This Is How A Guy Traveled Through Southeast Asia On Just $10 A Day
Budget travel FTW.
Meet Will Hatton. He's only 26 years old — but he's already nailed the art of traveling on a budget.
Case in point? He's lived on the road for the past seven years.
He first got the travel bug on a backpacking trip through Europe when he was 18, and since then, he's lived in India for a year, herded goats in the Holy Land, slept in caves in the Rastafarian Bedouins, worked in bars in Vietnam, and much more. You can follow all of his escapades on his travel blog The Broke Backpacker.
One of Hatton's biggest budget accomplishments is that he backpacked through Southeast Asia for almost a year on about $3,500 — that's roughly $10 a day!
The best part: Hatton documented all of the ways that he made his budget trip happen. And here they are:
1. Don't try to do anything too quickly.
Southeast Asia is the land of the chill. Deadlines aren't really a thing there — which is great because slowing down helps you save money. "I found that whenever I was in a rush, I spent money because I paid to get places faster," Hatton told BuzzFeed Life. "So slow down and travel at a more chilled pace. Don't spend money on taxis; walk everywhere. Your savings will quickly add up."
2. Perfect the art of haggling.
"Haggling — the art of bargaining persistently — is always worth a shot in Southeast Asia, as you can save at least 20% on pretty much anything if you do it right," said Hatton. "I saved hundred of dollars in Southeast Asia by haggling on everything from fried insects to a kayak hire." Here are his tips on how to haggle right.
3. Find a travel buddy so that you can split costs.
It sounds obvious, but if you travel with two, your buying power practically doubles. "Suddenly, hostel rooms are half as much, tuk-tuks cost less, and you can even share a steaming mound of noodles," Hatton told BuzzFeed Life.
His advice: Go with a friend, or find one by using these tips. Alternatively, stay in the most popular hostel you can find for the first couple of days: "You're bound to meet loads of other cool people who will be heading in the same direction as you!"
4. Couchsurf your way to a free stay.
During his time in Southeast Asia, Hatton paid for accommodation only about a dozen times. Instead, he "surfed" at least four or five nights a week.
"Thailand was the easiest country for surfing, because everybody speaks pretty decent English, which makes arranging hosts simple," Hatton told BuzzFeed Life. But Laos was his favorite. "I stayed with this guy named Guy who took me to a traditional wood-fired sauna, and then for chilled beers by the river. In the evening, we watched Batman on his crackly television and messed around with his two greyhounds. Being invited into someone's home and treated like a friend is a truly memorable experience!"
For more of Hatton's couchsurfing tips, click here.
5. Or set up camp to sidestep accommodation costs.
6. If you must pay, find a cheap hostel — with perks.
When Hatton couldn't couchsurf or camp, he hit up hostels and guesthouses. His all-time favorite was the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel in Vietnam, "because they had free unlimited beer for an hour every evening, which saves you a lot of money on drinks!"
Mad Monkey hostel group in Cambodia (as seen above).
"They have lots of outreach programs for charitable causes."
Aqaurious Inn at Inle Lake in Myanmar.
"One of the nicest guesthouses I have ever stayed in."
And another Hatton trick: If you're in a real pinch, ask the hostel staff if you can work there for a few days in exchange for accommodation, as he did.
It's totally doable in Southeast Asia, as long as you keep a couple things in mind. Be sure the drivers know you don't have money to pay, write down your destination on a piece of cardboard for passing drivers to see, and try to flag down cars rather than minibuses or buses. "In Southeast Asia, car drivers are way less likely to ask you for money. Minibuses and buses are often full of fare-paying passengers, so you won't be able to get a ride for free," Hatton advised.
Myanmar was easiest, said Hatton, "perhaps because there were so many monks around, all of whom picked me up very casually and never once asked for money." And Vietnam was the most challenging. For more of Hatton's hitchhiking tips, click here.
8. If you want to party on the cheap, work at a bar for a couple days.
That's what Hatton did whenever he was close to running out of money. "I picked up lots of random jobs, often for just a few days a time, working in the infamous tubing bars in Vang Vieng, Laos, and on the party beaches of Nha Trang, Vietnam," he said. "You usually don't earn much — often just $5 a day — but you won't spend anything, either, as your food, accommodation, and booze are usually thrown in." Sold.
9. Or work on a farm for a more ~wholesome~ experience.
Hatton worked on a couple farms in exchange for accommodation along the way. "I helped out at the legendary Organic Farm in Vang Vieng, Laos. In Northern Laos, outside of Luang Prabang, I also helped a local family harvest rice near the small village of Nong Khiaw. I was staying in a homestay and didn't have much money, so I asked the family if I could pay for my food and board in labor, and they happily agreed," says Hatton.
[Editor's note: Working on a farm, also known as "voluntourism," can sometimes do more harm than good for the local economy — so be sure to do your research and find a place where it's beneficial before you sign up.]
10. Go crazy on the street food.
Southeast Asia on a budget = so much affordable deliciousness! "From pad thai vendors on the infamous Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand, to the opium pancakes of Myanmar, the cheapest food is usually available on the street," Hatton said. To be sure you're choosing food that's safe to eat, look around and hit the stall that most locals are lining up to eat from, too.
11. Do your online research to avoid paying tourist prices.
"I never go anywhere without spending at least 10 minutes surfing the web for ways to do it on a budget. I mostly consult other travel blogs, as well as the Couchsurfing groups. They are a great place to ask people random questions and get up-to-date information," said Hatton. "I also keep an eye on the Lonely Planet Thorntree travel forum."
12. Especially transportation.
In Southeast Asia, taxi and tuk-tuk drivers often try to scam tourists. Hatton insists that you research exactly how much it should cost to get from point A to point B before you actually have to go there. That way, you know if the driver is overcharging you. "No matter where I am traveling, I always start by looking up current taxi rates on WikiTravel; they usually have exact costs that are current," he said. Otherwise, hit up the travel forums.
13. Spend more time in the most budget-friendly countries.
As you can see from Hatton's adventures, pretty much all of Southeast Asia is relatively budget-friendly. But certain countries are cheaper than others: "Spend the most time in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Indonesia — your money will stretch further, and you can stay for longer," he advised.