Guys, consider this my official resignation. I am formally recusing myself from the traveler Cheaplympics – I was never going to make it through qualifiers anyway. Below are direct quotes (some perhaps feature slight embellishments) I’ve heard on my travels – spend any time on the road and you’ll soon learn this is a serious sport.
“Oh… you paid seven dollars for a dorm bed? Yikes. We’re paying five for a private room up the road…”
“I guess a luxury bus would be nice for a 17 hour journey across Peru, but we don’t really have a spare $50 to throw around… we’re on a budget. Plus, we much prefer the ambiance of the local buses. They don’t even charge extra for the faint urine scent or the rigid upright non-reclining seats!”
“Oh, cute! You actually paid for rock climbing lessons in Thailand? We just hung around the rock climbing bar for three weeks and flirted with the instructors until one of them offered to lend us his gear on his day off. We almost died, but it didn’t cost a thing except three weeks of Changs!”
“Hmm, four dollars for a hot dinner? Not to embarrass you, but we basically ate the same thing totally for free from the dumpster out back! Ha ha, sucker!!!”
Don’t get me wrong – I love searching for travel deals, snagging coupon codes for my travel gear, and scoring free hotels with the credit card rewards game. I’m a natural budgeter and a backpacker at heart, but I like to think of myself as a person just as comfortable in a hostel dorm as I am in a five star hotel suite. Yet it seems no matter where I go in the world, I find a few unpleasant travelers who take competitive cheapness to a new, ridiculous level. When I press publish on a budget breakdown post, I often feel a mix of emotions. On one level, I’m proud of my detailed accounting and my ability to plan a $50 a day diving trip to Honduras. On the other hand, I know I’ll get at least a few condescending comments wondering why I couldn’t get by on $12.
sometimes I squeeze into a public jeepney in the Philippines, sometimes I fly in a private helicopter in Hawaii
Penny-pinching backpackers of the word, if you’re badass enough to take a local bus for any ride lasting longer than six hours – kudos, you are tougher than I am and I applaud and respect you! It costs the equivalent of a dollar per hour? Even better. So why can’t you be cool with my decision to score an early-release sale seat on the tourist-friendly luxury line – even if it does cost three times as much? Sorry, but this blogger needs her beauty sleep – and she isn’t going to get it with her seatmate holding a live chicken in a plastic bag, as happened on a particularly memorable bus ride through the Malaysia countryside.
I get it, when you went to Turkey, you took local transportation an hour outside of Istanbul in order to visit the most authentic, frugal-friendly bathhouse possible. That’s awesome, and I’d love to do the same on my next visit. But I just needed to ease into all that public boob-swinging somewhere plush, okay? It was worth the extra couple lira for me.
Two of my favorite meals; fifty baht chicken in Thailand and a fifty dollar gourmet meal in Iceland
When it comes to food, I’m the first to admit I splurge. Whenever I’m in Chiang Mai, I practically sprint to my favorite lunch spot – a pricey place where a bacon broccoli quesadilla and a peanut butter smoothie set me back a whopping 200 baht ($6.50US). It’s possible that I eat there so often that a guy at a bar once tried to chat me up with the opening line, “So, are you the girl who sits at Smoothie Garden all day every day with her laptop?” But any time I ate lunch there, I balanced it out with a cheap street-food dinner at my favorite food cart in the city. I swear I did! Just ask the lady at the third pad thai stall past the Tha Pae gate. She’ll remember me – I was the girl with the Osprey backpack. (It was totally a graduation gift!)
And speaking of those free hotels I scored, if I’m being frank here, shouldn’t you be asking me for tips on how I managed to finagle them rather than sneering at me from the back of the combi van when I get dropped off at one? I mean seriously, I didn’t pay a dime for this – it was the credit card points, I swear! So why are you giving me those looks while you compare budget guesthouses over your well-worn copies of Southeast Asia on a Shoestring? For the record, I totally spent the previous month living in a hut with a cold water hose for a shower, mkay?
My one-room apartment in Gili Trawangan followed by a three-room suite in Bali
Joking aside, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have wiggle room in my travel budget, and in fact, to be traveling at all. I work hard in order to stay mobile, and to afford the occasional splurge on a flight over a bus, or a better trekking company for the Inca Trail. I also know that when you’re traveling long term, how much money you have equals how much longer you have on the road, and so it’s easy to see how people lose perspective on a couple of centavos. But I am really sick of the one-upping that goes on among travelers when it comes to who-paid-less-for-what. As travelers we should all try to be a little less judgmental of each other (emphasis on the try). Condescension is ugly in any form.
I love a good deal – I think there are very few people on this planet who don’t. So let’s all assume that, $800 sunglass purchasers aside, we’re all doing our best as travelers to get the best deal possible for ourselves. Sure, those deals may vary from person to person, but life would be no fun if we were all the same, right? So let’s meet up and toast to our budget victories, be they $5 bus tickets to Laos or $500 flights to Iceland. I know the perfect place to celebrate – have you heard of Smoothie Garden?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Cheaplympics in the comments below!
I don’t like travel ego. Unless you are trying to help the person don’t brag about $$ differences. People make their own choices on the travel essentials to fit their travel values.
A peanut butter smoothy just blew my mind. My Hamam experience was luxurious because, I have no idea when I’ll be back in Istanbul.
You make a really good point here Shaun — a reason I think that money gets brought up frequently among travelers (a topic I believe we were all taught to avoid in polite company as kids!) is I think some people truly just ARE trying to help each other and share information. Something I’m always a fan of! It’s a shame though that some people might keep their mouths shut for fear of being sneered at by Cheaplympics champions!
Good on you for calling these people out, I’m returning to Auckland in Feb and looking at flights and accommodation, one flight is 30 hours less than another and the cheaper is around £50 cheaper, for me I’d rather not spend an extra 30 hours travelling (60 hours total for cheaper flight) and also a bit extra on accommodation so I get my own room. We all travel in our own way and I hate it when people belittle your choices because they’re not theirs, and that doesn’t just extend to travelling sadly.
I would so be with you on the 30 hour shorter flight, Sally! On my way here to Peru I actually took three flights when I could have taken one because I was able to do with with just 15,000 frequent flyer miles, but for some reason those seem more precious than money! Ha.
I think that not only is there that competitive edge with the cost of things, but just overall travel experience and the ‘where I’ve been’ or ‘how I’ve experienced it’ bragging rights. And I think that this sort of thing isn’t just related to travel but life in general (keeping up with the Joneses). I guess it’s human nature, but I agree that it gets frustrating!
I think the funny thing about competitive cheapness is that it is kind of the OPPOSITE of the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” back home. Instead of who has the nicest designer purse, it’s who managed to get the cheapest bus ride! It’s really an alternate universe.
I love this post! Well said, Alex.
To be honest, I’ve wanted to do a budget breakdown post on my trip to Norway but I’ve been to afraid of people saying “You spent WHAT on your trip to Norway?” Finances are SO personal and what works for one doesn’t work for another. I like your style of saving and splurging a little (after all how often do you have the chance to fly over Hawaii in a private airplane?) 🙂
Yeah, I know how you feel Krystie! I was feeling a little sensitive after publishing my Philippines travel budget and decided not to do one for Thailand. It’s a country people love SO much for its cheapness, when I looked at my accounting I knew I’d be raked through the coals for my spending there. No thanks!
i feel ya, the older i get (i say that like i’m ancient..) the more i splurge for something a little nicer, which is unfortunate considering this is also the time i’m jobless lol.
Money comes and goes, right? 🙂 At least that is what I tell myself during my bi-monthly finance-related meltdowns…
Hahaha! Touche! Duuude, I’m with you, a little luxury goes a long way to ensuring I don’t go completely insane on the road. I think my traveling style has evolved and grown as I have. I’m so glad we backpacked through SE Asia last year on $25 per day, but I feel like those days are over now. Great post!
Thanks Sarah 🙂 I love a good mix… it’s amazing how living in a hut with see-through walls and primitive plumbing can suddenly seem totally doable when you balance it out with a weekly massage at a beautiful spa!
I will be in Chiang Mai in January. I will check out the smoothie place and try a quesidilla. Thanks for the suggestions.
I’m jealous, Daisy! You’re going to love it 🙂 I joke that I go to Chiang Mai for the smoothies and the manicures… that city has my favorite smoothie shop and nail salon in the world!
Ugh, I am so not down with that type of traveler. Usually when people come to me with the “I got this better and cheaper than you cause I’m awesome” I just go over the top excited, jump and scream and make them give me 50 high fives. 90% of them get it and tone it down, the other 10% shall remain clueless for eternity.
I am jealous of your lady balls, Rika! 🙂 When these situations happen to me I usually just sit there feeling inadequate and then later write LOLsy passive aggressive posts about it — totally healthy, right?
Ah yes, the ultimate budget traveler showdown. I subscribed to such comparisons when I first started backpacking, but over time you become grateful for the little luxuries you can splurge on. Once you do a couple of those epically long bus rides, you’re more than happy to spend a little extra if it means actual sleep and moderate comfort.
Why does money sometimes cause for such resentment? If I can manage to score a room at a 5-star hotel I’m all there, and those haters can enjoy their trash can chicken. We’ll just call it jealousy because secretly we all know they want to be there too.
Personally, I need to treat myself sometimes or I go bonkers.
I hear jealousy thrown around a lot to justify this kind of pettiness, but I truly think its something else. I think there are some travelers that feel immense pride at having gotten something that should be a dollar for ten cents… they feel they are gaming the system, and winning! Of course there is jealousy too but I’ve met enough of these people to know that it often comes from a totally different place.
Ha, I’ve never dealt with this specifically–probably since I haven’t stayed in a hostel in seven years since I started doing the travel writing thing full time–BUT don’t you think the dive scene is the same way? It doesn’t matter what dive resort I visit (whether in Florida or Borneo), it always seems to be such a dick-measuring contest. I hate that about divers–they can be so pretentious! I’ve just stopped talking to people entirely on dive trips to prevent the conversation from going there.
With diving I think it really depends where you are. I’ve never experienced anything like that on an independent (read: non-resort) dive boat in Southeast Asia. Why? Because customers are usually young and new to the sport and still wide-eyed and excited about it. And I love that! However in the Caribbean and other locations I’ve definitely met the kind of people you describe. I just tell them I’ve photographed whale sharks and manta rays, dry suit dove in Iceland and done my DMT in Indonesia and then I jump off the boat before they can one-up me 🙂
Wonderful! Since when was seeing the world a competition? Since when was the most important criteria cheapness? If the goal is to live for free as a homeless person, own that ambition, but don’t try to cover it under the guise of traveling. Traveling is motivated from an entirely different place in our hearts and it works with whatever budget we have on any given day. The world is a big place. Go see as much of it as you can… with any means possible.
I love the “living for free as a homeless person” bit. This is a bit of a tangent but honestly I met so many people that truly seemed to be vying for that in Thailand. I remember Brian (or was it Mark and I? OMG my memory) hosting these Couchsurfing girls who were SO proud of the fact that they had attempted to hitchhike down the coast from Bangkok to Chumphon. However, they were intercepted by a kind and wise local man who was so concerned for their safety that he personally paid for their bus fare. They thought this was a major victory. I thought it was preying on the kind-heartedness of people who statistically were far less privileged than they were.
Sometimes Alex, life is too short to take the cheap option. One of the perks of my job is free coach travel across Europe. However a free coach taking a day and half is a chore compared to a flight of two to three hours costing £80.
So true! Although that free coach sounds like a great perk when you have time (and sanity!) to kill.
Oh those people sound insufferable. I’ve not really spent much time with the super budget backpacking around the world crowd, but as with anything my philosophy with travel money is to spend it to align with your priorities. If you’re doing that and you’re happy with how you allocate your budget, I can’t see any reason to judge what others are doing with theirs!
I’ve actually tried to make a point lately to stop saying “I can’t afford that” regarding things that technically, I could afford, when I really mean “it is not a priority for me to spend my money that way.” Because people tell me all the time that they can’t “afford” a ticket to X place, but they apparently can afford designer duds and pricey concert tickets, etc. It is a really important distinction, I think! It is all about priorities.
I just don’t get the “one upmanship,” or down in this case, whether it’s travel or life. Everyone has a different level of budget, and luxury. Better to share the info then let others choose for themselves.
I’m all about sharing the info 🙂 Hence this blog! I do need to work past my budget insecurities and start posting those breakdowns again.
I did SE Asia on a super budget for many years, but after I wrote a few guidebooks for Moon Publications, I stayed gratis at the most expensive hotels and resorts. My opinion, homestays are what you will remember, not that fancy ac hotel room where you just lounge around and watch cable TV. It’s painful sometimes to go local, but that’s the beauty of real travel.
I don’t know… I remember some really great hotels 🙂 I don’t think I agree that any travel method is more “real” than any other (apart from all-inclusive type trips, which I love but classify more as “vacation” than “travel”) I think both budget and luxury travel have their benefits and I am eternally grateful that I am able to experience bits of both.
From (gratefully) Uncle Steve
re: the apparently unbelievable…
Thanks beyond measure for your very kind words in “The Great Escape: Month 28 Roundup.” https://www.alexinwanderland.com/2013/11/01/great-escape-month-28-roundup/ …
specifically — for those who have no idea what this is about(which would include anyone reading this who is not you and me and your mother, about whom more later) — this:
“”” While we were in Martha’s Vineyard, my mom got a call that one of our closest family friends, Steve — someone who has been like an uncle to me throughout my life — had suffered a stroke and was heading into 10+ hours of surgery to repair an aortic tear. Waiting for the news post-op was excruciating, and the recovery has been long. My mom rushed back to Albany and was at the hospital nearly every single day, and I feel so grateful that I was able to visit three times in my short window back upstate. Just a few days ago I let out a happy cry when I read the latest email update — Steve is home!”””
I have been home now nearly a month and all is proceeding apace, or at least as apace as these things allow. Which factors in not all how overwhelmed Noreen and I remain, how impossible humbled we are by all that happened … and didn’t happen.
Yes, your mother was there nearly all the time, as was that tight circle of friends you grew up within. I think in some measure we have all together been marked forever by this experience. Indeed, you included, as I remember you being there specifically (even if I don’t exactly remember any of it myself) at the hospital with your mother, father and sister Margaret. Someday I will ask your mother to print out all the update emails she churned out keeping everyone abreast, to bring myself up to speed, but there is time enough for that some other time.
As for now, Happy Thanksgiving. And thanks too for letting me go on here. It is one of the first times I’ve allowed myself to try to find the sense of these past few months.
And so to you, “Alex-HAN-DRA,” all the best. And I do hope you remember all those years ago when I used to call you that.
In best health,
Steve! I can’t tell you how happy I am to see a comment from you again. I can only hope that the grammar-correcting emails are not far behind! I am glad to hear you are getting better all the time and if I’m not wrong I believe some belated birthday wishes are in order. Those emails will be waiting for you when you’re ready. Keep getting stronger!
As someone who is currently backpacking SE Asia, I COMPLETELY know what you’re talking about. The other annoying thing is having a really cheap travel buddy who never wants to do any activities and searches for hours for the town’s cheapest hostel… (cheaper by like, $1 also). Why bother traveling if you’re not even going to do anything fun?
That can definitely be tough :/ I am usually quite comfortable saying, “Hey! I’m going to do this activity, I’m sorry if it isn’t in your budget but I’ll meet you back here at 3pm!” but obviously if you’re traveling with someone you aren’t going to ditch them for a nicer hostel. Also, as someone who as I said admittedly splurges on food I can find it exhausting to eat in nothing but the cheapest restaurants for long stretches at a time.
I’m with you all the way on this. But some people (like me) do have a tight budget (so I can eek out months more of travel before I go to Uni). I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how much (or little) I’ve spent to anyone when they start bragging, but I do think it’s quite funny how these types of people think it’s such an important point to make. I think it says more about them than anything else. After all, we’re all in the same boat, probably having a beer or two together, who really cares.
Kudos to you for making it work with what you’ve got, Anton! You make a good point which is that in order to have these conversations you usually are sharing SOMETHING with the other person, be it a hostel or a bar or something. So there are some points where their spendings overlap with yours 😛
It’s crazy how competitive budget travelers can get, especially over the stupidest things. I mean, we all love a good deal, but some people really lose perspective and don’t realize that cheap doesn’t always equal best. In fact, it rarely does! But more importantly, there isn’t one correct way to travel and people should just do whatever makes them happy. If they purchased expensive plane tickets to travel half way around the world just so that they can sleep in a cardboard box and swill crappy beer and eat ramen in the hostel kitchen, that’s their choice. But why they are surprised that others might not find this an appealing way to travel, well, that just goes to show how oblivious they are!
SUCH a good point… most major backpacking journeys tend to start with a pricey plane ticket from somewhere! I’m going to remember that for next time I get caught in a situation like those listed above. PS — I’ve missed your comments! Happy to hear from you 🙂
I too have given up trying to compete in the Cheaplympics. At the same time I have also given up on the luxury travel or nothing experience people. Travel is about the moment and genuine experience and any time you exclude things based on comfort and price you are missing out on the beauty and the adventure of real travel.
That’s true, it swings both ways. I have to say though I’ve spent a fair amount of time with luxury travelers and while they brag about country counts and experiences I’ve never heard them brag about money the way backpackers reverse-brag about it!
We’ve all been one-upped about our budgets no matter how great a deal you think you’ve scored, there’s always someone to outdo you. We did some soul searching, and realized that it really is worth a splurge on a shorter bus ride *for us*. Not for everybody. When you realize that you’re bargaining as hard as you can to keep $0.50, it kind of puts things in perspective.
Yeah, I’ve head people haggling and haggling over amounts that when I stop to convert are just laughable. I love a good haggle but I’m not going to let a couple baht get between me and something I want!
Ha ha, it annoys me just reading about those comments. I hate it when travelers do that. I had one of those last week actually, when a traveler asked me what camera I use and if I use the manual function on it at all. I said that I mostly use semi manual and automatic and she was all obnoxious about it and told me that she uses manual all the time. I told her that I would miss too many photo opps if I used manual all the time and that even most professional photographers I know don’t use manual (I accompany a lot of photographers for my NGO comms work). People like that clearly have issues and didn’t get enough attention as children, so they are trying to make up for that by undermining other people. That’s what the hobby psychologist in me thinks anyway. 🙂
What a coincidence — I’m a hobby psychologist as well 🙂 That would annoy me about the camera. I’ve gotten the same lecture before. Ain’t nobody got time for manual!
Well said Alex! We just made the decision a couple of days ago to fly from Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam, instead of attempting the 24 bus ride instead. While it will cost us twice as much, we’ll get there in an hour and will avoid the pain of such a horrendous journey. Like you, we make up for these ‘splurges’ in other ways; yesterday we got the local bus 13 hrs across the country and it was pretty hellish! Admittedly, it was the only option but it was cheap and we feel like we well and truly deserve our flight to Hanoi after that! Really though, we all have our own budgets and I just don’t get why some people are competitive about them at the end of the day.
I’ve heard horror stories of that particular journey — I think you made the right choice! I flew into Laos from Chiang Mai when I visited and I was actually a bit sad about it because I’d heard the boat journey was epic. Sadly in that case it was my time, rather than money, that was being strictly budgeted! Amazing how fast those airplanes can move 🙂
Yes! I do love this post, as you predicted I would. This competition is so exhausting, even just to listen to, much less to take part in. This summer I moved from Albania to Laos, going from Albania to China completely overland on a long backpacking trip. People judged me for “how big my pack was, so silly to carry that much mine only weighs__________” even when I explained to them that the 45 pounds on my back was everything I owned in the whole world, and I was moving from one home/job to another. Nope, not doing it right, backpack too big. My partner and I stayed at hotels because they were often cheaper than hostels per person, and when we mentioned where we stayed in Serbia, or Budapest, people would tut tut and roll their eyes at how we should have done X, Y, or Z instead. At a hostel in Mongolia (thanks to the Trans-Mongolian railway from Russia) I laughed to myself upon hearing the conversation in the living room, because it sounded exactly like every.single.other.conversation. that inevitably crops up in hostels- how much are you NOT spending, how many important landmarks are you NOT seeing, how much food are you NOT eating. It was absolutely exhausting just listening to the desperate fight to be the most NOT of them all. I would much rather get to know people in hostels, instead of just comparing travel notes.
This speaks to your tangential reference to assumptions travelers make about other travelers, but I lost count of the times when a backpacker a decade younger than me would try to lecture me about how to travel in developing countries, making assumptions about my experiences because I wasn’t wearing the same clothes for a week, or I ate out at an “expensive” restaurant. I didn’t care to justify myself, but it was annoying because I had LIVED in a developing country for a year, not just traveled in one for a month, and I hated being constantly lectured on doing it “right”. I don’t mention living overseas as a way to “win”, but rather to reinforce how silly these competitions can be when they are based on so many surface level assumptions and random ego based motivations.
Travel however you want, and enjoy that choice. You shouldn’t have to justify or judge. I think the definition of a first world problem is being personally offended by the international travel habits of strangers, to the point where you feel you must lecture them 🙂
I love this comment! And ack, if you saw my Peru packing post you know I’m a dropout of the packlympics as well 🙂 I hate when people get on me about my bag! I got it quite a bit on my last trip through Southeast Asia. People would shoot me dirty looks and I wanted to scream, “Yeah, there’s a full set of dive gear in here thanks for asking!”
For the last few years, I’ve decided to live my life based on not caring what other people think – so much easier that way! People can sneer all they want at me taking a $30, 25 minute flight instead of the $6 overnight bus that takes 12 hours. I really don’t care.
I’m with ya! I’m flying into Puerto Maldonado tomorrow, a flight that I saw cost a mere $45 from Cusco (and took the same amount of minutes). I was pretty surprised when I heard people discussing the 20 hour bus they were planning to take! Like I said…. people are much tougher than I!
It often seems like the people who brag about cutting costs or judge others for spending more will also be the ones constantly buying snacks or beers or things that really aren’t necessary. Great – you got a $3 dorm room in Thailand…so why are you spending the same amount for one beer?
There’s no problem with that…but just keep quiet!
This was an issue I came upon over and over again with Couchsurfers we had in Thailand. They would look at us like we had three heads if we suggested something like a snorkeling trip (“way too expensive!”) and claim they could barely afford to eat, but then blow through thousands of baht on beer! I mean everyone has their priorities, but don’t tell me you can barely afford a pad thai and then guzzle ten Changs.
I once had a conversation with a guy who said there’s just no way you can visit Thailand cheaply, and he spent something like $5000 in a single month, because “you just can’t get cheap places anymore.” We were all so awestruck with disbelief that we started prompting him to add up his expenses, from accommodation, to food, to beer, to whatever, and after everything reasonable, we were only up to about $50 a day, and finally we found out he spent another $100 or $200 per day on drugs.
THAT guy deserved a Cheaplympic finger wagging.
Okay WOW. With that many drugs in his system, I’m shocked he was able to eat at all — you’d think that would at least reduce his food spending to zero! Ha!
I love hearing about how cheap people are willing to go. Even better if I can read about them from my semi-nice bungalow I splurged on this evening in Ubud. 🙂
It is sometimes fascinating to hear how little people manage to scrape by on — however, to tell those tales in a non-sancitmonious manner is truly a gift!
It’s funny as you get older you kind of find that middle ground. You don’t “need” the over-priced materialistic stuff anymore but at the same time you don’t feel guilty about when you DO decide to make a splurge here and there. I think paying $900+ for a pair of shoes is absurd, however I will spend $150 on hair extensions haha. Priorities priorities.
That is quite a good point. I crave physical things less and less the longer I spend on the road, but I crave travel comforts like nice buses and good meals more and more!
I gave up on being uber cheap when we got to the super long distances of South America. We took a flight from Lima to Cuzco because it was $80/30 minutes or $40/24 hours on a bus.
I kind of wish I had done that flight. In one direction I was already in Nazca so it seemed crazy to backtrack to Lima for a flight and in the other I was stopping in Ica and again I felt like, well, why fly to Lima and then backtrack? But in the end I was so sick on those buses, and even with the backtracking I think the total time would have been less to fly!
Completely agree. We use points and make calculated use of our money, but we have three weeks off work each year — that rarely allows for doing everything budget-friendly. Sometimes spending a little in certain places allows you to see and experience more. Not sure why everything has to be dirt cheap or why certain travelers make value judgments about it.
I think a common thread coming up in these comments is that a lot of us value time over money! Which I couldn’t agree more with. It is the most precious commodity in the world, after all…
Alex, be proud that you are not the cheapest of them all. I am personally disgusted by the behavior of travelers trying to squeeze everything they can out of developing countries.
A few weeks ago in Yangon, I witnessed a woman fighting tooth and nail with a market vendor for a lower price. “I know there are others like this,” she threatened, “And I have all day to find them!” Really, I thought? You want to spend a precious travel day scouring the city for a cheaper Aung San Suu Kyi t-shirt? When you could just give this nice guy a much-needed four bucks and be done?
I like a deal as much as the next person but price is just one of many factors in the complex decision making process of travel. Quality, ethics, safety, health, time, sustainability…Anyone can be cheap but I think the real gift is being able to balance all of these elements.
Yes, I think it’s possible to take part in local bargaining customs without bleeding someone dry. Sometimes I do think vendors are really having a laugh… for example I know that on Khao San Road in Bangkok, the appropriate price is about 40 baht for a power adaptor. Yet I’ve had vendors start at 300 baht! Then I laugh, they laugh, we all laugh, I tell them I’m paying 40 and they laugh some more and give it to me. I might shake my head, but I’m not going to bargain them down to 35 just for the hell of it!
ah yes, one must watch out for rip-offs in mega tourist spots like khao san. but a local street in a burmese city? gimme a break!
I have such a big issue with people being cheap while they travel. I’ve seen backpackers negotiate hard to get a cheaper rate on an $8 private room in Ecuador run by a local family only to blow $20 at a bar run by expats.
Ayngelina, that is the classic example! Funny how when it comes to alcohol, people always seem to find the cash.
It gives all those “beer fund” banks you see at novelty stores a new meaning, doesn’t it? 🙂
Where is this peanut butter smoothie place you speak of? We have yet to discover it and only have 4 days left here!!
We are done with the cheaplympics as well. To be frank, we’ve stopped caring what others think. People spend way too much energy worrying about this shit. All that matters to us is that we’re comfortable and happy. If others turn their nose at our decisions, they probably have some of their own issues they should be focusing on.
I really hope we have the chance to meet up in 2014 Alex, until then safe travels.
It’s called Smoothie Garden and it’s on the inside of the East wall of the city! You must go! Wish I could meet you there, but perhaps I can settle for that date somewhere in 2014 🙂
We completely agree with you. We are also budgeters at heart. But we think it’s always nice to have a balance and enjoy the best of both worlds. We have backpacked and stayed at pretty dingy places, but we also feel very comfortable and deserving of a 5 star hotel every once in a while. We’ve learned to accept whatever works for the individual. We don’t enjoy pretentiousness.
Having met you in person, I can say that I think you strike a great balance, and it comes from a place of being comfortable with yourself and not needing to prove anything to anyone! Kudos to you and I am going to try to adopt the same!
I totally agree with you on this one! I pick and choose and honestly I don’t worry about a few extra dollars for certain things. Or even a few extra hundred dollars on certain things! Life is too short! I understand if you’re on a super budget, traveling the world though. Every penny counts. I’ve just never been very good at penny pinching while traveling. Thanks for the article.
Amen, Angela! I understand some people don’t have the flexibility to be more relaxed with their budget but they do have the ability not to be smug about it 🙂
Hey Alex 🙂
Ugh, I completely agree with you!! They way some people get about money is FRUSTRATING!!
I think everyone needs to remember is that everyone does things a little differently, and values things in a different way. One of the most important distinctions is time – someone on a quick one week jaunt has got to use their time very differently to someone travelling with no end in sight, and that often means they need to pay more to get somewhere quicker. It’s not an indication of their failing as a human being, it’s just that they value their time more than their dollars in this particular instance.
Likewise with private rooms, or plush hotels. Know yourself, know what you need – sometimes a private room will keep you sane, and some people need that more often. And anyway, it’s fun to splurge a bit, when you have the means.
The thing that gets me most is that I’m always willing shell out for experiences, such as dog sledding in Siberia or ballet tickets in St Petersburg, and people seem to deride me for spending so much money on transient things. Those same people can’t understand why I would stay in a $6 hostel rather than a $100 hotel – isn’t in uncomfortable and dirty? Well, no, not usually. And the thing is, I value experiences and so that’s where I spend my money, and I make up for it in my accommodations where I can. And I’ll travel for a shorter time if that’s what I have to do, but I won’t skimp on what matters to me – experiences.
Anyway, great post, rant over, lol.
I’m with you on spending priorities — I always spend on experiences over stuff. And your time vs. money sentiment is spot on. By the way, ballet ticketss in St. Petersburg sounds fantastic!
Alex! I am loving your blog. I am about to travel in June, my birthday month, and my first stop would be Thailand. I am reading this post right now as I was busy searching online ideas about budgeting and all. And everything you said here – the whole truth. I know a bunch of travelers who love to compare with others and its getting tiring. Just as much as we all want to budget on our travels, but we can definitely spend and get whatever we want right? It’s our money anyway 😀
So glad you enjoyed this post, Maria 🙂 In the end, travel budgets are a personal thing and no traveler should ever make another feel bad about what they are or are not spending! Enjoy your birthday month on the road — that sounds like the best gift you could ever give yourself!
Omg I loved this post! It’s funny because it’s true! I always cringe when I feel the compare-olympics coming on. To each his own, I say! Also: you are hilarious and I love your blog. 🙂
Aw, thank you so much Amanda! That means a lot 🙂
Totes agree! In Croatia this hitchhiker was so sassy to me because I stayed at the nice hotel instead of a hostel.. it was off season and about $10 more a night to stay at a fancy luxe hotel WHY NOT! Psh..
Why not indeed! Treat yourself 😉