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Traveling on a Tight Budget – China

During the years of attending university and working a part-time job, I still tried to take a few short backpacking trips here and there. It was usually difficult to find the money to go, but overall the money never really stopped me from traveling. It wasn’t until one particular trip that I backpacked with an extremely tight budget that turned into one of the most challenging travel experiences I have ever come across.

It all started with purchasing a cheap flight to China and deciding to go with no spending money. With such a slim budget the decision to backpack China wasn’t the smartest idea at the time. Although, my passion for traveling over steered the reality of money. I had a $600CAD budget with very limited space on my credit card. It was one of those backpacking decisions that I made with out really considering the consequences. I decided my budget would only go towards transportation, lodging, and food.

Everything went smoothly during my backpacking trip in China, until my last 24 hours where the lack of money started to kick in. I only had 50 dollars left to get me from Kong Hong to Beijing within a very short time period, in order to meet my flight back to Canada. So with little time and very little money my options were limited. I figured it would best to purchase the express train (a little more expensive than the average travel train) only because I wanted to make sure I would be able to catch my flight home. But there was a small catch. The train started from Shanghai not Hong Kong. Therefore, I had to figure out a way to get from Hong Kong to Shanghai within 10 hours. So I hopped on a flight and a bus. The flight adventure went well but the bus experience was something else. I first couldn’t find a local/cheap bus to reach my train station in order to meet my train to Beijing. Almost every train was over 20 dollars and at this point I was now getting near the zero mark of my finances. But after a few conversations with the bus station employees, I finally thought I found the right bus. It wasn’t until I got on the bus and noticed it was filled with men. And within 1 minute of sitting down a few men on the bus started pointing and trying to telling me some in Mandarin. I soon realized that maybe it was best to get off the bus. Once I got off the bus a lady told me that I needed to get on the “women bus” across the street. At first, I stared at her thinking she had to be kidding me, but I quickly realized that was she wasn’t joking. The bus ride to the station was over an hour and once I got there, I hopped on my train to Beijing. I was so happy that I made it to the train! The next tricky stop was to figure out how I would get from the Beijing train station to the airport. At this point I really wanted a shower before getting on my 10 hours flight back to Canada. 

As soon as I arrived in Beijing I had an extra two hours to spare before needing to get to the airport. With a few extra hours my plan was to find a place to shower and also find a free bus ride to the airport. I decided that the best option was to head back to the hostel I stayed at 2 weeks before hand. So I crept through the hostel’s lobby to get to the showers. After a quick shower, and feeling fresh again I tiptoed back through the lobby hoping no one noticed me entering and leaving. Although, there was a lady who questioned me but I just kept walking quickly to avoid the questions. After leaving the hostel I knew I had to find a way to get to the airport on a very low-budget. Without hesitation I knew very quickly what my best option was. I entered into a luxury hotel and asked the reception when their next bus was to the airport. The lady mentioned that the bus comes every 30 minutes, which happened to be perfect for me. Within 15 minutes of waiting I jumped on the Hilton bus to the airport and arrived at the airport just on time for my flight.

I was so happy to know that with my very tight budget, my backpacking trip to China was a success. Even though it was difficult and stressful during many moments I still managed to find ways to solve my dilemma.

I find during my travels when backpacking, many issues arise that can be predicated and others that can’t be, but no matter what you learn from those experiences it will just make you a stronger backpacker.

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Comments (1)

  • mary

    Girl, you have stones. Kudos to you for being such a problem solver. Keep going for it and you will never be disappointed in yourself.


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