Adventures in Budget Travel – Calculating the Risk Factor

“Finding adventures; My comfort zone is being outside of the comfort zone”

The activities of hitch-hiking, Couchsurfing, tripping, staying in hostels, camping or sleeping in a hammock do not suit all. There are safety and hygiene risks attached to some and those more comfortable with a luxury spa than a bowline may still prefer to book adventures with Thomas Cook.

Those prepared to suffer a little when catering for their attitude for adventure however will find most of these activities provide additional opportunities for some independent exploration. Often the people that are met whilst participating are so interesting that they not only add to the adventure but actually make it.

In most cases, a little commons sense, being aware of potential risks and taking some precautions can minimise any risk.

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Flexible accommodation requirements

“films such as “The Hitcher” probably have not helped its image”

Hitch-hiking has lost its appeal in recent times; unfortunately many deem it unsafe, although films such as “The Hitcher” probably have not helped its image. It is probably the activity with the greatest degree of risk, getting into a vehicle with a total stranger often in a remote area is considered crazy by all but the most adventurous.

Using sensible judgement can reduce any risk, only hitch in fairly public places, motorway service stations, city suburbs or similar. Choose your ‘good Samaritans wisely, a family in a car are less of a risk than a shady individual wearing a long raincoat in a hot car and shades on a rainy day or a group of dope smoking guys in a four-wheel drive in Colombia

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Waiting at a station!

Take a quick note of the vehicle details, make, colour and registration prior to climbing aboard, then text them to a friend. Include a time for next contact, but ensure to do so, to avoid them calling out the FBI claiming possible abduction by mistake.

Prepare a feasible ‘escape’ plan in case you begin to feel uncomfortable, requiring internet access in the next town or in an emergency, a toilet stop at the next service station. Remain calm however, careful not cause any offence or alert them you are suspicious.

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Fez Station

Be aware that in some countries Africa or the Middle-East in particular, payment for the lift maybe required. Discuss this with the driver prior to taking the journey, ensure they understand or at least decide upon a price.

“Include the word please in the local language”

If you do not wish to wait too long for a lift, avoid looking like the people you wish to dodge. Dress as clean and tidily as possible, shave, no not your legs ladies, and produce a sign that politely informs potential lifts of your intended destination. Include the word please in the local language.

I have enjoyed plenty of hitch-hiking adventures and have found it to be a great way of getting around, provided company on long journeys and of course saved some money.

Couchsurfing has already been covered in some detail in other articles on this site so it’s not necessary to bore you while I eulogise about it. Suffice to say it is a great budget travel option, for getting some local advice and for meeting like minded travellers.

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Surpising where things turn up

Tripping has some similar values to couchsurfing and is another worthwhile alternative, they are both part of the collaborative consumption movement. This involves the sharing and lending of resources in various ways and has a global community that actively participates. Tapping into it can provide budget travel opportunities and much more, adventurous travellers should certainly take advantage of it.

Hostel etiquette and problems is another topic covered in detail. Staying in hostels can be a rewarding experience but also the stuff of nightmares for many. Those seeking a middle ground between them and hotels should consider guesthouses, farmhouses, bed and breakfast accommodation or even homestays they are usually much more intimate. They can often suggest more personalised tips for sightseeing and provide a greater immersion in the community.

” remember to smile it breaks down language barriers”

Travelling in a mountain environment often involves using huts, refuges and bergeries (mountain farms providing food and accommodation). These can be state or privately run and are often the only option available.

Booking is sometimes necessary and it is usually best to arrive early, speak to the refuge keeper; remember to smile it breaks down language barriers. Early arrival will ensure the a chance of the best sleeping place and getting a cooked meal.

Some provide bedding but cleanliness and availability can vary so it is best to carry your own and also a stove and some food. If the hut is already full it is sometimes possible to bivouac outside but not always and unless payment has been made, use of the refuge facilities will be prohibited.

Etiquette for staying in hostels can be adapted for huts, just be sensible, if in doubt as to whether it will cause offence, err on the side of caution. Check on the departing arrangements of the refuge and the timings of other guests leaving. Many mountaineers use huts for early summit attempts, try and find a sleeping place with others leaving around the same time.

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Hostel comfort

Camping is a great budget option especially wild camping and can be made as comfortable as required. Those on extended trips however are likely to be travelling light, equipment can be minimal, dependent on the climate. In hot, dry conditions a sleeping bag will suffice, if it is likely to be cold or wet a bivvy bag which is light and possible to pack small can be included. Tents are only required in climates which have greater extremes of conditions.

Hammocks are extremely versatile, from a simple lightweight version that merely raises the sleeping position off the ground to a full sleeping system which includes a mosquito net and overhead shelter. A hammock is a worthwhile addition to any traveller’s pack list.

If wild camping anywhere, ensure that a route card including campsite locations and possible escape routes have been left with somebody responsible prior to leaving.

Using ground transport can provide an adventure way beyond expectations, taxis, chicken-buses, rickshaws and tuk-tuks are especially adventurous but even a trip on a cross country (or even continent) bus or train can be an amazing experience.

Ask any traveller that has used a sleeper bus almost anywhere or travelled by train in India, border crossings and just keeping a bed of your own can be challenges in themselves.

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Tents can have a great view

Local metro, underground or monorail systems can often be cheap and convenient methods of getting around a city. In the larger cities they can sometimes be a little confusing but stick with it, often getting lost can be part of the fun, finding unexpected parts of the destination and the start of new adventures.

I continually reiterate on this website travelling is about doing so on your own terms, adventure is a state of mind, an attitude. It is possible to find adventures in many ways, it does not always require risks to be taken or a degree of discomfort, but being prepared to accept these perhaps offers a few more opportunities.

Travel with care, but remain flexible with a degree of spontaneity, adapt to the circumstances that present themselves and enjoy the full travel experience.


Comments 8

  1. Ryan

    Great post. I watch way too many horror films and it has definitely crossed my mind when thinking about hitching. But on the flip side, my friend has been hitching all over New Zealand with no problem. You just have to make a good judgement, same thing goes for couch surfing as well.

    And Hammocks! I know I mentioned this before to you, but everyone needs to take a travel hammock! Best investment I made, pick up a tiny one from a surplus store. I even hung my hammock in playgrounds and gazebos when it rained.

    1. Post

      Lol sounds like you really need to stop watching them films Ryan seems to affect you too much! 😉 NZ is probably good for hitching Oz it is really unpopular and possible to get quite a bit of abuse there.

      We have indeed discussed hammocks and they are the essential travel accessory.

  2. ciaraysabel

    Great read. I’ve tried most of these as I’m always on a budget when traveling, not that I get to travel as often as I want (I wish I could!). I enjoy budget travel very much anyway. It’s way more fun! 🙂 But films like The Hitchhiker definitely do not help. Haha..but at least it opens your mind to possibilities (bad ones, that is) and makes you cautious. Thanks Iain.. I enjoy reading your posts! 🙂 Have a great and blessed 2012!

    1. Post

      I am really gl,ad you enjoyed it Ciaray and my other posts too 🙂 Budget travel can be the best way to get about, its not always as comfortable but it is the best way to explore and discover the real side of a destination. Enjoy 2012 I hope it is an extremely happy one for you.

  3. Julie

    Great pics Iain, I would love to have done what you have did. The tent out in nowhere…where you scared honestly. Looks nice but I wouldn’t sleep…lol


    1. Post

      What was there to be scared of Julie? I was fine camped solo and wild many times and hopefully will do so many times again in the future. I am glad you liked the images.

  4. Jayne Cravens

    Great advice… for men. Advice like “remember to smile it breaks down language barriers” can actually be really bad for women traveling abroad – in many cultures, a smile by a woman means you are morally loose and ready to party. As a person from Kentucky who was brought up to smile at strangers, I have to constantly remind myself NOT to smile while traveling in certain scenarios. When I’ve forgotten, it’s *usually* been okay, but a couple of times, it’s lead to some scary guys following me and saying some rather frightening things (gals, when this happens to you, dive into very nice hotels or very highly-populated restaurants, or even a place where you have to pay admission to get into – this will usually get rid of the person. Be careful he’s not waiting outside when you eventually leave).

    Hitchhiking? I don’t recommend at all for women, but if a woman is really bent on doing it, then choose a car where it’s at least 50% women, and sit with the women and children – and talk to them the whole time.

    And don’t assume that other travelers, including from your own country, as well as friends-of-friends, are automatically trustworthy – I’ve known two women raped while traveling abroad by fellow countrymen they met on the road (maybe I know more – women tend not to blog about such things).

    I’m not saying women shouldn’t travel abroad on the cheap, I’m not saying women can’t take chances, and every time I bring this up, all sorts of women will say, “Hey, I did such-and-such, and NOTHING HAPPENED, therefore, it’s fine to do.” But, as I said, women who are harmed while traveling rarely blog and tweet about it. I travel abroad, including to developing countries, and I’ll keep doing so (including camping – I actually often feel safer while tent camping, the more remote the better). But as much as I hate to say it, women need to remember that, in some cultures and in some company, no matter how fabulously independent and confident they are, they are going to be seen by some men as potential targets for crime.

    1. Post

      Thanks for your comments Jayne and providing some perspective for women. Some additional advice was provided on the posts linked to, some of which also covered women specific concerns. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

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