle. Then split the bill. One portion at a local restaurant in Asia is often too much food for one person.

Return to top

Saving money on transportation

  1. Take the local bus or train instead of a minibus/VIP bus.
  2. There are usually double deckers at night trains in Asia. When buying tickets, ask for 2nd class bottom deck or sleeper class on Indian trains.
  3. Rent bicycles to get around town instead of a Tuk-Tuk or a rickshaw.
  4. Ask the staff at the hostel/guesthouse how much transport fares should cost. This way, you'll avoid scams. If you avoid scams, you avoid wasting money.

Saving money on shopping

  1. BARGAIN at the open-air and indoor markets.
  2. Shop around for prices: especially in touristy shopping areas. This applies when you go shopping at markets, booking (trekking) tours and the PADI diving certificate. The competition is tough, so that's why the prices vary.
  3. Choose inexpensive shopping areas, where locals do their shopping. Do some research by asking staff and travelers.
  4. Rent, trade, sell or buy books at second-hand stores.
  5. Try to sell things you don't need anymore at street shops (like in Bangkok, on Khao san Road and Soi Rambuttri). Do this instead of throwing it away. It can be anything from travel guide books to travel gear.
  6. If you need to allow yourself the luxury and stay at a mid-ranged guesthouse, resort or hotel, there are a few complimentary items you can grab. Soap, shampoo, conditioner, tooth brush, cotton balls, comb, pen, notepad, sewing kit etc. 
  7. Instead of buying a map, ask if the guesthouse provides free maps.

Return to top

Exchanging money in Asia

  1. Avoid exchanging cash at the airports and tourist traps. The airports will give you the lowest rate. So it's better to find a bank inside town.
  2. Don't exchange too much money if you're leaving the country in a few days. You may not have enough time to spend it. 

If you convert money into the new currency, you won't always get the amount which the exchanged money is really worth. That's because the rates differ from country to country, even neighboring countries.

Read about money safety right here


  1. For international calls, use pay phone, e-mail, Skype instead of your mobile phone.
  2. If using your mobile, buy a local SIM card. This way, you will save money on domestic calls. Like, if you want to call your travel companion who is on the other side of town. They're also good for international calls. 

Saving money on tours

  1. If backpacking cheap, ditch the package tours if it's possible. Instead, rent a bike or a Tuk-Tuk to explore the surroundings by yourself.
  2. For free information on sights and history, ask the local staff at the guest house, your tour guide or a fellow traveler. Do this, instead of buying a book. Another option is to print out information from the internet. A couple of print-outs are cheap and lightweight. And practical when you're on the move!
  3. If you know you will be snorkeling a lot, invest in a snorkel mask instead of renting one every time. 

Return to top

Other ways of backpacking cheap

  1. Wash your own clothes instead of paying for laundry service. Buy washing powder from the local supermarket and a piece of cord to hang clothes on.
  2. If you're lazy and want to pay for laundry service, take out the undies, boxers, bikinis, swimming shorts and socks. It's easy to wash them by yourself. Less weight means less cash to use on laundry.
  3. Bring your own blanket/towel for the beach instead of renting a deck chair.

Backpacking cheap is not that hard! You will get used to the fact that you have to settle for less.

Don't forget to check out our free budget tutorial

Further reading:

Like this page?

Return to top of Backpacking Cheap

Don't miss out on Backpacking Chronicle Newsletter and more travel tips!!! 

We respect your email privacy

Sign up for our newsletter and get monthly travel tips and reports! 

We respect your email privacy

Comment this page:

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.