From 2012-2014, I worked and lived abroad as a community health volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Mozambique (coastal country in South East Africa). During my service, I took advantage of my location and set out to travel as much as I could. Unfortunately, I went abroad with minimal savings and was only receiving a modest stipend for my work (about $250 US a month). I set out to live and TRAVEL the entire country on this budget, which was no easy feat considering Mozambique is twice the length of California with minimal infrastructure. I was not only able to accomplish this goal, but I picked up some key travel knowledge along the way.
Here are, what I have coined as the top 5 travel tips :
1.Pack light– adventure travel is going to throw many curve balls your way and you want to be mobile and ready to change course at any time. You don’t want to be weighed down by a huge backpack or tons of luggage. Squeezing into public transportation will be pretty key when on a budget, so you don’t want to have more stuff that can comfortably fit on your lap. While on a two week vacation, I packed this backpack (pictured below) and found it to be sufficient. Washing clothes while on your trip is going to allow you to carry a minimal amount of stuff while fitting into any minibus, canoe, or taxi that passes your way.
2. Make friends- open yourself up to meeting other travelers! Traveling solo can be a little nerve-wrecking (especially as a female) and while the journey will keep you on your toes- a little company is nice from time to time. Being open to meeting new people will expand you adventure potential and may result in some great friendships down the line. Having friends in multiple countries is also incredible advantage for budget travel in the future.
3. Save on accommodation– Having a network of Peace Corps and other international volunteers that were open to letting you crash on their floor saved us a TON of money during our travels. Always see if you have a connection you can stay with or explore some couch-surfing possibilities. If you have no contacts in the area, stay at the local backpackers and explore the higher end hotels for happy hour or maybe a nice meal.
4.Cut your transportation cost– local transport in Mozambique was scary, to say the least. It was inefficient, uncomfortable, and was incredibly unreliable…So much so that we opted to hitch hike instead (another scary thought, I know). You may not be ready or comfortable with the idea of hitch hiking, but I promise that things tend to turn out alright as long as you take some safety precautions. Never hitch hike alone and always gage the driver before hoping in the car. Settle on the price of the hitch (hopefully FREE!) and always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, abort the mission safely.
If you’re traveling alone, public transport or bus lines with somewhat dependable schedules will have to do. These modes of transport will vary greatly from our first world comforts. There will be an array of commercial goods, luggage and even LIVE STOCK draped around the roofs of these vehicles. Roll with the punches. You will have some pretty amusing stories after these adventures, guaranteed.
5.Pay attention to the local eats– Your diet will account for a significant portion of your expenses. Look around and see what the community eats. In developing countries, a heavy starch and perhaps some beans are staples. It may not be the most exciting meal of your life, but it will fill you up and stretch your budget further. Do enjoy some tasty local dishes and treat yourself to a nice meal from time to time… but pay attention to what’s affordable in the market and make that routine while you explore the world.
*according to a returned Peace Corps volunteer