Almost nothing beats being in a new place; the unfamiliarity keeps you alive, but planning trips can sometimes be stressful and confusing, especially if it is your first time. Travel is connection and healing for me and so many others. For us from a country like Nigeria, unfortunately, we don’t have it easy in most ways.
I’ve spent some time on the road and currently exploring my 9th African country. Going off all my experience, I’ll share some tips that have helped me plan a road trip on a budget. With the right preparation, you can save a fair amount of money and still have a nice time!
Covid test isn’t cheap, especially as you have to take multiple tests. This can be extremely discouraging as travel can be expensive on its own. Some countries are currently open to tourists and do not require you to have a Covid test, e.g., Tanzania. If not, You’ll be required to take a test not more than 72 hours before your departure, another on arrival back in Nigeria, and a follow up two weeks after. Each test costs 50,000NGN.
VISA APPLICATION FEES
The Nigerian passport isn’t one of the most useful globally, but there are still some great places you can visit without a visa or get one on arrival for free or less than 50$. If you’re traveling on a budget, you want to avoid countries with high processing visa fees and increased denial chances. Start small, build your travel history and bank account.
START WITH A BUDGET
Set a budget plan for your trip and stick with it no matter what! Map out all of your spendings, and FACTOR EXTRA EXPENSE, to avoid nasty surprises while trying to enjoy yourself.
LOOK OUT FOR THE CURRENCY EXCHANGE RATES
Your local currency will have more value in some areas as opposed to others. Do some research and gather information on exchange rates to find the best place to fit your budget. You’ll live like a king in Bali for a month on 1000$ and you won’t get by for a week on that in more expensive destinations.
COMPARE PRICES OF TRANSPORTATION
If you can travel by different means, i.e., public buses, small cars, trains, or airplanes, you should compare their prices to be sure you’re getting the best deals. There are applications to check for cheap flights and discounts all year round, e.g., Skyscanner. Also, public buses cost much less than hiring a private vehicle, and the public transportation system is functional in most countries.
CHOOSE WHEN TO BOOK (Be Strategic)
Look through the lens of the airline/ transport companies, travel off-season. Did you know that all types of expenses, from train tickets, air tickets to hotel fees, increase during peak seasons? It also best to book months ahead of your travel date as you’re likely to get cheaper deals.
As a rule, I never pay for anything I haven’t seen or tried without reading reviews. Including visiting restaurants. Reviews allow you to filter to see what customers say about the prices and quality. I recommend you use this as a general guide before booking anything.
CONSIDER OTHER MODES OF TRAVEL (CARPOOL)
Traveling by road isn’t such a bad idea, sharing the cost of fuel with friends or other travelers is also a great way to save cost. The convenience of traveling in one’s private vehicle is unmatched. You can stop to take pictures and drive as leisurely as you please.
You will agree with me that these times are not the best to visit old friends and acquaintances, but if everyone is safe and tested to be COVID free, that’s a great way to save cost.
Booking hotels 1 or 2 months earlier than the departure day will help you save a ton by avoiding increased prices.
You could also look at staying at hostels or campsites. There are often great deals on homesteads and guest houses. I typically go for Airbnbs because it allows me to save a lot of money off eating out, and you can negotiate prices.
Couchsurfing And How It Works: Couchsurfing is a service that connects members to a global community of travelers. Use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay or share your home and hometown with travelers.
- Search for the city (or cities!) you plan to visit and browse locals with couches available.
- Look through profiles and references to find people you might want to stay with.
- When you find a few intriguing potential hosts, carefully review their profile, and send a Couchrequest for the dates, you’ll be there. I’d usually recommend sending about five Couch Requests.
- Make sure to personalize your messages and tell your host why you want to meet!
PROS & CONS
- Encounter hospitality and friends all over the world with couch surfing
- Free accommodation and local guide in one go
- Meet fascinating people with broad interests
- Live with locals and experience their culture
- Backbreaking sleeping conditions
- More often than not, you don’t meet each other’s expectations
- Fear of safety
- Higher transport costs dictated by location
- No privacy
One of the most sustainable ways to pack is by packing light. Even better if you can go carry-on. The more people fly carry on, the less fuel the plane needs to use to carry that weight. If you pack light, you’ll be way more likely to use public transportation as opposed to grabbing a cab from the airport too! You’ll have to pay extra fees for your luggage, so bringing less will save you more.
Make sure to pack zero waste travel items like reusable bags, bottles, containers, straws, and more to reduce your waste on the go.
PACK SNACKS AND A WATER BOTTLE
Have a backpack with extra snacks, so you don’t have to continually hit up supermarkets where prices are often higher for items.
Pack up fruits, chips, sandwiches, and other dry and easy-to-pack foods; pack more if you’re going to be on the road for a long time. You don’t want to forget your water bottle as well. Water can be surprisingly expensive and nobody wants to haul a half-empty bottle of water around.
CHECK PRICES BEFORE SHOPPING
Visit different shops to get a sense of pricing before buying. Don’t be shy to bargain as the chances are the prices are already inflated because you’re a foreigner.
TRY STREET FOOD
Contrary to popular belief, street food can be a safe and delicious alternative to spending a lot at fancy restaurants. Of course, there’s always a chance of food poisoning, but you’ll get by if you’re careful enough.
TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Again, transportation can dig a massive hole in your budget. Choose local carriers over taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber/Lyft. (Though taking rideshare is still better than renting your own car and likely cheaper too).
Even better, explore cities via bike or foot!
CHECK OUT THE WEATHER BEFORE YOU GO
Checking the weather forecast will help you schedule your travels easily and save you money. For example, some places may have a long winter; so if you don’t bring warm clothes, you will have to spend money to buy new ones. Also, travel is slightly cheaper during rainy seasons.
LEARN A BIT OF THE LANGUAGE
Sustainable tourism practices involve acknowledging the local culture and history of the place in which you are traveling. You’re a visitor in someone else’s home, and to be respectful, you need to learn a bit about the place. Customs might be different, and you could inadvertently offend locals with certain gestures, questions, or ways of speaking.
There’s no greater way to acknowledge and respect a culture’s existence than by learning some local languages. Knowing some essential words in the language can help you go from “rude tourist” to “considerate visitor.” Even learning the simple phrase, “Do you speak English?” goes miles, instead of merely walking around speaking to everyone in English as if they should know it. Learn key phrases like “hello, goodbye, thank you, please, yes, and no.”
LEAVE NO TRACES
No matter if you’re hiking in the wilderness or walking down a city street, leaving no trace of your visit is one of the most critical green tourism practices. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t litter, deface ANYTHING (buildings, rocks, trees, etc.), remove objects from their natural environment, or do anything that indicates you were there.
It may be cheesy and overused, but the saying is true: take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.