Can you do paradise on a budget?
In theory we all know that by changing how we work we can have all the freedom in the world. But in practice, how realistic is it to actually capitalise on this? The sort of dreams that keep us wide-eyed with longing at night, desperate to squeeze more out of life don’t tend involve run of the mill destinations. It takes the force of somewhere awe-inspiring to knock our life off its axis and spinning in a new direction.
Often, these visions get shelved as the practicalities of working for yourself and managing achievable trips take precedence.
But is it also achievable to take those fantasy trips?
Can you experience paradise on a budget?
Gathering proof of ‘yes, absolutely’ will be a lifetime project for us (someone had to step up…) but here is just one example of the money saving secrets which are revealed once you arrive at any dream destination.
Our Case Study – French Polynesia
Whether you rock up on a first class or economy flight you’ll be serenaded by a Tahitian duo in skimpy outfits at the airport; and whether you spend hundreds or thousands you’ll still be basking in the same South Pacific oceans and glorious sunsets. If you can enjoy eye-wateringly expensive French Polynesia on a tight budget, you can do it almost anywhere.
- Taxis from Tahiti airport are expensive but they do operate a fixed price so you know what to expect. If your flight arrives in the day you can save yourself quite a few dollars on the night time price.
- After arrival in Tahiti hop on a ferry from the main city of Papete to the next island, Morea. It’s about ten dollars one way for a 30 minute ride and the boats run regularly.
- There are so many islands to choose from (they cover an expanse the size of Europe!) and you don’t have to go far to find some idyllic gems. Although pricey, flying is usually the quickest and easiest option as the islands are so spaced out. Just make sure you have worked out where you are going and when (you can do various hops to different islands) as although you can change dates you can’t alter destinations. Booking flights from outside of French Polynesia seems to be more expensive than when you are in the country. There are deals on multi tickets which travel in zones. For instance, buying a multi pass to several islands within a zone will be cheaper than getting individual tickets. Check which zone (blue, red, green) etc the islands you want to visit are in. If your choices cover two zones you may want to rethink in order to get the best flight prices.
- On Morea you can get a local bus to your hotel for a few dollars, which is much cheaper than the taxis. You may have to wait a bit and may not be sure which bus to take (you can’t really go wrong, they loop the perimeter of the island, one going clockwise, the other the opposite) but ask the bus drivers for help, they are very friendly! Check out this option on the other larger islands too.
- There are some islands you can reach by cargo ship- you just need to go the docks and see if you can speak to the captain. Depending on route and space they may let you hop aboard- they only run a couple of days a week though so plan in advance. There has to be something perversely satisfying about arriving on Bora Bora, one of the most exclusive and expensive islands in the world, from the belly of a greasy, bright red tanker!
- Avoid the big, fancy resorts and search for ‘Pensiones’ instead. A pensione will either be a family run guest house or a smaller hotel. They often have wonderful locations without the fuss and price tag. You’ll find some have websites but for others you’ll need to do your research on the ground.
- There are camp grounds in French Polynesia and resorts with tents/ tepees. If you are a home exchanger there are around 30 options throughout the islands. They get a lot of offers, but it’s worth a shot!
Food & Drink
- French Polynesia is in the middle of the ocean so it stands to reason they like their fish. Apart from their delicious tropical fruits, most other things are imported in; apparently all the way from France if the bread, cheese and wine are anything to go by! If you have your own cooking facilities keep an eye out for the fish stalls that flash past as you travel the main roads. Stalls are probably overstating, it’s more likely to be a guy with a pole and four or five huge fish dangling from hooks. Although fresh each day, grab some early before they becomes infused with exhaust fumes!
- In the capital, Papete, food carts are set up in the main square at night, right where the cruise ships come in. They cover eclectic cuisines, predominantly with French, Polynesian and Chinese influences. If you are a sushi fan you’ll be able to eat melt in your mouth cuts of super fresh fish for a fraction of what you’d usually pay, often with a coconut-y Pacific twist.
- As night falls food vans spring to life along the sides of the road serving all sorts of goodies to the local population at great prices. Fruit is available from roadside stalls all day.
Sight-seeing and adventure
- Trips can be another big cost but you can take the DIY option. Rather than joining a pricy kayaking trip for instance, most resorts provide equipment for hire. Simply paddle over to the spots where the tourist boats are headed- that’s where you’ll find the best sea life! We were offered to tie our kayak to one boat while we swam with the rays the crew had coaxed in for their tourists to swim with. Before we cast off we were even were handed delicious slices of fresh pineapple!
- Another good way to see the island sites without breaking the bank is to look at the tour itineraries and then hire a car for the day to cover as many as you can on your own. Of course you don’t get to hear some of the local knowledge but you do have more freedom to find trails and stop for lunch away from the hoards.
What’s your dream paradise destination?
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