It stands to reason that a primary ingredient to choosing frugal destinations would be to visit a developing country where the cost of living is inherently low. But there’s more to the picture than that. I’ve lived in a variety of destinations that aren’t cheap (eg: Hawaii for 6 months, Australia for 1.5 years, New Zealand for 9 months, the Caribbean for 2 years, and lots of time in western Europe), and yet I’ve lived well and in a financially sustainable way.
Here are a few factors for choosing frugal destinations so you can get more out of your travel budget.
I’ve never randomly picked a spot on the map and said “I’m going there”. In fact, for most of my full-time travels, my travel decisions were solely predicated on finding an interesting opportunity for free accommodation, and traveling there for it. With my accommodation expense out of the way, my destinations became inherently frugal. (See also: How to Get Free Accommodation Around the World)
Currency arbitrage is the practice of having a strong currency in your pocket and visiting places where the currency is weaker, thus making your (proverbial) dollar go further. And no matter where you’re from, if you have a location independent business or telecommuting job, you can earn money in strong currencies like dollars, pounds, and euros, which can go far in many countries. (See also: Working on the Road: The Unconventional Guide to Full-Time Freedom).
Stay out of Cities
I categorically spend more money when I live in a city. Luckily, I’ve spent a good chunk of my travels living rurally. Rural life is more basic (but far from boring – depending on what you like to see and do), and there’s generally not as much stuff to spend money on.
Stay out of Major Cities
If the hum of a city is what entices you, you can still save some money by staying out of the major cities. Not only is the variety of things to do in major cities a pull on your pocketbook, but also, they generally have a higher cost of living.
Availability of Public Transport
Whether or not in a city, the availability of public transport is crucial to your destination ultimately being frugal. Even where I am in the “boondocks” of Peru, I’m a 10-minute walk from Pisac, which is a 45-minute bus ride to Cusco ($1). If I want to splurge, I can go from door to door in style in a taxi for $20. If it’s consistently expensive to get around, your destination won’t be very frugal.
As a final note, you can save money on flights, transportation, accommodation, and more by searching for online coupons. I’ve recently discovered ChameleonJohn’s travel coupons, which includes some great ways to save extra money on travel, for example with Priceline promo codes.
Any other tips for choosing frugal destinations?