How To Stay (Semi) Healthy Whilst Travelling On A Budget

I’m not going to lie, it’s hard and nigh on impossible in some places of Asia. You will struggle to find cheap food that doesn’t rely on you living on a diet of rice and noodles. Back home, I wouldn’t say I avoided carbs but I wouldn’t include them in every meal of the day. However, during our first month or so of travelling Southeast Asia, I found we were having them almost 3 times a day everyday and it wasn’t long before we both developed a little rice pouch on our fronts. Now, for all those fitness travel bloggers out there, I’m not trying to take your light here or pretend I am doubling as a fitness blogger but it is something we paid attention to a lot more towards the second half of our travels and I’m sure it’s something everyone is interested in.

Being totally zen in Ubud

We had a budget of £20-30 a day in most countries including our room (most of the time we managed to stay in A/C private doubles), which often meant we were budget on the food side because the sight-seeing costs always add up. We didn’t mind that though, as each time we got to a new country we made it our challenge to only eat local food for at least our first 3 weeks. However, whilst eating for less than £1 is great, as I said before, it does mean you’ll be mainly eating rice and noodles.

Here’s some little tips for what we did along the way to stay ‘semi-healthy’…

1. Try to only have a beer every few days

We spent our first month away pretty much having a ‘cheeky beer’ daily. After about a month of this, we both agreed that we would never have a drink every day at home so there was no reason to be doing it out here, especially when we were going to be sustaining a life like this for the next few months. So we cut it down to every 4-5 days. Now, don’t get me wrong, we weren’t strict, if one of us fancied one, they had one. But we soon realised the difference it made on our outgoings when we would decide to share a big bottle of water with lunch instead of a couple of beers.

During our first month of travelling you would have had to prize the beers out of our hands!

2. Beat the carbs

You’re going to get served rice or noodles with almost everything if you are eating local. If you want a salad, be prepared to pay triple the price of any other dish and prepare for it to be absolute crap (you’ve been warned – I made this mistake too many times). However, instead of being ripped off, you can still eat local, just don’t finish your plate of rice that comes with you curry, or leave half your noodles. In Thailand, we both agreed that it was easier to eat healthier as you have a bigger array of veggie dishes and things like papaya salad. Similarly, in Indonesia, you have Gado Gado salad which is cheap and healthy.

*Disclaimer: I may have made that sound easier than it was at times. When you are on a strict budget and had usually spent about an hour looking for a place to eat which is in your price range, the last thing you want to do is leave any food. We get it, we didn’t do it all the time, we just tried to eat slower and realise when we were full*

Me wondering how I’m going to ‘beat the carbs’ with my plate full of fried rice…

3. Hotel room workouts

We were partial to these when we were away. I had previously got hold of Kayla Itsines BBG programme so I would do her workouts and Glen would do body weight exercises and sometimes we did stuff together. We also went for a run once, but didn’t do that again – I’ll just say it only lasted 15 minutes and we are clearly not runners for enjoyment. I also know of people who have taken resistance bands with them to enhance these workouts and they are small enough to carry with you. Or if you are packed and ready to leave, do some sets of squats with your bag on your back! A little bit every day is all you need, even if you only do 20 squats that day!

Here’s a picture of us not working out – this is what we actually did 90% of the time

4. Hike to the top of that waterfall/viewpoint!

Chances are, if you are somewhere and you see a waterfall on the map as one of the things to do, it’s going to involve a little hike up. Put your trainers on (don’t be a knobhead caught out on slippy rocks in flip flops) and get up to the top – most of the time you can jump in to refresh after. Equally, almost every island or coastline will have some sort of viewpoint to hike to or 400 steps to climb so it’s a great bit of cardio with a reward at the end!

The highest pool of Erawan Waterfalls (Thailand) – totally worth the climb!

Feeling triumphant at a viewpoint on Koh Phangan

5. Water aerobics!

One of Glen’s favourite things to do. He will often take himself into the pool (we rarely had a pool) or the sea (more like it) to do an upper body workout. He would lift his toes out of the water, then do lengths in a seated position only using his arms, backwards and forwards. It was difficult and a good workout. Similarly, treading water without your arms is a good leg workout.

*If you happen to go to Bali, go to the west side beaches and try to stand up in the waves without loosing your bikini – that’s a good way to guarantee a workout and also take half the beach home with you*

Dashing into the waves in Amed, Bali.

Upper body workout with Glen

6. Find a gym

There were plenty of places on islands, beach towns and also cities where we came across gyms. We never went in one cause we knew we could work out without having to pay for it, but if you fancy the A/C and use of the equipment, they all came in pretty cheap per use, around £1-4.

…Or hire a bike where you can and have races (I was winning) – Gili T, Indonesia

Exploring Tioman Island, Malaysia

7. Get out and explore!

Walking will do wonders, sometimes you have absolutely no choice! Walk the 20 minute walk when you could get a bus or taxi, you’ll be able to take it a lot more of the sites than in a vehicle. But please only do it, if it’s safe to be walking out!

Woman on a mission in Java, Indonesia – We’d walked 18km and ‘climbed 92 floors’ before 10am this day!

Glen being at one with nature…

say ‘no/little sugar’ when you order smoothies & Juices

Thankfully this was something Glen was aware of having lived in Thailand before but they sure like to pile the sugar into their drinks, like most countries in Asia. If you aren’t aware of this, you find yourself thinking ‘damnn, this smoothies are amazing’ whilst thinking your being a health goddess drinking a healthy smoothie. That is until you see one made, most will put about 3 tablespoons of sugar and often add condensed milk for good measure too along with your ice and chosen fruit. Be aware, when you order a smoothie, if they don’t already ask make sure you say ‘little sugar’ or ‘no sugar’.

We asked for little sugar in this – it was still a tablespoon full!

but don’t stress out about it too much…

In all honestly, we were pretty bad at keeping fit whilst travelling. When we got to Vietnam and joined a gym, we realised just how unfit we were. Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re pretty much on holiday for a very long time, some weight gain and definition loss is expected as you are not in a regular routine. Despite not doing much, neither of us changed much as we were walking a lot, sweating a lot and hiking a heavy bag around which did it’s bit for our bodies so basically don’t panic and just enjoy the wonderful experiences!

Am I smiling or did sweat just drip into my eye?

I love sharing these kind of tips if you are going travelling, so check out my other posts for useful info for SE Asia travels, or drop me a message!

Grace xoxo