As a solo female Bangladeshi traveller, the reaction I most commonly elicit while I am travelling is along the lines of people saying: “Wow! I have never met a Bangladeshi traveller before”. This makes me sad, because I know many Bangladeshis are keen on travelling, but for many, the expense of foreign trips can be a deterrence. And, well, it doesn't help either that we have a pretty badly-ranked passport.
It has been a long and sometimes exhausting journey to travel to five continents, on a budget. Here are some tips and tricks I used during my travels that can help you save money. Hope you find them useful:
1. Start with places that will not have you rushing to and from an embassy or visa agency. At present, the Bangladeshi passport allows us visa-free travel to 40 countries; unfortunately, most of them are pretty remote islands. There are some countries that offer visa-free or visa-on-arrival access for citizens of almost any country, for example: Maldives, Seychelles, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Madagascar (except to Palestinians—incidentally, Bangladesh offers on-arrival visa to Palestinians, so please know you are welcome here), North Cyprus (to everyone except Armenians and Nigerians) Cambodia (to everyone except Nigerians), Cape Verde, Dominica, among others.
2. Yes, visas are awful, but they are necessary. If you do want to get the cursed things and visit, I would suggest getting a visa that gives you high value for the money and effort spent in procuring it. In that regard, some visas—such as the Schengen, UK, USA, Canada—allow you access to several countries when they are multiple entry. As I write this, I am sitting in Sarande, Albania, having entered the country on a multiple entry Swiss (Schengen) Visa, although Albania is neither in the EU, nor in the Schengen. Pretty much all the countries in the Balkans (Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia) that are not part of the EU allow this. You can also use the above-mentioned visas to purchase proxy e visas for Turkey and Georgia.
3. This is going to be a hard one, but here goes: stop drinking and/or smoking or at least reduce significantly. I am not saying this from the point of view of your grandmother; it is because these habits have a major impact on your finances. You save almost a third of your salary/earnings/ allowance, depending on where you are in the world, if you quit drinking and/or smoking. All those casual glasses of wine/beer or cigarettes pile up and in turn cut out a bunch of the green that should go to your travelling fund. Plus, hangovers waste days and cut into the value of your vacation when you are travelling. My suggestion? Every time you say no to alcohol or smokes, put exactly that amount of money you would have spent on them into a travel jar and before you know it, you will have enough money for the long weekend trip to Bhutan.
4. Eat in as much as possible while at home and also while travelling. I am a huge foodie, obsessed with food and forever sampling new cuisines. And while I completely understand going all in when it comes to eating out, I also know that it leaves a hole in the pocket. When I am not travelling, I rarely eat out. Not because I don't want to; I just find it easier to cook healthy food at home and it's far cheaper. I am a flexitarian—meaning I eat meat very rarely, usually only if I have to. So this cuts down my cost of food massively. While travelling, I like to try the local cuisine because food is a very big part of the travelling experience for me. But apart from that, I choose to stay in places with access to a kitchen so that I can cook my own food. It can be something very simple like noodles and a salad, or pasta with pesto, but it saves money when you stay in the same location for more than a day.
5. Even though I am 27, I stay in hostels sometimes. Okay, hear me out. Staying in hostels offer an amazing opportunity to meet people and find cheap tours. Making friends with people in hostels can be very useful, not only because you get to meet travellers from all over the world and share incredible moments based on the shared love for travel, but you also get to do things together which can often make things cheaper. Plus, I met some of the nicest people in hostels! Other ways to save money on accommodation could include Couchsurfing and Airbnb. With regards to Couchsurfing, things can be tricky; I have had a terrible experience and several incredible experiences, made lifelong friends and memories through them. If you are a solo female traveller, I would urge you to either only surf with female hosts (who have at least a couple of reviews) or with male hosts who have a lot of reviews. Things can go super south, super quick.
6. Pack light but pack smart—it will come in handy in many ways: a) budget airlines, as well as buses in some countries, charge extra if you want to check in luggage, so you can save quite a lot of money on luggage if you pack light. b) When you pack light, you are able to walk longer and are generally more mobile; this will help you cut down costs on taxis or so on. My cut-off point is around 15 kilos, including two bags, my laptop, chargers, epilators, go-pro, etc. for a three-month trip. c) Pack some essentials such as a first-aid kit with basics such as paracetamol, bandaids, at least four pairs of underwear, two-three types of shoes (flip flops and hiking/running shoes), a dry bag to keep your things dry when in water and a small bag for day trips.
7. Download apps like maps.me, Google Translate (with languages you need to know downloaded). Maps.me will help you download offline maps of cities you will visit. Where Google fails, maps.me prevails. Google Translate will help you when you are lost a little less literally, in translation, perhaps.
I hope these tips have been useful! If you can think of any topics you want me to write about please be sure to email me at: email@example.com. And if you like this article, please show a sister some love, head over to instagram and follow my page: @whereareyoufr0m :D
Maliha (Mia) Fairooz is a 27-year-old Bangladeshi solo traveller, who has travelled to 76 countries, on a Bangladeshi passport. Through her blog www.whereareyoufr0m.com, she shares her experience of travelling as a brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi woman while simultaneously encouraging a culture of travel amongst Bangladeshi youngsters.