|Every traveller has a different budget. One persons budget for a fortnight in Egypt might well run to a couple of thousand dollars, for others it would be a few hundred. Generally, budget travel is considered shoestring. Lonely Planet almost made the name their own with their original travel guide to Southeast Asia; for travellers on a tight budget. I even used the yellow book myself in the eighties.
Now LP have guides to just about everywhere, and have included mid-range and top end hotels in their places to stay; to cast the net wider. We will be looking at the guidebooks next week.
If you are travelling on the cheap, there is nothing to stop you entering the five star hotels. Some of them have good value, all you can eat buffets; at a price travellers can afford -- occasionally. If you are starting out on a lengthy 3 to 6 month overland journey, you will indeed need to budget for three to seven thousand dollars.
Your budget will vary depending on where you travel. Europe is not as cheap anymore, and the gendarmes aren`t so tolerant of back-packers sleeping on the beach.
When the Summer is over you wouldn`t want to anyway, but it`s still a good time to travel in Europe. The queues for museums have gone, you`ll have less tourists in your photographs, and you will get to meet the locals; in the high season they`re all on holiday too. And guess what? The accommodation prices are coming down as well; almost half the price in some heavily touristed areas.
Amsterdam and Prague are great budget places in September and October, and Paris is coming back to life -- the Parisians desert the French capital in August, and that`s not a lot of fun if you like to sit at a brasserie table and watch the world go by.
Good value travel can still be had in Asia, South America, and parts of Africa. In West Africa, for example, the Francophone countries are more expensive than the former English colonies, with Abidjan and Dakar the two most expensive cities. Ghana is a treasure. Now its the time to start planning for the Southern Hemisphere.
The most expensive part of the trip is usually the flight ticket. In this article, we are talking about the budget travel after the the ticket is bought. Getting a good price on tickets is quite an art in itself.
You can even make reservations online. Your budget for travelling, once the ticket is bought, will of course depend on your comfort requirements in both accommodation and transportation.
Dormitory beds, or a room with your own shower; hard seats on 36-hour Chinese trains, or a sleeper in a closed compartment. These are the extremes and there is always somewhere in between. I have stayed in some very nice hotels in South America for $5, and some dives in the United States for five to ten times that.
There are old colonial mansions in West Africa that you never want to leave and water palaces, surrounded by rice paddies, in Indonesia that offer an outdoor swim before breakfast. Once travellers tell Lonely Planet about these places, they loose the atmosphere. So I am not going to tell you where they are either. There are always gems on the route less travelled, and that is the beauty of travelling without knowing where you will be staying.
Thats budget travel to me. You have a wad of money when you start out, and you really dont know how far you will get with it. If you want to know how much it is all going to cost and where you will stay, then book through a travel agent. Before you get your head down for the night you will have to get there. Some people do hitch-hike in Asia and South America, but transportation is reasonably cheap and frequent.
The greatest luxury is time, budgeting your time is also a part of independent travel. Again if you dont have enough of it, you will be forced to take the tours. In countries like India and China you will need to book the long-distance trains at least a day in advance, sometimes three days or more.
Many a traveller has come unstuck by looking around Beijing for three or five days, and then being forced to stay another three or five because they cant get a ticket out. On the popular routes, you sometimes need to book your tickets out, before you settle in. Unwanted tickets are easier to sell than trying to buy one for a train that leaves in half an hour.
In West Africa you simply turn up at the autogare and wait for the Peugeot to fill up -- early mornings are always best. While other countries have bus stations with many companies competing to get you on theirs that is leaving right away.
So whatever your budget, there is always something for you -- you pay the money, you take the choice. Dont forget that some countries require you to pay for a visa, and when your budgeted time is out you may well have to pay a departure tax. Our featured sites can help you further.