A recurrent question when I tell people about my travels is: « How do you find the money to travel that much? ». Truth is… yes, travelling is expensive but it doesn’t have to empty your bank account every time! I’ve gathered a few tips I learned over the years to save money while traveling. I’d say my first (and most obvious) advice would be to travel somewhere cheap. Hostels, food and transportation in South-East Asia are a lot cheaper than in Europe. However, once you set your mind on a place you want to go, here are my tips to save money!
1. Book cheap flights
The highest expense one will often spend for a trip is flight tickets. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way! I wrote a detailed article sharing my tips for flight shopping (read it here). However, I can tell you here that it is important you use the right websites or apps to to find cheap flights (my favourites are SkyScanner, FlightHub, Flight Network and Hopper!). You can also follow cheap flight alert websites (Yulair, for example). Adapting your itinerary or the dates of your travel, if possible, can also help you fly for cheaper! Also, always make sure you book with cheap airlines when those exist in the area you travel to. Finally, the moment you book your flight and the device you use to book it will affect the price… details on this can be found in my other article!
2. Wait before booking buses and trains tickets
Some apps like Busbud or Rome2rio are great to plan your trip in advance. However, even if those sources often suggest some of the cheapest options, you might be able to find cheaper ones once on the field. For example, chicken buses in Guatemala won’t be an option presented by Rome2Rio but if you get on those, you’ll end up paying 2$ in stead of 20$! You might have to forget about comfort and it might take longer to get from point A to point B, but it can save you lots of money! Therefore, I would suggest waiting before booking buses and train tickets and just ask around, to hostel staff, other travelers and locals, to find the cheapest options!
3. Couch surf or stay in hostels
There are many accommodation options for travelers: Hotels, AirBnB, couch surfing, hostels… Obviously, some are more expensive than others! You’ll be treated like a king in hotels, but if you don’t have the financial resources of a king, this option might empty your wallet! AirBnB are great if you are a small group of people traveling together and staying longer in one spot. Hostels are my favourite because they are really cheap (between 5$ – 30$/night depending of the location) and are super fun to meet other travelers! I wrote an article about how to find the best and cheapest hostels (Read it here). Finally, couch surfing is the cheapest (because it’s free) to travel, plus, it gives you the opportunity to meet locals!
4. Cook, don’t eat out
You’re planning your trip, you added up the price of your flight tickets and the cost of accommodation… you think you end up with a general budget of most of your expenses for the trip…until you realise you forgot to budget for food! Food is kind of essential… Indeed, most doctors recommend it to be taken daily, ideally three times a day. Yep, with food included, your budget goes up! However, there are still ways to save money on food. Don’t eat out for every meal during your travels. That’s would cost a small fortune! If you stay in a Airbnb or in a hostel, you will have access to a kitchen! Therefore, go to the grocery store, buy food and cook: you will save a lot! If you make friends in the hostels, suggest cooking a meal together to save even more! Now, it’s also important to taste the speciality meals of the country you travel to, so ask around what are good but not too pricy restaurants. Street food is also a cheap options I loooove (please do not prosecute me if happen to get sick from it, though!)!
5. Go for public transportation rather than taxis
New city means new public transportation system and it can be confusing. Some travelers will rather take a taxi from point A to B, especially in countries where the price of those is 10X cheaper than what we’re used to. Yes, that taxis ride might cost you 6$, while you’re used to paying 30$. But you could also be paying only 0,30$ and use the other 5,70$ on food or even to pay one night at the hostel! The taxi doesn’t look that cheap anymore, does it? Google Maps can help you get around with some public transportations services and you can also ask around for directions. Make sure you also ask the regular price charged to locals for those bus trips (strangers tends to be charged higher in certain countries)! Plus, taking the bus and the metro is a wonderful way of sharing life with locals and can lead to fun stories of getting lost! Totally worth it!
6. Shop your activities tickets
Another expense one can easily forget while budgeting for their trip is the money that will be spent on activities. Sadly, lots of things that are worth seeing and activities that are worth doing are not free (Happily, lots of them are!!). Now, that doesn’t mean your only option is to show up to those places and pay what they ask for. Well… yes, you will kind of have to do that, but before you do it, make sure you inform yourself so you won’t have to pay the highest price! Some places might have many ticket options (some including audio tours, extra sections, etc.) so make sure you know what ticket fits the best for what you want to do/see. Also, some places charge cheaper fees on certain days or certain people. Make sure you know about this and have your student or resident ID, for example! Some activities that require guides, instructors, etc. often have different options for all budgets. Make sure you shop for the right one according to your budget! Blogs are awesome sources of information’s for this!
7. Avoid booking expensive tours
Tours can be great to get more information about the places you’re going! However, most of the time, they are really pricy! I developed the habit of taking the time to read on the Internet information about the places I visit instead of booking tours… I might get fewer details about specific things, but I’m also saving lots! It also let me go to the speed I want to, not having to follow a group. You can screenshot the website pages with the information on your phone to read about the different things you will see while walking around, just as if you had an audio Guide! As for city tours, free walking tours are a great option if you want to get a tour of the city but don’t want to spend the equivalent of your food money for the day on a hop on and off tourist bus. Free walking tours are not exactly free, as you are encouraged to tip your guide at the end of the tour, but they are surely the cheapest way to get a guide around the city.
8. Pack light
Another great way to save money while traveling is to bring only a small and light backpack. There are two main reasons for this. First, if it’s small enough, it might fit as a carry-on on the plane and you’ll be saving on luggage fees. Make sure you read about the luggage allowance and what are the sizes and weight limit for carry-ons on your flight and try to pack so it can fit in those limits! The second way packing light will save you money is that you won’t mind as much walking long distance or taking public transportations in stead of taking a taxi if your backpack is lighter than if you are carrying a giant monster of backpack! I wrote an article about light backpacking if you need any tips (read it here)!
9. Make a budget
This is a hard one for me since I’m not much of a budget person in my daily life… but it becomes essential while traveling, otherwise, I just won’t know where all my money went. Without booking everything yet, look at the general prices of hostels, look up planes, activities and bus tickets prices, read blogs about how much public transportation and food cost daily. Be well informed so you won’t be awfully surprised. Make sure you plan an approximate budget prior booking your flight tickets, as it might lead you to adjust the length or destination of your trip! Make sure you round the prices up and add a small “incidents” amount. While traveling, stick to the budget.
10. Travel with people that have the same budget as you
One of the reason why I now love traveling solo so much is because I don’t have to fight about what hostel, restaurant activities to chose… you might both know you want to see Machu Picchu, but you don’t know the other person want to stay in hotels, eat out every night and get a guide to see the ruins. If your budget is 500$ and theirs is 1500$, either they will be really unsatisfied with such low comfort, either you’ll have to break your piggy bank. Chances are, you’ll both come back from this trip with frustrations. Same thing goes with the people you meet while travelling and choose to hang out with. Make sure you discuss how you want to spend your money and, if you’re on the same page, be thankful for the perfect travel buddy!
Sadly, they are no secrets in order to travel with the best comfort and see everything without having to spend much. However, if you are ready to make adjustments, to live an adventure and to inform yourself well, you will get the chance to see much more of the world and won’t regret any penny you spent. First because it was well spent, second because it was totally worth it!