Image: Prasit Rodphan / 123rf
20-somethings often lament the fact that they don’t have the money to travel, but believe me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
When you’re younger, sleeping in hostels and toughing it out on overnight buses in order to save money is easy. Wait 10 or 20 years and you’ll have to travel alone if you want to pull off the same kind of trip, especially if your friends are Singaporeans used to paying top dollar for hotels and restaurant meals.
In fact, depending on how much you inflate your lifestyle as your income rises, the kind of travel experiences you can have as a 20-something may never again be repeated when you grow up.
If you want to interact with your environment instead of just taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower and don’t need to be waited on hand and foot in five star surroundings, here are some tips that can keep your costs down.
1. Ask the locals where they party
Whether you’re one of those Singaporeans who head straight for the duty free alcohol and cigarette section the minute they land at a foreign airport or just fancy a drink or two, partying in a foreign land can be one of the defining moments of your young life.
And unless you’re visiting some commune in the middle of the desert, every town or city is home to places where young people party for cheap. And these places are usually distinctly different from the overpriced tourist traps clustered around major attractions.
The same thing happens in Singapore, really. Tourists flock to C’est La Vie and One Altitude, paying $25 to $30 for a single drink. On the other hand, it’s safe to say that most young locals are likely to be seen more regularly at joints like Zouk or Blu Jaz Cafe.
If you want to party where the local youths party, you’ll have to find out where the affordable areas are. Do your search on forums on Reddit or Couchsurfing, or just ask the guys working at your hostel or guesthouse.
Do that and perhaps, on your next trip to Bangkok, you’ll discover the city’s incredible bar scene instead of being limited to the go-go bars and Bayoke Sky Hotel’s rooftop bar.
2. Don’t assume hostel dorms are the cheapest option
It’s a rite of passage for fresh grads embarking on their grad trips—travelling through Europe and sleeping in aging hostels where you’re allocated a bunk in a room containing at least 5 other people.
If you’ve never done it before, it’s worth a shot since sharing accommodation with strangers can be an experience in itself (unless you’ve gone through NS).
But note that if you’re travelling in groups of two to four, it’s probably going to be cheaper for you to seek other types of accommodation.
A shared private room at a hostel is often cheaper for groups than reserving individual bunks for each. Then there’s Airbnb, which is increasingly muscling in on the budget travel market.
Also check if the country you’re visiting has other forms of budget accommodation besides hostels.
A room at a guesthouse in Thailand is usually the same price per head or just a few dollars more than a bunk in a hostel, while in Spain the word “hostal” often refers to guesthouses in people’s apartments, rather than dorms.
3. Before taking flights between destinations, check train or bus tickets
If you’re going on a multi-city trip, it’s easy to assume the fastest and cheapest way to get from place to place is to fly. That’s usually only true if you book well in advance or during sales.
Otherwise, you might find other modes of transport like trains and buses cheaper.
Those on a Eurotrip will find that, if you can stomach the long rides, using intercity bus service Eurolines is often much cheaper than flying.
To cite another example, to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, it is much cheaper (often ten times cheaper) to take a 6 hour VIP bus ride than to fly. Considering you’d have to travel to the airport and arrive at least an hour before your flight, you wouldn’t even save that much time.
If you want to travel longer and further than your friends in their 30s and 40s who’ve got more obligations tying them to Singapore, you’ll have to adapt your travel style and stay away from the places typical tourists gravitate towards.
It takes a little more effort and time, but it’s worth it.
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