To Fly Or Not To Fly: A Backpacker's Guide To Getting Around on a Budget
When you're a backpacker, one of most attractive things about travelling from place to place is getting to discover a new patch of terrain, a new city, new cultures. That in and of itself is amazing, but there are also ways to enjoy the parts in between each destination. Usually, time is a major restraint on the method of transport you choose to use.
Flying, of course, is the fastest way to cover the most ground in the least amount of time, but if time is on your side and you enjoy the feeling of the open road, taking in the beautiful scenery around you, then there are a number of other options available for you to get lost in adventure. Some of our favourite ways to travel don't involve long lines through customs, delayed flights, or missed connections. But the question is, which way is the most fulfilling or beneficial for you? Read below and decide for yourself.
Taking the train as a method of transport has been placed on the back burner more and more as so many people are opting for the fastest way to get their vacation on, but anyone that has taken a train to get from point A to point B can tell you, this option gives you the best of both worlds.
For travellers with an exploratory soul, the train ride gives you the sensation of being on a road trip. You can admire the view from your cable car and not have to worry about keeping your eyes on the road or remembering to stop for gas every so often. In addition to beautiful scenery, taking a night train to your next destination kills two birds with one stone. You cover the distance needed to get to your next stop, and you get a good nights sleep because let's be honest, who has ever had a restful sleep in a cramped plane seat with people on either side of you snoring in your ear? Yeah, we thought not.
Sleeping on a night train has got to be one of the most relaxing nights you can have while travelling (think of the rocking motion and being swaddled like a baby to fall asleep to--pure bliss!). Next time you have the option to take a train, do it. It won't disappoint.
Buses & Public Transport
This option is most definitely the cheapest way to get around a city besides using your own two feet. It can be an excellent choice if you're wanting to pinch pennies and save your hard-earned money for more important things, like sampling the local wine or beer in the area or getting that perfect souvenir.
Taking public transit in a foreign city can be confusing if you're not familiar with the language, but apps like MapsMe and Lonely Planet Guides are great for giving you accurate directions in the same way Google Maps might help you check bus schedules here at home. The great thing about MapsMe is that the app can be used without wifi so you won't rack up crazy roaming charges using your phone get around (Pro Tip: Make sure you download the city maps you need before you leave wifi so the app can find you).
Buses are great for both inner city exploration or for longer distances, however, the amount of time it takes to get anywhere can take much longer. For longer trips If time isn't a factor, make sure you do your homework and find a bus company whose buses have air conditioning, washrooms on board (hey, you never know when you'll need it!), and if you can get wifi on board even better! Spend the extra travel time catching up on your blog, photo editing, or whatever else you want to do without missing out on some great beach time or a fun day of exploration.
If you like to march to the beat of your own drum and are confident in your own navigational abilities, renting a car can be a seriously awesome option. You don't have to worry about missing the last train or waiting around ages for the next bus to show up, and you can go literally wherever the roads will allow. You can see more of the city and come and go as you please (which, let's face it, is every road trippers dream).
The only things you'll need to worry about are remembering to stop for gas and making sure you don't park in a tow away or ticket zone. Other than that, the world's your oyster! (One thing to remember: Most car rental companies require a minimum rental age of 25 years with a full license to be able to use their vehicles so do your homework before booking).
Of course, flying will always be an amazing option to see all of the places you want to see, but if you're sticking to a budget, make sure you scout around for the best deals. Opt to watch certain flights and get notified when the prices go down. Look at multiple sites, not just one, when wanting to book a flight. Chances are you'll find a great deal somewhere you might not have thought to look.
A few of our favourites are Skyscanner, Hopper, Kayak, and Go Euro. Skyscanner is awesome because you can search a number of different ways. Not only can you search by destination and date, but you can search by month for the best (and cheapest) times to travel to your desired spot. If you're not picky on destination and you have a more spontaneous spirit about you, you can search your starting point to 'Everywhere' for a specific date and Skyscanner will generate the cheapest deals around the world for you to pick from!
Go Euro is great for Europe specifically but you can also use it for other destinations around the world (One thing about this site, it only gives you the option of searching the cost of flights, in euros, British pounds or US dollars so make sure you do a quick currency converter to your home currency to make sure you're getting the best deal).
Hopper is awesome for watching flights and notifying you when prices take a nose dive or are about to increase. It is also intuitive in the sense that it'll tell you whether you should book now or hold up for further discounts based on the industry trends. This is super helpful because not only does it do the thinking for you, it also makes suggestions on date changes that could help you save even more on your flights.
Kayak compares multiple different sites for you and pulls up the cheapest from each, so you're effectively searching 4 sites at once. The site also helps get you the best deals on booking packages (flight + hotel, etc.) and if you're lucky, will sometimes give you lower price points than its competitors (you just have to be really savvy with your flight-hunting skills and watch closely).
Any way you choose to travel is a wonderful option because it is exactly that: your choice. Whether you fly, hop on a train or bus, and go it on your own and rent a car, the important thing is that you are getting out there and seeing the world the way you want to see it.
Which is your favourite method of travel? Share in the comments below!
Featured image: Shifaaz Shamoon