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Top 10 Tips for First-Time Budget Travelers

By: Sean E Keener
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Here are the top 10 tips for first-time budget travelers:

With the right tools, budget travel is the best way to go
Budget travel is the way to go

1. Traveling is a great way to learn about yourself. How creative can you be with a few dollars in a foreign country? To me it's "cheap" to do all the expensive things like eat at the "best" restaurant, see the "top-rated" musical, buy the touristy sweater that says "Harrods" on it or whatev. The richest experiences are more like sharing a sandwich in a park and maybe making friends with the locals - then you might have an authentic taste of culture.

2. Get your shots! There may be specific diseases you need to get shots or prescriptions for, such as malaria, hepatitis and dengue fever. If you are in a larger city, visit a travel clinic that deals specifically with travelers and travel-related illnesses. You are not allowed to enter certain countries without proof of shots.

3. Get a pack that fits. Most of you girls don't need us to tell you, but in case you haven't heard - getting a pack that fits well is one thing you can't really compromise on. In general, women have smaller builds than men, so it makes sense that their packs would be proportionally different. Although many women do travel with unisex packs, we've met plenty of female travelers who swear by their "woman-sized" packs.

4. Pack light. There's a quickly-aging cliché among travelers that you should put all your travel clothes and all your travel money each in a pile, and then get rid of half the clothes and double the amount of money. It's obviously not nearly quite so simple, but the wisdom behind this idea is sound, and as long as you understand it this will help you pack in a manner that will cover your needs and still give you mobility.

5. Only carry what you love. This may sound strange, but it's the most important rule. Often when packing, we can focus on what we think we may need, which is completely different to what we love. With the exception of my travel documents, I didn't feel like I really needed anything: I just chose to carry a few things out of personal preference. The end result was amazing: I felt totally liberated and free to connect with the people and culture around me.

6. Take advantage of everything your hostel has to offer. Cook in the hostel kitchen, hang around the bar and lounge chatting people up, ask staff for recommendations, watch free movies, go on walking tours, borrow a bike - whatever the hostel offers, go for it.

Staying in hostels is a great way to save money & meet people
Hostels are great places to meet people

7. Use your hostel's kitchen. Not all kitchens are created equal. I once bought frozen pizza only to discover afterward that the hostel kitchen had no oven. The chewy base you get from microwaving pizza is edible, but barely. Many hostels have a "free box", made up of food left behind by other hostelers and perhaps common items like salt and cooking oil. Check the contents of the free box and you can avoid buying items already there.

8. Use local transport, such as buses or subways. Try to avoid taxis, especially in big cities. Walk! Get some exercise, see things at a different, slower pace, and see what unfolds-and walking is always free. Rent a bike: small price, more comfy, faster pace. (

9. Eat on the street. Think of meals as another chance to experience a new culture. Eat widely, eat bravely, and eat at food stands on the street. Head towards the stand that's the most crowded, find out what everybody's nibbling on, and then point to what you want if you don't speak the language. Odds are you'll come away with something delicious and budget-friendly. Or, if you're proudly presented with a big bowl of tentacles and eyeballs, at least you'll have a good story to tell.

10. Taking a class can be a good way to meet people if you're staying in a place for a fairly long period of time. A language class will introduce you to foreigners like yourself, many of whom will also be in the country alone. Other kinds of classes (yoga, cooking, wine tasting, etc) can be good ways to meet natives.

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