I am like any traveler, I want to find a good deal and have a good time doing so. Sometimes these do not go hand in hand. Of course, just because you spend more doesn’t mean you are immune to bad travel experiences. But the general rule of thumb, the less you pay the more bad travel you are likely to find. There is a price you pay going cheap. I have not been completely around the world yet and my experiences do not include countries in Africa or Bangladesh but they are enough to have a solid footing on what cheap provides (hint: not much).
Traveling the low-priced method can be sort of a game ‘how little can I spend today?’, but it can put you in situations that you normally would not find yourself if you had simply spent a little more. From one miser to another, here is a collection of sad but true bad travel anecdotes.
Flights consist of one of the highest expenditures of any trip. What are the downsides of scrimping on a flight? I jotted down a couple of personal examples of what bad travel really means:
Older planes with smellier and worn interiors. Departures airports are in far from the city center or in other older terminals that require a taxi ride.
Saving $ in the short-term earns you more flight legs and planes with less than no legroom. Try a 6 hr flight with 2 hops and no legroom. I mean none. My knees hit the seat back in front and I am only 5 feet 5 inches.
Extra layovers or overnight layovers where sleeping on the airport floor is required because you are too thrifty to pay for a hotel room. I am ashamed of how many times I have done this when spending about $150 more would have made the experience 10 times better.
Rock bottom flights are mean wacky arrival and departure times. I had a flight leaving Berlin at 2:40 am. (Whiz Airlines).
Flights where any baggage is extra (any SE Asia budget airline).
I love the amenities of a nice hotel, a basic clean room, with hot showers and air con, nothing fancy but in short supply on a limited travelers funds. I have never minded roughing it for the sake of saving a dollar here and there. With cheap prices comes cheap rooms and shared facilities and the bathrooms are the worst part. A few examples of what a bargain really means:Your bathroom could look like this? Actually, it’s an abandoned hotel on an island in the Philippines
• No hot water and the shower is a slow trickle coming out of the wall. Do not touch the floor with your bare skin as it would result in a tetanus shots. (Guatemala)
• The toilets are old and broken and require cups of water to help them flush (Belize, Philippines, India and Guatemala).
• Delhi belly strike and the bathroom has no toilet paper (Poland and many hostels)
• Mattresses are usually old and lumpy or sometimes sunken in or have mysterious stains (Belize, India)
• Walls are paper-thin or people party until well into the evening and you hear it all. Bring earplugs! (Any hostel)
• Bugs run rampant and you often find spiders and ants running up the walls and an occasional gecko (India, Philippines).
• You will find dingy linens or no linens or blankets coated in others peoples hairs. (any hostel)
• Rooms that haven’t been obviously cleaned in months (any India hotel under $10)
Other than flights, budgeting on transportation seems prudent but there are many hidden costs of saving a dime.
• I saved $5 on a private bus to take a local bus. It broke down 30 minutes into the trip and turned a 4 hr trip into 6.5. (Belize)
• Taking a crowded, seriously crowded train where men ogle you non-stop for the entire journey instead of tourism van to save $7 (India)
• Try taking a non aircon bus in Asia’s muggy and hot climates to save a few dollars- Big Mistake. (Thailand)
• I was kicked off a train for a train strike and instead of waiting 8 hours and paying $15 for a bus across the border (8 km away- my estimation at the time) I walked. The walking lasted roughly 8 hours and the bus I would have taken passed by me and the shoes I was wearing at the time were clunky/heavy Doc Martins. Today I realize how stupid of a decision that was, as I had no map and no real idea where I was going. Sorry Mom!
The world is rife with disease and depending on where you economize, you are bound to fall prey to it. Food poisoning and/or Delhi belly is a given if you travel to any 3rd world country, where mysteriously, I did not get sick once in 7 weeks in India. Street food is the cheapest and most likely the culprit for your ills. Many ‘hotels’ that cost less than $10 a night will have a semi- bearable toilet and major insect problem like bed bugs, mosquitoes, or ants. It’s nice to come back from a long dirty day and find your toothbrush covered in ants like I did in the Philippines.
The net net, despite the cheap accommodations and lousy transportation options, you are out seeing the world anyway you can and while not everyone can travel like a $7 a day backpacker (myself included), those of us who passion for the road will make it happen good, bad, or with mysterious stains on your blankets.