I’ve always been a thrifty traveler, I think it started that way mainly because I was a freelancer. If you’re one who has never been a freelancer, it basically means we never know when the next job is going to come, or when will we get paid. So, for those who don’t necessarily believe in the idea of super budget traveling, well this is my excuse. Depending on where we go, I think it’s extremely important for us to make our RM stretch as far out as it can go, unless we’re the types who has very, very, very comfortable sized bank accounts.
My trip to Moscow was nevertheless also a budget trip, though not super budget, I think I was still extremely conscious about any spending. So, instead of bringing extra cash with us on the trip, we tried to set aside a safe and reasonable budget.
I started out the trip with 4000THB, 3000RMB and 1000USD. At that time, it was approximately RM5000. (I also had an in-case-of-emergency 500EUR which my husband gave me before I left)
So, the question is how does one spend 5 weeks on the road from Kuala Lumpur to Moscow and do it under RM10k? And more like approximately RM8k inclusive of a flight from Moscow to back to KL? Well, I think the simplest and would work at most times answer is, travel with at least another person to split cost especially on accommodations.
1. Finding the right travel partner.
I think some, if not many people tend to overlook the importance of finding the right/perfect travel partner. If you’re a seasoned backpacker and you’re planning a trip with a first time backpacker, think and discuss again. Both of you have to know that there will be compromises along the way because one might get fed up with eating cheap, not so yummy food, while the other wants to eat cheap, sometimes yummy sometimes not. One might want to opt for a private double bedroom in a hostel, while the other may just want to sleep in a dorm and save more money.
There’s no sure-fire way to find the right travel partner, but you should be able to judge with your instincts. Take my experience for example, I was friends with Jules but we weren’t all that close to be honest, but we both knew the kinds of things we liked, the similar outlook in life we both had and of course most importantly our hunger for travel and also our previous travel experiences. The one thing I think that sealed the deal was that we both loved traveling on trains. So, find the right travel partner because not only will your trip be cheaper, but your memories will be greater and you’ll end up having more fun times than bad times.
2. Selecting the right place to visit.
Depending on where you come from, to keep travel within a budget you’re comfortable with, currency plays a role but it doesn’t necessarily play the biggest role. Do your homework, especially if you don’t know anything about a particular place you want to visit expect for photos you’ve seen of it. Find out their average cost of living (if you’re planning for a long visit), find out about the options of accommodations (hotels/hostels/home exchange/airbnb/couchsurfing/etc), get an idea of how much transportations cost as well. Sow your seeds, then reap the harvest when you arrive at your destination!
Choosing a country that has the same or lower currency value than your own is obviously an easy-choice, but what about when you really want to go to somewhere with a stronger currency value? How do you make your money’s worth?
3.Choosing the right accommodation
When you’re on a budget trip, it goes without saying that your accommodations would usually be hostels and backpacker’s. Though if you really want to be super tight with your budget planning, then you can opt to plan ahead and look up hosts on Couchsurfing and stay at people’s homes for absolutely no cost! That said, the best way to locate an accommodation that fits your budget is to flip through a guide book, or head on to sites like Tripadvisor to get an idea.
4. Going at the right time
If you’re Northward bound, it’s safe to say that mid-year would be the most peak of all times, which means things would cost more usually. If you’re Southward bound then you’re safe during mid-year because that’s during winter. Car rentals are usually more expensive during peak season, so is getting tickets for your transports so you should plan ahead. Bottom line is that budget planning does correlate to when you plan to make your trip. Do your homework in advance if you want to make the most bank for your buck, otherwise go as and when you want to!
Okay, now that we’ve got the basics covered, let me do a rough breakdown of my expenses for my five weeks trip :
- Train (Butterworth – Bangkok) – RM100
- Train (Bangkok – Chiang Mai) – RM90
- Minivan/Longtail Boat/Bus (Chiang Mai – Chiang Kong – Huay Xai – Luang Namtha) – RM150 – RM180
- Bus (Luang Namtha – Mengla, China) – RM30
- Bus (Mengla – Kunming) – RM120
- Bus (Kunming – Dali) – RM55
- Train (Kunming – Chengdu) – RM125
- Train (Chengdu – Lanzhou) – RM75
- Train (Lanzhou – Turpan) – RM100
- Bus (Turpan – Urumqi) – RM23
- Train (Urumqi – Yining) – RM 45
- Bus (Yining – Almaty) – RM125
- Bus (Almaty – Shymkent) – RM30
- Train (Shymkent – Moscow) – RM300-350
- Flight (Moscow-KL) – RM1700
- Public Bus/Taxi/Tuk-tuks – RM200
TOTAL = RM3,348 (Approximate)
- Chiang Mai – RM15
- Laos – RM35 (2 nights)
- Kunming – RM28
- Dali – RM100 (2 nights)
- Chengdu – RM135 (4 nights)
- Lanzhou – RM50-70
- Turpan – RM110 (2 nights)
- Urumqi – RM30
- Yining – RM140 (2 nights)
- Almaty – Couchsurfed (3 nights)
- Moscow – RM300 (3 nights)
TOTAL = RM964 (Approximate)
3. Food & Beverages
- Thailand – RM93
- Laos – RM30
- China – RM415
- Kazakhstan – RM150
- Moscow – RM250
TOTAL = RM940 (Approximate)
- Bike Rentals – RM43 (Thailand/Laos/China)
- Luggage Storage – RM23 (Thailand/China)
- Entrance Fee/Tour/Show – RM180
- Unnecessary Shopping – RM250
- Unaccounted for Expenses – RM400
TOTAL = RM896 (Approximate)
GRAND TOTAL = RM 6148
* Please take note that this trip was made in 2013, so prices and exchange rates have definitely changed. All the expenses listed here are 85% noted down during the trip itself, while there are a few which are a rough estimate. I know for sure I probably missed out some things, so the safest bet would be to plus minus another RM500-800 on top of the grand total.