Travelling on a budget can be a bit of an oxymoron if you don’t know how to go about it. I have definitely made many, many mistakes on my travels abroad, but have come out a much wiser budget traveller. Even though I still have my splurges, I stick to a few general rules to keep my budget in-line. Travelling on a budget does not mean restricting yourself or having less of a good time, it is all about getting the most out of your trip for the money you have. I have put together five tips that will help keep your wallet full, and adventures cheap. Enjoy!
1. Always travel local.
Do everything as the locals do. This is by far the best advice I could give. Avoid tourist areas like the plague when it comes to dining options. Walk around and explore to see where and what the locals are eating. You will be surprised at how much cheaper food is just by walking a few streets away from major attractions. Street food is your friend. And delicious. Pay attention to what transport the locals are using, chances are they aren’t using the beer bus or over-priced taxis. Not only will you learn so much more about the country you are visiting this way, but the cost will be much easier to manage.
If you want to take it a step further, book your trips through local suppliers as well. Not only will this be cheaper than the big companies at home, it also supports the local communities you will be visiting. Try TravelLocal, they will pair you with a local company at your destination based on your requirements and budget.
2. Buy travel insurance.
It may seem strange to advise you to buy something when I am also trying to help you save money. But if you leave home with only one thing, let it be insurance for travelling. You can’t predict the future, or how you will land after that Paragliding jump. Travel insurance allows you to be prepared for every scenario, and avoid costly medical bills if something happens along the way. If you go for annual travel insurance rather than single policies, you will be covered for trips throughout the entire year and will pay substantially less. Even if you aren’t accident prone like me, you can’t control the weather, other people, or unforeseen circumstances such as flight cancellations. Just do it.
While it isn’t always an option, there are a lot of cities that are great for walking. If you have time on your side you can easily walk to where you need to go, while avoiding the high cost of public transportation. Amsterdam is a terrific example and if you have at least two days to explore the city it is much more cost-effective to explore on your feet. You will have a better experience seeing the sites on your own rather than a stuffed tour bus. If you are worried about getting lost, some of my favorite adventure adventures started off that way. Many cities also offer walking guides or tours, so do a quick google search before you leave.
Walkit.com has a great urban walking planner that gives you walking directions from Point A to Point B in cities throughout the UK.
4. Check out the freebies.
From free walking tours to free museum admission, check out what your destination may be able to give you for free. Most major cities have free walking tours, and only ask that you pay what you think the tour was worth at the end. You are under no obligation to tip, so can give as little or as much as your budget allows. A lot of major museums offer museum open days; the MOMA in NYC for example offers free admission to their collection every Friday night and the Louvre in Paris does the same the first Sunday of every month. Although there are definitely exceptions (Italy!) many churches/temples/mosques offer free admission onto the grounds. Regardless of your religious background, these sites offer some of the best architectural wonders and artwork around.
F.Y.I. Almost every museum in London is free to visit, the big cathedrals like Westminster Abbey are from from it. Expect to pay £18 which is equivalent to around $27-28.
Notre-Dame in Paris, Milan Cathedral, and the Djenne Mosque in Mali are all free, although for the latter you must be Muslim to go inside.
5. Be flexible.
If you want to travel on a budget, it is important to chillllll out. You don’t NEED to fly out on a Friday, and that bed in the 4*star hotel is not worth starving yourself the rest of the trip. By allowing yourself to travel with some flexibility you will save money and enjoy the experience even more.
-Fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday. While not always the case, flights are often cheaper on these days.
-Book a hostel instead of a hotel. Hostels aren’t for smelly 18 year olds anymore. Many hostels are starting to re-brand themselves as boutique hostels. All this means to you is nice room, small price.
-Be open to doing things that aren’t on the itinerary. When you travel you will meet people, and often these people know about great places that Frommer didn’t mention. Sometimes these things end up being the best parts of a trip, so don’t hold onto that piece of paper too tightly. These off-the-beaten-path adventures are, well, off-the-beaten-path. What does that mean to you? Less tourists means less chance for the locals to make a buck, which may translate to more money in your pocket.
“to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
Do you have any great tips for travelling on the cheap? Comment below and let us know!