Budget Airlines & Overnight flights

Throughout the years I heard so many stories about people backpacking in Asia. After my time was up in living in Thailand, I decided to investigate the matter and see just how much it would cost me to visit a few countries. I checked a few third party travel apps along with the direct airline sites and found that traveling around SE Asia from a central point in Asia is indeed incredibly less expensive than traveling RT from the States to each place.

So I decided to book my flights in advance all the way to the end so that I could take advantage of the cheapest flight options. Unfortunately some of these options came with less than desirable flight times; and in hindsight I would have opted for the day/morning flight instead.

The reason being is unlike a lot of the people I see on the plane- I am unable to get ANY plane sleep. Its just not comfortable enough for me to fall asleep. So I end up staying awake on an overnight flight which negatively affects my 1st day in that country. I’m literally a zombie dragging myself to not “waste” the day by not opting to catch up on the sleep I missed. So I go through the day not fully enjoying myself in this new country because all my body wants to do is lay down and sleep.

Also, what I’ve found is that there is a reason you hear people say “backpacking” through Asia. I hate carrying things let alone anything such as a heavy backpack for long periods of time. So I opted for the “check baggage through Asia.” Once again in hindsight I should have prepared myself to endure the heavy backpack instead of a rolling luggage. I could have saved so much money by opting for the former. These “budget” airlines are for people who don’t have checked bags, don’t buy food on the plane, and don’t want a special seat. I found that the most of these airlines don’t even give you anything to drink or eat for free. Unlike most of the carriers in the States who at least offer you free water/soda/juice and a snack.

Lastly, I found out the hard way that not pre-paying for the checked bag online during booking cost me 3X as much at the airport check-in terminal. So if you are going to opt for the checked bag route, at least take my advice, pre-pay for your bag online and save your money.

So my advice to you is to learn from my unfortunate experiences and book the best flight option that allows your body to get the best rest, even if that means you fly during the day and “lose a day.” Also, if you are going to use a budget airline try to pack only enough for a carry-on bag and eat/drink just before you get on the plane.
Happy flying!

The currency conversion game

Over the past 30 days, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to 7 countries in the eastern hemisphere. As you can imagine that’s a lot of flying with only a few days in each country. Thus, getting acquainted with the culture, transport and lay of the land came at a crash course speed. Most daunting, however, was figuring out the currency conversion and exchange rate system. I had to keep asking myself – “so how much is this in USD?” ….having to do “simple” math on your feet while sometimes bartering at a local market or paying for food at a busy food stand can be a bit nerve racking as you are trying to get the most value for your dollar and at the same time not get ripped off. Even though you’re abroad, you have to ask the question- “if I were home would I pay this amount for this sort of thing?” If the answer is no, then you have to stick to your guns (and your budget) and walk away.

Another thing I learned – the hard way of course- was where and what type of bills to exchange to get the most amount of the local currency. I didn’t know that larger bills such as a $100 bill gets you a higher exchange rate than trading in lower bills such as $20’s and $10’s….it wasn’t until I was at a local money changer in Indonesia where the young lady explained it to me and showed me on the receipt. So currency exchange tip #1- Try carrying only large bills to exchange.

Currency exchange tip #2- Try to find a local (but reputable looking) money changer. I was told by an expat in Thailand to avoid airports and bank money exchange places because you get a lower rate for your money. Plus some of them take out fees/commission. I’m not 100% percent sure how true this is across the board, but I went ahead and took the advice as it couldn’t hurt. Especially since I believe that things are more likely to be more expensive at the airport anyways.

Lastly, I don’t know whether or not “double exchanging” your money makes you lose out of a few bucks or not. Some people say it doesn’t make a difference, but I tried to do some elementary calculations and saw that it didn’t always equal the exact amount. If you’re wondering what I mean by “double exchanging” – I simply mean exchanging your money from a local currency back to your home currency and then exchanging that money into another country’s currency (I.e. Thai Baht to US then US to Singapore SGD)…or should you just exchange the Baht straight to SGD and avoid converting it to USD….I suppose the answer to that question would depend on the buy/sell rate for the day. But that still confuses me and I’m no expert on that- I just know there is some trickery involved in the game of currency conversion.

So the next time you travel- do yourself a favor and do the math beforehand. Play out some scenarios and have a counting/mental conversion system that works for you. You will need to have this handy on deck when you hit the ground running in that country. This way you can avoid losing out more money than you hoped.