You’re maybe wondering by reading my blog how I am doing to go to so many places so often. I am not especially rich but I am taking care thoroughly of my expenses. I am not free to go anytime I want as I still work Monday to Friday to pay my bills. So what are my secrets to travel and dive on every continent?
With good organisation, a lot of things are possible. Budget is always a matter of priorities. In my case, I decided, years ago, travelling was my priority. Based on this, I started to realise there were many things that were not essential to me and by giving them up, I could afford my wanderlust.
I cut my expenses at home to the essentials
In Europe, we get 5 weeks paid holidays: of course, this is a great help. Associated with a couple of bank holidays, you can go somewhere far for long enough. We are also lucky to have many exciting destinations that are just a short flight away. Italy, Spain, and even Iceland are places I could enjoy on a getaway as short as a long weekend of 3 days. Nevertheless, if you go far away, it is better to spend a long time there. It will be cheaper than several short-haul flights during the year, and you can enjoy in many exotic destinations more affordable standard of living.
Have you already asked yourself how important is your craving for travelling? What would you able to give up for it? For example, if you live in a city, do you need a car? Do you need to buy new clothes every weekend? Do you need this huge flat screen in your living room? What I’m trying to point out is by having a more frugal lifestyle, you can make space in your budget to do what matters the most to you.
While living in Paris, to gather a comfortable travel budget, I gave up having a car to take public transportation. I had a flatmate and I was renting my room every time I was travelling. Watching my energy consumption and cooking by myself were the extra steps that helped me to reach 50% of saving on my monthly salary without giving up having an enjoyable life.
I travel off-season with a cheap flight ticket
If you are free to go when you want, take advantage of this to travel for less. Identify the peak season of your dream destination and avoid it. Without surprise, in peak season, everything is more expensive: especially flights and accommodation. For example, in Europe, try to avoid May, July and August, when locals take holidays. “But the weather is nicer, isn’t it?” Yes, of course, that’s why everyone wants to go. For scuba diving, it is fair to say you don’t want too cold water too. So for Europe and especially Southern Europe, the trick is to go in September or October. The sea has warmed up all summer and everyone is back to work.
To find cheap flights, Skyscanner has become my favourite website. Instead of indicating a precise departure date, click in the field and select the option “whole month” or “cheapest month”. You can then see with the calendar view or the chart view when are the cheapest departure and return days. If you can be a bit flexible, you can make significant savings!
To find alternative routes, I use Rome2Rio. This website will not only help with flights but also bus, trains and ferries. The main advantage is to spot the different direct flights or practical hub connections. Did you know from Europe to Asia, flying through Finland can be very cost competitive as they are travelling a shorter distance? (The plane goes north of the Earth where the diameter is small, as a result, flies a shorter distance).
Then having identified the main routes and the cheapest dates, I always double-check on the airline company website. More than a few times, I found the same ticket for less. I would recommend you to register on the airlines’ newsletters as they offer at least twice a year discounts on flights. Last tips, follows the news and any new route opening, it’s very often a good way to grab a great deal.
I choose alternative accommodation solutions
With the development of community platforms on the internet, finding accommodation on the road is not anymore a matter of finding a hotel though a travel agency. Booking.com, AirBnB and Couchsurfing are now well-known websites and offer a different way to find your accommodation and travel differently.
What is Couchsurfing?
I‘ve been an active member of Couchsurfing for more than 8 years. It sounds like thousands of years ago but back in 2007, even if I had already travelled a lot, travelling still meant to me full holiday package with transportation and accommodation included, and freedom excluded. This website is a community-based website gathering travellers to host or to stay for free all over the world. In the beginning, most of my relatives couldn’t believe I could stay with a total stranger. Today, it became so popular that most of the time I don’t even have to explain what Couchsurfing is. Beyond the significant savings that travelling without accommodation fees could represent, it is the unique cultural experience to live like a local with your host that makes it magical. I hosted almost 200 persons and stayed with more than 150 persons in more than 20 countries. Thanks to these experiences, I made friends with the same love of travel worldwide. The principle of Couchsurfing is about giving back to the community. I don’t host expecting the couchsurfer to host me back in his country. I hope to offer such an excellent experience that he will want to do the same for others later. The same applies in the other way, by being a good guest, you encourage people to keep doing this for others.
What’s the catch? Some people don’t have the time or the money to travel themselves, hosting is a way for them to discover a new culture. Hosting someone always cost a bit of money to the host, so a guest needs to be nice, invite for a drink or be helping in the house. My thing is to cook for my hosts. French cuisine is always appreciated anywhere I go! If you have no spare money for going out or no talent for cooking, doing the dishes is the “CSer” minimum duty. In my case, I host because when I’m back home, it makes me feels like I keep travelling by meeting new people, listening to their stories and exploring my town with them.
If you don’t feel like meeting strangers or you know you won’t have enough time to share with your host, then AirBnB is an excellent alternative. You can still get this local feeling when visiting a place, for a reasonable cost cheaper than most hotels and it’s easy to book. Here is a link to get a credit of £30 / 35€ to spend on your first AirBnB stay!
Hostels & Poshtels
Can you believe before doing Couchsurfing I never stayed in a hostel before? I thought they were dodgy places for kids… I was wrong. Now, most of the hostels are cosy places that are great to socialise with other travellers. I still recommend the ear plugs and the flip-flops as part of your minimum survival kit. The average age is also not what is used to be. Of course, a lot of young people in their twenties but more and more thirty and forty something embrace this as a new way of travelling, especially for solo trips. Moreover, a new trend has emerged in Europe: the Poshtels. They are boutique hotels with luxury and stylish premises for half the cost of a traditional hotel.
Hostels are now my plan B when I can’t find a host, in this case, I use HostelWorld to find the perfect one.
Accommodation with scuba diving centres
Very common in South East Asia, when you book your Open Water course or a fun dive package you can get discounted or even free accommodation. In Koh Tao, Thailand, I got free accommodation with my open water and in Panglao, Philippines, I got a super cheap rate for 2 nights directly on Alona Beach by booking 3 days of diving. As a rule of thumb, always ask the scuba diving centre you are going to dive with if they offer any special deal for their customers.
Last-minutes luxury treats
I’m an adventurer but to keep my energy at its maximum, I know how to slow down and treat myself. In this case, I use Booking.com, which is great to grab last-minute deals in comfortable to luxury hotels. After a 20-hour red-eye flight or after a non-stop 2-week road trip, nothing is better than just even 1 night in a 5-star hotel for no more than 50€ a night!
I take local transportation and eat local food
I usually take a flight to go to my destination, but once there I hardly use anything else than local buses and ferries. It is much cheaper and I like the relaxed pace of travelling while admiring the landscapes changing gradually.
Regarding food, it is maybe one of the biggest highlights of each of my trips. Not only because I’m a gourmet traveller, but because it tells so much about the country: what is available? What kind of flavours do people like? Any particular high quality locally produced ingredient?
To discover this side of the culture, there is no point in going to a 3-star restaurant. My favourite activity to sample local cuisine is going to food markets. Either with the intention to cook by myself asking people around how to accommodate the different ingredients or by tasting street food in the streets nearby. Also, in each country, I found a cheap restaurant style where food is fantastic: taquerias in Mexico, izakayas in Japan or simply pubs in Scotland.
I contact scuba diving centres directly before my trip to get interesting dive packages
It is my ultimate tip for all scuba travellers. If it’s tempting just to go around, compare and negotiate face to face, it’s better to make the first contact by email and ask if they offer a special package for online booking. Many dive centres offer this so it would be too bad to miss this opportunity. I made the unfortunate discovery that in places like in Sanur, Bali, scuba diving centres are not next to each other and to go to several ones in a day took me hours, whereas I could have secured easily a 10% discount by booking online.
Then, you need to think that not all dive destinations are equal regarding the price tag. If you are only looking at world class dive sites, you can be easily surprised by how expensive they can be. I have nothing against diving in famous places such as the Coco Islands or Raja Ampat but they come at a high price for a reason; on the other end, there are many dive destinations all over the world worth diving which are way cheaper: Spain, Malta and Greece in Europe, The Philippines in South-East Asia, Honduras in Central America for example!
With a bit of organisation, you can have a lower budget on your dives. Have a look at my Dive Centre Directory, I recommend the scuba diving centres I liked.
Using all these travel tips, you can travel and dive for a month for the cost a 10 day holiday! Please let me know in the comments if you are using any other tips!
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