Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

In this blog post, I will share with you a complete Puerto Rico travel itinerary to satisfy the beach bums and nature lovers amongst us.  

Why Puerto Rico? 

Puerto Rico is home to the Rainforest, bioluminescent bays, many picture-perfect Caribbean beaches and delicious Mofongo (the national dish made with root veggies). Need we say more? 

Aside from all its natural beauty, Puerto Rico is JUST so easy to travel to if you live in America!

Best Beach in Puerto Rico
Caracas Beach, Vieques Island

If you are a US citizen or a US Green Card holder, this beautiful tropical island needs to be on your travel list now. Why? 

Because it is a hop and skip away from the US (4hrs non-stop from NYC!!) and requires you to carry nothing else but a National ID or Driver’s Licence to enter the island. 

There is no need to exchange currencies if you use US dollars because they also use the US dollar. The majority of people speak Spanish and English, but yeah, that’s no excuse not to try practicing your Spanish

Here is Your Complete Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary

San Juan

This is the main town that you will most likely fly into. It is known for the Old Town of San Juan filled with Spanish Colonial buildings, forts like San Cristobal Castle and El Morro, upscale restaurants and the buzzing nightlight

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary
Walking around San Juan

However, there is much more to explore outside of the Old Town.

How to Get Here?

Take an Uber from the airport into town. Uber is very affordable and reliable in the San Juan area, use it to get around instead of renting a car, just yet

Rides cost anywhere from $5-$15 around town.

Where to Stay in San Juan

I recommend Airbnb for affordable and unique stays. If you are looking for budget options, there are also a few hostels, I stayed at Villa Eshta. Or you can stay at Hotel Stay at Marre right on the beach. Book in advance the winter is high season in PR. 

Must-Do in San Juan

After walking around the Old Town and visiting the fortress, you will want to spend a day at Ocean Park Beach sipping on Pina Coladas from Numero Uno Beach Bar while sitting on bean bags watching the sunset. For another tropical day at the beach visit Isla Verde Beach.  

Check out the Santurce area of clubs and restaurants!

Ocean Park Beach in Puerto Rico
Delicious Drinks at Numero Uno Beach Bar

Where to Eat in San Juan?

For breakfast and HUGE smoothies head over to Pinkys in Calle Loiza. The best tacos in town are at Acapulco.

Green Smoothies for Breakfast at Pinkys in San Juan
Big Smoothie Portions at Pinkys

Enjoy an upscale dinner and amazing service at Verde Mesa in Old Town (Vegetarian/Allergy-friendly!).  But for really authentic traditional and affordable food head over to La Placita (The Central Market area) and eat at La Alcapurria, say hi to the lovely owner Irvin!

Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Beautiful interiors of Verde Mesa in Old San Juan

All the restaurants mentioned above are vegetarian-friendly! 

Where to Drink in San Juan?

La Placita is a fun place to dance and drink. When you get there look for an outdoors bar called El Coco de Luis for cheap drinks. Or head over to Old Town to La Factoria (rated the top 50 bars in the world) for anything from wine to tiki mixed drinks. 

El Yunque Rainforest 

Puerto Rico Itinerary for El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

This is not something you want to miss on your Puerto Rico trip. Many people visit El Yunque as a day trip but in my humble expert opinion, it is worth a night’s stay (or two) in the mountains and jungle near the Rainforest!

How to Get Here?  

Now would be the time to rent a car. It is about a 45-50 mins drive from San Juan. There are NO reliable public buses but you can also Uber from San Juan. Uber costs between $30-$50. 

Where to Stay in El Yunque

I highly recommend spending a night or two in the mountains, you won’t regret it! I stayed at Elemental Eco Retreat Airbnb, which was truly a magical place.

Best Airbnb's in Puerto Rico
The View at Elemental Eco Retreat

Must-Do Trails in El Yunque Rainforest *

*Note that hiking El Yunque Rainforest is appropriate for all fitness levels and ages. There is also no entrance fees!

When you enter the rainforest you’ll first stop at La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Tower. If you continue to drive up the road, you’ll come across a 5 mins trail that leads up to another beautiful waterfall/natural pool called Juan Diego Waterfall.

El Yunque Rainforest Puerto Rico travel itinerary
Juan Deigo Waterfall at El Yunque Rainforest

For an easy-moderate hike, keep driving until you see signs for Mt. Britton Trail. This is a 45 mins one-way hike on paved roads leading up to a tower with stunning views of the forest. 

The longest hike in the park is 2 hrs one-way and its called Caimitillo/El Yunque Trails leading up to El Yunque peak. 

Hiking El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

Make sure to be out by 6 pm as that is when the gates close. 

Where to Eat in El Yunque?

There are no restaurants in the El Yunque rainforest. There were also no restaurants close enough by our Airbnb. I recommend going to Walmart in San Juan and packing enough food and snacks for this trip. Or if you have rented a car you can drive to the nearby towns for restaurants.   

Vieques Island

Best Beaches in Vieques
Caracas or Red Beach in Vieques Island

Vieques is an island off of the main island of Puerto Rico known for its stunning Carribean beaches and arguably one of the best of the Biolumencent Bays in Puerto Rico. It is 45 mins by ferry from the town of Ceiba. I recommend spending at least 2-3 days here.

How to Get Here?  

You have a few options depending on where you are and how much time/money you have. 

Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques
Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques

From El Yunque Rainforest to Vieques:

Drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal in Ceiba, about a 45-50 mins drive from the Rainforest. If you did not rent a car, then make sure you organize for an uber to pick you up beforehand, ours cost $50. 

From San Juan to Vieques:

You can still drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal, it’s about a 1-hour drive and then catch the ferry to Vieques. But the most time-efficient option would be to fly straight into Vieques. This a 30 mins flight from San Juan International Airport. I heard its such an awesome experience and the views are great! 

Flights range anywhere between $70-$250 one-way. Book in advance for cheap flights to Vieques.

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary to Nearby Islands
Bring your Rental Car on the Ferry

Ferry Tickets to the Nearby Islands of Puerto Rico

If you take the ferry, you can purchase your ferry tickets in advance online here or arrive at the Ceiba Ferry Terminal early enough to buy them there in person. The cost is $2 for a one-way ticket at the ferry terminal

How to Get Around Vieques Island

If you didn’t bring your rental car on the ferry, then you can rent a vehicle* once you’re on the island or even better, rent a golf cart

Or 

You can take private taxis. This is the number to call (787) 741-8294 to request a pick-up. They cost $10 or $15 to almost anywhere on the island.

How to get around in Puerto Rico
Gua Guas in Puerto Rico

Another option is public cars called Gua Gua. These stop by the ferry terminal or in Esperanza and can take you to Caracas beach for $5 each way. 

*They don’t recommend renting motorcycles because of the horses that roam free. Watch out for those at night! 

Where to Stay in Vieques

I stayed at Casa Arena. This is a beautiful Airbnb with a pool & private access to the beach. You’ll need a car if you stay there because it’s away from the main area. 

Airbnbs in Vieques
The View from our Balcony at Casa Arena

If you want to be in the main area of the island stay on Esperanza. There is Lazy Hostel or a nice hotel called El Blok, both are right on the main beach in Esperanza. Here are other great hotel options around the island; Malecon House and Isla Hermosa Guesthouse.

Must-Do in Vieques

Caracas or Red beach (the most beautiful beach on the island of PR!), La Chiva beach, Black Sand beach, Sun Bay beach & the Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay), of course. If you like the nightlife, then check out the Isabel II square for some hot bachata and merengue tunes. 

Female traveler at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques Puerto rico
Beautiful Shell at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques

I recommend Vieques Kayak tour company and Harold as your tour guide. I had an incredible time with them! 

Black Sand Beach, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Playa Negra or Black Sand Beach in Vieques

Pro Tip: Make sure to check out the beach at night to see the stars, but go with a group for safety. 

Where to Eat in Vieques Island?

Puerto Rico Vegetarian Food Guide
Vegetarian Mofongo at El Guayacan

Bananas for a variety of foods and fun drinks, El Guayacán for traditional Puerto Rican food (the mofongo can be made vegetarian here), Lazy Jacks for cheap bar food and El Blok for high-end food.

Culebra Island  

Culebra is another island off of the main island of Puerto Rico. It is smaller in size than Vieques, known for it’s Flamenco Beach with the navy tank in the water and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with sea turtles. This island is ideal for a day trip from San Juan or Vieques.

Guide to Puerto Rico's beaches
Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island

How to Get Here?  

This will depend on which part of Puerto Rico you are getting to Culebra Island.

To get from Vieques to Culebra:

The cheapest option would be to catch the earliest ferry leaving Vieques to Ceiba Ferry Terminal. At the ferry terminal, you will catch the next ferry going to Culebra. This route takes about 2 hours but will cost you $4 total

Alternatively, you can book a flight from Vieques to Culebra, but it will stop in SJU.

To get from San Juan to Culebra:

You can fly directly from San Juan International Airport (book it in advance here) or you can take an uber to Ceiba Ferry Terminal and catch a $2 ferry to Culebra. Here is the ferry schedule. 

Where to Stay in Culebra

Here are some nice places to stay in Culebra; Villa del Sol 302, and Villa Ensenada Honda.
You can either stay for a night on the island or do what I did and head back to San Juan after exploring. You can take the evening ferry back or fly back to SJ.

Must-Do in Culebra Island  

Flamenco Beach ($2 entrance fees), Zoni Beach and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with turtles.

Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island
A Navy Tank in the Middle of the Ocean at Flamenco Beach

When you get off the ferry, you will find a lot of Gua Guas (public cars) shouting out the names of the popular beaches. It is very safe to ride these cars and it only costs $3 to get to Flamenco Beach!

Where to Eat in Culebra? 

Puerto Rico Culebra Travel Itinerary

Culebra is a very small island so your options are limited here. There is a decent supermarket on the island if you want to cook but Zaco Tacos is a must-try for REALLY good tacos. 

For Bonus Savings: Use Rakuten to get cashback on your bookings! Also here is $40 off your first Airbnb stay. 

Make sure you pack light so you can easily hop in Ubers and the ferries, here is your complete guide to packing and traveling light!

I hope this Puerto Rico travel guide helps you plan your upcoming trip but If you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact me here.

5 Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit This Winter

5 Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit This Winter

If you are reading this now, then you and I have a lot in common: 

We both LOVE sunshine and beaches and dread the winter! 

Fret not because I have 5 insanely affordable beach holiday destinations you can hit up this winter to cure your summer blues.

And, If it’s cold where you are right now and you can’t travel just yet, then picture this:

You, chillaxin’ on a hammock, one foot lightly grazing the soft white sands, with a refreshing pina colada in hand and the sounds of ocean waves in the background….you are smiling real big because this whole set up cost you less than $40/per day! 

Ladies and Gents, here is a list of 5 truly unique and affordable beach holiday destinations to visit this winter:

1. Central America 

Place: Bocas Del Toro, Panama 

The Vibe: Bocas is a province in Panama off of the Caribbean coast that is made up of a bunch of islands with stunning turquoise waters, rock formations, and marine life. The main town is Bocas town where you can stay in super cute hostels, eat at trendy cafes, and party like there is no tomorrow—look up Filthy Friday!

Must visit: Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)—this beach has many brightly colored starfish that you can see up close in the shallow water. Please respect these creatures by not taking them out of the water, they need to be in it to survive. 

Starfish beach in Panama; one of the affordable beach holiday destinations
They were that close to me!

Weather: Consistently in the mid 80s°F/20s°C, with some rain here and there. Hello tropical weather! 

Average Hostel Price/Night: $10-$16. Check out Hostel Mamallena and La Guayana 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $50-$100 for hotel rooms and less than $50 for private rooms in hostels. 

Average Meal Price: $4-$8 Local meals, $10-$15 Fancy Meals.

Pro Saving Tip: With many affordable supermarkets in town, I ended up cooking most of my meals to cut down on costs. While this might not be your idea of a fun vacay but when you’re tight on cash, cooking a meal with new or old friends is actually loads of fun! 

Price of a Beer: $2

Female travelers on an affordable beach holiday destination in Panama
Party in the middle of the ocean!!

Why go there?

Sun and fun. Bocas is the ideal place to be lazy or to go wild. There are many restaurants and parties happening throughout the week. You can’t get bored here because of how accessible it is to get to the surrounding islands by hopping on a $3-$5 water taxi from Bocas Town. 

If you are looking for an adventure to add on to your trip to Bocas in Panama, then check out Nomadic Matt’s blog post on Boquete.

Place: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua 

The Vibe: Quiet/lazy beach town located on the southwest coast of Nicaragua. With a ton of Pacific beaches within driving distance to choose from, this town is perfect for surfers/learning to surf, budget backpackers, yoga lovers or those who simply desire to tan their beach buns while sipping on yummy affordable dranks.

Playa Maderas

Must Visit: Playa Maderas, MIxcal Beach, Playa Hermosa, The Beach House (for 2 for $5 Happy Hour drinks!)

Weather: Pretty dry with average temps. of 80s°F/30s°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $5-$15. Check out Naked Tiger or Casa Oro in the heart of town.

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $19-$40 for private rooms in hostels, $35-$50 Hotel rooms.

Pro Saving Tip: Stay at an all-inclusive eco-luxury resort for one week for $449! Or $52/ day including breakfast. 

Average Meal Price: $4-$10

Price of a Beer: $1

Affordable beach holiday destinations in Central America
Fresh coco for $1

Why go there? 

With many beaches around and various activities to indulge in, I doubt you’ll ever get bored in San Juan Del Sur. You can do a 1 week yoga retreat for less than $500, or take up surf lessons for $25/hr or even Spanish classes by the beach for $10/hr. This is definitely one of the most affordable beach holiday destinations in Central America. 

2. The Carribean 

Place: Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic 

The Vibe: Pristine and quiet white sand beaches on the Samaná peninsula in the northeast part of the DR. Enough said! 

P.S. if you are a bachata lover, you will fall in love with this town and the dancers at the clubs. 

Must Visit: Playa Bonita, Playa Coson 

Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit in the Winter
Secluded pristine white sand beaches

Pro Saving Tip: Take motorcycle taxis from town to the beaches because they only cost around $1-$4!

Weather: Tropical wet and humid weather with an average of 70s°F/25°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $15. My fav is Dan & Manty’s Guesthouse

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: Hotel rooms from $50-$100, Private room in a hostel from $24-$45. 

Average Meal Price: $2-$5 local food in town, $10-$20 food at the beach

Price of a Beer: $2

Female travelers at an affordable beach holiday destination in the Dominican Republic
Perfect deep blue waters (unedited photo)

Why go there?

A trip to Las Terrenas can be as luxurious or as an affordable beach holiday destination as you want, depending on where you stay. With that being said, the beauty of all the beaches will never fail to make you feel like you are at a 5-star resort, regardless of where you end up staying! 

3. South America  

Place: Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta, Colombia 

The Vibe: A unique mix of lush tropical jungles and perfect blue Carribean waters. Tayrona National Park is located at the intersection of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the Carribean coast. This is for those who crave an adventurous beach holiday. Think sleeping outdoors in hammocks or tents and waking up to the sound of the waves and tropical birds. 

Surreal Rocks at Tayrona National Park in Colombia
Surreal Landscape at sunrise in Tayrona National Park

Pro Saving Tip: Catch a local bus ride for $2 from the town of Santa Marta which drops you off by the entrance of the park. From the park entrance, it is an approximately sweaty 2 hours hike in the jungle to the beach. This is an easy hike, just a little humid so wear breathable clothes and carry a light day pack. 

Must Visit: The whole damn thing, if you can! But the most popular beach in Tayrona is Cabo San Juan. 

Weather: Humid and rainy but definitely HOT!  We are talking 90°F/32°C

Average Hostel Price/Night in Santa Marta: $6-$12. Check out Dreamers Hostel 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night in Santa Marta: Hotel rooms from $20-$85. Private rooms in hostels from $15-$45. 

Hammock or Tent Accommodation Price in the Park: $12-$60. Check out Tayrona Tented Lodge with all meals included! If you want to sleep in a hammock for $7, then take a look at this option

Average Meal Price: $3-$12. Don’t forget to pack them snacks!

Price of a Beer: $1.50

Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations in South America

Why go there?

Because you will love Colombia as a whole and you will have such an adventure hiking, taking in the biodiversity of the park and swimming in the ocean. There are many picture opportunities here, so take advantage!

For a complete guide to visiting the park check out this blog post

Important Park Operational Info: Gate is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The last permitted entry is at 4 p.m. Tayrona is closed from end of Jan through Feb. Please check online that the park is open on your intended visit date. 

4. North Africa 

Place: Sharm el Sheik, Egypt

The Vibe: A diver’s heaven. Sharm is located between Egypt’s majestic Sinai desert and the Red Sea known for its clear waters with surreal coral reefs, palm-lined beaches, and endless bars and nightlife activity. Gather up all your loved ones, because this affordable beach holiday destination is perfect for groups or families!

Red sea in Egypt surrounded by the Sinai desert

Must Visit: Ras Mohammed National Park, Adrenaline Beach, Terrazina Beach, Saint Catherine Monastery, Naama Bay (for the nightlife) 

Weather: Hot but breezy at night averaging 70s°F/20s°C. You will have the best tan of your life, I’m telling ya!

Average Affordable Hotel Price/Night: $20-$35. If you want an authentic desert experience check out Sinai Old Spices B&B

Average All-Inclusive Hotel Price/Night: $55-$200. Labranda Tower Bay is an all-inclusive hotel with desert and ocean views, appropriate for all kinds of travelers.

Average Meal Price: $5-$8

Price of a Beer: $3

Sharm el Sheikh is one of the top most affordable beach holiday destinations in the world
The Sinai Desert

Why go there? 

A unique combination of authentic North African/Middle Eastern culture and a desert landscape contrasted by picture-perfect beaches. You can camp out in deserts for an adventure, take up diving lessons in the world’s best waters for diving or simply enjoy a luxury vacation at an all-inclusive hotel for the fraction of the price you’d pay anywhere else. 

Diving in the red sea in Egypt

Pro Saving Tip: Make friends with the locals and learn a few words in Arabic. You will really impress the Egyptians and they might hook up the prices for you, habibi! 

Safety Tip: If you are a solo traveler, travel around with a local guide or a local friend. 

5. Asia

Place: Koh Rong Island, Sihanoukville, Cambodia 

The Vibe: Low-key developing island with secluded white sand beaches and lush jungles. This is perfect for those looking for a major social media/city detox. There are very little distractions here and you will definitely enjoy being one with nature. Just be prepared for the power outages, limited wi-fi, and food options. 

Must Visit: Koh Rong Samloem (you can swim with planktons that light up in the water at night—it’s truly magical!)

Koh Rong Island in Cambodia; one of the most affordable beach destinations in Asia

Weather: Warm and dry weather averaging in the mid 80s°F/20s°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $10. Coconutbeach Bungalows offers private tents with beds for $5/night and private rooms starting at $15! 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $15-$50. Lost and Found offers private rooms for $15, including breakfast, that are right across from the beach on Koh Rong Samloem

Average Meal Price: $2-$5

Price of a Beer: $1.50

Affordable beach holiday destinations in South East Asia

Why go there?

As far as affordable beach holiday destinations go, it doesn’t get any cheaper or better than this. This island was one of my top favorite places during my entire trip to Cambodia. You can find free hanging hammocks from trees by the beach to relax on while sipping on your $1 fresh smoothie and reading your favorite book. 

For a more extensive guide on Koh Rong Island read this blog

Fun Fact: The Survivors 32nd season was filmed on Koh Rong Island! 

Place: Hoi An, Vietnam

(Ha Long Bay is cool too, but Hoi An is cooler, in my humble opinion at least)

The Vibe: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, this old riverside town has an interesting mix of Chinese, Japanese, French and Vietnamese flair. Here you can shop, eat amazing foods, chill by the river (check out the Full Moon Lantern festival), get your temple fix and sunbathe at the beach. 

Must Visit: Hoi An Town, The Riverside, Cua Dai Beach, An Bang Beach, Chuc Thanh Pagoda

Hoi An Town in Vietnam

Weather: Dec-Jan is still considered the rainy season in Vietnam but temps are averaging 70s°F/20s°C. Feb-Mar is warm and dry. 

Average Hostel Price/Night: $4-$9. Check out this $6 hostel right in town. 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: Hotel rooms average between $14-$35. Private rooms at hostels are between $15-$30. G Boutique Resort offers you luxury for $35/night including a fresh breakfast and access to a pool. 

Average Meal Price: $1-$5

Price of a Beer: $.50- $1.50

Hoi An riverside is an affordable beach holiday destination in Vietnam
Hoi An’s riverside lined with bars and restaurants

Why go there?

This is truly an extraordinary and often underrated affordable beach holiday destination for those already traveling through Vietnam or South East Asia. I highly recommend it to travelers who want to have a unique cultural experience, old town venturing, delicious CHEAP street food, and the beach, of course. 

If you want to learn how to save and budget for an upcoming trip, even as a college student, then you should read this blog post!

Happy summertime in the wintertime, y’all!

Disclaimer: I may make a commission on some of the links mentioned in this post at NO additional cost to you!

The Best All-Inclusive 1 Week Yoga Retreat in Nicaragua (For Less Than $500!)

The Best All-Inclusive 1 Week Yoga Retreat in Nicaragua (For Less Than $500!)

You might be wondering…

Why Would You Go on a 1 Week Yoga Retreat?

If you live in a city like New York City, then you know what it means to be constantly rushing around, feeling overwhelmed by things to do, and even the things you didn’t do!

Female traveler on a yoga retreat at the beach in Nicaragua
7:30 am Ashtanga yoga at a secluded beach in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

In July 2019, after being in the city for only 7 months, I really needed to recharge my energy and getaway. I searched online and found a too-good-to-be-true deal I couldn’t pass up, on a yoga retreat in Nicaragua. It was a little less than $600 for an all-inclusive 1 week yoga retreat at a yoga resort called Eden on the Chocolata. 

Lush green trees at the yoga retreat at Eden on the Chocolata in Nicaragua
Eden on the Chocolata—it is all very real!

& Why Nicaragua?

Nicaragua had everything I wanted; the beaches, the tropical weather, Spanish, dancing, and the stunning nature. It is truly heavenly. Not to mention how kind and hospitable people there are. Also, did I mention how budget-friendly this heavenly destination is?!! 

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Please note that Nicaragua is still going through some political unrest (do your research) and their economy really needs our support. I know what your next question is… 

 So . . . is Nicaragua safe for solo female travelers?

Good and important question!

I went on the 1 week yoga retreat in San Juan del Sur (SJDS), which is a beach town on Nicaragua’s southwest coast, solo and had no issues during my trip. I would be aware of the big cities, like Managua though. 

You will most likely have to fly into Managua to get to San Juan Del Sur, and there is no reason to stay in the city for more than a layover.  You can take a Chicken Bus to San Juan del Sur from Managua (read details below) or a taxi direct to the resort for $70. 

Chicken Bus for backpackers in Central America
“Chicken Bus” in Central America

If you decide to get to San Juan del Sur the adventurous way, AKA taking a Chicken Bus. These are old school buses that go throughout the country, mainly what the locals ride to travel around between cities. The bus rides cost about $5 for the 4 hours journey from Managua to SJDS.

Then How Do You Get The Chicken Buses in San Juan Del Sur?

In Managua, you will go to El Mercado Central (be really aware of your belongings here) and look for buses going to Rivas. At Rivas, you will take another Chicken Bus going to SJDS. Then finally a $5 taxi to your yoga resort at Eden on the Chocolata! 

Chicken Buses in Nicaragua
Inside a “Chicken Bus”

Program Breakdown & All the Deets

Duration: The retreat duration is 6 nights and 7 days (There is an option for a 3 days yoga retreat as well)

Price: $449/person (for dates below only) I paid closer to $600 in July

Accommodation Type: Shared eco-luxury bungalows with fans (no AC), private bathrooms in each bungalow and private porch with hammock. Private bungalows are also available for $899-$999.

Dates: 15 – 21 December 2019            
12 – 18 January 2020
            9 – 15 February 2020
            15 – 21 March 2020

(Note that you can book this yoga retreat any time of the year but it will cost a little closer to $600 for the 1 week yoga retreat and will not include everything mentioned below.)

Yoga retreat eco luxury accommodation in San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua
Eco-Luxury Bungalows at Eden on the Chocolata

What’s included in the price? 

  • 2 daily yoga sessions (1 hr Vinyasa, Yin, and meditation classes)
  • 1 Yoga sculpt session (a yoga class which incorporates high-intensity training)
  • 6 nights eco-luxury accommodation
  • Daily delicious vegetarian breakfast and dinner buffet, made with local fresh ingredients
  • 1 day trip to Playa Hermosa, includes 1 surf lesson and transport
  • 1-hour massage or Reiki treatment (one of the best massages I’ve had!!)
  • Movie night
  • Free time to enjoy San Juan Del Sur and the surf beaches around town
  • Unlimited use of Wifi (works only in the main area), incredible swimming pool, yoga deck, and outdoors gym 
  • Unlimited coffee, tea and filtered water
  • Small groups to ensure a great quality experience
  • Free daily shuttle to and from San Juan del Sur town since the retreat is a bit further out
  • Photo album from the retreat week
Yoga deck at Eden on the Chocolata yoga resort
Yoga Deck at Eden on the Chocolata

This is how your daily schedule will look like:

7 AM: Freshly brewed coffee & Tea 

7:30 AM: Morning yoga class (1hr class)

9 AM: Breakfast (super filling and delicious!)

10:30 AM: Shuttle to SJDS town departs
(or free time from 9 am – 5 pm)

4:30 PM: Shuttle departs back to the retreat from town

5 PM: Evening yoga class (1hr class)

7 PM: Family-style dinner 

Review of The Yoga Retreat Experience

This is the most bang for your buck type of retreat! For that price, this is a steal

The resort is beyond gorgeous, you will instantly feel at peace when you step in. The air is very crisp and fresh. The pool overlooks the jungle and the bay. The view from your bungalow is green and luscious. You will wake up each day to the sounds of tropical birds and monkeys. 

Cooling Off After my Morning Yoga Class in the Pool at Eden

The bed is super comfy. The rooms are huge with closet space and a private bathroom with hot water and towels. I went in July so the weather was humid, hot and a bit rainy. Definitely keep that in mind because they do not have AC, all I had was a ceiling fan and a floor fan.  

You are in the middle of nature so it goes without saying that there will be bugs. Lots of bugs and mosquitos. Keep your bed net secured in place, wear bug spray at night and you’ll be just fine. 

A Surreal Sunset over San Juan Del Sur Beach in Nicaragua
A Surreal Sunset over San Juan Del Sur Beach in Nicaragua

The yoga classes are interactive and restorative. Kelly who leads the morning class will incorporate some yoga philosophy, spiritual readings, and reiki with essential oils in her yoga classes.

Female traveler meditating with yoga teacher at a yoga retreat
435hz Meditation on the Yoga Deck of Eden on the Chocolate Danny Holmes

When I was at the retreat I had a couple of amazing teachers, Danny and Renata, they pushed what I thought to be my limits or physical and mental boundaries in yoga and helped me sit longer with my “discomfort”. 

Not going to lie but the food might have been my favorite part about this yoga retreat. Every single meal is cooked by the owners or their staff in their kitchen made only from the best and freshest ingredients with LOADS of love! 

All inclusive yoga retreat in Nicaragua
Hearty and Fresh Breakfast Smoothie Bowl at Eden on the Chocolata

They serve the food family style so it will be a great opportunity for you to socialize and meet new people. Breakfast includes eggs, plantain fries, rice and beans, and smoothies or smoothie bowls. Dinner was always a different cuisine each day, dessert included! 

Overnight Oats Smoothie with Fresh Fruits at Eden on the Chocolata
Overnight Oats Smoothie with Fresh Fruits at Eden on the Chocolata

Finally, something to keep in mind that this is a family-friendly and animal-friendly resort so you will be around kids and cute animals. 

Animal friendly yoga retreat in Nicaragua
Taco the Zen Master

What Can You Do in Your Free Time in San Juan Del Sur? 

The Town Vibe 

San Juan Del Sur is a small and colorful beach town with a beach right in town, appropriately called San Juan Del Sur beach. This beach is lined with seafood restaurants and bars with really great happy hours. Check out Beach House for their 2 for $5 drinks and $3 appetizers. 

Minimal earthy restaurant and bar called Beach House in San Juan Del Sur
Beach House Bar and Restaurant in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Wander around and you will come across many artisanal shops that sell the cutest handmade art. I got these tiny paintings done on feathers from one of the shops.

Ding Repair Cafe in San Juan Del Sur Town- They Don’t Use Any Disposal Plastic so I Love Them!

Beaches 

There are many beaches around San Juan Del Sur—they’re mainly surf beaches. Playa Maderas is beautiful and a great place to learn how to surf. There are also two more secluded beaches right by Eden on the Chocolata; Nacascolo Bay, a 10 min walk and Mixcal Beach, a 20 min walk. 

Surf School at Playa Maderas in San Juan Del Sur
Playa Maderas Surf School in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

To get to the beaches, you can take the free shuttle from the yoga resort into town and look for Casa Oro Hostel. They have shuttle service going to different beaches daily, starting at $5. 

Shuttle Schedule from Casa Oro to the Beaches of San Juan Del Sur
Shuttle Schedule from Casa Oro to the Beaches of San Juan Del Sur

Food 

The town itself is filled with cheap local eateries (check out El Mercado) and health food cafes. I recommend Simon Says for $4 smoothies, Ding Repair Cafe for yummy smoothie bowls and healthy bites, and Art Warehouse for fresh and HUGE salads bowls. Save room for dinner at Eden! 

Interested in learning Spanish in San Juan Del Sur?

Lago Azul Restuarant and Spanish School by the Beach of San Juan Del Sur

This was a two birds, one stone situation. I took advantage of the free shuttle going into town from the yoga resort and took up daily Spanish classes by the beach at Lago Azul Restuarant and Spanish School. My teacher Cony was funny, very patient and pushed me to have more conversations in Spanish. I believe my Spanish improved just by taking 2 hrs of classes a day. And guess what? The cost per hour was $10! 

What Did I Learn from My 1 Week Yoga Retreat? 

When I got back to New York City, people who met me post-retreat said I was glowing. People were asking me what I did differently. They sensed new energy vibrating from me. I felt less stressed out–I was really burned-out from my job and the city before the retreat. The little things that annoyed me every day, for example on my daily subway commute, did not bother me as much. Or, maybe I was simply able to breathe and let go of these little annoyances.

Female Traveler at a 1 week yoga retreat in Nicaragua
Yoga Retreat Glow

I also developed a solid morning routine because of this retreat and my amazing teachers. I now wake up much earlier, meditate for 5-10 mins, journal and start my day at a slower pace similar to what I experienced at the yoga retreat. 

This retreat was a physical and mental reset for me. I learned to be okay with moments of silence, to be “bored” or simply do nothing on the weekend, to breathe and just enjoy the good food and language barriers. I even went a whole week without my daily cup of coffee!

I still do that. 

Is This 1 Week Yoga Retreat for You?

If you are in a place in your life where you feel unbalanced, need mental clarity or the courage to redirect your life, then traveling to Nicaragua and doing a yoga retreat might help you out a lot. I highly recommend taking a different type of vacation if you are in a rut.

Where Can You Book This Incredible 1 Week Yoga Retreat in San Juan Del Sur?

You can book directly on Eden on the Chocolata’s website. Or email Remy and Kelly, they will help facilitate the bookings and answer any questions you may have! Let them know I sent you for good karma! 

You can also book nightly stays the yoga resort without doing the retreat here.

Eden on the Chocolata contact info:

edenchocolata@gmail.com

If you want to know how to pack for this 1 week yoga retreat, then you will need this ultimate packing guide to travel light! 

Thanks for reading. Happy traveling and remember to take a DEEP breath! 

11 Best Tips for First Time Solo Female Travelers

11 Best Tips for First Time Solo Female Travelers

Does your Instagram mood board mainly consist of beautiful travel destinations? Do you find yourself constantly daydreaming about the next place you would like to visit?

If answered yes to any of the above, then I’m assuming the only issue is that you can’t find someone to join you or the thought of traveling abroad solo as a female seems terrifying. 

This blog post is for YOU wanderluster. 

Life is short. You can either keep waiting for someone to join you or you can gather all your female power and courage to book that flight and start living your life!! 

That is how I ended up on my first solo trip to Southeast Asia because no one was serious about joining me. And I would not have had it any other way because I had the time of my life! I will be honest, I was terrified at first. I had no idea how to do it and did not think I was capable of going alone. But just like you, I started googling around to find tips from other solo female travelers and probably read over 10 blogs on traveling solo.

Traveling alone is scary. Traveling alone as a woman is even scarier but the most rewarding, life-changing, and empowering experience you can have.

The good news is that traveling solo is a skill that you can learn how to do and it gets easier each time. In this post, I will share with you simple tips that will help solo female travelers plan for their first solo travel experience to make it less intimidating and more enjoyable. 

1. Mental Prep

The very first and most IMPORTANT thing you need to do is to mentally prepare for this new experience by setting realistic expectations and embracing change. 

Understand that you will face unexpected situations on the road—especially if you decide to travel to third world countries. No matter how much you plan, you won’t be able to plan for everything and that is part of the adventure. This is how you will learn and grow on your journey. 

Remember that you have overcome harder things in life. Take stock of all the difficulties you have had to deal with and how once they were accomplished, you thought to yourself,  “why was I so worried/scared/anxious about this in the first place?!” 

Traveling alone gets easier after the first week/month/year. I recommend trying a mini solo trip to a city nearby or even doing things like going to dinner or the movies alone pre-trip to get used to being alone even if it’s uncomfortable. However, I have to admit that I don’t think the US is a great place for first-time solo travelers (I personally have not truly traveled solo in the States). Places like Thailand or Costa Rica, for example, are a backpacker’s Mecca and many people travel there solo. So you’ll easily blend in, find resources, and make friends along your trip unlike in the states, where it is less common to find that kind of space. 

Solo female backpackers having fun by the beach
See, you can never really be alone! I met all of these wonderful people at the hostel.

Trust me, I cried my first week alone in Thailand because I thought I wouldn’t meet people. I was so confused and frustrated by the language barrier, but I realized that it was my attitude that was preventing me from having the trip I dreamed of.  

Change your attitude and you’ll change your experience. Realize that you have everything you need right now to be able to travel alone. 

2. Create a Trip Outline but Don’t Over Plan

If you plan for everything, you leave no room for adventures to happen.

I understand that not everyone is comfortable traveling without knowing exactly where they’ll be staying or what tours they’ll be going on. That is just how I like to travel because I end up in the coolest places and experience the craziest things. 

For your first solo trip, do your research. 

Read that Lonely Planet guide book, watch those Youtube videos, but don’t get too attached to your plans. Allow for spontaneity. 

What should you plan? 

My recommendation is to figure out your route, the number of countries you hope to visit on the trip, and the order you’ll be visiting them in. 

Before my first ever solo 6-week trip to South East Asia, I created an outline by looking at the map and figuring out the travel time between countries. After researching, I realized that I would only have enough time to go to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. 

SEA backpacker route map
This is a great example of a SEA route plan. Credit: The Broke Backpacker

I booked a round-trip ticket to Bangkok so I could start in Thailand, travel south towards the islands then north towards Chiang Mai which led me to Hanoi in Northern Vietnam by air. (If I had more time I could have taken a bus from northern Thailand into Laos to lead me into Vietnam, but I’ll save that for another trip!) In Vietnam, I traveled by bus through the entire country, north to south, and crossed the border into Cambodia. From there, I crossed the border by land back into Thailand and spent my last night in Bangkok before I took my flight back home.

Create the most logistical outline and book as few things as possible without feeling super anxious. I typically just book my first night in the new country or city I’m visiting and then go from there. If that is not your cup of tea but you still want to stay open to spontaneity, make sure your bookings are refundable.

3. Travel Light 

At barely 5 feet and an average fitness level, I have to make sure I can carry my backpack through airports, on and off buses, and walk to hostels from the bus stations up and down steep hills. 

I really can’t stress how important and overlooked this is for first-time solo female travelers. You have to be able to carry your own stuff so pack smart

The lighter your bag is, the freer and less frustrated you’ll feel on the road. I have witnessed female travelers struggling with overstuffed backpacks that are bigger than they are and they never looked too happy. 

Travel Backpacks for Petite Female backpackers
Gregory Mountain Products Deva 60 Liter Women’s Backpack, Charcoal Grey, Extra Small

Therefore, I recommend investing in a really good backpack (if you are not into that look, invest in a four-wheeled suitcase that can easily move around with you). I bought this backpack, made specifically for petite females with size options ranging from X-Small to Medium, about four years ago. I put this bag through so much and it is still going strong. 

It’s easy to carry with back and waist support. It has front access like a normal suitcase (most backpacks are top loading) and many convenient compartments. I also recommend packing cubes to compress and organize your clothes. 

Packing cubes for female backpackers traveling light
Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube Set

Other smart things to pack are: 

  • A portable phone charger
  • your meds and Emergen-C 
  • wall plug adapter for your electronics
  • extra cash stored in various areas of your bag for emergencies
  • Kindle travel guides to save space
  • a physical language book (because you can’t always rely on Google Translate) 

I created a complete guide on how to pack and travel light:

4. Stay in Hostels 

If you don’t want to be completely alone the whole trip and wish to meet like-minded travelers from all over the world, I highly suggest staying in hostels.

I always end up meeting the coolest people, and from experience, travelers tend to be generous with information. They will be your best travel guide/resource for your next destination. I still maintain a lot of the friendships I had while traveling, so really you are building your network around the world! Not to mention you will be saving loads of money staying at hostels vs. hotels. 

Affordable hostel with hammocks in Costa Rica for solo travelers
A gorgeous hostel overlooking the Costa Rican jungle. Cost $12/night!

However, I do understand that there are many stereotypes about hostels, especially in the states. But believe me, they are not all true… at least most of them aren’t. I never felt like my safety was threatened, even in the bigger dorm rooms. But of course, practice common sense and lock up your valuables. (BTW, you can always book amazing private rooms or private tents at hostels for half the price of hotels if sharing a room is not your thing!)

I find clean, safe, and cute hostels all around the world on HostelWorld or Booking.com. I love the HostelWorld app to book on the go. Make sure you read the reviews because other travelers have made it easy for us to avoid those nasty hostels!

5. Make Travel Buddies 

To add on to tip #4, when you stay in hostels, you WILL end up meeting other solo travelers and making friends. Even if you are not an extrovert, the environment and the culture of travel makes it easy for people to connect because you already have a lot in common. Remember, they are also searching for friends so don’t hesitate to make that first move!

Backpackers making friends in a hostel
Made a bunch of cool friends at Dan and Manty’s Guesthouse in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic.

Often times other travelers are taking the same route around the country or region as you, which makes it easy to have travel buddies. So far, every solo trip I have taken, I had one or two people join me on parts of my trip, so really I wasn’t always on my own! 

Stay open to opportunities, join other travelers, and don’t be afraid to ask them to join you (perk, you can split costs!!). This brings me back to tip #2; when you travel without solid plans or pre-planned bookings, you have the freedom to join people and leave space for unexpected adventures. 

6. Adapt to the Local Scene

Blending in will save you a lot of harassment and unwanted attention. Don’t be flashy and you’ll survive! 

If you are traveling to a modest country, for instance, think about the community as a whole. How they dress, what is considered offensive, local laws, etc. just to name a few. We’re used to space and being able to express ourselves freely in the States–sometimes this can be the trickiest / biggest part of stepping outside your comfort zone!

Dress code for female travelers visiting temples in Thailand
Shorts are not allowed for both men and women when visiting temples in Thailand

You are still free to dress as you wish and be your truest self but if you want to avoid trouble, it may be a good idea to show that you understand and respect the culture. This is where researching the countries you’re visiting and their culture is crucial

When it comes to electronics, I usually walk around with my phone out for pictures but I will put it away when I’m at markets or crowded places. I take a fanny pack (I wear it across my chest) or a crossbody bag with only essentials such as enough cash for the day, my travel credit card, portable charger, and hand sanitizer, which is all I ever need for the day!

However, I feel like a big camera around your neck can make you more vulnerable in some parts of cities. I always like to ask the front desk and other travelers if they felt safe wearing certain things or taking their electronics with them around town. 

7. Stay Safe and Trust your Gut 

If it feels good, then it must be good. If it feels shady, then it must be unsafe. 

This is really the only way I stay safe—look at me, I’m still alive after 10 solo trips and all in one piece! 

I really believe that our intuition is heightened when we travel. It is even more powerful when we travel alone because we really only have ourselves to depend on. So, ladies, there is no better time to trust that inner voice and practice trusting it than on your trip! 

8. Seek Help 

Just because you’re doing this on your own, doesn’t mean you can’t depend on others for answers and recommendations. 

People all around the world are willing to help travelers, even if they can barely speak the language, you just have to ask. 

Travelers will also be willing to share their best tips and places to visit. Locals will be very happy to walk you to your destination and help you figure out where you’re going or even give you money if are stuck in a situation like this one:

Solo female backpacker on a bus in Colombia

When I was in Colombia a few years ago, I was on a bus going to a different city, the tire went out on the way, and my phone was about to die. I really had no idea where we were or how long it would take us to get back on the road. A lady noticed that I was freaking out and started talking to me. She soon realized that my Spanish was… pretty bad, so she pulled out her phone for us to speak through Google Translate. We talked that way the whole ride until we eventually got to our destination. (Side note: language is never a barrier. It is our own thoughts that create these barriers. I made many friendships with people without speaking their language or them speaking mine.)

I literally had no phone, no cash, and it was late at night when we arrived. I tried to use the ATMs but there was no cash available—very common in Central/South America I noticed. This amazing woman refused to leave my side, despite me asking her to! She got me a taxi, rode with me, and even paid for the fare. She texted me later to make sure I was safe and we are still friends to this day.

What I’m trying to say is that you may be traveling alone but you are never really alone—unless you want to be, of course. People are there for you and will help you if you need help. 

8.5. Travel Photos for the Solo Traveler 

You have to be shameless when it comes to getting your travel photos. You worked so hard to get there, you better get those pics for the gram and your future self! 

Solo female traveler taking photo while traveling
Not too bad right?

This is how I do it: smile at the person, be confident and then ask in the local language if they could take your photo. No one has ever said no or gave me a dirty look, in my experience. Then frame the photo on your phone for them and ask if they can take multiple photos so you have options to edit later. Simple! 

9. Change Direction 

Stay open to unexpected changes to your travel plans. Your flight might get canceled, there might not be a bus until the next day to your next destination, or it might be the rainy season and you are stuck in the hostel for a day or two. Learn to love these moments of uncertainty. 

Since I’m an Egyptian citizen, I usually have trouble getting visas to some countries (so if you are an American citizen—the world is your oyster, utilize that power!!) I often have to change my travel destinations due to visa issues. But honestly, I never cry over not going somewhere. I still have a blast in whichever country I end up in! 

Travel is full of unexpected events. Things that are simple at home can be complicated abroad. From getting your laundry done to trying to order off of a foreign menu, it is all an adventure. Stay flexible and you will have the coolest stories! 

10. Keep a Journal

Document everything. 

I love re-reading my journal entries from my very first trip. You can track your growth and understand who you are when you’re all alone in an unfamiliar place.

Keeping a journal while traveling solo
I love taking the journals with me around town and documenting as I go.

Also, it is very hard to remember the little crazy things you experience and the places you visit in a few years. I think it is really cool to have those written down to revisit and think “WOW! I really did this?!!” 

Check out these super compact lined journals here.

11. Own Your Freedom 

Nothing I have experienced in my adult life as a female has been more liberating than traveling alone. Having complete ownership of my daily activities and independent thoughts. 

Solo Female Travelers with a surfboard on the beach

You are your truest self when you do not have to adapt to the crowds’ mentality. Traveling solo will make you more adaptable. You will learn to trust yourself and you will learn to let go. When you’re back home, you will find it easier to let go of negative emotions,  relationships that no longer serve you well and places that don’t allow you to shine! Because you now know how powerful, smart, and independent you can be. 

I’m not saying it’s going to be great all the time. You will get sick, you’ll feel lonely, and you will want the people that love you the most around you, to comfort you. But you’ll know just how much you can handle on your own and what breaks you. How to be your own source of comfort is one of the most powerful parts of the journey. 

Solo female traveler in New York City
Cheers to us going after what WE want in life!

I didn’t know that one day I would be capable of moving to a new city like NYC all by myself, without any plans, until I experienced traveling alone. I hope you find the courage wherever you may be in your life, to take a chance on yourself, and do the thing that scares you the most!

Disclaimer: I might make a commission on some of the links mentioned in this post at no additional cost to you.

Do you still have any questions or tips about traveling solo? Share them with the community below. Much love and happy traveling!

Budget Travel: How You Can Travel Abroad on a Student Budget

Budget Travel: How You Can Travel Abroad on a Student Budget

We all know where there is a will, there is a way. But when it comes to traveling the world, we all have the will to go on adventures but none of the cash to do so. 

In this blog post, I will share my top tips and tricks for traveling for cheaper and longer on a college student budget. These tips helped me travel Southeast Asia for six weeks and Colombia for a month when I was in college working regular jobs.

Here is how you can travel the world on a modest budget in 2019.

Pre-Trip Travel Budgeting Tips:

1. Saving and Budgeting for your Trip

The number one question on your mind is probably “how the heck do I even save for a trip abroad?” 

Well, the short answer is that you need to make travel a priority. You will have to be very disciplined with how you spend your money. Can you skip eating out? Are you willing to make your own coffee at home? All the little expenses add up. 

In college, I saved money by thrifting, making my coffee at home, and cooking. Here is how I actually saved money to travel:

Step 1: Every time you skip out on a restaurant meal, coffee, or going out, place that money you would have otherwise spent in your savings. I found it more effective for me to visually see my money accumulate in cash—the old school way, y’all.

Step 2: I placed my savings in an envelope titled “TRAVEL MONEY” or whatever destination you are saving up for. Alternatively, it would be smart to start a savings account that gives an interest (some give you up to 2% back!) on the money you save. 

Step 3: You will want to create a solid goal; the exact dollar amount you will be aiming to save for your trip and write it on the envelope. This goal will help you understand how much you can spend and how much you need to save for how long. You can figure out that number by doing a quick Google search on the cost of the flight, a typical local meal/beer, and accommodation at your desired destination. 

Let’s talk numbers:

For me, it was $3k for my first trip. I was waiting tables at the time so I saved all the $1 and $5 bills plus $100-$200 each month. I also saved all my Christmas and birthday money—it is always a good idea to let friends and family know that you are saving for a trip and prefer cash over physical gifts. You can also sell old/vintage clothes on Depop, Poshmark, eBay or your mom’s garage sale for extra pocket money. Pick up extra shifts, dog walking, babysitting, if you can do graphic design check out freelance sites such a Fiverr and Upwork… get creative, get that dough for the trip of your dreams!  

2. Destination Research

If you want to travel cheap, you ought to choose a destination where your currency value is higher than the local currency. Hello Southeast Asia, Central/South America, and North Africa. Multiply that cash! 

Budget Travel Beach Destination
Secluded beach in the Dominican Republic

Want to be on a tropical island chilling on a hammock drinking Piña Coladas for less than $50 a day? Check out cheap beach destinations like Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic, San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, and Bocas del Toro in Panama. Want to hike an active volcano? Check out Volcan Pacaya in Guatemala.   

Figure out what you want to be doing when you travel, but don’t get too attached to a specific destination and you’re wallet will thank you later! Keeping your options open will help you save so much money. I recommend to research at least three destinations and compare flights and accommodation prices before you make the final decision on where to go. 

3. Finding Cheap Flights

The most expensive thing you will have to save for is probably your flight. Do not despair, my friend, at the sight of a $1000+ plane ticket. There are ways you can save on your flights. 

Typically flexibility is the #1 money-saving tip when it comes to booking a plane ticket. As a college student, you are limited to winter and summer breaks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible with where you go. If you are not a college student, then you can save big $$$ just by opening up your travel dates. 

Some things to consider when searching for cheap airline tickets:

  • Decide on what you are willing to pay. If you don’t have this number in mind, you will keep searching and will miss out on good deals because you thought the ticket will be cheaper tomorrow.
  • Tickets are usually the cheapest 6 weeks prior to your desired departure date.
  • Set price trackers for multiple destinations and airports in the region you want to visit. That way once you get the email with a price you are willing to pay, you can snatch that baby up! I use Momondo and Google Flights:
How to set a price tracker on google flights for budget travel

  • Avoid major national or international holiday. That means that if you want to travel during winter break, travel at least a week before Christmas or after New Years if you have a longer break.
  • Travel during low season. For example, in Asia and parts of Central America, the low season is the summer months because it is the rainy season. This will make your trip cheaper overall!
  • Consider the overall cost of your destination, not just the flight cost. Tickets to Southeast Asia from the US are expensive but traveling in Southeast Asia is very cheap so it evens out. Tickets to Europe are cheap but Europe generally is as expensive as the US, if not more.

Other resources for finding cheap flights:

how to use Skycanner's travel graph to find cheap flights and travel on budget
  • Reward miles that you may have accumulated from a travel credit card or that your parents have from traveling
  • Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) chrome extension can alert you when there is potential cashback to be earned when booking your flight. Or really any other travel purchases!

4. Finding Budget Accommodation

The only way I could afford traveling as often as I do and for longer, is because I stay at hostels every time I travel abroad. Hostels are not dirty or scary. They are cute and VERY FUN for young travelers. They only have a bad rep. here in the USA. It is pretty normal all over the world for travelers ages 18-30 to stay at hostels. 

You could spend anywhere from $3 (can you believe it! I spent $3/night in Thailand) to $15 a night in a basic dorm-style bedroom. If you want to be a little fancy, you can score a private bedroom from $25-$40 per night. Most hostels I stayed at included breakfast in their nightly rate, saving you the cost of a meal. 

Colorful private hostel room for budget traveler in Guatemala
Private room in Yellow House Hostel/B&B in Antigua, Guatemala for $22/night!
Image Credit: Yellow House

I use Hostelworld and Booking.com (get cashback on your bookings with Rakuten) for all of my budget travel accommodation. 

5. Baggage Fees

This may be a small fee in the grand scheme of things but the $50 baggage fee could help you travel an extra day in a lot of countries. I recommend packing light by using packing cubes to avoid this extra fee. 

I only travel with one backpack as my carry-on and a personal item (a small day pack) if I’m going to be away for over a week. Not only will you use money traveling from your hometown but also when traveling internally between cities and countries. 

Learn how to save money by traveling and packing light:

While On The Road Travel Budgeting Tips:

1. Save on Food When Traveling on a Budget

Cost of food is usually only a concern if you are traveling to a more expensive city like New York City or traveling somewhere for over a week. The food in Central America was more expensive than in Southeast Asia, so I cooked my meals 70% of the time because I wanted to stretch out my budget for three months. If you are traveling alone, consider making friends and cooking dinners together or splitting bigger meals. 

2. Buddy Systems & Splitting Costs

Ties back to the previous tip, but making friends can save you some money. If you are traveling with friends you already know you will be splitting a lot of the costs. 

Budget travelers hiking a cloud forest in Costa Rica
My travel buddies and I used our student IDs to get a discount on the entrance ticket at the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reverse in Costa Rica

Other than saving on food, you can save on private hostel rooms, Ubers/taxis, and tours which — I usually avoid organized tours because you can do a lot of what they offer for free on your own but you could get a HUGE discount if you are a group.  

3. No Foreign Fee Credit Card & Cash Withdrawals

Don’t pay an unnecessary foreign transaction fee when you can easily avoid it with travel credit cards like the VentureOne card from CapitalOne. The VentureOne credit card saved me a good chunk by allowing me to “delete” travel purchases by using reward points I earned on past travel purchases (you earn 2x the points on travel purchases, those include Ubers, Lyfts, and my metro card). Whenever I have the option to pay with a card when I travel, I always use my credit card even if they charge me a small fee, it’s usually less than what the ATM charges me for withdrawing cash. 

With that being said, cash is king all over the world. I carry as much US dollars as I feel safe bringing, to exchange when I arrive (never at the airport though!) to avoid withdrawing from foreign ATMs that charge 5% fees plus whatever else your bank charges, usually its $5. That adds up really fast!

4. Transportation

The cheapest way to travel between cities is typically by bus. But if you don’t have time to spare on long bus rides, consider internal budget airlines such as Ryanair in Europe, AirAsia in Asia, LATAM in South America, and Volaris or Spirit Airlines in Central America.

Uber works really well in some countries in Central and South America so check the app when you arrive for cheap airport transportation. Rideshares are popular all over the world as well. Local buses usually only cost a few pennies so consider taking the bus instead to save more. 

Budget Travel on the back of a motorcycle taxi in DR
My private moto ride to the beach in the Dominican Republic for only 50c

Additional Costs to Consider – Getting sick while traveling, Visa fees, and missing your flight or bus to the next city. Keep all your reservations flexible and refundable whenever possible.  

Are you going to be traveling solo or thinking about it? You should really read this

Do you have any other hot tips to share or questions that still need answers? Please share with the community below.