What Is Budget Diving?
Budget Diving is the art of being able to save money on a sport that´s widely considered prestige. Using the right budget diving techniques enables pretty much anyone to participate in diving activities no matter what financial background they come from.
Budget Diving does not mean that you will have to go diving with the shittiest equipment and with a somewhat suspect dive operator that you don´t feel comfortable with.
It just means that there are a few tricks that will help you to go diving without spending a fortune.
I started thinking about and dealing with this subject in 2017 while I was working in the Philippines as a Divemaster. Day in, day out I met new people, some of whom had already dived hundreds of times, some of whom had once gotten their OWD and had never dived since, some of whom had never dived before and wanted to try it, and some of whom had never dived before and didn´t want to try it. The last group didn´t want to dive because either they had health problems or they thought after passing their DSD (try dive), they wouldn´t stick to this way-too-expensive hobby anyway, so they might as well give it a miss.
After talking to several people holding this opinion, I realized that, apparently, a lot of people think that if you want to go diving regularly, you had to spend an immense amount of money every year. That may be true, but only if you choose to do so.
Until today, despite being a Divemaster, I have not once been on a pure dive vacation staying at a dive resort for a week or two, eating expensive food, and going on three dives every day. For some reason, I have always had the idea in my mind that traveling on a budget can be combined with diving. (Disclaimer: there may always be exceptions, for example, a liveaboard trip).
Now, you might think “But, Lena, diving is the thing that makes your budget travel experience expensive?!”. My answer to that: yes, it does increase the overall costs of my trip, but it doesn´t make it more expensive than if I had done bungee jumping, zip lining or skydiving instead.
While budget diving is something that comes to me naturally, it seems a lot harder for some people. In this post, I´m gonna share with you the main budget diving benefits and why I would always choose budget diving over an expensive all-inclusive dive vacation.
Benefits of Budget Diving
Reducing diving expenses is probably the most obvious benefit of budget diving. As a result, you will have money left to do even more diving than you had originally planned, to extend your overall stay or to spend it on other activities. Or perhaps even all three of them. 🙂
Finding ways to save money on diving-related activities is the essential thing when it comes to budget diving. Check out these ways to significantly reduce your dive costs.
Believe it or not, budget diving can actually help you have a more authentic overall experience.
Many people seem to believe that as a diver you have to stay in a dive resort with all-inclusive food options, a lovely room with a view, and deluxe in-room amenities. From my experience, this is the point when a dive vacation becomes wickedly expensive. But it doesn´t have to be!
In fact, if you really think about it, do you actually need a lovely room with a view when you´re out diving all day and just return to your room to sleep? Do you need all-inclusive food options when you´re out on the boat for lunchtime anyway? Do you need fancy in-room and hotel amenities you´ll likely not be using because there is no time? If yes, go and book a beautiful dive resort and have your dream dive vacation.
However, if you want to link diving with an authentic travel experience, consider staying in a hostel or guesthouse. Another popular option regarding cheap accommodation is Airbnb, where you can find rooms or even whole apartments rented out by locals. Not only is Airbnb a lot cheaper than booking a fancy dive resort, but staying with a local may be an advantage when it comes to insider´s tips and recommendations.
And who knows, maybe your host knows a good dive center in the area and can even get a good deal for you? Guess what, this is exactly what happened to me when I was in Martinique. I was staying with a host family, and their neighbor was a PADI dive instructor working in a small dive shop in another bay. If I hadn´t gotten to know him, I would have never checked out that particular dive shop (which was a lot cheaper than the touristy ones in my area) and probably wouldn´t have started my diving career with him as my instructor.
No matter if you go for a hostel, guesthouse, bed & breakfast or Airbnb, in the end, you can get the same basic amenities and level of privacy as a dive resort but at drastically lower prices and with a pinch of authenticity.
Not having all-inclusive food options in a dive resort means that you have to either find places to eat or cook your own food.
I know a lot of people who treat themselves to dinner at a restaurant all the time while on vacation as cooking is considered an “at-home-activity”. If that´s what you want, why not ask locals for some tips? They will be happy to provide you with recommendations for good restaurants, and perhaps even join you for dinner (depends on the country and culture obviously). That way you get to eat where the locals eat and learn about local cuisine, spices, and ingredients they use.
If you already picked up some recipes, try them out yourself. Go to the local market and do some shopping and cook your own food. Perhaps invite locals to teach you a specific dish, and in return, you may also prepare some of your national meals for them.
Not staying at an international dive resort, you´ll often find yourself in a situation with a local who doesn´t speak (much) English. It may be your Airbnb host, dive staff, a waiter, a shop assistant, or any other local you have to deal with. It won´t take long until you pick up a couple of words in the native language. Knowing just a few basic words like “thank you”, “sorry”, “good morning” or “bye bye” is usually something the locals appreciate and often goes a long way.
Eating at small roadside places and staying at an Airbnb apartment, you will inevitably surround yourself with locals and their culture. You will get an insight into their customs and traditions, their way of life, their values and beliefs. This alone will make your trip a lot more authentic. On top of that, meeting locals may also help you get some insider´s tips regarding hidden gems that only locals know about. In our globalized world where traveling has become so convenient, it´s hard to find places off the beaten path. Meeting locals is your chance of escaping mass tourism and dig into a world that is still undiscovered.
Last but not least, budget diving, similar to budget traveling, will inevitably lead to personal growth. There are things that you will learn on your trip that may seem trivial to you, perhaps even completely non-essential. But mind you, growth starts with small things.
- You will learn to budget. That is an ability some people master right from the beginning of their trip. However, there are others who significantly have to change their lifestyle and mindsets to stay on a budget. Learning the art of budgeting will help you not only on your trip but throughout all your life.
- You will also learn to socialize. Again this may sound trivial to some of you. However, a lot of people are shy when it comes to meeting new people, especially in another country. Finding the courage to talk to people you don´t know will both boost your self-esteem and make you feel as part of a group of like-minded people.
- You will also learn to organize and plan stuff. If you´re on a budget diving trip, there won´t be a travel agency that organizes your entire travel package. You will be the one to plan your own itinerary, find dive operators, look for cheap accommodation, use public transport, and make your own packing list. Being able to organize and meanwhile keep a cool head is an ability that you may also make use of in your daily routine at home or at work.
- You will learn to use common sense. Common sense is something that we hardly learn at school or university. It is something we learn from our family and experiences (e.g. you burn your finger on a stove plate). Behaving in a practical and sensible way is something you will inevitably learn by facing upcoming challenges abroad that you will have to cope with all by yourself.
- You will also learn to become mindful and enjoy the moment, which is something I consider one of my favorite achievements. In order to find happiness in small things, you also have to experience bad moments. Those hopeless situations will teach you the value of a good moment until, at some point, you will see a positive thing in almost everything you do.
- You will also get to know yourself a lot better, learn about your own weaknesses and strengths. You will find it easier to accept yourself for who you are.
Of course, there are tons of other things you will learn as well. Budget diving will open your eyes to the world we´re living in. Just like conditions around the globe, your experience will not always be glamorous, there will be times you will feel depressed, sad, angry, perhaps you´ll be asking yourself why the hell you´re doing this. But dealing with those moments is part of your inner development and will undoubtedly result in an overall enriching experience.
See also: 3 Incredible Wisdoms I Gained In Fiji
Personally, I love budget diving because the benefits you get are immense, regardless of whether you need to dive on a budget or not. Choosing budget diving on purpose opens doors. Even if I had the money to go on fancy dive trips at 5* dive resorts, I would still choose budget diving.