In my early backpacking days, I cared only to travel to the cheap countries. Those, usually, aligned along the equator or with devalued currencies. The main concern was really a simple equation. The amount of time my dollar could purchase me.
Countries like Laos and India fit the bill perfectly. I was able to move around relatively freely and could spend months of idle luxury for only a few hundred dollars.
Developed countries and the Pacific region were pretty much off limits, as the price of a basic meal in Australia could fund three days of travel in Pakistan. Any place that even hinted of a resort was a complete no-no.
Fast forward a decade and my prioties have shifted. Thanks to the Australian dollar (and wages) and I have more disposable income, which has increased my travel budget. With more experience on the road as well, I have become a better judge of how to spend money wisely. I now feel I could be dropped in the center of Tokyo and still be able to sniff out a bargain. I like to think of myself as frugal and cheap without being stingy. This of course has its upsides as it opens up more of the globe for me to explore.
Recently, while returning to Australia, my wife and I decided to stopover in Fiji, a place I had always thought was way out of my budget due to the amount of well-heeled resort goers who price the simple backpacker out of the market. For the most part, I have no desire to spend my holiday lazing about near a swimming pool, always wondering if the staff are really friendly or just getting paid to smile.
We decided from the outset that we would travel around Fiji on local transport, avoiding resorts and anything pre-packaged. Our typical budget is 20-25 dollars a day, per person. So around 50 bucks a day . . . and we decided we would do a snorkeling trip if the price was right.
Our first night in Nadi was arranged through Couchsurfing, and since we pretty much lazed around and took in a funeral we spent next to nothing. The next day we caught a bus-boat -bus combination which took us to Suva and then onward to Levuka, which was the original capital of Fiji. The trip took us clear across the main island and altogether was around 8 hours of travel. The total trip was 100 fiji dollars for both of us, so about 56 dollars for a cross country ride — which wasn’t completely unreasonable.
To cut down on food costs we usually eat breakfast (even better if a hotel offers complimentary breakfast) and have fruit for lunch and eat a reasonable dinner. I do enjoy my nightly beer, which admittedly usually ends up being the most expensive single item in a day.
At the time of this trip 1 US dollar was equal to 56 Fiji cents
Here is a general breakdown of my expenses:
Loaf of Bread-80 cents
Street side curry wrap-1 dollar
Bottle of Beer-2 dollars in a store or 4 or 5 in restaurant or bar
4 hour bus trip-15 dollars
A packet of Kava-1 dollar
Basic Hotel Room-35-55 dollars
Dorm Bed- 10-20 dollars
Meal at a Restaurant- 7 dollars and upwards
Trips to the islands are pricey (we couldn’t find one cheaper than 80 dollars a person) but if you are happy to hang around, read, swim at the beach, and enjoy conversing with locals over a cup of Kava then Fiji can be visited quite affordable. I mean, it’s not what India was ten years ago in terms of cost, but the local people are exceedingly friendly and the weather is beautiful