One of the biggest problems that I face when planning Asia cheap travel is trying to set the main things that I want to do and then to come up with a reasonable time frame and importantly for me a cheap travel budget that is realistic to the goals that I have identified. Research is the key to having a great vacation or an OK holiday, screw this part up and regret it you will. Time and money always being the major influences for me as a professional Cheap Charley, I want the best chance of having a great time so I work it hard before I go on the road.
I go to the travel blogs for my main research once I have an idea where I want to go to, one that I lean on is Travel Blog.org. The people that write on that particular blog have no financial reason to give you slued information and they tend to be more seasoned travelers than the great majority of new guys on Thorn Tree. I look to see what they did and see if it interests me, always keeping in mind that I do not want to follow exactly the hobbit trail, otherwise why bother, just read about it. Now it is safer to follow exactly what other people have done but the surprises that you encounter sometime good, sometimes bad are the stuff that stick in the old cranium.
For instance the clock tower in Mandalay in Burma Myanmar, why bother unless you need to set the time on your watch, for me it was a waste of time, we did however have a great time at a restaurant that had duck and goose hanging in the window which was not a tourist place as it was not listed anywhere just down the street, just a regular local restaurant that we stumbled into just because the stomach said a stop was in order. I did really dig sitting in the Savoy hotel having tea which is listed and the time in Bagon was priceless. I tell everyone that they need to make Bagon a priority if they are going to be in that part of the world. Had I did proper research, I would have know that the boat only runs on certain days between Mandalay and Bagon, Major Bummer! The boat was really cool looking when we checked it out on the dock after taking the boring flight because the planner in the research phase missed that one.
Time is always a nuisance, so I recommend that you plan so that there be flex days when you can get the cheap travel on demand, usually bus or train segments, and then if you find a place that really interest you, you can hang longer and really dig into a place. Quiananmen South of Tiananmensquare in Beijing was one of those places for me that created a dilemma as I had a really cheap flight to Bangkok on Air Asia out of Xiamen , which was a very cool place worthy of more time, but I was having such a great time in the Quiananmen Market section to the south of Tiananmen square that I wanted to stay in that area longer, which I did, and was rewarded late at night just before the cheap noodle place closed, to watch a local family restaurant dynamics at the end of the day. The bus boy dishwasher was worked about something and he was letting everyone know in a voice that would not be out of place between me and my precious pussy cat “Mangler” when I am standing on her tail as she is shredding my leg with her razor sharp mouse killers between the bathroom and my morning coffee, anyway, the fur was flying and the back and forth was hilarious as they kept at each other with about 6 staff all interacting for about 5 minutes and at the end of the day they all started laughing, now I don’t speak any Chinese but have been involved in that kind of tit for tat and for me that was the highlight of the trip, as I connected with that family group intimately as the fly on the wall contentedly slurping my excellent late night local noodles.
Money is the other thing that I spend a lot of time researching. I ran a small business and the rule of thumb that I learned is that you should have 2.5 times the budget that you think you need and for cheap travelers this is a bit higher than you want to hear I am sure but I would suggest that you have 1.5 available and that you have a reserve of at least 1 times more should something unplanned for happen, nothing worse than being a stranger in strange land making the universal rabbit ears distress signal with your pockets.
Credit cards are good but bless that little Murphy’s impish soul, in times like these they can shut off for no readily apparent reason and if that is all that you are counting on life can get really interesting. I suggest that you have lined up in advance some back up like a rich uncle or other family member that you know will step up should the need arise. Major tip: People that owe you money are not good bets! Have your checking, saving, debit, Visa, MasterCard card information ready so that they can either do a bank to bank transfer or make a payment direct to your credit card. . American Express works great, but if you qualify you wouldn’t be reading this now would you! The safest bet is having a debit card with a easy pin as you can have someone make a direct cash deposit to your bank and then you get immediate access via a cash point or ATM. Today banks have real people hours so the longest possible time would be 48 hours. They can also make a Visa or MasterCard payment but they still might not sort you out and turn you back on if they know you are broke and playing in Asia instead of working hard to pay their legal loan sharking rates, and it usually has at least a 3 day wait.