January 5th, 2015
Everyone would love to have the money to travel in style, stay in 5 star hotels and travel first class on planes but this is only a fantasy for 90% of travellers. Most of us have to travel on a budget, stay in hostels and pray that we have an aisle seat on the plane to stretch out into on a long haul flight. This is however the best way to travel as in many people’s eyes you are backpacking properly and getting a much richer experience, but you still need to tighten the purse strings and spend wisely.
I have composed a list of the top ten ways to travel cheaply to help first time backpacker. If you keep these points in mind on your journeys you may even return home with some loose change in your pocket.
Use Local Services
Be sure to make use of public services in foreign countries. No your taxes are not paying for them but it would be a shame to waste other people’s. I found that the local library was an excellent way to lower the cost of Internet access as in many countries access is free. Libraries are also a have a good source of travel information if you cannot get to a computer or again just to save money. The only challenge is finding a library, so do some research in advance or ask tourist information. Other services such as buses, museums, and exhibitions are often heavily subsidised or free so always be open to taking a look.
Walk Instead Of Ride
If you are sight seeing in cities you can get tired especially if the city is large and there is lots to see. If you have time then walk instead of riding the bus or tube because you will save a lot of money. Transport in major cities is always expensive in the Western world and in more developing countries you can be in danger of getting ripped off. To strengthen my argument, walking is also the best way to see things. If you jump on the tube and ride for 5 stops you miss everything in between and have a hole in your pocket. The cost of transport adds up quickly so save when you can.
This is my number one tip on how to travel cheaply. Overnight travel is a great idea because you can travel a long distance without the wait endured while being conscious, and save money on the accommodation for the night. You do not have the luxury of a full night sleep or the comfort, but the savings are huge if the journey is necessary. Asia has a lot of trains which take days to get from A to B i.e. the Trans Siberian Railway. Of course you would not travel the whole way in one stint but many have bunks and are slightly better than a coach. You may need a face mask and ear plugs.
Purchase Discount Cards
There are several cards which offer you discounts at many world wide attractions and for stays at budget accommodation. Google either the International Student Identity Card or if you are not a student the International Youth Identity Card. Getting a YHA card is also a great money saver if you are going to New Zealand, Australia or to an extent the USA. I saved a load of money in all these destinations. Each of these cards mentioned cost roughly 10 Pounds or 20 US Dollars but you can easily earn your money back.
Cut Back On The Booze
This is probably the last area that you will try and save on but it can be a big expenditure for some travellers. Try and get you drinking out of the way in South America and South East Asia while the drink is cheap. Anywhere in Australasia or Western Europe will be quite dear. Be prepared to also pay over the odds for drink in Muslim countries such as Malaysia as they do not consume alcohol for religious reasons. Remember you can drink back at home any time you like but you may only backpack once, so ensure you spend your money on the right things. Besides, nobody likes travelling with a hang over.
Swap With Other Travellers
Swapping items of clothing and equipment is very economical and practical when trying to travel cheaply through many different climates and countries. If you start out in cold weather but plan to move onto tropical countries then try and swap your coat for a good waterproof. You would not want a winter coat taking up space in your backpack anyway. Similarly, you can swap travel guide books for countries you have been to for those on countries you are going to. If you do plan to discard something, always check to see if there is something you can swap it for. People are usually very happy to oblige as everyone is a winner.
Limit your time in the city
Inevitably cities are more expensive than the outskirts but also have a lot to see and do. Alternatively you could avoid the cities and see all that nature has to offer. You could stay in the jungle in Thailand or Yellowstone National Park in the USA and save a lot on the high accommodation and entrance fees generally associated with cities. Even if you cut out a one or two city stops and exchange them for National Parks and hiking, then you will find the cost of travelling a lot less.
Avoid Travelling Long Distances
Long distance travel is typically undertaken by aircraft which is generally considered an expensive method of getting about, but it can be costly even by coach or train. Work out where you definitely want to go and plan your route carefully as you may have to make choices to skip places if you think you might not have enough money to get to them all. It is best to visit fewer destinations and do them properly rather than many and not have the money to enjoy them. It is cheaper to concentrate on doing everything in a certain region of a country rather than trying to move long distances between different regions.
As an aside, I find overland journeys are much more rewarding than internal flights as you can break the journey up and stop off to see lots of different things. Another good tip is to always book travel in advance, firstly to avoid disappointment, and secondly as sometimes discounts are offered. Unfortunately the best way to travel cheap is to not travel so much.
Opt For Shared Accommodation
Hostels do offer single or double rooms with en suite facilities but these can be up to five times the price of other rooms available. To keep the price low, opt into a shared dormitory with a shared bathroom. The size of the dormitory does vary from 15 down to 4 people but usually the more sharing the cheaper it gets. For instance, in New Zealand I opted for a private double room which cost 55 NZD a night between two, while other people shared a dormitory for as low as 15 NZD a night each. The savings can be huge especially if you are booked in for a long stay.
Eat Local Food
In Asia and South America the local people bring their cuisine to you. City streets are normally lined with locals selling good traditional food for lower prices than in restaurants and cafes. You can easily grab a generous portion of noodles or grilled chicken for around a Pound or a few US Dollars. Also, do not be surprised if you find the tastiest food at the side of the road either (and I am not talking road kill) as many local recipes are past down and refined through generations.