Money should never be a barrier when travelling, but you shouldn’t come home with a crippling debt either. You can have some great experiences, and at the same time, not rack up a massive debt, not starve yourself and be able to go back for more! There are many ways you can save money whilst on an adventure.
Budgeting is vital if you’re on a long trip, but also helps for small trips as, quite simply, the more money you have available the more you can do and see. Sometimes budgeting is different depending on where you go, for example if you’re in a developed country it’s cheaper to cook your own food. However in a developing country it may be easier and cheap enough to eat out (at the right places), especially as some hostels in developing countries don’t have a kitchen (or if they do they are not well equipped).
Some countries are just brilliantly cheap, others really aren’t. But when you travel you want to make your money go as far as possible, regardless of where you are. So here are my five money saving tips for any country.
Tip 1: Make Friends
Of course you want to meet people and make friends when travelling, it’s part of the fun. You’ll want some companionship on your journey, but did you know making friends can also help you save money and you can help them too. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. How can they help you save money? There’s a number of ways:
Firstly food. Buying small amounts of food gets expensive, if there’s a group you can buy bigger packs, share the food and the cost! Cooking in a group is also fun, and a great way to get a good meal! Whenever me and Dave cooked in a group whilst travelling we also ended up with cake (bonus)! You can share snacks on bus journeys, so buy multipacks and help each other shoulder the weight. If you don’t want to cook you could go out and have a sharing platter – these generally give plenty of food for a group of hungry backpackers.
You can also share dorms with these people and if there’s a fairly large group, bigger dorms tend to be cheaper. There’s also the added benefit of knowing everyone in the room, especially if you’re on the same trip and so going to sleep and waking up at similar times.
Group rates may be available for certain activities, plus you can all share tips on where and how you can save money. Others may know where’s cheap to eat, where the best deals are etc. Not to mention, with any luck you’ll have a free bed all over the world.
Tip 2: Sacrifice Your Privacy
This can be difficult the first time, but you soon get used to it! Dorm beds in hostels are much cheaper than private rooms (especially in developed countries). The bigger the dorm, the cheaper the bed tends to be, so you can draw a line on how cheap you go. Don’t think there’s no way you could sleep in a dorm, the majority of backpackers are respectful of each other and will try not to make noise if the lights are off at night, or if they are leaving early. Of course you get some idiots, but then again you could get a VERY noisy couple next door in a private hotel room and not be able to sleep. Believe me, if you’re tired you will sleep!
You can also guarantee you’ve got fresh bedding in a dorm – you’re generally the one to put it on. I’d also advise not having a dorm with an en suite if possible. One toilet between six strangers is not the best idea, you can guarantee that person who takes FOREVER in the shower will get in just before you have an urgent call of nature.
Tip 3: Drink Water
I know it sounds stupid, but seriously, drink water. Use refillable water bottles. Bottles of pop (and water) are expensive, so drinking ‘council pop’ (aka tap water) will save you money in the long run. If the tap water is unsafe to drink, many hostels have a water cooler hidden away somewhere that you can refill from, though you may need to have a search around, or ask. There are also plenty of ways you can treat water to make it safe to drink.
Another plus point to using your own refillable – you are helping the planet. Plastic bottles are no good for the environment, so be kind to your pocket and the world.
Need a decent refillable? Check out my Hydro Flask Review.
Tip 4: Only Buy What You Need
Souvenirs, do you really need them? And do you really want to lug them around for your trip? If you must buy souvenirs, leave it till the end of your journey to see if you have the money and make life easier. Or make sure they’re small and usable on your trip.
Alcohol, do you really need it? I’m not saying go tee-total, just be sensible. Don’t sit in the hostel, alone drinking a litre of goon, it’s not healthy for you or your bank balance! I met a guy once who was living off the free pasta and rice that the hostel supplied, but had to have a pack of four cans every night. I doubt he experienced much… If there’s a group having a night out fine, let your hair down, you don’t want to miss the nightlife, that’s an experience in itself (especially if you’ve got a group of friends to experience it with). Simple choices can make this cheaper, such as drinking the local poison, avoid bottles and share pitchers.
Coffee and tea, are you really that dependent on caffeine? Luckily, a lot of hostels have free tea and coffee, so fill up a thermos flask and take it with you, but don’t go out buying it. All these little spends add up quick, so if you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
Tip 5: Don’t Use Private Transport
Taxis are expensive, so don’t use them. If the driver realises you’re not from the area, they can get even more expensive. Walk where you can, as it’s a great way to explore. Personally, I love getting to a new place, dropping my bag off, grabbing a map and exploring the surroundings, finding my feet and the general ‘feel’ of the place. Getting lost in a new city is half the fun.
Although, if you’re on a time limit (or if you’ve just landed in an airport) walking may not be an option. But there’s agenerally a train/tube/bus service available. Although these can be awkward with a big bag, they’ll be much cheaper than a taxi. In big cities you can normally purchase cheap tickets, like day tickets, a week pass etc. Great if you’re sticking around for a bit.
I hope you find my top five tips useful! But there is one big tip I didn’t put on here as it’s not what you do, it’s more of a thought process. I feel that it’s the most help when having to live cheap:
Don’t see money as money. See money as a night in a hostel or an activity you want to do, you pick. I always saw money when travelling as a night in a hostel. When looking at the price of something I thought “Is X worth Y amounts of nights in a hostel?” For example, is that litre of goon, on my own worth a night in a hostel? For me, no. Is that skydive worth four nights in a hostel? For me, yes. And I still do it when I’m at home. That is the best tip I can give you.