As regular travelers, we love a good deal or trick that keeps our wallets full and happy.

We aren’t getting rich on our teaching salaries, so every trip needs a budget and a plan to stretch our cash as far as it can go.

Unfortunately, sometimes this frugal mentality gets the best of us, and we end up making very poor decisions that we regret deeply when the consequences arrive.

Sure, we’ve saved a little money, but is that always worth it? We don’t think so – especially when the cheapest choice results in only minimum savings alongside maximum discomfort.

We want to share some of our funniest and most ridiculous “budget travel” stories – please, learn from our mistakes!

Shanghai

Shanghai is an expensive city, so we couldn’t believe our luck when we found a hotel at nearly half the cost of every other “cheap” option. Of course, we should have seen that as a red flag, but we were blinded by the money we were saving. We happily booked a room and patted ourselves on the back for our shrewdness.

We started to realize our mistake when the taxi drove us from one end of the city to the other, and then kept going. Where were we? Why was it taking almost 2 hours to get to our room? Was the taxi fare going to be more expensive than the room itself?

When we finally arrived, we were in the middle of nowhere. You couldn’t even tell that we were in the largest city of China anymore.

Later we figured out that we were next to a different airport and the hotel was mostly for people with overnight layovers. But we weren’t flying out of that area, and now we were in the worst location possible.

To add insult to injury, our room was horrid in every sense of the word.

Lesson learned: Some things are more important than cost. Location should always be a top priority in your accommodations.

The centre of Shanghai was getting further away.

Reykjavik

What’s worse than a hotel in a terrible location?

No hotel at all.

Yes, we once decided to save money by skipping a hotel altogether.

We had an early morning flight, and we thought we could get away with a homeless night in Iceland by staying overnight at the airport.

There were several problems with that plan. First, Reykjavik’s airport had strict rules about not sleeping. There were signs forbidding it, and security guards roamed the halls waking up any sleeping travelers. Second, we missed the last bus to the airport anyway, so we couldn’t get there until morning.

Where did we spend that night? In a bus station, with no heater, during a blizzard. Suddenly the extra 23 dollars we’d saved on accommodations didn’t seem nearly worth it.

Lesson learned: Don’t voluntarily go homeless. Especially during winter in the Arctic Circle.

An arctic blizzard made it an uncomfortable evening.

Myanmar

To save a measly 5 dollars, we ended up in a wood hut full of spiders, cockroaches, and flies. Just 5 dollars!

Lesson learned: Concrete is worth another 5 dollars. Always..

Koh Samui

When you live in Bangkok, getting to Koh Samui should be a breeze.

There are daily direct flights, you’ll only spend about 30 minutes in the air, and then you’ll have a quick 5-minute taxi ride to the center of the island.

But we always know how to make things more difficult.

Again, trying to save money, here’s what we did instead: Plane to Surathani, a 2-hour bus ride, a 2-hour ferry, and then a 1-hour song tao. We saved about 40 dollars.

Lesson learned: Just go direct when its available! Travel days are stressful enough without adding several legs to your journey.

Take the cut and fly sometimes.

Vietnam

Ah, night buses. They are a frugal travelers dream!  They are cheap, you can skip a night in a hotel, and along with saving you money, they also save you some time.

There’s just one catch: they are horrid.

They play loud, terrible music.

They honk their horn every second (and so do the other cars on the road).

The toilets leak and stink up the whole bus.

They drive like mad.

You won’t sleep, but you will be terrified, stressed, and annoyed.

Lesson learned: No, you won’t sleep through the journey. Save yourself the headache and book a flight.

The night buses are grim. 

Sri Lanka

Once again giving up a simple, direct flight, we ended up with an 8-hour layover in Mumbai. If those 8 hours weren’t reason enough for regret, we also quickly realized how ridiculous this flight itinerary was. Bangkok to Sri Lanka – stopping in Mumbai meant we had gone past our final destination just to turn around again.

Lesson learned: Check a map to see if your flight plan makes sense. You might save some money with certain itineraries, but you could also be wasting a lot of time.

Have you ever found yourself in a ridiculous situation while trying to save money? We want to hear your stories!

  • Ambuj Saxena

    While planning itineraries my friends do the thing aptly mentioned in the blog… get us the best deal and I would appreciate their concerns but I always warn them that your experience is more important than your money saved. I can refer to this blog for all the money crunchers

  • Wanderers Hub

    That’s genuinely one interesting post I came across in a long long time and was happy to give it a read. So many lessons learnt not just by you but us also. Thanks man!

  • Fairytale Studios

    We all make such mistakes. The art of keeping the balance between comfort and cost is a difficult skill to master. And i am sure all of us go through some or the other such nightmares before learning. Dont be harsh on yourself

  • Suruchi Mittal

    So many valid points with clear examples which can change anyones mind. You are right we actually try to save and end up spending more.

  • Gina and Zeke

    Something similar happened to us in Morocco. We stayed in hostels with no AC to save a measly few dollars and should have booked a better Desert Tour, but alas we wanted to save those pennies. It happens to the best of us! Just glad we didn’t have to sleep in a bus station during a blizzard! Brrrr