Budget Travel Guide: Affordable Destinations and Tips

14 February 2024
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Travelling on a shoestring budget doesn’t mean sacrificing adventure and exploration. In fact, it’s an art that opens doors to new experiences and unexpected discoveries.

Whether you’re a local traveller exploring South Africa or venturing further afield to the Indian Ocean Islands, Europe, the Far East, Africa, or North America, this guide will provide you with essential tips and insights for affordable travel. Join us as we uncover budget-friendly destinations and share advice on how to make the most of your travel funds. 

Tips for Travelling on a Budget 

When it comes to budget travel, careful planning and resourcefulness can make all the difference in keeping your expenses in check. Here are some detailed and invaluable tips to help you maximize your savings without compromising on the quality of your travel experience: 

1. Plan Ahead with Precision 

  • Budget Allocation: Before you even start packing your bags, sit down and create a detailed budget for your trip. Include categories such as accommodation, food, activities, transportation, and incidentals. Be realistic about your spending limits within each category. 
  • Research Costs: Dive into research to understand the typical costs associated with your chosen destination(s). Online travel forums, travel blogs, and budget travel guides are fantastic resources for gauging the cost of living, average meal prices, and transportation expenses. 

2. Embrace Off-Peak Travel 

  • Timing Matters: Consider travelling during the off-peak season. This varies depending on your destination, but generally, it means avoiding the busiest tourist periods. Off-peak travel not only means fewer crowds but also more budget-friendly prices for flights, accommodation, and activities. 
  • Flexibility is Key: If your schedule allows it, keep your travel dates flexible. This way, you can take advantage of last-minute deals and special promotions. 

3. Explore Accommodation Alternatives 

  • Booking Tours: Consider joining group tours like Contiki or Trafalgar, depending on your age. These tours often bundle accommodations, transportation, and some activities into a single package, offering value for money and the opportunity to meet fellow travellers. 
  • Specials with Travel Agents: Keep an eye out for travel specials with reputable travel agents like Pentravel. Travel agents often have access to exclusive deals and packages, especially if you’re looking for all-inclusive options. 
  • Last-Minute Travel: Stay open to last-minute travel specials. Sometimes, airlines, hotels, and tour operators offer significant discounts on unsold inventory as departure dates approach. Being flexible with your travel dates can help you take advantage of these savings. 
  • Cruise: Depending on the region you want to explore, consider cruising. Cruise holidays allow you a really hassle-free holiday, with most of the cost of the trip paid for upfront. There’ll be no stressful accommodation changes, just one home for the whole trip, and so many on- and off-board activities to experience. 

4. Indulge in Local Cuisine 

For many travellers, food is an integral way to explore a new destination. But sit-down, formal restaurants aren’t the only — or even the best — way to experience a new country’s food.  

  • Street Food Adventures: One of the joys of budget travel is savouring the local cuisine. Street food stalls and local eateries are not only delicious but also budget-friendly. Be sure to sample the regional specialities and engage with locals for dining recommendations. 
  • Eat In: If your accommodation allows, consider preparing your meals in your room or even cooking from time to time. Visit local markets to purchase fresh ingredients, and whip up simple yet satisfying dishes. It’s not just a cost-effective choice, but also a cultural experience. 
  • Visit Markets: Many cities and towns around the world have markets where locals and travellers alike can buy fresh food, eat freshly prepared delicacies, and really immerse themselves into the food of a region. Make sure you visit any markets you come across in your travels to eat both affordably and wonderfully well. 

5. Use Budget-Friendly Transportation 

Taxis and rental cars used to be the only option in many destinations, but these days there are many easier ways to get around while on holiday. 

  • Public Transport: Use public transportation systems like buses, trams, and subways. They are typically more economical than taxis or rental cars, and far more of an immersive travel experience. Many countries also have inter-city trains and buses to reduce the cost of air travel, so look into those, too, if you are travelling inter-city. 
  • Walk and Cycle: Explore your destination on foot or by renting a bicycle. This not only saves money but also lets you immerse yourself in the local environment. Some places — especially some cities in Europe — are uniquely well suited to walking and cycling, so take advantage of it when you can. 

6. Travel Light and Smart 

  • Packing Essentials: Pack efficiently and avoid unnecessary luggage fees. Consider packing versatile clothing that can be mixed and matched. 
  • Travel Insurance: Don’t skip travel insurance. It might seem like an extra expense, but it can save you a lot of money in case of unexpected events. 

The Cheapest Forms of Travel 

When you’re on a tight budget, choosing the right mode of transport can significantly impact your overall expenses. Here are some cost-effective options that can help you stretch your travel budget even further: 

  • Budget Airlines: Keep an eye out for budget airlines that offer discounted fares. These carriers often provide no-frills, basic services at a lower cost. Booking well in advance can lead to substantial savings on your flight tickets. Be mindful of additional fees — budget airlines may charge extra for baggage, seat selection, and in-flight services, so factor these into your overall cost. 
  • Trains and Buses: In many countries, trains and buses are not only economical, but also provide scenic journeys. Consider exploring destinations accessible by train or bus, especially if you have the time to enjoy the journey. Look for rail passes and bus tickets that offer discounts for multiple trips or days of travel. This can be a great way to explore a region more affordably. 
  • Consider Alternative Transportation: Depending on your destination, consider unconventional forms of travel such as bicycles, scooters, tuktuks, or even walking tours. This not only saves money but also allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture and scenery. 
  • Group Travel: Travelling with a group of friends or family can often lead to substantial savings. You can split accommodation costs, share transport expenses, and even benefit from group discounts on tours and activities. 
  • Travel Cards and Passes: Investigate if your destination offers travel cards or city passes that provide discounted access to public transportation and popular attractions. These can add up to significant savings, especially for urban travel. 
  • Travel Insurance with Travel Delay Coverage: Consider purchasing travel insurance that includes coverage for travel delays or interruptions. This can provide financial protection in case your transportation plans face unexpected disruptions. 

By choosing the most budget-friendly transportation options and planning your routes carefully, you can make your travel budget go a long way, allowing you to explore more, experience more, and spend less. Remember that the money you save on transportation can be used for memorable activities and experiences at your destination. 

Affordable Destinations Worldwide 

Now, let’s explore into some budget-friendly destinations across the globe. These destinations not only offer incredible experiences but also won’t break the bank: 

South Africa 

There’s an incredible amount to discover right here on our very own doorstep, and removing the cost of international flights makes a holiday much more affordable. 

  • The Garden Route: This picturesque coastal drive is a budget traveller’s dream. Explore charming towns like Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, and Wilderness. Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and beachcombing without spending a fortune. 
  • Cape Town: While Cape Town is a cosmopolitan hub, it still offers budget-friendly options. Hike up Table Mountain for panoramic views, visit local markets, and dine at affordable eateries in neighbourhoods like Woodstock. 
  • Johannesburg & Surrounds: Whether you’re looking for a city break full of African energy, a chilled visit to Clarens or Dullstroom, or keen to see the Big Five at Kruger National Park, a trip up north is rarely anything but enjoyable. 


Heading just a little further afield, there’s so much to explore within our closest continental neighbours.  

  • Namibia: Namibia offers a unique and budget-friendly adventure, and if you like a roadtrip, it’s close enough to most of the west coast of South Africa to drive. From the otherworldly landscapes of the Namib Desert to the wildlife-rich Etosha National Park, there’s much to explore. Camp in national parks to save on accommodation costs and embark on self-drive safaris for an authentic experience.  
  • Mozambique: With its stunning coastline along the Indian Ocean, Mozambique is an excellent budget-friendly destination. Drive from Johannesburg to Mozambique’s pristine beaches, and look out for specials at the many incredible resorts that line the beautiful coast. Enjoy delicious seafood at local restaurants for a truly African experience. 

Indian Ocean Islands 

You might think the islands are out of budget for shoestring travellers, but if you look for deals and flight specials, you could be closer than you think to a holiday in paradise.  

  • Mauritius: This island paradise is known for its beautiful beaches and lush landscapes. Look for specials and eat at local restaurants to experience the island without the high-end prices. 
  • Zanzibar: With its pristine beaches and rich cultural heritage, Zanzibar is a budget-friendly gem. The island is dotted with resorts and hotels in a wide variety of budgets, so you’re sure to find something that fits the budgets. Explore the spice markets and indulge in local cuisine without breaking the bank. 

Far East 

The Far East contains so many remarkable countries to explore, wonderful for budget travellers. Consider visiting outside of peak season to get the best deals, and avoid big crowds. 

  • Thailand: Known for its vibrant street markets and beautiful beaches, Thailand is a top-budget destination. Street food is not only delicious but also incredibly affordable. 
  • Vietnam: This country offers a rich cultural experience at a low cost. Travel from north to south, enjoying street food, historical sites, and stunning landscapes. Don’t forget to haggle at local markets. 
  • Cambodia: Angkor Wat is a must-visit, and Cambodia’s low prices make it a budget traveller’s paradise. Explore rural villages, and savour traditional Khmer dishes for a local experience to remember. 

Get Out There 

These budget-friendly destinations offer diverse experiences, from natural beauty to cultural richness. By choosing wisely and planning ahead, you can explore the world without straining your finances, making your travels both memorable and affordable. To get the most out of your trip anywhere in the world, get in touch with one of our experienced travel agents or shop for our exclusive deals. Happy exploring! 

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