Hey guys, I’m writing this post because while my main budget travel guide was great, I still feel like I haven’t elaborated on it enough. I know what you’re thinking,
“does he not have anything else to write about?”
While you’re partially correct, I also realised that I was quite general in my other guides, so this post is more about the little things you don’t really notice, that save you money. If you’ve read my posts (here, here, and here, btw) , you know about using Airbnb instead of hotels, using Incognito Mode to buy flights, blah blah blah. SO, these are 47 small, butive effect budget travel tips that have saved me thousands, without exaggeration.
1. Walk as much as possible
Travel will turn you into a walker. While taking public transport will allow you to “get by like a local,” that all adds up, and you can be spending the money on something more worthwhile, like food. Not only will you save money, but you can truly absorb the city, and get to know your chosen city a lot better. Plus you can burn calories, and try to be “healthy.”
2. Avoid Taxis
Now I know I literally just said to walk everywhere, but there are some cities (looking at you, New York) that are just too big to walk. So, if you need transport, ditch the taxis and go on the bus, or tuk-tuk, or whatever! Public transport is a great way to know a city if walking isn’t manageable. Plus in some places, like Thailand, public transport cost just pennies.
3. Avoid Travelling on Fridays and Saturdays
Unfortunately as I am a uni student, I usually only have the weekend. So, if I do travel, I’ll usually take a day off or two so my flight can be cheaper. Look at this calendar of flights from Edinburgh – Brussels round-trip, for example.
So, you can either spend up to £95 flying on a Friday or Saturday, or you can spend as little as just £34 flying out on a weekday like Thursday! If you have a full-time job or you’re a student, this may not apply as well. But if you’re looking to go on a nice little holiday, or you have spring break in university, definitely travel in the middle of the week! I saved almost £200 on my flight to Bangkok next week just from leaving on a Thursday instead of a Friday. And £200 will easily last me all two weeks in Southeast Asia.
4. Learn A Bit of the Language
A simple “tai gui le!” in China goes a long way. When going to a market almost anywhere, especially in Asia, haggling is a must. The locals will try and sell you their goods for double or triple the price. But, if you learn a few things like “its too expensive” or your desired price in their language, they’ll eventually give in, and you just saved yourself enough to buy another souvenir!
5. Get a City Pass
Museum passes are the saving grace of big cities. For example, museums in Barcelona are crazy expensive (think 4 compulsory museums at €20 each!), but you can get a Barcelona Card and see the big museums and all Barcelona has to offer for a fraction of the price. Plus, many of these city cards include free metros and discounts at restaurants. I’m now writing this kicking myself that I didn’t know this back in Barcelona as I somehow spent €100 in museums and metros in 3 days.
6. Find Museum Deals
The Louvre is a must, but did you know that its free for under 26s on Friday evenings and on the first Sunday of each month for everyone? Just saved you €9 to spend on croissants and €2 convenience store wine. Many paid museums around the world have little quirks like these, you just gotta scope ’em out!
7. Rent a Car
If you’re going all over a country (cue plugging in my Croatian Road-trip for the 78337th time), driving will be way, way cheaper than flying all over. Some countries also don’t have the greatest bus systems, so a car (or a motorcycle, etc) would be your best bet. Plus, if weather permits, you can sleep in the car and save tons of money on accommodation!
8. Head to National Parks
When I went to Iceland in March, we spent a vast majority of our time visiting Iceland’s national parks. In most countries, including Iceland, they’re free! Explore the beauty and greens of country while keeping the green in your pocket.
9. Avoid Tourist Traps
I don’t remember where I heard this, but someone told me to always avoid restaurants within 6 blocks of tourist sites. Basically, the restaurants with the multilingual menus, the waiters who greet you from the outside, all of that. No. You’ll get ripped off, paying a lot more for a lot less quality.
10. Street Food: Heavenly and Cheap
Whoever said all street food was bad was, simply put, wrong. Street food is perhaps one of the most authentic experiences one can have abroad. And it’s way, way cheaper than any restaurant. One of the best meals of my life was an order of 3 chashaobao, or BBQ Pork Buns from a stand on Lamma Island in Hong Kong for £1. It was somehow even better than the £5 order back at home at my favourite Asian spot in Los Angeles. It was that moment that street food stole my heart, and left me with way more money for more street food.
11. Hostels: Not the Horror Movie Frights
In the US, Hostel was a pretty big movie that scared me off from hostels for eternity…until I actually stayed in one. First I was alive, but I had a great time! It’s almost like that movie..was made…to scare people. As in it’s not the reality. Hostels are full of budget travellers like you and me, just trying to save money. Plus, like you and me, no one’s out there trying to do anything crazy, they’re just minding their own business on their own trips. Give them a shot!
12. Drink Local Brands
You’re in Scotland…and you’re trying to drink Blue Moon? While delicious, it’s way more expensive here because it’s a foreign brand. Drink the local ones! They’ll be cheaper and it gives you a further taste into the culture, and the bartender may even tell you how its made!
13. Bring Snacks/Food
In super expensive countries like Sweden or Iceland, bringing your own snacks will save you tons of money. A meal out in Nordic countries will cost you, minimum, £15. Bringing your own snacks can hold you over for a while and leave room for cooler things.
14. Hand Luggage Only
Especially if you’re flying budget airlines, most airlines will charge for a bag. That’s why budget airline flights are so cheap: to suck your bank account dry with baggage fees. Not only that, after you land you’ll have to pick up your bag, and that can get delayed. Save yourself money, time, and impatience by taking a reasonable amount of clothes to fit into a duffel-bag, or hand luggage of preference. I’ve never spent money on luggage while travelling around Europe, and if I took a bag with me each time, with an average bag being €40 a pop, I’ve saved myself over €500, for real.
15. Don’t Drink
But I can’t go to X and not try Y drink! Yeah, thats what I thought until I went to London. As many beers I wanted to smash in all the local pubs, at £6 a pint on average, I can find the same brand somewhere else, or just skip out. If you’re up for it, saving money on drinks can make a huge difference. And be careful of places with cheap alcohol too! That just means you’ll buy more, and probably spend the same (aka me in Prague).
16. Skip it, it’s overrated!
There are just some things that just…don’t live up to expectations. It’s true: Gaudi Experience in Barcelona, Hollywood as a whole, London Eye. Some majorly popular tourist attractions charge a ton because they know their fame, but they turn out being underwhelming. Before going, look up whatever attractions you want to do and see reviews, pictures, etc., then make a judgement from there. If I did that, I would’ve saved myself a good £25.
17. Consider Multiple Flights
If you’re going somewhere obscure, maybe flying somewhere more well-known, but close can help with the costs. For example, if I were to buy a flight from Edinburgh to Siem Reap, Cambodia to see Angkor Wat for £596, I could fly to Bangkok for £370 round-trip, and take a round-trip flight to Siem Reap from Bangkok for £70, saving £156. Or in this situation, I could take a bus to Siem Reap from Bangkok, and save even more!
18. Overnight Transport is Your New Best friend
I love trains: city trains, nationwide trains, overnight trains. If you want to save money on a night staying somewhere and you’re departing your city, you can take an overnight bus or sleeper train to your destination. For example, instead of staying a night in Milan to take a morning flight to Paris, you can take an 8-hour overnight train, see all of Switzerland on the way, and save a bunch on accommodation!
19. Free Walking Tours
Instead of hiring a tour guide to show you the city, there are locals willing to show people the city, for free, in pretty much any city! Not only will you save a bit, you can even form a bond with the guide and share some memories. You know they’ll be passionate about their city since they’re doing this for free when they don’t have to.
20. Get a SIM Card/Wifi Router Abroad
Roaming costs….avoid them any way you can. Put your phone on airplane mode, and if you really need internet, get a local sim or a wifi router. In Japan, I got a wifi router that had unlimited wifi with a 12-hour battery life for just $8 a day, and it saved me since I constantly needed Google Maps. But, if you have a British phone and you have Three, you can use your phone in 70 countries at no extra cost! That has saved me, no joke, tens of thousands of pounds.
21. Picnics Galore
If you wanna skip restaurants entirely, there’s nothing like a picnic. If the weather permits, you can buy fancy ham, cheese, wine, and baguettes at your local shop. Best part is, you can eat wherever you want, including those touristy spots, without the crazy restaurant prices.
22. Bang For Your Buck
If you live in a country with a powerful currency (dollar, pound, euro, etc), go somewhere where your money will stretch. This can mean anywhere from Hungary to Sri Lanka. Think of it like this: with $50, do you wanna stay in a penthouse in Bangkok, or a musty motel outside London?
23. Chill With The Souvenirs
I could take my own advice here: I have a guilty pleasure for snowglobes. Not only will this take up extra space in your suitcase, but souvenirs are expensive! Maybe stick with a postcard or if you do get souvenirs, you don’t need to buy everything in Duty-Free.
24. Get a Group
Travelling with a group, especially with accommodation, can make things a lot cheaper. I’ve spent £30 a night on adequate Airbnbs, but I’ve also spent £30 (per person) a night on huge flats when travelling with groups.
25. Control Your Cash
Instead of using your card on everything, take out your daily budget in cash (and a little more in case of an emergency), and don’t even touch your card. Or maybe even leave it hidden in your accommodation before heading out. It’ll help practice self-control. I, again, can take my own advice on this.
26. Travel Insurance is Key
Yes, it’s a small inconvenience to pay a small fee. I don’t wanna do it half the time. But, if I’m injured or my (expensive) gadgets get stolen, I’ll be compensated, and more. After losing my debit card in Bangkok, I now always buy travel insurance, because you just never know.
27. Stay Outside the Centre
Honestly, I don’t like doing this. But sometimes, places are so expensive that I have no choice. However, taking a quick trip on the tram every morning can save you a LOT in terms of accommodation.
28. Travel Slowly
In 2019, I’m travelling a lot slower. One reason being, transport is expensive. On my Southeast Asia trip last year, I spent nearly $200 on flights within the region, which I could have saved and immersed myself further in one place. Personally, as I’ve hit over 30 countries now, the “countries race” doesn’t matter as much to me, and I’m happier staying longer in one place. And I get to save!
29. Forget Exchange Shops
Always take your money out of ATM’s, you’ll get the best conversion rates (sometimes none!), and you’ll get the most out of your home currency.
30. Avoid Peak Season
I hate travelling during the summer for a lot of reasons, but it’s also WAY more expensive. Everything! Flights, accommodation, restaurants, souvenirs, it’s all inflated. So I just stay home during the summer, and I travel between October and April. Not only is it cheaper, but the tourists will be at a minimum, depending where you go.
31. Second Class Train Tickets = First Class
They both get you to your destination at the same time, but first class tickets cost up to 50% more. The difference in comfort is often minimal.
32. Avoid Hotel Breakfasts
The food isn’t as good and the prices are overinflated. Walking two minutes outside your hotel to find a cafe won’t kill you, I promise.
33. Take (Free) Hostel Breakfasts
Sometimes, hostels offer free breakfast. It’s often pretty unremarkable, such as cereal. But it’s free!
34. Don’t Tip Like An American
This is mainly to my Americans: we’re some of the only people who tip 15-20%. In most places, you tip 10% if they do an exceptional job. This is obviously a case-by-case basis, but be in the know before you go to your destination.
35. Take Free Classes
Some hostels offer free classes to their patrons, such as yoga, cooking classes, etc. If you’re staying in a hostel, ask your concierge before booking anything.
36. Skip Barcelona for Sevilla
Skipping the biggest cities for something a little smaller can make a world of a difference on your wallet. In my experiences in Spain, Tenerife was so much cheaper than Barcelona, I don’t even know where to start. Plus, you get to see a more “authentic” side of the country, a side not overrun with tourists.
37. Check Visa Costs
The only reason I’ve never been to India or Brazil is because their visas are so expensive. I’d love to visit, but paying $100 or $160 respectively, is outside my budget currently. Meanwhile, a Vietnamese visa is cheap at $25, which was completely doable. Always check before you book! When deciding where to take my brother for graduation (before deciding on Cuba), I had considered Brazil, but paying $320 for two visas shut that idea down fast.
38. Rent a Bike
If you wanna omit public transport entirely, you can rent a bike! You only have to pay once, and if you’re gonna cover a lot of ground, it’ll easily pay for itself.
39. Fly to A Smaller Airport
Yeah, it’s a bit inconvenient, but when saving an hour of transport by flying to the main airport means spending an extra $120, I’m willing to take that extra bus to get where I need to go.
40. Claim Your Taxes Back
This one’s a bit boring and I’ve only ever done it once. But if you’re somewhere like Europe, you can get a good chunk of money back by saving your receipts and doing the process at the tax return desk at your airport. I did this in Japan and got about £40 back.
41. Student Discounts
The revered student discount. I use this ALL the time when I buy tickets to attractions; sometimes it’ll only save you 10%, sometimes 50! For example, you can get 35% off Eurail passes! You’re still saving, and I know I’ve saved at least £200 from the discounts.
42. Long Layovers = Free Trip
I’m the biggest advocate for long layovers. Without these, I wouldn’t have visited Belgium, Sweden, the UAE, and Qatar! These flights are often cheaper too! It’s a perfect way to quickly check a city/country off your list without the costs of accommodation, etc.
- Specific airlines even have programmes for this. You can book your trip with free stopovers in: Reykjavík with Icelandair, Dubai with Emirates, Singapore with Singapore Airlines, etc
43. Seek Out Long Lost Friends
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen your friend in Munich for years: reconnect and ask to stay at their place! It’ll be a great chance to reconnect, plus you eliminate one of the biggest costs of your trip.
44. Drink at the Bar
Sounds weird, but in some places like Paris and Rome, eating/drinking at a cafe is cheaper if you’re standing at the bar instead of a table. These tiny savings of 30 euro cents or so eventually accumulate over time.
45. Book 2 Return Tickets
A bit unorthodox, but sometimes buying a return ticket somewhere is actually cheaper than a one-way! I remember doing this once when flying back to Edinburgh for uni; I saved like £30 by saying I was gonna return to New York on some random day, when I clearly had no intention of doing so.
46. Avoid Unnecessary Frills
Do you really need to pay £7 for priority boarding? Do you really wanna be trapped on that metal bird of an airplane any longer than necessary? I’ve never bought priority boarding, and never felt a desire to.
47. Arrange Your Own Excursions
Unless you’re doing a free walking tour, see if you can get where you need to go on your own. An organised trip from Lisbon to the popular medieval town of Sintra can cost upward of €30 for the day, but a train there only costs €5, and you can get a map or guidebook for less.