10 tips for traveling cheap
Many people believe that traveling is expensive and that they simply can not afford to pack their bag and travel the world. True, you will have to spend some money to travel, but it doesn’t have to be a fortune. We have been students basically all our lives, and we certainly can relate to the “poor student” stereotype. But we have also managed to travel, and there’s no reason you can’t either. Here are 10 tips that we want to share with you to decrease your travel costs while increasing your travel experience.
- Do your research. In today’s world, you will find plenty of information on many common travel destinations. Use different websites, blogs, travel guides, etc. to determine which sights and places you’d like to visit in a certain country and how to combine them in the cheapest way possible. Find out information concerning transportation costs, entrance fees, and rough accommodation and food prices. If you’re armed with knowledge, locals won’t be able to overcharge you (as much) just because you’re a foreigner, you’ll have an idea of which places are expensive and which places are cheap, and you’ll be able to prioritize accordingly.
- Take buses. When it comes to getting from one place to the other, we highly recommend checking out the local bus system. One element that has amazed us in every place we have ever visited are buses. Especially in developing countries, buses often are the main means of public transportation. We love taking buses because they are not only cheap, convenient, and let us get a feel for the locals’ lives, but bus rides can be a real adventure. In order to get the best fare, shop around at bus terminals because different companies most likely will offer different prices. The price is usually cheaper at the ticket window or on the actual bus than from the guy on the street who is loudly trying to sell you your fare. Also, be flexible. Keep in mind that road conditions, traffic, travel mentality, etc. might differ quite a bit from what you are used to in your home country. For example, in Albania, a 50 km bus ride from Berat to the Osum Gorge by Çorovodë took us about three hours due to holes in the “road,” frequent stops whenever someone wanted to hop on at the side of the road, and the driver’s extended lunch break. The day did not turn out how we had planned, but we still had a great time!
- Avoid hotels. We can’t remember the last time we have spent money on a western-style hotel room. You can drastically decrease the amount of money you are spending on accommodation by using bewelcome.org, camping (check out our info on guerilla camping and finding campsites for free) and being in the fortunate position of staying with friends (like in Mallorca). But even if you have to pay for accommodation, we recommend hostels and guest houses over expensive hotels. Not only are those options cheaper, but they also make for much more exciting travel stories. Like the time our $9 room in Ouarzazate didn’t include a shower, which made us check out the local public bath house (one of our fondest memories of Morocco).
- Shop around. Another great tip to travel cheap is shopping around. Whether it is a bus fare, accommodation, or a local souvenir – comparing offers will save you a lot of money. Always look at multiple guest houses, talk to different bus companies, and haggle with several shop keepers – you will not only save money in the end but also have more options to choose from.
- Buy your own food. Even though checking out the local cuisine is a big part of our travels, we are also very budget conscious when it comes to food. Buying your own groceries at local markets and stores will be a lot cheaper than eating out three times a day. In Turkey, for example, we’d buy picnic foods for our lunches and would only eat out for supper. Just a word of caution there, having no access to a refrigerator may drastically reduce the lifespan of your groceries. Elliott can tell you all about that after getting food poisoning from a mean old egg we kept for too long…
- Talk to people! Both locals and fellow travelers will have invaluable information to share with you and which can save you money. Often times won’t find this information online. Road conditions, unexpected weather changes, local holidays, unknown sights – there are many instances when locals and fellow travelers can provide you with very valuable information. For example, one of our highlights in Turkey was the “Ghost Town” in Fethiye. The owner of the guesthouse would ask us every morning if we had already visited some Ghost Town. Before talking to him we had never heard or read anything about a Ghost Town. Eventually we followed his advice (which was mainly hand gestures and the repetition of the words “ghost town”) and found the most amazing historic sight only a few kilometers away and which cost us absolutely nothing.
- Set priorities. Think about what you are looking for during your trip. Do you want to visit historical sights? Are you traveling to a country mainly for the food? Do you want to party away every night? On a limited budget you’ll only have money for certain things. Our focus, for example, often times lays on visiting sights and exploring the outdoors. We are willing to pay entrance fees for sights, but we hardly ever spend money to go partying. So, get your priorities straight and spend your money accordingly.
- Share. Over the last years, sharing economy websites have made it a lot easier for travelers to make amazing memories while saving money. Whether it is bewelcome.org, which allows you to host travelers and stay with locals when you are traveling yourself, or ride sharing sites such as blablacar in Europe or Kangaride/Kijiji/Craigslist in North America, there are greats way to meet like-minded people and save a couple of bucks at the same time.
- Look for free stuff. There is a surprising number of free things to do and see out there. Whether it is a free tour that your hostel offers, free couchsurfing events you can join, or sights that you can visit for free – do your research online and talk to people for tips. Also, consider hitchhiking, which we have been doing a fair amount on recent travels and which always makes for GREAT stories.
- Go with the flow. Lastly, keep an open mind. Don’t obsess over a plan (Elliott likes to do this sometimes) and just do what feels right. Talk to people, learn from the locals, and listen to fellow travelers. We found super cheap accommodation in Marrakech and Serande simply by sitting down for a snack and some coffee and asking locals what they recommend. And most importantly, make sure you have fun!