When the Budget Travel Ethos Goes Overboard

Call me a budget travel expert or a value travel expert, but I know when it’s time to be cheap and when it’s time to open up the wallet. Mainly it comes down to how you answer the question, “What is your time, your health, and your comfort worth?”

For some hilarious musings on this question, check out Leif Pattersen’s blog post Budget Travel or Rampant Self-Flaggelation? It’s about getting sucked into making himself extremely uncomfortable just to save a pittance. Crazy overnight buses when he could have flown for cheap and gotten some sleep. Staying in noisy an unattractive hostels to save what will seem like a pocket change in a few days when he is back home. He’s a newbie Lonely Planet guidebook writer and besides this post being enough of a reason to visit, you can read old ones and get some very interesting insights on how a LP writer deals with the pressure that comes with having the power to make or break a business.

While we’re on the subject, a while back I posted a link to a Doug Lansky article in the Guardian about some travelers being cheap to the point of ridiculousness. Go to it here.

Feel free to post your own tales of cheapskates that drove you nuts. My favorite is a couple I met in India. The guy had been dealing with diarrhea for three weeks straight but didn’t want to go see a doctor because it was “too expensive.” This in a country where a house call is eight or ten dollars tops, including antibiotics, where a visit to the clinic is even less. Who knows what he was carrying around in his gut. That’s not the topper though. As we’re talking it turns out the couple had been to New York City before and after arriving at JFK Airport, they WALKED TO MANHATTAN! Some lovely neighborhoods they crossed through on that trip…

  1. Sean

    Hilarious!! I’m sure we’ve all seen these people that are so adamant they are leaving civilisation behind they practically kill themselves for the experience. You should see the looks they give me when they see my laptop come out of my pack !!

  2. tim

    Yeah, but carrying a laptop can be a major burden as well–and a sizable theft risk. I’ve met three people this year in my travels that have had one stolen, all of them with loads of photos and music on them to be replaced. Plus if you’re in developing countries, electricity supplies in cheap hotels aren’t real reliable. Speaking from experience, I’d much rather travel without one than with–you do get a much better experience when you’re not tied to a bunch of gear. Being a travel writer though, I’m usually stuck having to have one along. (Thankfully mine only weighs three pounds.)

  3. Sean

    If a person has lived on what I would call the fringes of society or they want to experience living that way for a week, before going back the real world then good for them. But personally even on holiday I want my Ipod, digital camera, PDA, laptop and any other neat new gadgets I might have recently picked up; how cool to return home from island hopping in Southern Thailand and be able to link the GPS data you logged with your portable logger with Google Earth. Yes I’m a gadget freak and I realise not everyone is as extreme as me, but we do exist. Even you admitted that you need your laptop. This is what I use when travelling http://gizmag.com/go/7554/ It lets me keep all my gear secure and during the day on trips where I don’t want to carry everything I can remove the secure inner and leave it locked in the room, whilst I carry the outer daypack with me.

  4. tim

    I only need the laptop because I’m a journalist on assignment. Would never ever carry it otherwise. It’s a tether to home.

    From what I see in my frequent travels, electronics mostly make travelers retreat to their room and get lost in their own world, instead of exploring, listening, and conversing. Takes a lot of discipline to leave the gadgets packed away for days on end–most people don’t seem to have it in them. I’m not a Luddite: a digital camera is essential and an MP3 player is great for long boring bus and plane rides. You miss a lot though if you walk the streets with white headphones stuck in your ears. Time and a place, even if you’re a gadget freak.

  5. Cara Fletcher

    Very interesting post.I needed some information about budget travel and I received what I wanted for sure.I haven’t travelled alot so that is the reason I needed some directions in this field.

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