Many people ask me how I’m able to do my trips so cheaply. Of course, one has to save up first, but it gives you a bit more motivation if you know HOW MUCH you are going to need. There are many ways to skin a cat of course but this is my take on things.
I start first with hours of looking up what EXPERIENCES I want to have. In my upcoming trip to the mideast, especially in Oman, this is going to involve a lot of outdoor stuff.
Here’s my list for Oman:
Town stuff in Muscat
Visit a wadi (Wadi Shab)
Visit a sinkhole
Watch turtles laying eggs
Go to the beach
Camp in the desert in a bedouin tent
Hike Jebel Shams (mountain)
Visit Nizwa city, Bahla fort, and surrounding stuff
Phew! That’s quite a bit for 6 days, ja? Luckily in this case I can do a couple of these in one day. So, my next step is to see schedule-wise is it even possible to do these things.
I came up with this:
Day 1: Muscat city.
Day 2: Drive to Ras al Jinz. Wadi Shab and Bimmah sinkhole are both easy stops on the way, along with the town of Sur (they make dhol boats here historically).
Day 3: Hang at Ras al Jinz and later get to pickup point in Wahiba Sands desert for a desert camp (couple of options)
Day 4: Return from desert camp midday, and drive to Nizwa
Day 5: Nizwa. Later drive to Jebel Shams camp
Day 6: Hike Jebel Shams, back to Muscat for late evening flight
Wow! I managed to fit that all in. Unfortunately that took a lot of work and looking stuff up on the internet. When you get off the beaten path a bit (not everyone goes to places like Oman), one has to rely on traveller’s insights and reviews. I use thorn tree forum from Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor a lot.
Anyway, now that I know all this stuff is possible, I know time isn’t going to eliminate anything off the bat. Sometimes time constraints will eliminate stuff, so there are less things to figure out. Anyway, the three main expenses now are as follows:
I don’t count food since one has to eat anyway, and it’s almost always possible to eat cheaply eating local food. Supermarkets are a great place to experience culture and get cheap food as well.
Okay, now onto EXPERIENCES. Sometimes doing a tour will be a cheaper option (example: Green tour I did in Cappadocia, Turkey). Many times DIY is a much better option. In Oman DIY is a much better option because the set tours are geared towards more luxury clients, and is off the main backpacker scene. I was quoted 160-300+ Rials a day, with one Omani Rial= $3. Yikes!!!
So I know right away my next section, TRANSPORT, is even more crucial. Is there even public transport to where I want to go? In Europe and much of Asia, no problem. In Oman? Fat chance for the most part. A car then is absolutely necessary. With research, I’ve found that having a sedan, or “saloon” car, is fine; one doesn’t have to have a 4×4 for most places. When it’s necessary, it’s possible to arrange transfer or a tour for a reasonable price. I am looking at rentals and for an automatic, it’ll be around $30-35/day. It’s necessary, so already that’s the budget. I checked to see if renting it a day later (ie, after being in Muscat for a day) would make any difference, and the cost to rent the car for a day is cheaper than any transport to airport/back. So, I already know I have to budget $220 for the 6 days (this includes taxes).
Gas, however, is uber-cheap in Oman, $0.25-0.30/L. So it won’t be too much more. This part is easy: calculate distance you need to drive and what your gas mileage (kilometerage?) is of the vehicle, do a little math. Where I want to go is 979km. Rounding up to 1000km, with a rental car that gets 5L/100 km (pretty average for small car), you get 50L needed. 50L times $0.30= $15. THAT’s what I’m talkin’ about! Final transport cost: $235 or $39 a day. High, but necessary.