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How to Travel on a Budget
It isn’t rocket science, but the more money you save, the further your money will go, and the more places you will be able to see. It seems like an obvious statement, but don’t you want to enjoy yourself at the same time? Instead of constantly watching the pennies? This article is my personal guide to travelling on a budget effectively, without taking away the fun.
We all have various ideas on how to travel on a budget, but few of us act on what we think is the right thing to do. We always get caught up in the moment, and when we see that novelty gift that we must buy, or the restaurant that smells so good each time you pass, it’s easy to see how the money melts away. We shouldn’t have to be conscious of the money we are spending, not when we are busy enjoying ourselves, right?
I will begin with saying a holiday is different to travelling. In other words, when we are on holiday, it is normal to splash out, and to eat out every night. A holiday tends to be short, and therefore running out of money will only be a temporary problem. Once back home everything will be fine again. But when you are travelling, and it’s for months rather than weeks, knowing how to handle your money becomes that much more important.
Take traveller A and traveller B, for instance. Traveller A comes out with a little money, and stays in hotels or accommodation in the heart of the city, eating takeaways during the day, and drinking out each night. They travel everywhere by bus or train, and often treat themselves to nice, new clothes. Traveller B comes out with a little money, stays in hostels outside of the city, eats food bought from supermarkets, and cooks their own meals in the evening. They go out most nights, but rarely drink a lot. And when they want to get places, they simply walk, or hire a bike for the week.
Again, it may seem obvious by what I’m saying, but the amount of people I meet when travelling who say they have no money and can’t afford to do anything, and yet spend money going out each night, as well as eating rubbish, says to me that people don’t think along the obvious lines. It’s all about having fun until they reach breaking point, and are forced to go back home early. Traveller A was one of these people, and had to return home because they couldn’t find a job in time. Traveller B had the time of their lives, and were able to find work based on the amount of time they allowed themselves before money became critical. It’s easier to watch your money when you’re not spending so much of it.
Travelling for me has always been about experiences, and the places you see, the people you meet and the cultures you learn. As you can tell, I’m not one of these people who likes to spend all their money on partying. I know we all have our own reasons for travelling, but it’s such a waste in my opinion. So how would I go about travelling on a budget?
1. Eat food bought from the supermarket. We all like to eat out and to sample the local dishes. There is nothing wrong with this every now and then, but food from the supermarkets can be just as nice, if not better, and so much cheaper. If you eat back at the hostel, ask others to put money in together and buy more food between you all. It helps limit spending, you have a lot of fun cooking it with others in the hostel, and it’s a great way to make friends and socialise.
2. Stay in hostels outside the city. It isn’t always possible to find good hostels outside the city, but it’s always worth the look. They are more personal, often much smaller, and the prices are much better. You don’t need to stay in hotels, and you won’t meet as many people that way. Some hostels are arguably much cleaner, and offer more than more expensive hotels anyway. Hostels in the city are typically huge, catering for masses of people, mostly party people. The hostels are impersonal and not so clean, and the noise is sometimes too much. Maybe I’m getting too old!
3. Use your feet. If you are able, walking is a great way of getting about. You see so much more, you hear more and you smell more. There is no better way to get involved in what’s happening around you than to actually be there. Looking at the world go by from a bus window makes you an outsider, and I truly believe you don’t get the best experience this way. Try hiring a bike also, as this will let you travel greater distances, and the cost of hiring – especially for a longer period of time – will be far better than the cost of local transport. Sometimes, the only option is to take local transport, and in places it’s free. Main cities often have a free bus route, so check this out if you can.
4. Refrain from buying too much. As a backpacker, the chances are you have no room to be lugging anything more around with you. Your bag is already full, and there is nothing more you need. People often throw old things away to make way for new things, but honestly, is it really necessary? Do you need more things, or are you just buying for the sake of it? You don’t need nice, new clothes being a traveller, and if you’re somewhere warm, a simple pair of open shoes will do, or one pair of walking boots if you are somewhere cold. You don’t need several shoes.
5. Make use of discounts and special offers. It’s time to become like your parents, and to search for the bargains. Supermarkets will always have special offers on, and many places hand out vouchers for certain attractions or certain shopping outlets. Don’t worry about being cheap. Take the bargains and reap the benefits.
6. Travel wisely. Do a bit of research before travelling long distances between places. Often it is cheaper to get a distance pass, or a multistop pass, or something similar. Think about hitching a lift with friends and sharing the cost of food and fuel etc. When buying local transport tickets, ask about offers, and explain you can get it cheaper elsewhere. Many places will offer you a good deal, so it’s worth trying.
7. Sometimes, the biggest is not necessarily the best. My final point is about tourist attractions. Just because something is popular, or more expensive, it doesn’t mean it is better. You can often find cheaper places to do things, and they can be better with fewer people. Also, booking in advance may work against you sometimes. If you turn up to an attraction a day or two before, you may be able to get a last minute rate, instead of paying the full price.
Take a bit of time to look for better deals, and to try bartering every once in a while. Spending more money doesn’t mean having more fun in my opinion. In fact, I’d like to think it’s the other way around.
Written by Daniel Stevens,
Founder of Roundtheworldtrip.org.
Find out more about the author
in my About page.