Not Too Tight of a Travel Budget: Scuba Diving

I’m on a tight budget. Because I want to travel for months on end, I can’t act like I’m on a two week spring break and let lose financially. Saving a few dollars is worth passing on the western food, and walking an extra few sweaty blocks with my backpack to find a cheaper accommodation is commonplace. I once heard about a few girls on an extreme traveling budget. They decided to walk an extra 2 kilometers to buy water from a different shop. The total savings in the end, the equivalent of 5 cents.

While that’s an extreme case, many people chose not to participate in some activities in order to save the money, and often times, that is a good decision. Activities on the road range from rafting or zip-lining to caring for elephants and can be very pricey. A lot of the time I have to pass, but even on a budget, I fell its needed to splurge from time to time. I believe missing out on something is not always worth the few bucks you would save. In Laos, we chose to do a three day trek through the jungle and it ended up being some of the best few days of the trip.

Coming up to the present, I was debating scuba diving. I’ve wanted to do it for years but it’s expensive. There really isn’t any way around it. A single dive is usually fifty plus dollars and getting certified will run around three hundred, and that’s in one of the cheapest spots in the world. I traveled half way around the world to one of the premier scuba diving locations, Southeast Asia and if I were to pass on the opportunity now, I would have to question why I’m traveling in the first place. I’ve come to these exotic places to experience the best that they have to offer, right?

view from Koh Rong Saloem

Why come here and not look below the surface?

In the end, scuba diving met all of my expectations. It was amazing. Being able to breath while you’re swimming around at the bottom of the ocean is just a surreal experience. We saw huge jellyfish and 18in puffer fish and were followed by a group of large batfish all the way to the surface, but my favorite moment had to be when a large school of shiny silver fish completely engulfed us. There is simply so much life down there that goes completely unnoticed at the surface.

prepping scuba gear

Our instructor, Dave, prepping the equipment

I shelled out the money willingly and am so glad I did. Some travelers are just too cheap and it ends up costing them more in the end

6 thoughts on “Not Too Tight of a Travel Budget: Scuba Diving

  1. Scuba diving is really amazing, I’m with you. I did my first dive in Koh Phangan 4 years ago and discovered a new world. After that I did my Open Water in Vietnam and Advanced Open Water in Perhentian Island (Malaysia). That’s true it’s expensive, but it’s worth it. I always try to find a nice spot to dive in my trips in SEA. Now that I already have my licence just need to pay for fun dives which is not that expensive. If budgets allow to do that, I strongly recommend so.

    • Couldn’t agree more. It’s so worth it, just an amazing experience. I’m headed to the Perhentian islands soon and will definitely be diving. Can’t wait

  2. Just a couple thoughts here:

    * Snorkeling is way cheaper then scuba. Often you’ll see most of the same creatures while snorkeling. Plus, you’ll get all the time you want with them. It is amazingly easy to float for hours on the surface and stare down. Sadly, it is becoming harder to find good snorkeling spots. For snorkeling to be good, you need reef that is shallow. With global warming and stress caused by well.. snorkelers and swimmers, most shallow reefs are dying out. Do some research and you will find some awesome snorkeling still to be had in the world.

    * As for scuba: You don’t need a the full open water pad certification. You can opt for their “scuba diver” course. The course is shorter and cheaper and still lets you dive with a group at a shop. The “open water” lets you arrange your own dives. Most people are not

    Phil, if you see this post: how did it go in the Perhentians? Never heard of them before your note. How’s the snorkeling there?


    • I agree Matt, snorkeling is much cheaper and often a great alternative. However, scuba diving had been something I’d wanted to do for years so it made sense to get it done in an inexpensive spot like Asia. Another big reason to go with the open water cert, I wanted to do more diving during the rest of my trip. At this point, I still had Malaysia and Indonesia to visit!

      As far as the Perhentians, I took a bus to the coast from Kota Bharu and then there are speedboats waiting there to take you to the islands. I only snorkeled off of the northern end of Long Beach but it was quite good. An eagle ray and a cuttlefish were a few of the highlights. They also have snorkel tours which I heard were full of turtle sightings.

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