Oct 052009

A major goal of this blog is to show folks who think they don’t have the luxury to travel that it’s actually easier and cheaper than you think. The key is to get yourself to a “Developing Country”, aka, a country less rich than yours. Basically, if you save up for the $300 flight to Latin America, or reeaaaally save up for the $700+ ticket to Southeast Asia, you can live like absolute royalty for months on end.

That initial plane fare really deters people, but I assure you that (particularly if you stay in these countries for at least three weeks), the cost, including that plane ticket, will always be less than what you would have spent at home.

But if you’re living on roughly $30 a day, aren’t you in some rat-infested shack the whole time, subsisting on stale bread and cockroaches? No! In so many ways, backpackers in Developing Countries live better on $30 than they ever, ever would have at home.

To illustrate this, let’s examine what $30 a day is buying here in Mui Ne, Vietnam.

1. Albeit after some searching, we have a ridiculously clean, comfortable, safe hotel room with Wi-fi, a mosquito net, and the palm-lined ocean view pictured all over this article, for $10 a night.

A family member recently offered to put me up in a swank eight star hotel for a night for a birthday present because she was fearful that $10 brings you only bedbugs and pigsty rooms, but I declined (or rather, opted for a different present!) because there is truly very little difference between the $50 hotel next door and this one. I mean, look at the photos of the hammock-filled courtyard! What more do you need, really? My hunch is that the extra $40 next door just buys you one extra soap packet.

2. Two or three big, scrumptious meals of $3 to $5 each. These meals will usual include some luxuries that you would never have been able to afford at home, for example, fresh-grilled whole fish, intricate curries, or tropical fruit shakes. (Tummy grumble.)

Note that this food budget includes water for the day, coffee, fruit juice, and… ice cream.

3. $10 a day for tourism, entertainment, transportation, or any combination thereof. See the previous articles on the Mui Ne Sand Dunes or the Bangkok-area Tiger Temple for illustrations of how much fun you get for small change.

Also note that transportation here in Southeast Asia (and from my experience, in much of Latin America) costs roughly one dollar per hour, meaning a four hour bus ride ticket will cost just $4. In contrast, the 3 hour bus from Providence, RI to New York costs $45!

Each day, Europeans, Aussies, Canadians, Israelis, and even Colombians ask, “Why are there so few Americans traveling out here?” Dearest Americans, it IS within our reach! We can do it! Consider the mathematics… and the possible happiness!


Tempted to click another article? Do it...

  30 Responses to “The $30 a Day Budget Secret”

  1. Very cool post! The cost of flying is what usually deters me from traveling. For example, next year we are planning on traveling to Savannah. We have to decide whether to bite the bullet of $2K on airfare for 4 or drive 17 or 18 hours with two kids under age 5. Did I mention I HATE driving and that I only do it Mon-Fri to get to and from work?

    • Yargh — Kids bring so much new math to these equations! The airfare for a full family is no joke. I keep telling myself to learn how to use credit card points to get airline miles, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  2. You think that is possible to travel the whole world with a S35 day budget? I am considering to do this and travel an entire. But I am not so sure if I can with this budget.

  3. Our long term average (past 5 years) for the two of us has been US$ 22 per day including everything. Our spending do not really depend of the country or continent. We lived with the same money in France and Italy for a few years.

    1. We don’t really use hotels or hostels. In the road we sleep in train and bus stations and airports, and when we stop we either rent a small room or stay with a hospex (e.g. BeWelcome) host.

    2. Eating out is expensive and the food they sell is not compatible with our diet. We are strictly vegans and don’t add to food any salt or sugar and refuse to eat MSG and other chemicals. Cooking all food by ourselves cuts the costs.

    3. We don’t do tourism or entertainment, but prefer to live like locals and with locals. For transportation we use our feet for distances up to 15 km (10 miles), and public buses for longer trips, and we never take taxis.

    • Fascinating! Thanks for sharing how you do it! My tactics are different, but the budget result is similar.

  4. Great article!
    I know it has been a few years, but what is that hotel called?

    • Thanks, Lisa! Alas, I don’t remember, but the principle remains that there are many great hotels like this for great prices in Asia! πŸ™‚

  5. I totally agree paying a little bit more for the flight is definitely worth it for all the luxury you get πŸ™‚

  6. I agree! This is a sound advice though you have to consider a good prospective place to sightsee and go save few money you have on your pocket. πŸ™‚

  7. Traveling doesn’t need to be expensive. However, you do need to budget and research. I would definitely agree with these tips (as long as you limit your time in Europe) πŸ™‚

  8. I like how you include ice cream in your daily food budget.

  9. I love this article! I always try to tell people about how it is almost CHEAPER to travel than to live in North America/Europe!! But yes – these visuals really do help to explain what you ACTUALLY get for your money in certain countries – and it is A LOT.
    Great Article!

  10. the hotel is $10 per night, that is a serious bargain

  11. I’ve been traveling in SEA for years, and seldom spend more than $30./day and live well. Many people find that hard to believe.

  12. Where do you look for these hotels though?! Haha. I’m trying to start planning for my trip… sometime down the road πŸ™‚

  13. Great post. I am going to share it madly to help people see how cheap it can be to travel. I always come home from SE Asia with spare cash, it can get hard to spend it for sure.

    Funnily enough, as a Brit living in Korea I find America to be cheap when I visit!

  14. […] have to credit a fellow Bostonian, Lillie from Around the World L, for her excellent post: The $30 a Day Budget Secret. Β While traveling through Southeast Asia, she budgeted $30 for each day: $10 for lodging, $10 for […]

  15. I’m planning on 30 a day for my trip too. I’ve gotta a little leeway though too since I’m gonna hunker down a bit in the beginning. Great pics!

  16. This is a great post!!! I wish more people would realize that travel doesn’t have to be expensive. I am planning my RTW and have decided to cut back on Europe and spend more time in The Middle East and South East Asia, because I wanna make my $ stretch!!!

    • Yay! Yes! I ended up changing my plane tickets, too, to spend an extra 2 months in Southeast Asia because I realized that the flight change fee would be WAY less than the money I’d save by postponing Europe! Best of luck and be in touch.

  17. I’m on 30 a day as well and had no problem traveling through Mexico, Central America and now South America. My family was shocked that when they came to visit me in Ecuador for 2 weeks that they only spent 20 a day. At home no one would think twice about dropping $20 on dinner.

  18. Julius T said…
    After reading all your posts from start to finish and I am extremely envious of your journey. As I sit here in my cubicle listening to bachata music via Pandora (love that site) all I could think of is how many different ways I could NOT do the same thing myself.

    I love the dualities that you point out in you entries, from the modern buildings next to the shacks in Bangkok and the distrust of the con artists but befriending of other travelers.

    You’ve been on this trip for a couple of months now – Any life altering events so far?

    BTW – nice shout out to Providence!

    October 5, 2009 9:20 PM

    Lillie said…

    Thank you so much for your message and for taking the time to read all of the posts!

    It is fascinating to explore what allows us or blocks us from taking various life paths, innit? Ultimately, however, another goal of this blog is to take the reader along (in intense, photo-filled detail) so he or she can continue earning that paycheck back in good old Providence– or anywhere else πŸ™‚

    I hope you continue reading and commenting, and pass the site around to others if you get a chance!

    Many Thanks,

    October 6, 2009 2:41 AM

    Lillie said…
    …and in terms of 2-month reflections, those will come October 12th, as I took my flight out of Boston on August 12th. Stay tuned! πŸ™‚

    October 6, 2009 6:41 AM

    Dave said…
    Way to be frugal! That said, there’s nothing wrong with splurging on the occasional delicacy – for example, a tasty plate of fried cockroaches! πŸ™‚

    October 9, 2009 10:57 PM

    Jessie Kwak said…
    Great post, thanks! I would add to learn to ride the bus–in Lima we’ve saved probably $10-15 a day now that we’re brave enough to hop on the crowded combis. The funny thing? They’re probably way safer than hailing a taxi on the street, and a tenth the price!

    October 27, 2009 6:49 PM

    jforest said…
    It seems everyone is heading to Southeast Asia now! Every travel blog I read is either going to SEA or has been already. It’s the preferred way to save a buck!

    December 23, 2009 4:05 AM

    Lisa-Marie said…
    As I’m converting dollars to pounds I’m sat here in awe! I can’t believe it! Definate plans for the future being made!
    Thankyou for the tips πŸ™‚

    April 11, 2010 1:51 AM

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>