Travel can be expensive. Keeping costs down on the road can make a huge difference to your bank balance and even prolong your trip! Here are my favourite tips and practical ways to save money while travelling regardless of your budget!
27 Ways to Save Money While Travelling
Travel and Transport
- Try and avoid expensive “express” trains to and from the airport. There is usually always a cheaper (albeit slower) alternative. It may be a bus or a commuter train but it will nearly always get you to the same destination (somewhere central) for a much lower price.
- Check whether it’s easier or cheaper to book any internal travel before you arrive. For example, the Japan Rail Pass can save a huge amount on train journeys but it’s cheaper to buy one outside of Japan. In other countries, like India, train seats sell out weeks and even months in advance so it pays to plan!
- Don’t pay for seat selection on flights unless you absolutely have to have that extra legroom or a window seat. Once boarding finishes, you can usually grab a better seat if the plane’s not full! Sometimes asking nicely at the airport when you are checking in/dropping your bags can help too!
- Don’t get ripped off by taxi drivers – make sure they are using a meter or agree a price before you get in. Knowing roughly how far you’re going/the ballpark price for a ride helps – I always get quoted an extortionate amount in Bangkok but a quick white lie along the lines of “I live here so I know how much it is” usually works. Or, just use Uber – it’s amazing and is way cheaper than taxis in many parts around the world.
- Pick up a local public transport card. Many cities around the world have smartcards that you can top up with value and use on the transport network. These are great because you don’t have to buy individual tickets every time, saving you time queuing. They also tend to offer discounts over single tickets! I make sure to pick one up everywhere I go as these make for great souvenirs too! Examples include Oyster in London, Rabbit card in Bangkok or Ventra card in Chicago.
Food and Drink
- Street food! Tasty, authentic and CHEAP. Don’t miss out on sampling some local delicacies at a fraction of a price of posh restaurants. Whatever you do, try and avoid McDonalds. You’re better than that!
- Try and avoid eating somewhere where many tourists congregate. Chances are the food prices will be way higher and the food doesn’t tend to be as good either. Don’t be afraid to explore alleyways and quieter districts.
- If you see loads of locals eating somewhere, this is the place to be! Locals know best and the prices won’t be aimed at tourists!
- Cook once in a while – simple meals won’t cost a lot to make and you can even share the duties with fellow travellers!
- Stock up on snacks for your journey – in some countries, you might be on the road for hours at a time without a stop! 7-Eleven and Circle K in Asia, for example, are on practically every street corner and are a great place to get food, water and even alcohol. Way cheaper too!
- Try to avoid expensive food at airports. Alcohol and restaurant food is usually ridiculously overpriced. Fortunately, chain cafes are not too bad and the prices are not too different from those on the high street.
- Shop around if exchanging your money into a local currency. And never exchange money at the airport. You will get absolutely ripped off. Banks tend to be better, but there will also be currency exchange places with good deals in many countries. My advice: check xe.com for the latest interbank rates and then take off a few pennies/cents/baht/yen off that for a rough estimate of what you should be getting on the high street.
- Grab a specialist card before you leave to save on ATM withdrawal and conversion fees. I use Revolut, a prepaid multi-currency card that’s accepted globally and converts your money into local currency at perfect interbank rates. No ATM fees (there is a monthly limit) and you can pay for stuff anywhere that accepts Mastercard too!
- Alternatively, there are debit and credit cards that are designed for travellers in mind. In the UK, Halifax Clarity is a popular choice, while if you’re in the US check out this post for a handy guide.
- Cash is king in many countries. Make sure you always have some on you to pay at street stalls and for tips.
- Haggle – you can get a great deal by bargaining with locals. Be respectful and fair – haggling is like an art form but can be very useful when buying stuff in certain countries. Don’t just do it for the sake of it though – if something is super cheap when converted into your currency, is it really worth saving another 50 cents? That money could make a big difference to the locals.
Phone and Internet
- Get a local sim card – roaming fees are really not the way forward. As long as you have an unlocked phone, local sim cards are cheap and often give fantastic bonuses for topping up – like free internet or some international minutes. Remember, if you are from the EU, there are no roaming fees in 28 EU (and a couple of other) countries. Yay!
- Avoid paying for Internet – coffee shops, cafes and restaurants often offer free wi-fi. They will tend to advertise that fact too but if you can’t see a sign, just ask! Otherwise, just wait till you get back to your accommodation! Or, better still, put the phone away and look up – there is a wonderful world out there!
- If you need fast and stable connection for working on the move, coworking spaces are great and can now be found all over the world. Definitely cheaper than paying for your own set up too!
- Use Skype – it’s fantastic for keeping in touch with friends and family back home and while Skype-to-Skype calls are free, calling landline numbers/mobiles is way cheaper than using your phone. I top up my Skype credit once in a while and it lasts for ages. Very handy if you need to urgently speak to your bank, for example – you will probably be on hold for ages but Skype credit means you won’t mind too much.
- Hostels/Airbnb/Couchsurfing – don’t be afraid of using these. You will save a lot of money, make new friends and get a feel for how the locals live. Hostel staff can point out secret places, great street food stalls and help you book tours and even onward travel. Airbnb is great for bagging rooms and even whole apartments and mixing it up with locals while Couchsurfing lets you stay with people for free. They might even show you around! Do your research and get out of boring, samey hotel rooms!
- Free accommodation – if you are travelling for longer periods of time, enquire about working at hostels/guesthouses. You could get yourself free board for working reception, cleaning or serving in the bar. Definitely worth a try if you fancy staying somewhere longer!
- Book in advance – the earlier you book, the cheaper the place is likely to be. Keep an eye on comparison websites such as Hostelworld, Agoda and Booking.com.
Tours and Activities
- Free walking tours are one of my favourite ways to explore a new city. The tours – usually run by locals – are a great way to get familiarised with a place and provide loads of information on history and key sights of the area. You simply tip the guide what you think the tour was worth in the end! These are available in many places around the world.
- Group discounts – try and get a group of people together who want to do the same activity. There are usually plenty of willing people in hostels who will want to check out that waterfall everyone recommends or go on a day trip to a nearby town. You might get better rates for bringing a few people along plus it’s a great way of meeting new people and sharing the fun!
- Shop around – many companies will be offering exactly the same trips, and some will be willing to offer you a discount or throw in a freebie. Check online for reviews to make sure they are a good company to go with.
- Some cities offer special tickets giving free or discounted entry to a number of attractions. Chicago’s CityPASS and I amsterdam city card are good examples. If you love sightseeing, this could be great value for money.
Do you have any other tips for saving money on the road? Let me know in the comments!
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