Five Tips for Traveling on a Budget
People always ask me how I’m able to travel so often, so I thought I’d share my tips and tricks for making going afar cost almost the same as staying home.
1. Sleep Cheap
This is perhaps the most important tip of all. I know hostels and Airbnb arrangements may not be as comfortable as hotels, but this is where you save a lot of money. Depending on where you are in the world, a hostel can even cost about 10% of the price of a hotel. I stayed at an amazing hostel on Isla Mujeres in Mexico for $13 a night with breakfast. I slept in a dorm bed, but did it really matter? The hostel was right on the ocean, about a five minute walk to the beautiful beach. The town was also close by. The site I use to book hostels is Hostelworld.com, I’ve used it for over ten years now and love it. You reserve through the site and pay Hostelworld a small fee, and you can compare different hostels before booking. People rate them too, so you can see how the hostels rank in terms of cleanliness, location, security, etc.
Airbnb has also opened up a new world of opportunities for the budget traveler. I’ve used it twice so far, and I’ve been really impressed. It’s great for short and long term arrangements. What’s nice about it is you get to know locals, people who can tell you about the nice things to see, pick you up at the station (in very friendly cases) and maybe even give you a bar of soap (I’ve had that happen). Usually hosts are open to their guests using their kitchen, which leads me to my next savings tip: eat cheap! But first, another thing I should mention here is that, if possible, renting out your home while you’re away is another way to save money.
2. Eat Cheap
There are lots of dollars/-euros/ -pesos/ -dinero, (whatever you call it!), to be saved when it comes to food. Think about it: a meal can either cost you a few dollars or a few hundred dollars! You can either eat at a simple bakery or a Michelin-starred restaurant.
When I look for places to stay, I usually look for places that offer breakfast, which cuts out one meal of the day. Next, I look for places that have kitchens so I can make my own food. If I’m busy sightseeing , I’ll buy food that doesn’t need to be cooked, like things to make salads or sandwiches. In France of late, I’ve been eating a lot of baguettes. It might sound so cliché, but they are about a Euro each and last for a few days (if they don’t dry out that is). They make the perfect base for a sandwich or jams in the morning. If you have a kitchen, you can make just about anything, saving you a lot at the end of the day. From time to time, of course, it’s great to go out to eat and get a taste for the culinary arts in a region, but, if you’re looking to stretch your traveling money, being aware of your food spending is key.
3. Plan Ahead
I’m the type of traveler who likes to leave things open. But there’s a limit to that. I think some things should be planned ahead, and this planning will also save you money, especially when it comes to transportation: flights, bus trips, train tickets. These generally cost less if you get them in advance. I’ll give you an example: I needed to get from Paris to Munich and I was looking at options. I had about two weeks until the travel date. Train tickets were around 200 Euros (for the fast trains). I looked into buses and I found a night bus for 29 Euros. Had I waited until a few days before the travel date to book the bus, however, it would have cost me a lot more than 29 Euros. Another example: I arrived to Geneva and had plans to meet up and stay with a friend who lives there. I went to meet her, but she didn’t come. After waiting for an hour, I finally thought I better find a hotel. It was getting dark. There are hardly any hostels in Geneva, and according to Hostelworld.com, they were all full (on a Tuesday in April). On top of it all, I didn’t have the right adapter for Swiss outlets, and my laptop died. So rather than searching and comparing hotels online, I had to zig zag from hotel to hotel looking for a place. After a great deal of stress, I finally found one, but boy did I pay for the last minute need! For transportation and accommodation, planning ahead can save you a lot.
This is going to be a short, straightforward tip: Rather than taking taxis or metros, walk whenever possible. This may not make sense in all cites, especially the gigantic, spread out ones, but in many cities the main sites to see are in the center. If you need to take transit, check to see if a buying a daily/ 3-day/ week-long pass would make more sense than buying individual tickets.
5. Do free things!
There are usually lots of things to see that don’t cost a ton of money — think ancient cathedrals or botanical gardens. Often there is no charge to enter these. People watching is another free activity. I’m not advising against museums or other historical/ cultural sites, (of course go!) but your time can easily be balanced out with site seeing that won’t cost you a penny!
Have any other tips for traveling on a budget? Share your thoughts below!