You can save money thousands of ways when travelling, it’s all about weighing up the costs (literally) and the benefits of each method. I’ve met people as I’ve travelled who have been gone for months and spent yet a handful of cash in doing so. One guy I met hitchhiked everywhere and then would sleep in mosques and supermarkets to save money. Others have blown extraordinary amounts in a short time because that’s what they were after and it wasn’t an issue. However it’s no coincidence that they were on holiday rather than living a life of perpetual travel. The following post goes through some of the good, better, best options for saving money on travel experiences.
You’re going to need a bed wherever you end up and of course there are varying options available to you.
Offering clean rooms and facilities, as well as a certain level of class, hotels are far more suited to middle aged and older travellers, or people travelling with families. Price varies on the quality where you can spend $30 for a night or $3000, all dependant on where you are and the type of room you seek. You receive a level of cleanliness, service and privacy that you just won’t get in the other accommodation options.
Probably the most common option for young people travelling today. A shared dormitory with anywhere between 4 and 24 beds (and more in some rare cases), shared kitchen and bathroom facilities and one hell of a good place to meet other travellers and wonderful people. A distinct lack of privacy but at an affordable price. Shared kitchens also provide you with alternative ways of saving money and a great source of budget beating ideas. There are certain unique hostels you can stay in such as a docked boat or even a retired 747 jumbo jet, both located in Stockholm.
Best: Couchsurfing, Camping
Be it friends, family or having been organised through a forum, there is no cheaper form of accommodation than someone who will let you stay for free. I personally always feel compelled to show my gratitude in some way, shape or form but the monetary value for this is always zilch. Plus you get the chance to see hidden sides of a place that you wouldn’t venture to in just a visiting capacity. Another great option is wilderness or urban camping. Initial outlay for a tent and kit can be a bit more pricey but allows you a bit more flexibility in where you can stay!
Resources: couchsurfing.com, friends and family
Travel isn’t travel if you stay in one spot the whole time. At one stage or another you’re going to have to get up and move to the next place. Fortunately, there are a multitude of options available to you. I find transport is the one where you can save the real big bucks, it just often involves being a touch more creative and thorough with how you get places!
Good: Planes, buses, trains
These methods of transport can often be the easiest and most efficient way to get places but not always the cheapest. There are a lot of places where this can be insanely cheap, particularly with budget airlines these days but if you don’t mind spending a little longer and taking to by road, there are on average, cheaper options.
Ridesharing is kind of like organised hitchhiking, except it’s not free. Normally you chip in a little bit of money for petrol and tag along with a complete stranger, who by the end of your lengthy journey is not so strange anymore. Rarely costs you anything more than about $20, and that’s often in the more extreme cases. The only issue is that you might have to be flexible about where you’re getting to but popular routes often have several trips a day.
Resources: BlaBlaCar, people you meet
And of course the best option is completely free. Hitchhiking has helped travellers get around for centuries and relies solely on the kindness of a stranger passing by to pick you up. Experienced hitchers have all manner of methods to help them get a ride and preferences they’ve developed to get them where they’re going. I’ve heard plenty of stories about people being invited back for free accommodation, meals and to swap stories with the person giving them a ride. The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze!
Resources: Your thumb
A man’s (and a woman’s) gotta eat! Without a doubt one of my biggest expenses is my food intake, based solely on my consumption and my laziness. I could definitely do with practicing what I preach here, but then I’d miss out on some amazing feeds!
Good: Tourist centre restaurants
You all know the places. Really classy, gourmet food, great location and of course, really expensive for a budget backpacker. Nice to indulge in every once in a while but will kill your funds if you frequent these places.
Better: Off the grid restaurants, street food, fast food, uni centres
I’ve eaten way too much fast food since I’ve travelled. Sometimes because it’s cheap, sometimes because it’s easy and sometimes solely because it’s familiar. Those are just the meals to get by but some of the best meals I’ve had have been off the beaten path, the diners, delis and restaurants dedicated to the working class man of the cities and towns I’ve visited. Affordable and traditional, these meals are wonderful and sits you amongst the locals treating themselves after or during a hard days work. Another great choice is to find the universities in town. Many establishments near unis offer very cheap meals as they know most students are broke. A great option when looking for a well priced meal.
Resources: word of mouth, recommendations
Best: Cook yourself
Of course the cheapest method is to cook for yourself. It can be anywhere from packet soup, microwave nachos or the staple of most backpackers around the world, spaghetti and pasta sauce. My appetite has significantly diminished since I started travelling but even splurging, I can feed myself for less than €10 a day. I can guarantee most people wouldn’t eat this much. This also of course depends on the price of groceries so in cities like London and Stockholm, it’s going to be a bit more expensive than your Warsaw’s and Berlin’s.
Resources: local markets, supermarkets
Not everyone visits a city or a country to learn about the place but then you can miss out on hidden gems, be they historical, cultural or even physical. Of course some methods are cheaper than others.
Good: Paid tours
Sometimes paid tours yield the most amazing experiences as they are someone’s profession. We had a paid guide for ten days in Egypt and he was close to the most knowledgeable man I’ve come across. In saying that, it cost an arm and a leg for him for that time.
Better: Free tours, guidebooks
Most places you stay will suggest a free walking tour or offer pamphlets with a reasonable amount of information in regards to places worth visiting. Most free walking tours do ask for a simple donation at the conclusion of the tour and as I am rarely one to not pay that, I don’t truly consider them to be free. Many people still use guidebooks getting around places, be they Lonely Planets or something they just picked up at hotel/hostel. There are also tons of little pamphlets but again, they don’t have quite the extensive info these books have.
Resources: free handouts at tourist informations and accommodations, bookstores
Best: Your own research
With the wealth of information that the internet possess, you will not be able to gather more facts and interesting things about a place than by researching it yourself. I’ve yet to come across a place, even in the middle of nowhere that hasn’t had wifi or an internet café somewhere and you can spend hours upon hours upon hours researching. But of course, then you have to go out and piece it all together yourself.
Not everyone has their vices, but most people do. Coffee, alcohol and cigarettes are amongst the most common ones that pop up for travellers. Keeping these under control can maintain a far more healthy bank balance than if you go wild with them. It’s almost ironic in that I didn’t really drink beer of coffee before I travelled and yet here we are…
Go wild. Drink, smoke and whatever else you choose to do as much as you like, I mean you’re on holiday for a reason! Deal with the repercussions when you get home.
Better: Self provided
If you’re going to have coffee, have some instant coffee from the hostel. Many hostels even offer free tea and coffee. If you’re going to have beer, buy it from the local store, load up on a few before heading out. If you’re going to smoke, which when coming from places like Australia and the UK where cigarettes are insanely expensive then pretty much anywhere is a saving. In saying that, I still know of people who buy bulk tobacco in places like Eastern Europe so they don’t have to worry about topping up again as they go.
In fairness, there aren’t many travellers who are going to throw all of their vices away. As I mentioned before, I picked some up that I didn’t have before hand. I do however know that I can give away coffee and beer in an instant if I’m running real slim on funds. I dare not think about how much money I’ve spent on beer travelling, even if it were at Bratislava prices of €1 pints as opposed to the €7 pints I’ve had in Sweden… But of course, the cheapest way to control your vices is to dispose of them!
I’m not saying that the best options listed above are the best options to travel. They are just the best options in being able to save money in some key areas. Of course, saving money in many of these regards does forfeit other benefits but you take it as it comes. Although the beers could definitely do with toning down…