It seems many people are quite focused on figuring out how to make the most possible money before traveling instead of thinking more about how to actually reduce the cost while being on the road. We are asked often how we manage to travel for such a long time without being millionaires. It is important to understand the difference between traveling and being on holiday. One is a way of life, the other a required break from the usual way of life. While it is exhausting every now and then, we have the opportunity to learn how to appreciate very simple things again and to figure out how many – or rather how few – material things one really needs for a happy life.
We picked Kyrgyzstan as a budget study because we finally managed to be disciplined and write down our expenses in details. But except in India, where we used paid accommodation and transportation much more frequently, we had a rather similar traveling style in all the countries we have been and we managed to travel everywhere with an average of less than 10 euros/day for two people, including visa costs. When we drew the lines for expenses in Kyrgyzstan, we realized we spent in a day an average of 2,7 $ each.
Definitely our biggest expense and something we give priority to: being well fed and staying healthy should be important for every traveler. Most of the time in Kyrgyzstan we cooked for ourselves at a campfire or for us and our CouchSurfing hosts in cities. Other times we were invited to eat in people’s houses and every now and then we spoiled ourselves with a meal in a simple eatery, as we wanted to try the local dishes. Most of the food we bought in markets or shops and prices were not much lower than in Romania or Eastern Europe. Towards the end of our stay and especially in the south of the country, fruits became ripe and readily available, so we could get tasty melons, cherries, watermelons, peaches, apricots etc. for fair prices. Our budget for food over two months for two people was 9200 Soms (about 135 Euros), which means 1,2 Euros/person/day.
Kyrgyzstan, apart from India, is the exception where we invested too much money for accommodation for our standards. Most of the time we camped or couchsurfed and a few times we were invited to sleep in people’s homes. In Osh, the second biggest city of Kyrgyzstan, we couldn’t find a host via CouchSurfing and Maria got sick, so we ended up staying in a rather expensive hostel for nine nights, which accounts for the by far biggest chunk of money in this field. Aside from Osh, only in one other town we relied on paid accommodation. It is absolutely possible though, to travel in Kyrgyzstan with no accommodation expenses at all. Our budget for accommodation over 2 months for 2 people was 7100 Soms (about 104 Euros).
When we didn’t walk and had to cover distance, 90% of the time we hitchhiked in Kyrgyzstan. And although it is something very normal to pay for the ride there, we managed with our limited Russian to explain that we are low budget travelers hoping for a free ride. Some people gladly took us in their car in exchange for some stories and some music, others politely refused or just drove off. We did give some money to a few drivers when we felt they really needed it. Sometimes we were tired and / or traffic was very scarce, so we took a minibus. But most of our transportation money went to a taxi driver helping us buying a donkey and to buses in cities. Our budget for transportation over two months for two people was 1070 Soms (about 16 Euros).
While Kyrgyzstan is all about nature, sometimes we’d have to send a Couchrequest or give our families an ‘alright!’. It was the first country where we had a smartphone and internet package as prices are were low and the process very simple. Wi-fi is quite available, at least in slightly bigger towns. The local sim card was also very helpful to stay in touch with local hosts and friends. Our budget for communication over 2 months for 2 people was 840 Soms (about 12 Euros).
Next to food there is a bunch of other current costs reaching from cosmetics like soap or toothpaste over replacement of batteries to a pair of new socks. Sometimes we even afforded to spoil a bit with a banya (village sauna) or to pay entrance for certain things. Our budget in this category over two months for two people was 2140 Soms (about 31 Euros).
We are glad that through a combination of staying in the nature quite a lot and the very successful busking in Bishkek which actually more than covered our daily expenses, we could make up quite well for the very expensive visas in Central Asia and certain unplanned burdens like a pair of new hiking boots for Ben or warm fleece underwear. In general, we are content about our budget and happy that we returned to a more enjoyable style of traveling after the months in India.