Backpacking Route for Mexico

latin america routes


Mexico Backpacking Route

Our backpacking route for Mexico takes in the best the South of the country has to offer. If you follow it, you’ll travel from the tranquil seas of the Caribbean to the giant waves of the Pacific via a host of a ancient Maya cities, jungle ruins and pleasant mountain towns. The route then cuts through Mexico’s cultural heartland before ending up in the enormous capital city, one of the largest and liveliest on the planet.


TIME NEEDED – 5 weeks

If you’re not that fussed with beaches or not that interested in the Maya ruins, you could probably do this route in a month or less by spending less than the suggested amount of time at some of the destinations. Overall though about 5 weeks would be a suitable time-span.


POSSIBLE BUDGET – £1000 | €1100 | US$1250 | 23,000 Mexican Pesos

Mexico is really good value on the whole and if you’re heading here from the States, immediately you will appreciate how much more you can get for your money. However heading North from Central America, it may seem slightly more expensive.

This budget doesn’t include the cost of getting to/from Mexico or any other pre-trip expenses. It is based on July 2017 prices and exchange rates. Read our more detailed Backpacking Budget for Mexico, which includes typical travel costs.


VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR MEXICO

Mexico is pretty chilled when it comes to entry requirements. There’s no long questioning or waits at the border like you often get trying to enter the United States. Visitors from EU countries, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and most Latin American countries can get a generous 180 days visa-free. You can use our visa-check tool to confirm whether or not you need a visa.


TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel insurance is always advisable, not just because of Mexico’s perceived dangers. We recommend World Nomads, who specialise in covering backpacking trips.


Backpacking route for Mexico

Our Mexico travel itinerary is convenient in that it starts in Cancun and ends in Mexico City, which are home to the two busiest airports in the country and the ones with by far the greatest options in terms of international flights. One of the problems with travel in Mexico is that domestic flights can be quite pricey so if you just head off with no real plan, it’s quite possible you’ll end up somewhere quite isolated. That could leave you having to fork out a considerable amount just to fly somewhere with an international airport or alternatively having to backtrack on a long bus journey.

Mexico is deceptively big and to put that into some perspective, a direct flight from Cancun in the South-east to Tijuana in the North-West on the US border takes around 5 hours. Therefore unless you have months to spare, it’s best to base your trip around one or two parts of the country rather than attempting to go everywhere. The Mexico backpacker trail primarily focuses on the South of the country, which is home to most of the more popular travel destinations and is generally considered to be safer than the North.

This route summarises a typical path travellers in the country take and you could easily just do it in reverse and there may be something to be said for ending your trip with some relaxed days on Mexico’s Caribbean coastline.


Cancun

(1 day)

If you’ve had a long flight in then you may wish to book a hotel for a night in Cancun to get some rest but there are nicer places further South, that are generally much more to the liking of backpackers and budget travellers.


Playa del Carmen

(3-4 days)

Playa del Carmen is a fun place to hang out for a few days. Yes it’s touristy but it’s nowhere near as trashy or expensive as Cancun and there are many hostels catering to backpackers. The beaches are great and the nightlife is pumping with many bars and clubs offering excellent drinks deals. The nearby island of Cozumel is also a nice option if you want some additional beach time.


Tulum

Caribbean beach Mexico

image via Pascal under CC BY 2.0

(2-3 days)

There are two main reasons why travellers head to Tulum. The first is its gorgeous beach, which is among the best on the Riviera Maya and that is saying something. It is also home to the well preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan city so you can get a dose of culture and history too before cooling off in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. At night, it’s nowhere near as lively as Playa del Carmen and is a much quieter destination overall, with yoga retreats recently cropping up on its cliffs.


Chichen Itza

(1/2 a day)

One of Mexico’s most famous sites. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan ruins, with the enormous pyramid known as El Castillo, its centrepiece. There are limited budget accommodation options nearby so it’s probably best to just stop here for an afternoon to break up the journey between Tulum and Merida.


Merida

(2-4 days)

The state capital of Yucatán, Merida is one of the biggest cities on this route, but by no means overwhelming with around 750,000 residents. It’s a fascinating cultural destination, founded by the Spanish in the 16th Century. Merida is a city of plazas, palaces, cathedrals and museums. While it may only take a couple of days to discover the city, there’s plenty to see and do around the town with nearby Maya ruins, a wildlife refuge and the famous cenotes.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Hostal La Ermita, Merida

This is a great hostel which ticks pretty much all the boxes. The staff are friendly, the price is reasonable, breakfast is included and there’s a nice pool and patio area to chill in.


Campeche

(1-2 days)

In some respects, Campeche is not dissimilar to Merida. It’s a bit smaller but is another city with Spanish origins and its colonial old town has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. The nearest maya ruins are at Edzna, a relatively small site around an hour away.


Palenque

budget travel in Mexico

(1-2 days)

Palenque is a large site that was once home to an ancient Maya city. Its ruins are some of the best preserved in the whole region, largely thanks to the jungle which offers natural shelter. It could take the whole day to explore the site but there’s little to do in the nearby modern-day town itself. You can either stay there or find somewhere on the edge of the national park near the Maya site.


San Cristobal de las Casas

(2 days)

Arguably the prettiest town on the route, San Cristobal de las Casas is full of colourful buildings and cobblestone streets. Its highland location offers a pleasant break from the heat and it can get quite chilly at night. Just strolling around the town is enjoyable enough and if you fancy a longer stay there are volunteering opportunities as well as host of reasonably priced Spanish language schools.


Zipolite & Mazunte

backpackers in Mexico

(3-4 days)

Zipolite and Mazunte are two beach villages on Mexico’s rugged Oaxaca Coast. It takes only about 10 minutes and costs only a few pesos to travel from one to the other in a colectivo so you can choose to base yourself in one and visit the other or spend a couple of days in each.

Zipolite is the livelier of the two although that’s only a relative concept. Both places are very small and although there’s only a limited amount of things to do, it’s about the only place in Mexico where you can still find a cheap bungalow/hut on the beach and fall asleep accompanied by the sounds of Pacific Ocean waves crashing into the shore. Zipolite is also Mexico’s only beach where you can go nude, while Mazunte has a growing reputation for impromptu live music. Like many destinations on this route, the ease of getting marijuana is an appeal to some travellers.


Puerto Escondido

(2-3 days)

A bit further up the coast, you reach the much larger Puerto Escondido, which is popular with both domestic and international travellers. It’s a big surfing destination with some seriously large waves, which make swimming virtually impossible. There’s also a turtle conservation programme and you can assist every day at 5pm when baby turtles are released into the sea.


Oaxaxa

(2-3 days)

The city of Oaxaca is the capital of the state of the same name but it’s slow ride up from Puerto Escondido, which can take as long as 8 hours by road. It’s the state’s main cultural centre with a couple of interesting museums and a walkable city-centre. Nearby Monte Alban is another UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most impressive ruins sites in Latin America. Every Thursday and Saturday, trips run to the nearby village of Teotitlán del Valle by the non-profit Fundacion en Via and it’s a good opportunity to meet locals and make a positive contribution to fighting poverty in the region, whilst also having an interesting experience.


Huautla de Jimenez

(1-3 days)

One of the most curious destinations on the route. Huautla de Jimenez is a remote mountain town that was popular with the hippies in the 1960’s and the extremely strong psilocybe mushrooms that grow here during the wet season still attract some foreigners. Shamanic rituals still take place during this period but visitors also come to explore the stunning mountain range that surrounds the town and it’s a funky little place to hang around for a while.


Puebla

(2-3 days)

Many travellers visit Pubela as a day-trip from the capital but given it’s en-route, it’s well worth stopping off here for a few nights to catch your breath before heading to Mexico City. Puebla is a city of around 1.5million people so it’s a pretty big place with lots of beautiful buildings and interesting landmarks, not to mention lots of tasty and cheap street-food. It’s surrounded by snow-capped mountains and volcanoes so it’s also well worth heading out of town and exploring the natural surroundings for a final dose of fresh air before the smog of the capital.


Mexico City & Around

Mexico City on a budget

(3-5 days)

Mexico City is enormous! First-time visitors often find visiting an overwhelming experience and it’s not easy to know where to base yourself or where to begin. Like any large city it has its hassles but the tourist areas are not considered dangerous and there is a heavy police presence in the old city. The giant Zócalo, the city’s main plaza and one of the largest squares in the world is a good starting point and there are many interesting museums and cultural sites nearby that document various periods of Mexican history. For a more modern-day experience take in a football match at the giant Estadio Azteca or get to grips with the entertaining world of lucha libre, a Mexican form of professional wrestling (live shows take place every Friday at 20:30).

There are also a number of day-trips that can be done from Mexico City. A visit to the vast archaeological site at Teotihuacan, Northeast of the city is one of the most popular. Nature and adventure sports lovers would be wise to check out Valle de Bravo and/or the Desert of the Lions National Park. Meanwhile new-age Tepoztlan is reportedly a UFO hotspot with a large number of the town’s residents having reported seeing one!


MFT RECOMMENDS – Mexico City Hostel

Location is key when booking a hostel in Mexico City and it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s in the heart of the old city and although there are no fancy extras, it does the basics well for a good price.



Extending your trip

This Mexico backpacking route only covers the bottom third of the country, where a lot of the travel highlights are located. It could be considered loosely speaking the most typical backpacker trail in Mexico although it’s not rigidly followed by everyone by any means. Perhaps more common these days is for backpackers to head South to Guatemala rather than North. You can easily combine some of this with our backpacking route for Central America, which does just that and carries on all the way down to Panama.

If you want to see more of Mexico then there’s plenty more cool places to go but the best destinations are quite spread out so be prepared for some more long bus journeys or consider forking out for a flight or two. Highlights further North include Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, which are reasonably easy to get to from Mexico City and could quite easily be added onto this route although you’ll most likely have to backtrack to the capital for an onward flight.

Baja California is another popular coastal region, great for surfing and you can even head all the way North to the US-Mexico border and continue your adventure in California. Alternatively you can take Mexico’s most famous train ride and head to the stunning and very remote Copper Canyon, which feels a world away from the tourist resorts of the city or the madness of Mexico City.

Cartagena in Colombia, where our South America backpacking route starts, isn’t a million miles away either so if you’ve got the time, you could certainly do plenty more travelling in the region.


Budget Accommodation in Mexico

Getting budget accommodation in Mexico is pretty straight-forward unless you’re travelling in peak tourist season (exact time varies from place to place) or during a national holiday. In most towns on this route, you can just show up and find a room or bed, with prices negotiable in a lot of cases, especially during low season. In the bigger towns it’s probably still advisable to book something in advance as the hostels and main backpacker options are often spread out across town.


Is Mexico Dangerous?

Mexico gets a lot of bad press and certainly is perceived as a dangerous country by many. However don’t believe everything you read on the internet or hear from a certain president. If you’re sensible and avoid a handful of places, mostly in the North, well away from the stops on this route, you should have no trouble. Rates of violent crime are high but this is massively skewed by drug-related violence and rarely effects visitors.

 


This article was published in July 2017.


How to Bargain in Vietnam

How to Bargain in Vietnam

getting a lower price in Vietnam

A guest post by Jim from Asia Marvels

Many travellers in Vietnam are so afraid of paying more than they should that they forget to enjoy their trip. Here is some insight into bargaining in Vietnam to make your time here easier.

The first thing you should know about bargaining in Vietnam is that it is considered perfectly acceptable and even expected to argue with a merchant about the price of their goods or services in this country. To most westerners, it can be annoying, time-consuming and feel like getting ripped off. However, this habit has been around for so long it has become part of the Vietnamese culture, so I suggest that instead of holding on to all the negative feelings, why not loosen up a little bit (you are on a trip anyway) and learn how to bargain like a local.

Below are 7 things you must know about bargaining so you can enjoy your Vietnam trip thoroughly.


1. Know when to Bargain

bargaining in Vietnam

Even in Vietnam, not every price is negotiable. You sure wouldn’t want to make a fool out of yourself trying to talk your waiter into giving you a better price at a restaurant. My advice is that if something has a price tag on it, the cost is non-negotiable. This includes restaurants, where prices are usually listed on menus or signs, cabs with taxi meters etc.

Don’t take “always bargain” too seriously, it once took me and 2 waitresses half an hour to convince an American guy that it was not too much to pay 20,000 VND – just less than a dollar for two Bia hoi (Vietnamese draught beer).


2. Take it easy

Westerners often feel cheated and embarrassed when they find out that they have paid too much. But let me get this straight: At first, you’re going to pay too much. There’s no way around it. And even after you’ve been here for a while, you’re probably still going to pay more than locals, more often than not.

But in the end, this isn’t a battle to get the right price so just relax if you later find out that you have paid a few more bucks than you should have.


3. Learn some Vietnamese

Knowing the local language will help you A LOT with haggling with the local merchant. It shows that you probably have stayed here for a while and know how much something should cost. Of course you don’t have to master the language to be able to get a cheaper beer in Vietnam, here are some super useful phrases you can use:

– Bao nhiêu? (bao new) – How much?

– Đắt quá! (dat wa!) – Too expensive!!

Bớt đi (Bot dy) – Reduce the price

– Không (khom) – No

– Dạ (ya) – Yes

– Được (duoc) – Ok (or you can just say ok, most Vietnamese will understand)

After you show off your masterful Vietnamese skills, these shop owners would be likely to give you a much more reasonable price, and it’s kind of cool too.


4. Do some research

How to bargain in Vietnam

If you are looking for something specific, ask a local what the going rate is before you head to the market. It helps to go into the negotiations with an idea of what you’re supposed to pay. Start haggling by quoting a price that is about 10-20% lower than what you think you should be paying. Work your way up from there.

One more way to find out what is a good price for something in Vietnam is browsing around before starting to bargain. In most markets in Vietnam, there are several stalls selling exactly the same products as the other one. When you find something you like, check out all the other stalls in the market and choose the one with the lowest price. The “I love Ha Noi” T-shirt you like might be 10,000VND cheaper in the stall next door.


5. Act like you don’t want it

The last trick, and most successful strategy, is to act like you are not that interested in what they are selling. The less you want it, the better you can bargain.

No matter how much you want the item, try to act as nonchalantly as you can. If it still doesn’t work, pretend to lose interest and walk away, your vendor is likely to lower the price for you. Be careful though cause this trick can backfire sometimes; if you really want that item and can’t find it in any other shops in the area, you might have to come back with your tail between your legs and pay the price they offer.


6. Know when to quit

Sometimes you’ve just got to accept the price, even though you know that it’s more than what a local has to pay for it. If you’ve haggled, thrown in some sneaky Vietnamese and even walked away like you don’t want it anyway and the price still stays the same. Don’t be angry, go to another shop and try again or just accept that this is how things work around here. And if you still feel uncomfortable, think of how much you had to pay for a Frappuccino or a beer back home. Again, this is not a battle and there is no win or lose.


 7. Practice

Travel tips for Vietnam

Bargaining is a skill and like any other skill, practice makes perfect. Each time you bargain for something, there is a chance to hone your skills, learn from what happened and one day you might be able to buy some things you like for half the price they offer. This skill is also useful in many other Asian countries like Thailand, China, Malaysia and India.

 

That’s all guys, hope that this will help you have a wonderful time in Vietnam.


Author Bio

Asia travel

Hi there, I’m Jim – writer at Asiamarvels.com. I love travelling around Asia and share my stories & guidelines with readers. I’m sure there are so many things the world hasn’t discovered about this mysterious land and you’re eager to know more about it, right?

Alright!!!! let me help you. More guidelines, food tours, tricks and tips for your amazing trip to Asia can be found at Asiamarvels.com.

 


This article was published in May 2017.


5 Things to consider before you teach English in China

5 Things to consider before you teach English in China

Things to consider before you teach English in China

image via Brian Yap, CC BY-NC 2.0

A guest post by Dimitris Vlachos

If you’re interested in teaching English in China, then you’re in for an exciting and rewarding adventure. As a company which specialises in helping people like you teach abroad, we understand what you’re going through. We’ve helped hundreds of people find jobs in China and we hope to do the same for you.

But before you leave for your new country, there are a few important things for you to consider before you teach English in China. Here are a few tips so that you know what to expect before you make the big move!


1. You Have To Live On A Teacher’s Budget

While it is true that teaching salaries are on the rise in China, there is little wiggle room to live a luxurious lifestyle. Many people who teach abroad do so in order to pay back their college loans, save up, or travel. While you can do these things, you can’t do all of them at once in China like you may be able to in other countries where the salaries are higher.

You’re going to need to choose the lifestyle you wish to live before you go. If you’re teaching in China so that you can travel, then put your extra wages toward day and weekend trips, but you won’t be able to save much. If you wish to pay back your student loans, you can, but you won’t be able to travel as much as you might like. Research the average Chinese ESL salary and use a cost of living calculator to help you figure out what you’re likely to make and spend.


2. Get A Job Through A Recruiter

Finding a job in China through a recruiter will simplify the process and have a few added benefits as well. Many schools in China do not advertise for teachers online, so it’s hard to see all of the options available to you. Plus, you may never find out what the place you’ll be living in is like until you arrive. Once you find a recruiter you’ll have increased job opportunities, have a picture in mind of what the school is like, and you can earn better benefits and a higher salary.


3. There’s No Need To Speak Chinese

During your time in China, it’s likely that you’ll want to pick up the language and bring it back home with you. However learning Chinese takes time, so don’t expect to be fluent in the first few months. Start off by going to restaurants which have picture menus and invest in cheap business cards with your address on them.

When you’re ready to learn Chinese, read blog posts about how other’s have learned the language. You can also practice today by using apps like Duolingo. Once you’re there, there are plenty of schools that offer reasonably priced language classes.


4. Understand How To Say ‘No’

Since you’re a tourist, there’s always the fun fact that you’re going to be a target for people looking to make a little extra money. This happens in every country, even the United States. However, you’re likely to stick out as a foreigner and as a result people will try to get you to buy things you don’t need.

Learn how to tell people ‘no’ politely so that you can avoid wasting your money and time. It’s important to not feel pressured or you’ll make a buy just to avoid the awkward situation. It’s okay to say no.


5. What’s Your Skin Colour?

The most awkward thing to consider before your move to China is what your skin colour is. Sadly in Chinese society skin colour still holds weight and if you’re darkly complected, you will occasionally be judged. This is a common problem in many developing nations because some people believe skin colour is associated with social standing.

These situations will always be uncomfortable, but keep in mind that for every bad situation you have, you’ll likely have at least one (or more) heart-warming situation where you’re complemented or cared for. Not everyone judges based on skin colour.

Teaching English in China is going to be one of the highlights of your life. China is a beautiful country with an equally beautiful history and culture that will serve to enrich you for the rest of your life. Knowing these five things will help you to develop a broader understanding of what it’s like to teach and live in China.


Author Bio

Dimitris works as a full stack marketer at Movinhand. Movinhand helps educators get the salary they deserve. We promote teachers around the world and get them the best possible offer within 10 days of signing up.


This article was published in May 2017.


5 Unusual Things to Do on a Budget in Santorini

5 Unusual Things to Do on a Budget in Santorini

Santorini is a Greek island that has long been associated with honeymooning couples, but over the last few years it has become more and more popular with backpackers and explorers who are visiting the island to experience the multicoloured cliffs and natural phenomena created by the local volcanoes. Sound intriguing? Here are just 5 of the best things to experience in Santorini, especially for those on a budget:


1: Cliff Jumping at Amoudi Bay

Cliff jumping in Santorini

Amoudi Bay, with its crystal clear Mediterranean waters and protected by a surrounding cliff tops, is perfect for any cliff jumping thrill-seeker. Situated in Oia, Amoudi Bay might be hard to find, but persistence more than pays off, as once you find the route, the steps will take you up to a boulder from which you can safely jump off into the sea. Keep in mind to bring sensible footwear though, as the route isn’t the easiest and there are plenty of sharp rocks on the way up. Oia itself is full of traditional Greek restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat after your cliff diving adventure, and the church near the Amoudi Bay trail is a favourite amongst tourists for watching the sunset in the evening.


2: Hiking the Fira Trail

Santorini budget travel guide

There is nothing cheaper or more satisfying than a walk exploring the great outdoors, and where better to do it than one of the most beautiful places in the world? The Santorini Fira trail is 10km and will take around 3-4 hours to complete. Starting in Fira, which is the island’s capital, you’ll pass tourist attractions such as the Orthodox Metropolitan Church, the Fira main shopping area and the Catholic Cathedral. As you continue on you’ll pass by the Aegean Sea and see its famous volcano before heading into the village of Firostefani. From here you’ll pass the Monastery of Saint Nicholas and into the village of Imerovigli before hiking up the famous Skaros Rock. The trail then heads further north as you travel by the Church of Prophet Elias and the Church of Agios Antonios, where you will see the beautiful Thirassia island before continuing the trail to the picturesque Oia where the trail comes to an end.


3: Sunbathe on Black Sand Beach

Black Beach in Santorini

Perivolos Beach is lined with black volcanic pebbles and clear blue waters that make for a stunning sight when we are usually so accustomed to golden sand. Generally quiet, the beach is a car or bus drive from Perissa and is close to an array of local pubs and restaurants. Perfect for a day of relaxing and working on your tan! Beware that the black pebbles become very hot in the midday sun so be sure to have appropriate shoes to protect your feet.


4: Visit a Volcano

Volcano in Santorini

Santorini itself has been created and shaped by its many volcanic eruptions over the years. A short boat trip will take you to the caldera at the centre of the basin of Santorini where you will find two small islands made of black lava. Here the hot springs are incredibly popular with tourists who believe the sulphuric laden yellow hot springs have healing properties. A short walk will bring you to the active, smoking craters of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni.


5: Stay in a Traditional Cave House

Santorini accommodation

It’s not just your activities that should be unusual on your trip to Santorini, your accommodation should be unusual too. In Santorini, one of the quirkiest, and most traditional, places you can stay is in a cave house which has been carved into the Santorini cliffs.

 


This article was published in May 2017.


What Only Traveling Alone Can Teach You

What Only Traveling Alone Can Teach You

Traveling is a story that many dream of writing but never pick up the pen to do so. Hopping on a plane, disappearing for days, months, or years… sometimes getting up the courage to embark is the hardest part. Then as you set foot out in the vast world, you realize that this journey is going to teach you things you would never have learned at home. There are some lessons that only traveling alone can teach you.

the art of solo travel

1. You depend purely on yourself

If you have ever been told you are too dependent on others or are completely selfless, then travel will transform you into an independent, invincible person. You will learn not only how to do what is best for you and no one else, you will know what it means to trust your gut feeling and go with it. Furthermore, you will learn responsibility, time management, strategy, and budgeting.

When you are on your own, no one is going to pay your bills for you or hold your hand at the doctor’s office. You have to figure out everything about getting around more or less unassisted. Yes, it can be mortifying, but you will not regret the results.

2. You learn what “tolerance” means

New cultures can be bizarre, mind-boggling, and honestly, frustrating. Culture shock will not be an alien idea to you as you travel. Your first round with it will be the worst. The second and third time will come and go like the sniffles. Traveling means understanding that everyone and every culture has its unique quirks and norms, and you learn to accept those differences instead of fighting them.

3. You figure out your passion

Traveling alone gives you a lot of time to just sit and think about the world and your place in it. You can reflect on your life, who you are, and what you want. Traveling, after all, means following your heart and living as you choose to live, so do not be surprised if you unearth your purpose while traipsing through a jungle or cave spelunking.

4. You learn how to live without luxuries

For those who choose the backpacker’s way of travel, which often deals with jamming the necessities into a hiking pack then couch surfing and jumping from hostel to campground and back again, there is no time for makeup, souvenirs, and bundles of clothing. In fact, you lose interest in anything that will weigh you down. The simple things in life, like walking along a beach as the sun goes down, or freshly brewed tea with new friends, are going to be more valuable than the new iPhone.

what you learn from traveling solo

5. You get skilled in making acquaintances

Traveling alone helps you understand how to entertain yourself and be comfortable in your own company. However, just because you are independent does not mean you will not be meeting new people. As you travel, you will run into other backpackers, and you will share your stories. The art of small talk gets mastered quite easily this way. Also, the locals will be interested in where you are from and your motivation. You will find yourself talking to more people than originally anticipated, it is guaranteed.

Flying to a foreign country is just the first part of an experience filled with marvellous memories and experiences that will be unique to only you. Travel is the greatest teacher, especially when you are alone. With no one beside you, no one to sway you, your mind opens up to possibilities and ideas that you would have never thought possible. That is why these lessons can only be learned abroad. So get ready to pack your bags and open your mind.

A guest post by Charlie Alf – BackPackHack


This article was published in May 2017.


Six common ways to make friends and meet people when travelling

6 Ways to make Travel Buddies!

This article is primarily designed for first-time backpackers. Many people are put off the idea of solo travel because they hate the thought of being alone away from home and aren’t sure how to make friends and meet people when travelling.

These days though, in theory at least, it is easier than ever to make travel buddies and meet local people and this page offers six of the most common ways friendships are formed on the road:

1. Use Couchsurfing

how to meet people and make friend as a backpacker

Image via Alex Johnson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Couchsurfing is perhaps the most guaranteed way to find someone to hang out with. You may already be aware of it but to summarise almost all towns and cities around the world have some form of couchsurfing community and many have thousands of people willing to let travellers stay for a night or two on their couch or in a spare room. The review system ensures it is pretty safe and as well as the obvious benefit of getting somewhere free to stay, you immediately meet a local person who will be able to advise you on things to see and do. Chances are they will also be willing to hang out with you and perhaps even invite you along to meet their friends so it’s a great way to meet some locals which isn’t always easy when you stay in hostels.

Even if staying with strangers isn’t necessarily your thing, then it’s still well worth joining the site. Most towns have regular couchsurfing events or evenings in local bars (which are advertised on the site) where you can just head there alone and meet both locals and other travellers. Meanwhile many members, who don’t have space in their home, just want to meet up and maybe show you some of their town.

Join couchsurfing here (it’s free!)

2. Stay in Hostel Dorms

In terms of meeting other travellers, hostel dorms are the best place to be. Most backpacker friendships are still formed that way. They are generally full of other solo travellers or people travelling in small groups. Obviously some people are friendlier than others but it’s highly probable that there’ll be other people in your dorm who are in the same position and will be keen to socialise so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation.

Most hostels do have both mixed and male/female only dorms so you can take your pick. It’s certainly true that in many hostels and particularly dorms, there are people that are looking for a bit more than just friendship. You can always ask to move to another dorm if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable but generally speaking they are sociable places and full of potential travel buddies.

Read our Basic guide to staying in Hostels if you’re not sure what to expect from a backpackers hostel.

3. Use Apps that help you meet people.

Even over the past five years alone, the huge rise of mobile apps has made meeting people at home and abroad much easier. If you’re single then there’s no reason why you can’t use dating apps to find a bit of romance on the road as you might at home. Even if you just want to make friends, apps like tinder can be very useful to quickly get in touch with locals but it’s best to be very clear that it’s only friendship you’re after.

Meetup is another really useful site/app that lists events and gatherings going on in your vicinity and if it’s a reasonably large town you are in, there are probably many things going on through the day that you can get involved with and meet some people. Couchsurfing’s app is also worth downloading to your phone as it lists people who currently want to hang out.

Finally don’t forget about your current social media accounts. If you’re pretty active on them and have a reasonable following/friend circle and openly broadcast your travel plans, you might just be surprised to find friends or friends of friends who will be in the same area at the same time as you.

4. Sign up for excursions, trips, walking tours and bar crawls

Most towns of a reasonable size and almost all popular tourist towns and cities will at least have a free or very cheap walking tour that you can join. Ask in your hostel about this and it’s a great way to see the sights and learn more about them than you would doing it alone. Generally there will be a reasonably large number of people on the tour and it should be fairly easy to get chatting to someone, particularly if they also appear to be alone.

Where there’s a walking tour, there’s probably also a pub crawl (e.g. Pub Crawl Madrid). Many big cities and party towns will have nightly pub/bar crawls that you can join and that’s another very good way to meet other travellers. Whether you’ll remember anyone you met the next day is another question but it’s a good option if you want to have a fun night out, which is pretty hard to do if it’s just you.

If nature is more your thing than getting wasted with horny strangers then consider going joining excursions rather than just doing your own thing all the time. Again the hostel is probably the best place to ask about this. Most hostels work with other hostels in that town to organise excursions and trips to local places of interest so chances are you’ll be able to make some friends on them that you could potentially hang out with that evening or the following day.

5. Hang out in hostel or traveller bars.

making friends when travelling

Image via Steve Haslam, CC BY-SA 2.0

Like it or not, drinking is a pretty big part of the travelling and hostelling culture and bars tend to be the hub of the social activity. Even if you don’t drink or aren’t a big drinker yourself, heading to a hostel or traveller-geared bar is a decent idea as a last resort if all the other methods fail. Certainly if you are someone who prefers private rooms or are in a country where dorms aren’t that easily found, the bar is the next easiest place to potentially make some travel buddies.

As with the bar crawls, alcohol naturally makes people a bit more sociable and even if you’re just sitting there on your own, reading a book or sending some messages/e-mails there’s a good chance you’ll find someone to chat too.

6. Speak to people on trains, buses & planes.

Some travellers are perhaps too quick to write this off as a way to make friends but the train/bus/plane into your next destination is actually a great opportunity to find someone to hang out with even before you’ve arrived!

It does help if you’re a naturally confident person but even if you’re not the task isn’t as hard as it sounds. Travelling for hours on end can be a boring experience so most people are welcome for any kind of distraction and it’s pretty easy to tell those who aren’t in the mood for a chat. In most places, locals will be naturally curious as to your experience in their country and will probably have many questions and recommendations.

Other travellers, who are probably heading to the same place as you are also very easy to spot. If you’re travelling on a train, you can just go up to people and ask them where they are heading or if they have somewhere to stay. With buses, generally there will be several stops at service stations or roadside cafes, when people get off and stretch their legs or have a cigarette. This is the best time to strike up a conversation. If you’ve not got accommodation sorted, you can suggest looking for somewhere together or head to the same hostel as them if they have something booked. Therefore in no time you potentially have someone to hang out with over the next few days.

 

If you are a first-time traveller, you can find more tips and suggestions in our Backpacker Basics section.

 


 This article was published in April 2017.


Barcelona on a Budget

Barcelona Travel Guide

Barcelona on the cheap


Arriving in Barcelona & Getting to the Centre

Barcelona-El Prat Airport

Most visitors to Barcelona arrive at the city’s main airport – El Prat. These days even most of the budget airlines use it and it is the only international airport within close proximity to the city.

  • Aerobus

Most tourists take the aerobus to get into the city. It runs every 5-10 minutes during the day and takes roughly 30 minutes to get from the airport to Plaza Catalunya in the heart of Barcelona depending on traffic and costs €5.90. Line A1 leaves from outside Terminal 1 while A2 leaves from Terminal 2 but they follow the same route and also stop at Plaza Espanya, which may be more convenient depending on the location of your accommodation. Be sure to get the right one for your terminal if you are returning to the airport at the end of your stay in Barcelona.

  • Train

The cheapest way to get from Barcelona Airport to Barcelona is to take the train. It leaves from the station at Terminal 2 (free shuttle buses run to Terminal 1) and your best bet is probably going to be a T-10 ticket, which gives you 10 journeys on all public transport in Barcelona for the duration of your stay. This way the cost of your trip into the city will work out at roughly €1. Trains take 20 minutes to reach Barcelona Sants Station and 25 minutes to Passeig de Gràcia. You can connect to the metro at either station and it won’t cost you any more as you have 1 hour 15 minutes to complete one journey on the T-10 ticket (more info in the ‘getting around the city’ section).

  • Metro

There is also a newly opened metro line (as of February 2016) that connects the metro network to Barcelona Airport with stations at both Terminal 1 and 2. However it’s not covered by normal metro tickets so it will cost €4.50 for a ticket to anywhere in the city and will take considerably longer to reach your destination as you’ll have to change trains at Europa Fira if you are heading to the centre. Overall the metro isn’t a great option for getting into the central parts of the city.

Girona & Reus Airports

Budget airlines sometimes fly to these airports and misleadingly refer to them as Barcelona airports. They are not! Both airports are approximately 100km from the city and will take in excess of 1 hour 30 minutes via the bus services that link the airports to the Catalan capital. A return ticket from either airport to Barcelona will cost around €25. Buses aren’t that regular but are usually timed to coincide with flights landing at the rarely used airports. The Girona-Barcelona buses end at Barcelona’s Estacio del Nord whereas Reus-Barcelona buses head to Barcelona Sants Station and you’ll still most likely have to connect to the metro to reach your accommodation. Depending on the time of your arrival, you may be able to connect with a train too.

By Train

Barcelona Sants Train Station is the main railway station in the city for domestic travel and the high-speed lines to France and beyond. It isn’t in a particularly central location but is connected to the metro network so it’s easy to catch a local train to your destination in the city. The same is true of Passeig de Gràcia and Estació de França which are the other main train stations and are more central than Sants although aren’t served by as many trains. For train times and booking tickets in Spain and around Catalonia see Renfe. Booking several weeks in advance is advisable, certainly on the high-speed lines, as prices do usually go up nearer the date of travel.

By Bus

Barcelona Nord is where you’ll almost certainly arrive if coming in by bus. There are 18 buses per day to/from Madrid for example so it’s a busy terminus and you can walk from the station to Arc de Triomf or Marina metro stations and it’s not far from the heart of the city so you might even be able to walk to your desired destination. Some buses also go to/from Sants Bus Station. The biggest bus company in Spain is Alsa, which has routes to almost all the major Spanish cities from Barcelona. Travelling by bus in Spain is much cheaper than the train but generally much slower. Advanced booking is advisable for longer trips but it only needs to be done a day or two in advance and prices are fixed.


Budget accommodation in Barcelona

Barcelona has an enormous choice of hostels and budget accommodation. Dorm beds start at around €15/night during the week and more like €18/night at the weekend, which is a bit more expensive than most other cities in Spain. You can usually find something a bit cheaper during the winter months but during peak season (May to September), the city is very crowded with visitors and many of the better hostels sell out quickly.

When deciding where to stay, location is perhaps the biggest factor to consider as most hostels offer a similar kind of quality at a similar price. You might consider Plaza Catalunya as being the very mid-point of the city so anything within a 1km walk of that would certainly be considered very central. That being said in Barcelona, the metro is very extensive and it’s not a huge city so it’s not the end of the world if you’re not right in the heart of town. Many of the main sights are not in the centre anyway.

In the summer months, you could opt to stay closer to the beaches, the nearest of which is 20-30 minutes walk from the city centre. If you want a more local vibe and perhaps a more authentic Barcelona experience then consider staying in Gracia, which is away from the touristy centre but still well-located for Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia, and less than 10 minutes by metro to La Rambla.

Recommended Hostels in Barcelona

Factory Gardens – This stylish hostel is in a local neighbourhood close to the Sagrada Familia and offers some of the best value-for-money you’ll find amongst the budget accommodation options in Barcelona.

Hip Karma Hostel – This is another reliable choice and they often slash prices to 10 Euros/night during less busy times if you book online. It’s well located being less than 10 minutes walk from the city’s main square – Plaza Catalunya and biggest park – Parc de la Ciutadella.

Kabul Party Hostel – As the name suggests, this a good place to stay for those looking to party. It’s a sociable place and very well located in the heart of the old Gothic quarter, just a few feet from La Rambla and near to many bars and clubs.

Airbnb is also a decent option in Barcelona and you can sometimes find cheaper deals there. Sign up for Airbnb and claim €35 free credit here.


Getting around the city

Barcelona travel guide

Picture via Miquel Lleixà Mora, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

On Foot

In the Old Town and central districts, you can generally get around on foot. Even the closer beaches are fairly accessible by walking from the centre with Barceloneta Beach around 20 minutes walk from La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter.

Metro

Barcelona isn’t a massive city but some of the main sights are quite spread out so you will certainly need to make use of public transport at some point. Barcelona has an excellent (when it’s not on strike) metro network that will get you anywhere you need to go and you’ll rarely have to wait more than 5 minutes for a train.

The best option for almost all visitors to the city is to get the T10 1 Zone ticket. This will give you 10 journeys to anywhere in the city for €9.95 and can be used on buses, trains, trams and the metro. Unless you are planning any day trips out of Barcelona, you won’t need more than Zone 1 as it covers the entire city and you can even get to the nearby beach of Montgat without leaving this zone.

The metro runs until midnight (Sunday to Thursday), 2:00am (Fridays and public holidays) and all night on Saturdays. During the day, you can get to pretty much everywhere you need to go by a combination of metro/walking.

Buses

It’s probably simpler and quicker to just use the metro when it’s open. However after the metro shuts, the nightbuses become your best option and they are pretty extensive so you should still be able to get where you need to go or close to it. You can still use the T-10 ticket on buses. You validate it by using the machine on-board the buses.

Taxis

Overall Barcelona’s transport network is really good value when compared to other major European cities and if you’re only in town for 2-3 days, you should be able to get by on just the one T10 ticket. Budget travellers in Barcelona won’t really find much need to use taxis, which typically cost about €2 per kilometre.

Cycling

Another option is to cycle around the city. There are plenty of cycle lanes and the city’s Bicing scheme is popular although it’s virtually impossible for short-term visitors to use, as you need an address in Catalonia. There are though many bike rental places dotted around town and it’s a nice way to see the city although almost certainly will work out more expensive than just using the T-10 ticket on public transport.


How to see Barcelona on a Budget

Barcelona city guide

Barcelona is a city that is designed perfectly for the weekend visitor with money to spend and it’s unquestionably one of the most popular short-break destinations in the world. Most first-time visitors end up doing pretty much the same thing with a handful of main tourist attractions taking up most of their time. The most popular of which include the Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi masterpiece that still hasn’t been finished but continues to tower above the city, Gaudi’s Casa Batlló and Barcelona Football Club, one of the world’s greatest.

The problem for budget travellers is that these are not cheap places and the city seems to have responded to the economic crisis by really cashing in on tourism, although it doesn’t seem to have put people off coming. A basic entrance ticket for the Sagrada Familia for example is a hefty €15 and there is nothing much in the way of info inside so to get much out of your visit, you will at least need to get the audio tour, which is another €7. A ticket for a Barcelona match at Camp Nou will invariably set you back at least €45 these days and often more while a stadium & museum tour is €23. Even many of things that aren’t particularly worth visiting aren’t cheap with a frankly disappointing Aquarium charging €18 being a good example. The point being a few days in Barcelona can easily become very expensive if you are not careful.

These prices are all ‘online prices’ which are typically less than at the door where you may face long queues, certainly at the Sagrada Familia. Therefore booking online is one way to save a bit of cash. Inevitably though if you are in Barcelona on a budget, you are going to have to pick and choose to some extent and you mustn’t feel obliged to enter every single attraction.

The Sagrada Familia in all honestly is much more impressive from the outside and unless you are truly passionate about churches, you might be wise to skip the queues and fees for going inside and instead perhaps head to Gaudi’s House & Museum, which is more informative and considerably cheaper.

Likewise if you’re not that fussed about football, you don’t have to feel obliged to go and watch what will probably be a very one-sided match. The cheapest tickets are right at the top of the stadium and don’t offer a great view given Camp Nou is Europe’s largest football stadium and holds nearly 100,000. If you’re a football fan but in town when Barcelona aren’t playing, the city’s other team Espanyol probably will be and tickets are much more reasonably priced for their games and you can get closer to the action for much less.

If you have a set budget then it’s perhaps best picking one attraction each day that you are really keen on going for and then spending the rest of the day on foot exploring the city. With the T10 metro ticket you can see basically the whole city in a few days and you can still have the full Barcelona experience without getting sucked into every tourist trap, of which there are many!

As you’ll see from the list below, there are many fantastic free things to do in Barcelona. Indeed you can still do an awful amount without ever paying any admission fees, which are the things that really can break even a mid-range travel budget in Barcelona.


Five Free things to do in Barcelona

Barcelona things to do

Picture via Montse Poch, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Gaudi tour

Barcelona is full of Gaudi masterpieces. Spend an afternoon exploring the city on foot going from one to the next. They are all most impressive from the outside and you don’t need to pay any money to look! You can easily learn more about each building by doing a bit of your own research online so it’s not hard to get to grips with Gaudi’s Barcelona without spending a single cent! Here are 10 of Gaudi’s most famous Barcelona buildings.

Walk La Rambla

The most famous street in Barcelona is well worth a walk from one end to the other just to experience its hustle and bustle. There are several nuisance factors on La Rambla but if you ignore the drug dealers and keep an eye on your pockets it’s nothing more than that. The street is perhaps most famous for its street performers and bizarre human statues and on any given day you are sure to find something or someone who will capture your interest for a few minutes.

Park Güell

A must visit for anyone visiting Barcelona.  Not only is Park Guell, a beautiful place to relax and spend an hour or so, it has two major draws. Firstly it is the location of Gaudi’s house (or one of them), now a museum. Secondly it offers stunning views of the city and is one of the best spots to capture a few panoramic photographs of the BCN skyline. Another great location for this is the nearby Bunker del Carmel, while you can also get good views from Montjuic, site of most of Barcelona’s 1992 Olympics venues as well as the city’s castle.

Watch a Barcelona game in a local bar

Okay so you might have to pay a Euro for a drink but it’s important to re-hydrate right? With ticket prices so high at Camp Nou and the stands usually full of tourists, arguably a more authentic and certainly cheaper experience these days is to just find a local bar and watch the game on TV.

Many Barca fans only go to the stadium for the very biggest matches and settle for watching the majority of league games in a bar. If you are visiting Barcelona on a budget you might be wise to do the same unless catching a game at Camp Nou has been a lifelong dream of yours. Consider heading to the streets around the stadium to catch a bit of the pre-match buzz and atmosphere and then head to one of the many nearby bars and cafes to watch the match itself. All Barcelona games (home & away) are screened live in what often seems like virtually every bar/restaurant in the city.

Go to the Beach

Barcelona has a fantastic climate and it’s warm enough to go to the beach for roughly half of the year. Certainly from June to September you can basically rely on it being warm and sunny while it’s often still warm enough in both May and October. In the summer months, the beaches are packed and there are many ways to enjoy them. You can simply relax and take in the sun, spend the day drinking with friends (beer guys generally move up and down the beach selling cheap cold cans) or for the more active join a game of volleyball or go surfing.

More on all this in the next section!


Beaches

Best beaches in Barcelona

From Barcelona, you have access to a huge number of beaches.

City Beaches

The beaches in Barcelona itself might not be the most beautiful but they are the most convenient and liveliest. They do get extremely busy in the summer months particularly Barceloneta, which is an easy walk from the centre of the city. If you follow the coast round from Barceloneta you reach Nova Icaria, Bogatell, Mar Bella and Llevant. There are officially 10 different beaches but in reality it is one long stretch of sand with a short break at Port Olimpic, which is a good place to grab lunch. You can stroll from one end to the other in about an hour. Each beach has its own flavour with gay-friendly Mar Bella having a nudist section while Bogatell has more recreational facilities such as volleyball courts and football pitches.

Just Outside the City

  • Montgat

Montgat Beach is a long stretch of white sand only 20 minutes by train from Placa Catalunya (journey covered by the T-10 pass). It’s usually much quieter and nicer than the city beaches and you have a genuine feel of having left the city.

  • Castelldefels

Heading the other way out of Barcelona you find the wide and very long Castelldefels beach which is about 30 minutes by train from Passeig de Gracia station in the city centre. If you’re planning to spend most or all the day on the beach then both are better options than the ones in the city unless you don’t mind the crowds.

Further Out

If you start early then you can do a day trip out to one of the best beaches in the region. To the North, the Costa Brava is 1 hour 30 minutes away by train while heading South options include gay-friendly Sitges and it’s multiple small beaches, the Roman town of Tarragona and the popular resort of Salou. All three can be reached in an hour or less with fares under €10 if you take the cheaper trains. Check Renfe for times and prices.

Spain is full of fantastic beach destinations. More feature in our backpacking route for Spain and Portugal.


Eating Out on a Budget

Snacks

Barcelona is not short on excellent restaurants but if you’re travelling on a budget, finding good value isn’t always easy, when you don’t know the city. For cheap daytime snacks/drinks, check out 100 montaditos, which is a budget chain that serves dirt cheap drinks (€1.50 for una jarra of beer (nearly a pint) and small tapas-style sandwiches known as montaditos (little burgers) from €1. They are at numerous sites around the city so wherever you are, there should be one close. They are also a good bet for cheap drinks at the start of the night. On Wednesdays and Sundays they slash prices further to 1 Euro for everything on the menu!

All-you-can-eat!

If you’re really hungry, then the buffet options can provide decent value and should fill you up for the best part of the day. There are numerous options around town with FrescCo perhaps the best one with all-you-can eat from €10-12 depending on the time of day and including a drink.

Restaurants

If you want to enjoy a meal out in a restaurant but are on a relatively tight budget then it’s probably best to avoid La Rambla and the streets right next to it. Often they advertise good deals on food but will really take advantage of you in terms of drinks. Normally in Spain, beers come smaller than in other European countries. However if you ask for a large beer on La Rambla, you’re often served something more like a litre of beer and charged €10-15 for it! Paseig de Gracia is another expensive area for eating out but Barcelona does have some cheaper districts.

Raval is one such area, which has some really budget-friendly options. It is a multicultural zone so you’ll find cuisines from all around the world with everything from curryhouses to Mexian restaurants. Rosa Raval is a tasty Mexican joint with affordable cocktails while nearby Carrer de Joaquin Costa has a few budget-friendly vegetarian restaurants.

You can find the odd gem in El Born too but restaurants do change hands quite regularly and quality goes up and down so it’s worth checking the latest reviews. Foodie in Barcelona and Spotted by Locals are two blogs worth checking out for suggestions for cheap restaurants in Barcelona.

It’s worth noting that most restaurants in Barcleona won’t start serving food until after 8:00pm and that would still be early for locals to head out to eat. Many eat their biggest meal of the day at lunch-time and something lighter later on.


Nightlife

Going out in Barcelona

Picture via Matt Cornish, CC BY-NC 2.0

Barcelona’s nightlife, like that in the rest of Spain, starts and ends late. Bars typically stay open till 3:00am, which is about the best time to start heading to clubs, most of which stay open till 6:00am.

Cheap Drinks

If you want to have a cheap night out, then it is probably best to start by buying a few drinks from a supermarket, with prices very low for beer, wine and spirits. Note that after 10:00pm, shops aren’t allowed to sell alcohol although some smaller places might if you ask nicely!

Either way it’s best to stock up prior to that and have a few drinks in your hostel before going out. Alternatively you could just head down to the beach or harbour area (at the bottom of La Rambla & left) and start your night drinking there, which is what many locals do. There are Pakistani guys who sell beers in the streets in both locations and in most of the city centre until late, so you can usually buy a small cold can of Estrella off them for €1 at any time of night. Therefore you can be approaching very drunk for less than €10 in Barcelona and won’t need to buy as many drinks later in the night.

Bars

In terms of bars, the old town is probably the best spot for budget travellers. There are hundreds of really small bars dotted around the winding streets of the old town. Generally speaking, Raval which has a bit of an alternative vibe, is marginally cheaper than the Gothic quarter but most bars have signs outside advertising drinks deals so you can wander around and pick one that takes your fancy or just turn it into a bar crawl. Beer and wine is still generally fairly cheap in bars but cocktails and spirits often cost €7-10 although they are strong.

Clubs

When planning a night out, choosing a club to go to is perhaps the biggest decision. You can get in some clubs for free during the week before a certain time but at the weekend there are hefty admission fees at almost all the main clubs so once you are in one, you will generally stay there until the night is out. €20 is typical for admission but it does normally include at least one drink and often two (con consumición). You simply take the ticket to the bar and exchange the voucher for any drink of your choice. Cocktails and spirits are usually very strong in Spain so you night not need more than a couple anyway!

Barcelona has a wide choice of clubs of varying quality. Of course it depends on your music preferences but popular options include Razzmatazz, a huge former factory which now hosts thousands of party-goers each weekend. It has an under-stated vibe with no real dress-code and also hosts live music events. There are multiple floors with many different rooms playing a variety of different genres so it’s a safe bet, particularly if you’re a large group and people have different tastes in music.

Razzmatazz is typically only open at weekends though so in the week, Sala Apolo, is perhaps the most popular bet for a cheap-ish night. It has regular student nights and is widely thought of as the best party early in the week with ‘Nasty Mondays’ and ‘Crappy Tuesdays’ still going strong.

For a more urban vibe, check out Otto Zutz. It’s located a fair way from the centre in Gracia and tends to attract a more local crowd. It is a smaller venue though so you might want to get there bit earlier than the typical 2:00-3:00 to ensure you get in as it is very popular.



 This article was published in March 2017.


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Five Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations

Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations

With gorgeous beaches and crystal blue seas, the Caribbean has long since been one of the world’s most appealing travel destinations. However finding a way to visit on a budget can be a real challenge with accommodation costs typically quite high. If you’re travelling with a group of friends, luxury Caribbean vacations can become relatively affordable by sharing the costs of renting a villa.

If you really want to keep costs down though, you have to be a bit selective when choosing your destination. Here we list five places where you can experience a touch of Caribbean luxury whilst keeping costs relatively low.

Five Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations

Bay Islands, Honduras

backpacking in the bay islands

via John Colby, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Bay Islands still remain something of a secret gem. Travellers either have never heard of them or are simply put off by the dangerous reputation that Honduras undoubtedly has. Some of its cities may be rough, crime-ridden places but the Bay Islands are as close as it really come to a budget friendly Caribbean paradise.

The clear waters and abundant marine life makes this a great snorkelling and diving destination and it is a popular stop for backpackers in Central America. Unlike most other Caribbean islands, you don’t need to fly to get in with ferries leaving the Honduran mainland city of La Ceiba, twice a day. With dorm beds, cheap food and inexpensive activities, this is probably the cheapest of our five budget friendly Caribbean destinations.

Jamaica

via Frank Roche, CC BY-NC 2.0

Jamaica is one of the few islands that attracts backpackers and budget-minded travellers in any sort of quantity. Some of the towns and beach destinations are wising up to this and you can find budget accommodation from around $15/night in Ocho Rios or Kingston for example and with everything else fairly affordable, you ought to be able to get by on $40/day if you are on a tight budget.

With regular flights into either Kingston or Montego Bay from Europe and North America, it’s one of the most accessible countries in the Caribbean too. While like almost everywhere in the region, beaches are a big attraction, Jamaica has a strong cultural identity and for a nation of just 3 million people, it has achieved great international success in fields such as sport and music. Just travelling around the island and visiting different places is a unique experience and helps you to develop a greater understanding of what makes Jamaica tick.

Cuba

There has scarcely been a better time to visit Cuba, with travel restrictions having been eased considerably in recent years. As the largest island in the Caribbean, you have real choice in where to go and it’s perhaps the only country in the region, where you could potentially spend several weeks travelling around with numerous towns of cultural and historical significance.

The best beaches are found by heading East from its fascinating capital Havana and the whole Northern Coast is dotted with great beaches and idyllic islets. Although typical backpacker style accommodation is limited in Cuba, there are reasonably priced homestays and small guesthouses all over the island and the cost of eating/drinking out and transport again is relatively inexpensive.

According to our Cuba shoestring budget, you can get by on as little as $35/day if you are savvy and perhaps less if you’re travelling with a friend and sharing a room.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

via Trip & Travel Blog, CC BY 2.0

The Dominican Republic is the 2nd largest and 3rd most populous Caribbean country after Cuba and neighbouring Haiti. Unlike poverty-stricken Haiti, which takes up the other side of the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic has managed to build a thriving travel industry.

Mostly this is geared towards package holidaymakers, who come to one of its many fantastic beach resorts but in Punta Cana at least, it’s very possible to enjoy its golden sands and crystal clear waters on a budget. Dorm beds can be found on Uvero Alto beach from $10/night and although many visit on all-inclusive deals, there is a growing selection of restaurants with cuisine from around the world, so you won’t be stuck for finding somewhere to eat.

There is more than just beach-life to the Dominican Republic though and if you fancy an adventure, head to the Rio Yaque, the longest river in the Caribbean and particularly the town of Jarabacoa, which is a popular rafting destination, home to some impressive waterfalls and cascades.

San Andres, Colombia

via Manuel Villafañe, CC BY-NC 2.0

Although closer to the Central American nations of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, San Andres is a small island owned by Colombia. It lacks the five-star facilities of many other Caribbean islands but that helps to keep prices low and most visitors are Colombians looking for a taste of Caribbean luxury on the cheap.

There are many flights in from the main cities in Colombia as well as Panama City and San Jose (Costa Rica). Therefore it’s a very feasible option for anyone travelling in Central or South America and it’s a long way from the mainland or any other islands, which gives it a real isolated, desert island feel.

Scuba diving and snorkelling are both popular activities, and there are many dirt cheap Colombian restaurants that serve set-meals for the equivalent of only a few dollars so once on the island, it’s possible to get by on a very small budget.

 


 This article was published in March 2017.


Greece Backpacking Budget

cost of travel in Greece

(Map of Greece, can be re-used by anyone)


Daily Travel Costs in Greece on a Shoestring Budget

US$45 | 40 Euros

As far as the Mediterranean goes, Greece offers some of the best value not to mention most appealing destinations. Greece has been crippled by economic woe for close to a decade now but prices have gone down as a result and visitors from the US or countries with currencies pegged to the dollar should find it much cheaper now than it was a few years ago. If you’ve been backpacking in the Balkans, particularly if you’re arriving from close neighbours Albania or Macedonia, you may still notice a pretty sharp increase in prices but that’s only relative and travellers heading here from Italy, France, Germany or Spain to Greece should notice the opposite effect to varying degrees.

Hostels are plentiful and pretty affordable by European standards although during the busier summer months, prices can go up and beds can sell out on the islands and coastal destinations. The food is fresh and relatively good value although to stick to our Greece backpacking budget of 40 Euros per day, you’ll need to do some self-catering or settle for cheaper snacks or sandwiches at lunch-time. Travelling around Greece is really good value too and with some advanced planning you can travel the length of the mainland or fly to one of the islands for under 20 Euros.

See where Greece ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

Backpacking costs in Europe.


More Comfortable Greece Backpacker Budget

US$60 | 55 Euros

If you’re planning on visiting Greece and particularly the more popular islands like Santorini, during the peak summer months then you might want to increase your budget by 10-15 Euros. This will cover the increase in the cost of accommodation and transport due to the big increase in visitors at that time.

At other times of year, adding 15 Euros to your budget would allow you to eat out twice a day or it could be put towards the cost of visiting more of the many Greek islands, which can be a bit of a hassle to get around.


Sample Prices in Greece

Train from Athens to Thessaloniki (5-6 hours) – from €9 (if bought online and in advance)

Flight from Athens to Crete (1 hour) – from €17 plus baggage

Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – €10

0.5 Litre beer in bar or restaurant – €3

Dorm bed in Athens – from €10/night

Cheap private twin/double room or apartment in Crete – from €25/night (more during peak summer months)

Entrance to Acropolis in Athens – €20 (€10 during the winter – 1st November to 31st March)

These prices are as of December 2016.

Compare Greece prices to the cost of travel in Italy


Money

Currency – Euros

£1 = €1.19

US$1 = €0.94

(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)


MFT Recommends

With a rooftop terrace and bar and reasonably priced beds, the centrally located Athens Backpackers is the best place to meet other travellers in the heart of the Greek capital.


Street art in Greece

street art in Athens, Greece (via aesthetics of crisisCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Greece recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉


This article was published in December 2016.