Frugal Travel Report for June 2010

This is the forth in a series of reports detailing my travel expenses during a six-month sustainable travel trip through India, Vietnam, and Nepal, as outlined in The Plan: 6 Months, 3 Countries, and $3,000.

Frugal Travel Reports
March 2010 (includes Pre-Travel expenses)
April 2010
May 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010

This month has seen me travel more than 6,000 miles in three countries: India, Vietnam, and Nepal. As a result, the expenses this month are the highest since I paid for my round-trip ticket to India when I started my journey back in March.

However, I've been extremely fortunate to have had free lodging, food, and transportation for my last two weeks in India, free transportation, food, and some free lodging during the two weeks in Vietnam, and now free lodging and some free transportation in Nepal.


Lodging Expenses

At the beginning of the month, I spent two weeks in Delhi staying with my adopted relatives. They provided free lodging at their home along with free home cooked meals and free transportation. I took the opportunity to relax after spending the previous two and a half months living and traveling on a budget.

In Vietnam, I stayed at a hotel in the backpackers district (District 1) of Ho Chi Minh City. It was $16/night for a private room, or $8/night for a dorm-style room. I like my privacy and the security of being able to leave my backpack in the room, so even though it was more expensive I opted for the private room.

The second week in Vietnam, I went with my friend David and his wife Mai to visit relatives and family in Hue, a city in central Vietnam. David and Mai paid for the hotel room where David and myself slept (Mai stayed with her family).

In Nepal, my former boss and good friend offered to let me stay at his parents house in the northern part of Kathmandu. His parents are visiting the States at the moment, so I literally have the entire house to myself.


Food Expenses

As I mentioned previously, I had no food expenses during my last two weeks in India. When I arrived in Vietnam, I tagged along with David, Mai, and David's brother and family to various touristy places during the day and they paid for the meals and water (thank you again!). The hotel room in Vietnam included free breakfast, so I took advantage of that.

I spent two days working from a cafe in Ho Chi Minh City (Highland Coffee) where I easily racked up an $18 bill over the course of twelve hours (the coffee drinks were so good!). A few times I ate dinner at other random restaurants around the hotel.

When David, Mai, and myself went to Hue for a week to visit family, we ate home cooked meals every single day.

I've only been in Nepal a few days now and Sanjay has provided breakfast and dinner cooked at home. When I was dropped off to explore the touristy Thamel region of Kathmandu for a few hours, I had lunch at a cafe that ended up being more expensive than I expected ($10!).

I definitely could have spent less money on food this month, but since I paid for so few meals I didn't try very hard to keep the food costs down.


Transportation Expenses

Clearly the largest expense this month has been transportation. Traveling by plane is definitely the most expensive way to travel, but I didn't have much of a choice. I would've loved to do everything over land, but that would've required lots of money for Visa's and lots of time, neither of which I had.

I had no travel expenses in India this month besides the plane ticket to Vietnam. In Vietnam, I paid for a taxi to the hotel which cost me $7.50. After that, David and Mai paid for all the travel expenses, including several tour buses, taxis, and even the round-trip plane ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue and then back! (Thanks again David and Mai!) I think I might have paid for one or two of the taxi rides with them, but otherwise they took care of everything.

The only other taxi I paid for was the one from the hotel to the airport to catch my plane to Nepal.

It was 3,040 miles from Delhi, India to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with a connecting flight through Kula Lumpur, Malaysia. While in Vietnam, we took a plane to Hue and then back to Ho Chi Minh City, which was about 900 miles round trip. Then from Vietnam, I took a plane to Nepal with a 7-hour layover in Guangzhou, China, about 2,700 miles.

Total Distance Traveled: 6,640 miles


Other Expenses

This is the longest list of other expenses since I began doing these reports, not to mention the most expensive -- almost my entire $250 monthly budget!

In India, I visited several museums and other attractions, including Red Fort, Qutub Complex, and the Akshardham temple. I also paid for some of the places we visited in Vietnam (the Cu Chi Tunnels is all I can remember paying for).

I bought two 4GB SD cards for my camera in India. I ran out of room while taking pictures at one of the weddings (luckily it was towards the very end of the wedding), so I wanted to make sure I had backup storage for my trip to Nepal.

In Vietnam, I bought some dandruff shampoo (Head and Shoulders). I think my scalp isn't used to having hair on it! (I've kept it cut for the past 10 years, but decided not to cut my hair or shave during my entire six month trip.)

The Visa expenses should be self-explanatory.

I bought a Nepal SIM card so that I'd have a phone in case of emergencies. To get the SIM card, I discovered that I needed a copy of my passport and a passport photo. I already had both, but they were in my backpack which I had left at home. So I paid $4, made a copy of my passport, and waited about an hour to have the photos made (I've now got an extra seven passport photos, but they're always good to have).


Expenses Summary

The expenses this month are a lot higher than I would've liked, but they were mostly unavoidable expenses. If I had paid for lodging, food, and transportation for the entire month, I would've easily spent several hundred dollars more.

For all the places I visited and all the things I got to see and do, this month was a bargain!

The Visa expenses for Vietnam and Nepal totaled almost $150, so you can see how quickly a tight budget can be eaten up by those!

Unfortunately, I've now gone over the six-month $3,000 budget that I set for myself. This month has been extremely tight for money. Last month when I anticipated going over budget, I began spending more time seeking freelance work to continue funding my travels, so things are a bit better now.

I have free lodging in Nepal for the next two months, but there are several multi-day treks that I'm interested in doing. Those will incur lodging, food, and some transportation expenses. Also, when I return to India for two weeks in September, I have a multi-train itinerary planned.

Other than what's planned, I will continue living and traveling as frugally as possible. I have a very comfortable place with free WiFi here in Kathmandu and I plan to spend lots of time writing, relaxing, exercising, meditating, and otherwise keeping my expenses low.

Funds came dangerously low this month and without the kindness and generosity of people like Karmal & Mudita in India, David & Mai in Vietnam, and Sanjay in Nepal, I wouldn't even have been able to make this month happen. Good karma and good fortune have a funny way of appearing when you need them most!

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  1. Lodging in Hue, Vietnam. You forgot to mention all our other guests that stayed with us:
    Mr Cockroach
    Miss Moth
    The Gnat family reunion
    The Tick family of 5
    Little Black Spider and his ginormous cousin (close to 4in diameter)
    Durian Candy stealing ants

    You also purchased the tickets to the Imperial Palace in Hue for the both of us.

    Thanks for tagging along and seeing “life of djt……….” first hand. Glad you survived 😀 and glad I survived too… sometimes I wonder about myself. 😉

    • Yes! I almost forgot about the other guests! 😀

      Thanks for an awesome two weeks — I’d love to tag along again the next time you go (if you don’t mind)! By then I should be in a position to pay for myself! 🙂

      • Not a problem….. If you remember the last meal at the Uncles house his wife was giving me a lecture to come back in “2 years”. She kept sticking 2 fingers in my face and telling me to “remember 2 years” but it might be 3 as we have a few places in the States that we would like to visit first.

  2. Wow, that’s really great. 6,000 miles! Wow!

    Could you imagine if you didn’t keep track of your expenses, I would assume it would be much harder.

    That’s great that you already have contacts over there, networking helps so much when you’re trying to get around or if you’re feeling a bit alienated – you’ll have someone there to keep you on the ground 🙂

    Side note: By the time the 6 months are over, you’re going to look like a hippie with all that hair – awesome!

    • Hey Murlu,

      Yes, knowing people in various places has been incredibly helpful! I actually planned my trip around where I knew people. When I started telling everybody that I would be traveling the world, everybody started giving me names and contact details for family, friends, and friends of friends in various countries. I now have a list of people in a dozen countries around the world!

      Yes, I’ll look like a hippie when I get back — I can’t wait to see the reaction of those back home! 😀

  3. wow, having now come back from Thailand, I dont know how you do it. I spent close to $3000 just in six weeks in Thailand, 4 of those I spent only $500, so $2100 was spent in two weeks… But then we didnt scrimp and save, we stayed in nice rooms and ate in restaurants and travelled in booked mini-buses…

    • It’s definitely not easy, but having such a flexible schedule (i.e., 6 months) definitely helps! If I spend the day inside on my laptop, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time here. This is my life now, so it’s easy for me to take things slow, look for the best deals, and spend more time planning ahead and researching before I start moving again.

      Plus, I’m really taking advantage of any opportunity I can find to stay with people I know or with people who have invited me. The only reason I went to Vietnam and Nepal on this trip was because I was invited. In fact, the only reason I started my journey in India was because a good friend of my family invited me!

      If you’re willing to give up some luxury (actually, a lot of luxury), it’s rather easy to live on very little anywhere in the world. I think the biggest obstacle in less wealthy countries is my skin color — people automatically assume I’m loaded with cash because I’m white. That makes it a lot more difficult to get good deals.

  4. Did you know you can buy a honda cub for 2,000 dolalrs brand new? its get like 200+ mpg and its the most sold motorcycle in the world. If you want people to follow your example, shouldnt you have your own form of transportation ? Also if you had a cub you could haul plenty of rice, potatoes or beans on it to last a while.

    • Hey Matthew, thanks for the suggestion! I don’t think I’ll be buying a scooter anytime soon — $2,000 is almost my entire six-month budget! Besides, I prefer traveling by foot and keeping my life (and possessions) simple. I also don’t spend enough time in one location (2-3 months at the most) to justify buying a scooter.

      • yea but you just spent 800 on airplane tickets, you could of bought used one for that much. a scooter is all about being mobile i bet you would spend alot more time traveling, then stuck on your feet or at hotels, youll be able to see alot more places and be more independent

        • Yes, but those two plane tickets took me more than 6,600 miles over the course of two weeks. No maintenance, no border crossing troubles, no hunting for gas stations, no dangerous traffic, no worrying the bike will get stolen… I could go on and on. My lifestyle involves staying in one place for several weeks at a time and keeping my possessions to a bare minimum. I choose to live that way for the freedom and simplicity.

          I don’t care so much about seeing a ton of places as I do about simply spending time in one area. I’m a lot happier getting to know a small neighborhood, the shop owners, the streets, the people that live there, etc. Doing that on foot is a lot easier than constantly zooming around on a scooter. 🙂

  5. what about all the people you passed up when you was on the airplane? how can i wave you down if youre 30,000 feet above? A bike or scooter simply takes you from one place to another where people are at faster than you can walk there. Even if you own it for a few months then it gets stolen it paid for itself. A 50cc scooter is more efficient than a human on a bicycle or walking because a human has to speed alot of time&money eatting and drinking. Have you ever drove a something with a 50cc engine or under? Iif not I suggest you rent one and try it out. If you know how to protect your bike, there is little worry about it getting stolen.

    • It’s an unnecessary expense and possession that I do not need. Even if I was going to use one, I would be more inclined to rent than buy. I have ridden a 50cc bike before, so I know what they’re like. I’m just more interested in using my feet than sitting on a scooter.


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