1. Be realistic.
If you want to stay on budget, the most important thing you can do is to be realistic about what you’re going to spend.
While there are always those unexpected occurrences and days when you have to let loose, sticking to your daily allowance will see you sail through your journey.
Looking after the pennies, rather than looking at individual ways of saving hundreds, is the key to making your money, and your travels, last.
2. Plan ahead.
From planes, trains, and automobiles, to accommodation and day trips, booking even a few days in advance can save you hundreds.
Always ask if a ticket is cheaper on the following, or previous day; it can sometimes work out cheaper even with the cost of an extra night’s accommodation.
3. Buy an ISIC Card (Under 26 or Teachers Card).
Accommodation, transport, museums and other attractions, restaurants, coffee shops and many more establishments give discounts to the money starved. Check www.isiccard.com.
4. Always ask for discounts.
If you’re staying in a hostel for a few nights, or there is a group of you, always ask for a better rate. Bartering is a valuable skill to acquire.
5. Find a good credit card.
If you’re going to resort to credit, get a card with a low (or even better–0%) rate to start you off. If you’re spending a lot if could save you a small fortune in interest repayments. ‘If you find a card with cash back,’ explains money saving expert Martin Lewis, ‘you’re earning a 1% or 2% discount on everything you buy.’
6. Check your bank.
Open a bank account that lets to withdrawal money overseas without a penalty. Many can charge transaction fees of $4 or $5. Think how many times you’ll be taking cash out while you’re abroad (now times that by ten; it’s sadly, much more than you always think) and that’s a lot of Pesos given away for nothing.
7. Use plastic.
Use your ATM card instead of changing currency and you’ll save on commission fees. Credit and ATM cards generally have a better exchange rate than at a money exchange, so you’ll be saving double.
Be careful however as ATM cards are frequently not insured if they are stolen or copied. Check your bank or insurance provider.
8. Go overnight.
Travelling on overnight buses or trains can be a lot cheaper and you’ll also save on the cost of accommodation and if you’re on a tight schedule you won’t loose out on a day’s sightseeing.
www.sleepinginairports.net gives invaluable advice if you’re looking for a cheap night before you jet off.
9. Camp out.
If you want to enjoy the delights of Paris a tent isn’t the most appropriate choice, but if you’re out of the city it can be a life saver. A campsite costs next to nothing (and actually nothing if you make your own) and you don’t have to worry about curfews.
www.camptheworld.com is a good start if you’re looking to escape the city life.
Give up some of your time and you could enjoy free food and accommodation. Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is one such organisation; it works in dozens of countries and asks for a days work in return for full board and lodging (this may be in a barn though). Check our First Timer’s Guide to WWOOFing.
11. Shop around.
Whatever you’re buying, from flights and insurance to a new backpack, have a look at a few options before you hand over you hard-earned cash (or not so hard-earned credit).
12. Take a book, leave a book.
No backpack would be complete without a good novel, but buying the latest bestseller before every long journey quickly adds up. Look out for book swaps at hostels and you could have free reading for the rest of your trip.
Join www.bookcrossing.com and you can even find out where your latest read has got to.
13. Get online.
Not only do you need to email home occasionally but the internet is one of the easiest and cheapest places to book your tickets and accommodation, as well as do research on your next destination.
Visit local libraries or other places with free access, and you won’t even have to pay for the time.
14. Avoid airport shops.
That goes for shops in bus and train station, hostels and hotels and while you’re on board; the prices are inevitably marked up. Buy your snacks from a local shop and it will probably taste better as well.
If you’re changing foreign currency, head into the city and avoid the airport banks.
15. Get inclusive tickets to multiple events.
Many big cities offer some kind of combo ticket; either on transport, to the attractions or both. If you’re looking to see a lot in a city ticket prices can soon mount up.
‘When I was in New York’ explains Lina Vilus, an English Teacher in Colombia, ‘it cost me $50 to get into 4 museums, the Empire State Building, and on a cruise round Manhattan. I also brought a one day pass for the subway and saved well over $40.’
16. Get air miles.
Or a frequent flyer card. Not so good if you’re inter-railing but if you’re on a round-the-world ticket you’ll have more than enough miles for a weekend in Rome when you get back.
Collect Freenites points from YHA youth hostels and you can also get free accommodation while you’re there. Many hotel chains also have similar schemes.
17. Look after your money.
There’s no better way to lose all your money, than to actually lose it or have it taken from you. To avoid carrying wads of cash, rely on travellers cheques and ATM/credit cards. Carry a second wallet / security pouch to keep some of your cash and cards separate, so if the worse does happen, you won’t be totally stuck, or skint.
18. Double up.
If you’re in a group it can often be cheaper to get a hotel room between you than a few hostel beds. A rental car can often cost less than the price of a few tickets on a bus or train and you should never catch a cab alone.
Some day trips/ tours also offer discounts if you book together, so start chatting up the person next to you!
19. Avoid peak season.
Travelling at certain times can be considerably more expensive than others. Avoid travelling the day before a weekend (in many countries this isn’t a Friday) or public holidays.
When you’re flying avoid the beginning and end of the school holiday season. If you’re booking a round the world ticket consider when you want to leave; ‘Waiting just two weeks after the Christmas holidays could save you almost $500’says Jenna from STA: ‘A ticket worth $1, 680 for a departure at the beginning of January drops to $1, 110 after the 15th.’
20. Look up old friends.
Drop in on friends and relatives that live in those far-flung places and take up those offers of ‘you must come and stay.’ Just make sure you return the favour.
21. Have fun.
A realistic budget it there so you can get the most out of your money, but don’t take it too seriously, if you want to treat yourself occasionally, go for it.
‘I spent my first month in Europe eating super noodles and never going out’ explains Marcelo Vidales. ‘It wasn’t exactly the highlight of my trip. You’ve got to remember why you came away in the first place.’
Better to have six months of fun filled, action packed adventure, than 18 months of low points and boredom.
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Having spent the majority of his adult life traveling and working abroad, Matt Scott has plenty to write about; his writing and photos have appeared in publications around the world, both on line and in print. Originally from the UK he currently lives in Paris, where he works as a trip leader for an active travel company.
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