Please. Please. Please. Stop it with the bullshit budget advice.

I get the desire to want to travel the world on the price of 2 McDonald’s Value Meals per day with a few bucks left over for a bottle of gut-rot local booze. I really do.

I understand why the “$5 Hotel Room View” post was so insanely popular. I do.

And I totally get why most of us choose to travel more frugally for longer as opposed to packing half-way-round-the-world trips into one work week and a pair of weekends.

But 99% of the ridiculously low bullshit budgets posed in this forum are just that: bullshit

You’re not helping anyone by fudging the numbers on how little you spent during your travels – all you’re really doing is setting up those who don’t know any better to run out of money.

There are only three ways that these “I can’t believe it” budgets are being calculated:

  • A flat out lie.

  • A genuine miscalculation that’s not accounting for transport costs or any of the other one-time expenses that come up during a long trip.

  • You are relying on the kindness of strangers’ money along the way…which in essence means that your trip “did” cost more, it was just someone else footing the bill.

So if you’ve yet to take the plunge and are all woopity-doo excited about seeing the world on $20/day, remember that these figures are always skewed one way or another. They don’t account for the times every hostel is full and you have to pay for a hotel or the medical bills when you get sick or the extra fees you get for going overweight with your baggage or the coat you had to buy because it was colder than you’d planned and on and on and on.

When people tell you these daily costs it’s almost always just room & board that they are calculating.

Travel can be cheap. Very cheap. But not nearly as cheap as a good number of people in this sub perpetuate…and certainly not if you want to actually “do” anything and enjoy yourself.

So please, if you want to advise others with a ridiculous shoestring budget, at least be honest about which expenses you’ve omitted and which activities/experiences must be skipped to make this budget work (if it’s even possible).

EDIT: I’ll try to express this as succinctly as possible – I am not telling anyone how to travel or saying anything disparaging about super shoestring travelers…travel as you wish and do whatever you’d like…all I am saying is that if you are the type to travel like a hobo (no judgment, that’s just what it is) then don’t tell someone who’s never been overseas before that some crazy low $X/day is “more than enough” when you know damn well the experience the average backpacker is after can’t be had on that budget.

The average budget traveler doesn’t want to sleep on strangers’ couches, hitchhike, illegally camp off the side of the highway and never go to bars/restaurants….if this is how you travel, I am simply suggesting you save your budgeting advice for others who are seeking the same.


  1. I missed my flight from Iceland to Oslo. I had to spend an extra 400 dollars to buy a new ticket from Iceland to Bergen because we would have missed my connecting flight from oslo to bergen. Yes, you need backup money in case of emergencies. Whilst in Ireland I accidentally hit a curb with the rental car and ended up having to buy a new tire in the middle of nowhere.

  2. Shit happens, always. It’s great to plan on a tiny budget, but always have that extra (especially when you see “the room is smaller than Harry Potter’s closet”)

  3. “You are relying on the kindness of strangers’ money along the way…which in essence means that your trip “did” cost more, it was just someone else footing the bill.”

    YES. It’s lucky that not every traveler does this, otherwise the kindness of strangers might start to wear thin.

  4. I live on Maui. In some respects this attitude is behind all cheap travel tips.

    More people visit Maui than live here. This means that much of our infrastructure like roads, police, wastewater treatment, landfills, etc are hugely used by tourists.

    But many tourists actively look to avoid fees that target tourists. Take for example staying here via couchsurfing or AirBnB. None of the hotel taxes get collected which means less money being pitched in by the very people who are straining our infrastructure. (if you want to see strained infrastructure look at Oahu’s traffic problem, ugh!).

    But hey, that’s okay, because tourists will spend money at local shops and restaurants, right? NOPE. They go shopping at Walmart and Costco and don’t go out to eat. Sure, that’s frugal, but it’s also less money for the local economy.

    I understand the desire to stay within a budget, but when you travel to an area you are using resources of that area. When you opt to save yourself money by staying in illegal hotels (sorry, that’s what AirBnB’s usually are) and shopping exclusively at places that take the profit out of the local economy you are basically making the locals foot the bill for your stay. It can get pretty annoying.

    I honestly don’t care if you can’t afford to be a tourist here, I’m more concerned that the average local can’t afford to raise a family here.

    Moderation, as advocated by the OP, is the key. Try to make your decisions in a way that helps the local economy and have you paying your fair share. If you can’t afford to travel here without putting at least some money in to the economy than please just go somewhere your dollar goes farther.

  5. You’re taking a lot of your complaints about tourists generally (infrastructure wear and strain, rising costs) and applying them to the 10% of travelers that actually keep to a really tight budget. People who, incidentally, are generally using less of your resources as a result.

    You’re also overstating a lot of the costs (Oahu’s road system is a mess because it’s a poorly planned mess, Honolulu’s highways can’t even handle traffic in the low season during non-peak hours. Blame the people that built that POS). Tourists might strain infrastructure but they don’t use a lot of expensive yet less obvious government services like schools, elder care, and only limited use of hospitals (ER yes, but really expensive services like hospice and long-term illnesses no). Finally, yes, your government has historically been pretty incompetent and deeply corrupt, and a failure of long-term planning is the real cause behind a lot of the “tourist problems.”

    Hawaii has always aggressively promoted tourism, and it’s obvious why – with it Hawaii is the eighth highest state in per capita income, without it, you’d maybe be on par with Alabama. And Hawaii gets a lot more money from the Federal Government then it pays in taxes.

    Point being, on the whole, your state has more than enough money to deal with the small portion of travelers that are there on the cheap. And it’s really not up to me to sort out problems that really are primarily the result of poor planning or bad governance (yes, Hawaii could tax AirBnB, its still a pain since AirBnB is new, but its not quite teh scam you’re framing it as).

    The first time I went to Hawaii I stayed at a friend’s house and shopped at Costco, because I was a poor student. Then I went back three more times, and my wife’s been back five more times, and we spent more money on each trip because we had more to spend, and we had friends there and liked the state. But god damn I get tired of Hawaiians that blame every single problem their state has on the tourists, regardless of whether its really true, and despite the fact that their representatives bend over backwards to entice people to visit. This is a big ramble because I wrote it out quickly, so it’s not my best work, but I think you get my point.

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