Budget culture travel guide

Budget culture vacations travel guide


It is hard to define a budget vacation really as everyone has a different budget for things. The vacations that we feature in this budget culture travel guide are ones that you would often least expect to have the words ‘great value’ attached to them.
Petra for a pittance? Tokyo on a tight budget? Cuba on the cheap? They are all possible and yet still responsible. Traveling by ‘truck’ is the cool, contemporary update of the hippy, happy way to travel, with overland travel companies taking small groups (not just hippies anymore) through Central America, India or the Middle East. Which means saving on local travel expenses while still using local guides, staying in locally owned accommodation or camping and buying food locally. In other countries like Japan or Vietnam, money is saved by using public transport, eating sumptuous street food and lodging locally. Costs are low, culture is high and the cool factor is off the scale.

Is a budget culture vacation for you?

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Go on a budget culture vacation if…

you are happy to go with the flow. When budgets are tight, you might have to chill on the beach while you wait for your favourite food vendor to appear, Rather than a waiter with a white napkin.

you are more into getting out and about than lounging by a pool or on a giant five star bed.

socialising is your thing. Sometimes people pay for privacy on vacation. Budget trips tend to be community focused, either by hanging with your fellow travelers, staying in homestays or chatting with local people at the local market.

you are flexible and can go for a last minute trip to make up group numbers. There are sometimes bargains to be had that way.

you like the idea of doing a pick ‘n mix of activities along the way that suit your budget.

Don’t go on a budget culture vacation if...

… you want luxury. Obviously, these trips aren’t about thread counts on your bed linen. They are about counting up the cultural highlights.

… you want to chill a lot. A lot of budget cultural vacations have pretty full on itineraries, so that you get a lot of bang for your buck. So forget your lie in. You’re off to the pyramids for sunrise.

… you like your space. To really budget you can consider sharing a room, although reasonably priced single room supplements are usually available. And getting up close and personal on public transport might be a feature in places like Nepal or Vietnam.

… you have a tendency towards street food paranoia. Your guides are all experts in the best places to go, and eating al fresco, and al cheapo, is often a feature of budget trips.

Activities on a budget vacation


It’s not all archaeology and history on cultural vacations. They are simply the linchpins that keep you rolling from one heritage highlight to another. It’s the way in which you roll that really makes a journey special. Taking a sleeper train with local people through Vietnam, or a bullet train alongside trails where Samurai warriors once wandered in Japan. Traveling in a small group with expert local guides in India who know where to find the best temple to watch the sun rise - as well as the best local chai stop enroute. These are the sweetest moments of cultural engagement.
Home from home
Traveling on a budget will often mean experiencing the cultural joys of homestays. In Kerala, you will eat like royalty and in Japan you will bathe like royalty. In Cuba music fills the home and in Jordan, the desert envelops the Bedouin ones. When people open their doors to tourists traveling on a budget, you know that welcoming strangers is an innate part of the culture.
Travel like a local
One of the best ways to save money on a cultural highlights vacation is to use public transport. This varies greatly, such as taking a public bus from Madurai to Mysore in southern India. Or from the surfeits of Shanghai to the mountainous expanses of Huangshan in China. In Vietnam, taking a sleeper journey on the Reunification Express from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh is great value and surprisingly for many, Japan’s Rail Pass offers great bargains on budget tours on a ‘bullet’.
Have we time to swim?
Don’t be nervous that on budget travel itineraries, it is going to be nonstop sightseeing. Good itineraries build in plenty of time for swimming, roaming and adventure. Go swimming in La Batata cave in Cuba or on the beach in Goa or Belize. See Mexico’s Mayan wonders of Chichen Itza at sunrise. And in Nepal, go from Kathmandu’s cultural highs one day to Chitwan National Park’s tigers and rhinos the next.
Keep on trucking.
The traveling truck has been a feature of overland travel for years now, with school buses and army trucks being converted to transport groups of young people taking months out on the road, No longer the domain of the young, free and single, nor of shabby thrown together trucks, overland travel is now for all ages, traveling in state of the art buses for at least 21 days, with charging points and limited seating so that everyone has a view, big windows and comfy seats. And, most importantly, allowing you to see so many places for a great price.
Photo credits: [Reunification express: Benjamin Vander Steen] [Chai tea stall: Steve Browne & John Verkleir] [Travel like a local: Flying Cloud] [Have we time to swim? : Guillaume Baviere] [Home from home: young shanahan] [Keep on trucking: Martin Hosie, Uncover the World]
Written by Catherine Mack
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