Published on April 20th, 2016 | by Philippa Whishaw
Pinch them pennies: 8 money-saving travel tips
Read time: a bit over 3 minutes
So you’ve spent the last six months pulling extra shifts at your job, cutting your own hair and eating tinned spaghetti out of a Frisbee just to afford that epic overseas trip. Well done you – saving for travel ain’t easy.
Even if you’ve managed to stockpile enough cashola to make it rain in the Amazon, once you get there, you’ll wanna make it last. Here’s how:
1. Make a budget
It may seem obvious, but before you go, set yourself a daily budget. Make sure you do your research, ‘cos everywhere is different ($90 in France, $50 in Morocco, $20 in India etc). Remember to factor in sneaky costs like airport taxes and tipping.
Think about what’s important to you: do you like to stockpile cheesy magnets? Are you a sucker for salubrious cocktails? That’s cool – we all have our weaknesses (mine’s visiting overpriced city sky-decks, because – views). Just make sure you allow for it in your budget. If you load your money in the local currency onto a Travel Money Card before you go, you’ll save on ATM conversion fees too.
2. Travel somewhere cheap
In the midst of your bohemian (read: broke) uni days, it makes sense to travel somewhere cheap. South East Asia is super affordable, fun and nearby (Jetstar and Virgin run regular sales on flights to Thailand and Vietnam). India, Sri Lanka and Nepal are other awesome options.
For Aussies, Latin America is more expensive to get to, but once you’re there you’ll be laughing – especially in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, and across most of Central America. In Europe, consider heading east into Croatia, Hungary or Poland. If you find yourself in pricier cities, keep an eye out for free stuff (entry into most of London’s major museums is free, for example).
3. Stay in one place for longer
Trying to cram four countries and nine cities into a three-week trip is gonna cost a LOT more than sticking to, say, just Mexico. The reality is that you’ll never see it all, anyway: once you’ve accepted that, it’s easier to chill out, slow down and enjoy the scenery (read: tacos).
4. Take public transport, like, errrwhere
Plane travel eats into your hard-earned monies like nobody’s bizness. So while you’ll probs need the old tin bird to GET to where you’re going, once you’re there, try to take local transport as much as possible. In South America, the bus network is awesome, whether you’re hopping cities in Bolivia or schlepping across the border from Argentina to Brazil. In Europe, it’s all about train travel, and in Asia, it’s a mix of both.
Public transport is also where the best stories happen – like that time you held a family of soon-to-be-eaten guinea pigs in your lap all the way to Cuzco, or got invited to an Indian wedding on the train to Agra.
5. Walk, walk, walk
You might know every Uber driver in your home town by name, life story and breath mint choice, but when you’re away, try to embrace your own inbuilt transport system: your feet. Walking is good for you and – doh – it’s FREE! Plus, it’s the best way to soak up local vibes, locate hidden treasures and do a little restaurant-reconnaissance for the coming evening.
6. Stay in hostels
Hostels are much cheaper than hotels, especially when you stay in a dorm. They are also way more fun and provide the perfect opportunity to fulfill any dreams you have of living in a commune (just bring earplugs and a few pre-prepared answers for ‘Never Have I Ever’). In South and Central America, a bed can be as cheap as $10 a night; in Western Europe, expect to pay closer to $40-$50. Guesthouses are more common throughout India and South East Asia, and are often epically cheap and cheerful.
7. Eat and drink local
Food is a huge part of travel. It can also be a huge part of your travel expenses, unless you play your (drink) cards right. Stay away from pricey tourist traps on the main city drags, and follow the locals to back-road sweet spots. Street food stalls, night markets and busy holes-in-the-wall are your best friends (just make sure everything is cooked fresh).
Remember those friends from your commune (cough, hostel)? To save money in pricier cities like London or Paris, join forces with a couple of legends from your dorm, hit up the local market or supermarket (remember to shop seasonably), and cook up a storm together. Group cooking = bonding + money saving + learning of new recipes and valuable life skills.
Want to really save some ducats? Group travel is where it’s at. Check out Geckos’ range of small group adventures.
Feature image c/o Andres Nieto Porras, Flickr