As soon as the word got out online that budget travel isn’t a drill, many of us Filipinos wasted no time in planning the perfect “affordable” trip. Some succeeded at first try, others didn’t. On the contrary, some people like me still struggle to find that balance between sticking to a reasonable budget while making sure to stay somewhat comfortable (hey, this is important, too!).
It’s true. Budget travel isn’t for everyone. It took a few more tries before I realised that many of the things I know about it are a complete hoax, and not just because they didn’t work for me alone. Here are 13 of the most outrageous misconceptions about budget travel that Filipinos should know!
1. Hostels are synonymous to dormitories
People tend to say hostels when they actually mean dormitory rooms INSIDE these accommodations. Let it be known that hostels are made up of other types of rooms, too. You can even opt to stay in private ones similar to those in hotels. That is, if you’re not too cool about the idea of sharing a space with strangers, among many other things.
2. Budget destinations will forever be budget-friendly
Countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines are some of the most budget-friendly destinations there are. Sounds enticing? Not until you find out that even within these destinations, there are cities and provinces that are not as cheap as the others. Hence, it still depends on which particular city, town or island you plan on going to!
3. DIY is always cheaper than packaged tours
Mention “budget travel” and about 98% of the time, the concept of DIY or do-it-yourself trips will find its way to the conversation. After all, without guide fees and booking fees, you’ll save a significant amount of your budget and use it for other things. But, with enough research, you’ll discover that there are packaged tours that do tend to be cheaper when you’ve compared the total costs to your own. This works especially if you’re travelling with at least one other person.
4. The more you spend, the more you save
Seem familiar? That’s because you’ve probably heard this line millions of times as advertised by airlines, hotels, and attractions. Allow me to do a slight revision: The more you spend, the bigger your expenses will be! It’s similar to the concept of shopping mall sales you stumble upon every now and then.
5. Avoiding tourist centres is more affordable
How many times have booked a hostel far from the tourist centre or district based on the notion that being farther away is more expensive? When in fact, you wound up spending more because of the frequent need to ride a taxi and other public transportation to visit certain attractions. Again, search more closely and you will uncover tons of cheaper options for dining, shopping, and even accommodations!
6. Booking early is always the way to go
There’s this rule about booking flights a year or at least six months in advance to get the best deals. The thing is, most of us don’t know what can happen in between those months that might cause us to eventually cancel our trip. The ideal time to book flights is still around three to four months prior to your trip. This way, we’ll have a better idea of what to expect in terms of work, school, and home, and we’ll be able to manage our travel plans better.
7. Budget travellers only fly with budget airlines
To be a budget traveller, you always have to book with budget airlines. Wrong! Even four to five-star airlines offer crazy cheap seats from time to time that go well with a tight budget. The even better part? The bookings are often refundable or flexible, so even if something comes up later on, you can easily adjust your flight details to your satisfaction.
8. Buy groceries in bulk, cook in accommodation
When Airbnbs and the concept of “cooking on the road” got popular, some of us ditched eating out altogether to save on costs. But it doesn’t always offer the same results, especially when you’re travelling on your own and when you have a big appetite. In many Asian countries, you’ll find that eating street food will still cost you less than cooking your own meals. Not to mention, you get to taste more local delicacies!
9. Budget travellers only visit cheap destinations
You don’t need to visit budget-friendly destinations to be a budget traveller. While it may be difficult for countries like Hong Kong and Macau, one trick that you can do is spend fewer days in these destinations or travel in a big group. Scouring the streets for small-scale restaurants will also reward you with budget-friendly meals, which is true for Hong Kong.
10. You have to sacrifice comfort
Thanks to hostel private rooms, affordable hotels and Airbnbs, travellers now have the option to sleep on a budget without necessarily resorting to cramped dormitories. As mentioned earlier, high-end airlines also occasionally give out promo fares that offer travellers better schedules, better seats, and a better flight experience overall!
11. It’s the only way to “truly” experience a place
The cheaper you go, the more “immersive” your experience will be. Umm, not all the time. Sometimes, choosing the cheapest option possible can be too restricting. You might not be able to try as much local food as you’d like, go to specific places, and do certain activities!
12. Budget travel means one bag only
Budget and backpacking? It’s kind of like peanut butter and jelly, at least in the eyes of a budget traveller. Most of us think that we have to follow the “one bag rule” without realising that it’s all in the weight and dimensions. You can still carry more than one piece of luggage and follow the size requirements of these airlines! Need a crash course on proper packing? Read this.
13. The shorter the trip, the cheaper
It is for expensive destinations. Otherwise, you might actually spend more especially if you’re exploring three different countries in less than a week. To pull off such a trip (and still go back home in one piece), the most feasible option is to fly constantly in order to maximise your time in your destinations. We all know that it’s normally more expensive than travelling overland!
And perhaps the biggest myth of all: Travelling is easy. No, it’s not. It takes a LOT of planning with budget always in consideration. But don’t let me spoil your travel plans now. I’ve set some expectations (and debunked some) based on experience, and I hope you find them useful when you leave for your first budget trip, may it be here in the Philippines or abroad!