Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little planning and foresight, even the world’s most expensive cities can be navigated on a budget. And that doesn’t mean your trips have to be any less rewarding. Many of the most inspiring, experienced, frequent travellers travel on a budget yet find the most fulfilling experiences as they explore new cities. Beyond money-saving tricks, there are several ways to kick up the fun factor as you travel the world.
Here’s some tips from our travel experts for enjoying your holidays on a budget.
Budget Travel Like a Pro
1) Talk to the Locals
No-one knows more about a town than the people who live there. Whether you’re looking for the best lunch spot, some shopping bargains or just a great view, the locals can point you in the right direction.
Have a chat in a cafe, be friendly to waiters, talk to taxi drivers. How this unfolds really depends on each city, so get a sense of the local culture. Sometimes you want to appear local for safety, but most of the time it pays to be open and friendly with locals who can offer the best tips if you ask.Our editor meeting locals on the walk along the Bamboo grove
“I got out of the hotel for a breakfast in a nearby French cafe in Tokyo. By asking the waiter for recommendations of must-try dishes and such, I gave cues that I was new in the area. He later made conversation asking where I was from and then offered some great tips of what to see and do in the area. Plus, developing a regular breakfast spot near the hotel is always something I find familiar and comforting whenever I stay in a city for more than a couple of days.” – Rebecca, Editor
2) Let the Hotel Concierge Help
The concierge is there to make your life easier. They can recommend the best way to get across town, book lunch reservations and maybe even get you tickets to that sold-out show. Don’t be afraid to ask for any kind of help and directions. Ask them for their own favourite lunch spots if you want to find some local eateries!
3) Travel Less and See More
A rookie mistake travellers often make is to try to see many as many places as possible in one trip. In fact, spending more time in fewer locations means you’ll be able to explore at your own pace, savour the local highlights and save a bunch of money on travel costs. It’s more satisfying and keeps you relaxed to actually enjoy your holiday.
4) Ask Your Friends for Tips (and Old Travel Cards)
If your friends have previously visited a city, they’ll usually have lots of recommendations. Scroll Facebook or Instagram to see who’s been there.
And hopefully some old travel cards you can use. Whether it’s Japan’s Pasmo Card or London’s Oyster card, using a friend’s card saves you buying one yourself. It’s also a good excuse to catch up with old friends.
5) Visit Museums on Free Days
Museums and cultural institutions often have ‘free’ days. As the name suggests, you’ll be able to visit without shelling out for tickets. Do a bit of research and plan your museum visits for the free days. If you’re travelling with a family, these sorts of savings can really add up.
6) Consider Serviced Apartments
If your accommodation comes with a kitchen you can head down to the local markets, pick up some fresh produce and eat like the locals, saving a fortune on breakfast buffets and late-night snacks. Serviced apartments are not necessarily more expensive than hotels, so it’s a great option to save on food and you also get lots more space. It’s a definite win if you’re travelling a group.
7) Friends of Friends Are Your New Friends
If you have distant relatives or friends-of-friends in town, drop them a line if it’s appropriate to visit them. People generally like showing off their cities to travellers, and you could even pick up some free accommodation.
8) Sample the Street Vendors
Whether it’s a pizza slice in New York, yakitori skewers in Japan or bratwurst in Germany, sampling local street fare is often a cheap and delicious way to power through lunch and dinner. Consult some travel guides beforehand and you’ll be able to enjoy an authentic culinary experience for a few bucks.
9) Get Around the City Like the Locals
Locals know their city and the best way to get around. Head to the Netherlands and you’ll see the majority of people are on bikes, in Japan the subway reigns supreme, while the scooter is ubiquitous in Thailand. Figure out how the locals get around and you’ll get from point A to B both more quickly and for less money.
10) Haggle Over Price
While some countries and cultures are more open to haggling than others, in places like the Middle East a little friendly banter over price is almost a ritual, and the sticker prices in markets are wildly inflated to accommodate this. Test your bargaining skills out and you might walk away feeling like a winner.
11) Travel Light
Do you really need four pairs of shoes, three sweaters and two pairs of jeans? Probably not. Packing only the essentials will make it much easier to get around, save you money on excess baggage and leave more room for souvenirs.
12) Eat Where the Locals Eat
If you’re in a touristy locale, you’ll often find that the price of food and drinks tends to be more expensive. Take a short stroll a block or two away from the main street and you could find more authentic restaurants with better prices.
13) Know the Local Currency
Getting confused about exchange rates and decimal places can turn a great bargain into an overpriced regret. Before you head overseas, invest in a decent currency converter app and you’ll always know what something costs in the currency you’re familiar with.
14) Limit ATM and Bank Withdrawals
Depending on who your financial services provider is, overseas currency withdrawals each time you use an ATM on your trip can be costly. Save a small fortune by limiting your withdrawals and using payWave whenever possible.
Remember to keep sufficient cash with you, and keep some aside for emergencies. Mishaps like losing your card can happen so you don’t want to be 100% reliant on one card. Keep a little cash with you till you get to airport on the last day, when you can spend it on some food or souvenirs.
15) Watch Your Data Roaming
Data roaming charges can be one of the most unpleasant surprises for any traveller. A quick Facebook update or Instagram pic can end up costing you several dollars if you’re not careful. Turn the data off as soon as your plane touches down so you won’t accidentally use any data beyond Wi-Fi.
Either check with your provider about a pre-purchased data plan, or get a local SIM when you travel overseas.
16) Get Travel Insurance
Self-explanatory. You can shop around online for the best deal, but travel insurance is usually very affordable, and will save you a fortune if you happen to get sick or injured while you’re away.
Get some tips on travel insurance here.
17) Pick Your Travel Season
Travelling around major holidays and international events is always going to cost more. If you can travel off season and away from the crowds, you could save big-time on transport and accommodation.
18) Research Your Hotel and Transport Options
A hotel located a little further out of town might be cheaper on paper, but if it doesn’t offer quick and affordable connections you’re just going to blow your time and money on a long commute. With Expedia, you can filter your search according to location and price, so that you can find an accommodation option that works for your budget. Staying close to train stations and airport connections can often be a big help.
19) Learn About Local Customs
In Italy and Southern Europe, having drinks at the bar is often cheaper than having table service. Learn local customs while travelling and you’ll both save money and be able to share those tips when you return home.
20) Set a Daily Budget
It’s easy to get carried once you’re on holiday. You’ll give yourself a free pass because, ‘nevermind lah, who knows when I will ever come back here again right?’. So once you’ve booked your flights and your hotels, set a daily budget for the rest of your spending. And keep to it!
Every evening, take 5 minutes to record what you’ve spent in a little diary. If you’ve spent a little more on one day, make sure you balance it out the next day. This doubles as a way to remember what you did each day, which is handy when the weeks have passed and you’re struggling to account for your spend. Or coming up blank as you try to put together that post-trip scrapbook.