Budget traveling a blast even in big cities

I’ve always thought of budget traveling being something that only happens in places like Southeast Asia or South America, because things are cheap there and their currency is usually valued less, but traveling Canada for 6 weeks on a Southeast Asia budget seems to be working out for me. I love the $0.99 pizza kiosks, dollar stores that sell virtually anything for a dollar, couchsurfing and rideshare networks.

Most people know what couchsurfing is, and rideshare is basically another way for roadtrip travelers to save money: If you have room in your car and want to split gas cost, you offer backpackers or other commuters a spot in your car, or if you are looking for a ride somewhere, you can go on web sites like craigslist and say you need a lift and then people taking that route can offer you a spot for a lot less than even major bus companies like Greyhound.

I took such a rideshare to Quebec City for St. Jean Babtiste day, otherwise known and celebrated as the Quebec national holiday, and also to Ottawa to celebrate Canada day in the country’s capital. Tomorrow I embark on a 1000km trek to Halifax, and of course rideshare pulled through and a ride has been arranged for 60% cheaper than a bus, and a lot less expensive than flying. And besides, the trip is about the journey and not the destination, so driving there seems like more fun. Slow travel is also better for the environment, no use emitting all that carbon on a plane when you can take the scenic route.

Anyway, back to budget travel surprises… I have never had so much free and consistent entertainment anywhere else before Montreal. I’ve seen so many free concerts, including Sarah Maclachlan and Stevie Wonder to name a few, and I’m just missing  Ben Harper by a few days. Canadians are also really nice people, they stand by their reputation of being friendly with all the free bbq’s and parties I’ve happily attended. I walked past a restaurant one day last week called Globe, and the manager wanted to commend me for my quebecoise patriotism ( I was wearing a Quebec flag in my hair) by inviting me in for some sangria that turned into a few more drinks and another similar visit the next day. All in all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the $10 a day I’ve managed to get away with spending, excpet for on special occassions when I feel like splurging and spend a full 10$ on an amazing meal of mussles!

But, to put things in perspective, its difficult to be traveling with the issue of currency exchange, especially if your base currency is Icelandic kroner (now, not accepted anywhere for exchange), and everytime I swipe my Icelandic credit card, I think “imagine if the currency was still worth double that of the dollar?” Things would be a lot cheaper, or I would just live like a queen off double my budget.

Photo from www.bloomberg.com