10 ways to save money when travelling
Unless you have rich parents who are willing to fund your global adventures, then chances are that you will have to start saving and looking at ways you can cut costs to fund your travelling.
Travelling on the cheap doesn’t mean you will have a bad trip, that you won’t get to do the things you want to do or that you will miss out on something, it just means that you could have more money in your back pocket to spend abroad on a present for a family member, or to go on additional trip once you’re away. Use our tips below to see how you can reduce the cost of your journey.
1 – Travel insurance
As boring as it may sound, travel insurance is the most important part of any trip. Although it may seem like an extra outgoing cost when you’re booking everything, it will definitely be worth it should anything go wrong. In 2010, we saw airlines collapse, airport workers go on strike and of course the ash cloud that brought most of Europe to a standstill; all of which would be covered by the right type of insurance, ensuring you get your money back rather than just losing out after you have spent ages saving up.
Gap year holiday insurance can cover medical expenses should you become sick or injured, while other scenarios such as having your passport stolen or your backpack not turn up at the airport can also be covered.
Also, if you can pay for your trip with a credit card, do so as you will have additional financial protection should something go wrong. Some banks offer loyalty points when using their credit cards, so you may be able to get an upgrade on a flight or spend a night in a posh hotel using the points you’ve earned by booking your tickets. Try starting at www.travelinsurance.co.uk
2 – Look after your belongings
Tourists stand out like a sore thumb in most foreign countries; so don’t advertise the fact that you have a brand new digital SLR camera, an iPhone or a wallet full of cash. Remember, that in some countries, a wallet full of money could be more than a month’s wages to the locals, so be wary of pickpockets.
Capital cities are the prime locations for pickpocket gangs, who will often try to distract you whilst someone else tries to go through your pockets, or simply steals something and runs off. Common sense should prevail – leave expensive items in the safe of your accommodation, or if you have to take them with you, make sure they are wrapped up inside clothes in the middle of your bag; items at the bottom can easily be stolen, especially when some gangs will try and cut a hole in the bottom of your bag when waiting to cross a road, or in a queue for a drink etc.
Also, try to do some research into scams in operation in the countries you are visiting; such as the Chinese team scam, where a local will invite you to a ‘tea ceremony’ to sample some traditional teas, only for you to presented with a bill for hundreds of dollars at the end.
3 – Accommodation
Unless you’re planning on staying in a 5* hotel every night of the week, does it really matter where you get your head down for the night? A lot of money can be saved on accommodation, hostels or cheap all inclusive holidays are cheap and cheerful for a night, and room price can be negotiated if the hostel is quiet.
If a hostel really isn’t your thing and there are a few of you travelling, look into the possibility of booking an apartment for a few days, that way you get your own privacy, and it could work out cheaper than getting a hostel if there’s a group of you staying. If money is really tight, check out couch surfing, an online community where members offer each other a bed for the night.
4 – Shop around
There’s always room for negotiation when booking travel, especially when face to face at a travel agents, as they normally put a large mark up on the price to make a bit more money. If you show an interest, and let them know you’re prepared to book if the price is right, they will do a deal.
Never take the first price you find – you will more than likely find the same deal cheaper somewhere else, so spend some time online comparing prices, and you’ll be surprised how much cheaper you can get your trip for.
Consider a stopover flight, again this may bring the price right down, while looking online for travel passes in the countries you are visiting could save you a bundle, meaning if you spontaneously decide to do a skydive, bungee jump or take a boat trip somewhere; you can afford to do it.
5 – Learn to negotiate
One of the most important things to learn before you go is the art of haggling. Market stalls and locals selling gifts or food in the streets will often inflate prices for tourists; as they will assume you have money to spend, especially if they see you in expensive clothing, so figure out the price you want to pay and stick to it.
Be prepared to walk away from a deal, chances are they will come running after you accepting your price, rather than making no money at all. It is also worth bearing in mind that if you are booking an excursion anywhere, the sales reps will earn commission for each sale, so offer half the asking price and see what happens, you may get lucky and end up paying a lot less than the person sitting next to you. Keep a small diary of how much you have saved, and you’ll be surprised by the end of your trip by what you should have paid and what you actually did.
6 – Exchange rates
Many tourists don’t realise what they are spending, or how much they are actually losing out on when they exchange money at a shop on the street or even in the airport. The best ways to get foreign currency are at post offices, a travel agent or simply using an ATM once you are abroad.
Check with your bank if you plan on using ATMs often when abroad, as some banks charge a 5% fee for withdrawing your own money, so do your research first and find out how much (if anything) you will be charged.
Try and take a few traveller’s cheques away too, as these can be replaced should you have your wallet stolen or you lose it.
7 – Transport
Getting from A to B when in a foreign country doesn’t have to be expensive; travel passes can be purchased online for most places when going away, while overnight trains can sometimes only be $5 to travel hundreds of miles. Unless you can get it included in your initial ticket price when booking your travel, don’t fly everywhere, instead take a train, rent a car or use your haggling skills to agree a fee with a taxi driver before you set off on any journey.
8 – Don’t use your cell phone, use the internet!
Some people seem oblivious to the fact that cell phone companies charge extortionate fees for international calls, and after being on the road for months, many people come home to a phone bill that is bigger than the cost of their trip. Instead, pay for 30 minutes in an internet café, and catch up with your friends & share your photos on Facebook, MSN or Twitter. When phoning home, use Skype instead, which is free if you are both online, or if you are calling a landline number you will only pay around 1/5 of what the cost of an international call would be.
9 – Food
Don’t eat out at the first restaurant you find in the tourist orientated parts of town, as you will soon see your bank balance dropping. Ask staff in your hotel/hostel or speak to locals to find out where is good and cheap to eat, you will get a nicer meal than you would have done in the tourist resorts at a fraction of the price.
If you spot a supermarket, head in and stock up on a few days’ supply of the basics, this will help you avoid spending most of your money just on keeping yourself going.
10 – Budget!
If you don’t create a budget and stick to it, then you’re either rich or dumb. If you go out and spend all your money in the first few weeks, you will be wondering how you’re going to get by for the next few months, so instead pace yourself and your spending.
Once you know how much you have to spend in total, try and divide it up between the locations you plan on visiting. Don’t avoid doing things incase you go over budget, as there will be days where you barely spend more than a couple of dollars, while there will be other times when you go over your budget; if you don’t go over the top with it then it should balance itself out.
Think about where else you can save money before you travel, such as medications. In some countries, simple items such as paracetamol can be nearly ten times as what it costs at home, so take over the counter treatments for the likes of flu, coughs, headaches, upset stomachs and bites with you, and again you’ll have money to spend on other things.
Finally, enjoy yourself! Most people won’t either have the money, time or the courage to go and see the world, so make the most of it!