The current financial crisis may be putting people off going on holiday or even taking their gap year (OE for you people Down Under!), but it really shouldn't. This article will give you lots of advice on how to travel on a budget to make sure you get the most out of your travels. Some money saving tips are obvious and others you may not have considered. If you've got any tips you'd like to share, make sure you let us all know by making a comment at the end of the article...
Also check out 'How to eat on a budget' for other budget tips!
1. Avoid Tourist Traps
There are lots of destinations that are pretty cheap to travel around.
For example, travelling to South East Asia has always been a great option for students and backpackers. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are all popular destinations but you can do it even cheaper than most people if you stick to a few simple rules... Stay away from the most popular tourist meccas. Instead of heading to Bangkok, why not visit one of the lesser known towns in Thailand. You'll probably have to fly into Bangkok, but get a night bus to somewhere else when you've arrived and you'll be paying much less for your accommodation and food.
BUT... Don't completely avoid places like this though, they're visited often because more often than not, they're worth a look. So you could use this tip in a slightly different way. Khao San Road is the huge backpacker area in Bangkok, but if you walk a couple of blocks you can get much better and much cheaper food (Pad Thai bought on Khao San Road was 3 times more expensive than a few streets away when I was there!)
(Also read this article on How to Avoid Tourist Traps)
2. Find Cheap Flights
This tip totally depends on what your trip is all about. If it's a two week holiday you're going on your best bet is either to book months and months in advance or leave it right until the very last minute... I personally like to leave it until the last minute because I've managed to nab some unbelievably good deals on flights on that way.
BUT... Of course this can sometimes be risky, the last minute deals won't always be cheaper than if you'd booked months in advance, and you may have to be a bit flexible with your travel dates. Try and leave mid-week, flights are normally most expensive on a Friday or a Monday so bear that in mind when booking your holidays! For yearly trips it's definitely worth looking into getting yourself a round the world ticket...
Make sure you look into the separate flights for yourself because it may work out cheaper. Buying a round the world ticket also leaves you with no option to change your plans. You might find buying tickets as you go is cheaper in the long run BUT make sure you know the visa requirements for the places you want to go. Sometimes you have to apply for your visa before you leave your country of residence, and some places (like Vietnam) require you to specify the dates you'll be arriving.
3. Stay in Cheap / Budget Accommodation
There are a number of ways of finding somewhere cheap to rest your head for a night or two... These do tend to depend on what your minimum level of comfort is though...
Camping Always a popular option and this doesn't have to be an option only for the more adventurous of us. Camping generally works out cheap no matter what continent you're on and campsites are a lot more advanced now than they used to be. Even if you don't have a tent you can normally stay in one that's already been put up (and sometimes they even have power points). If you're not a "champagne camper" and you like to pitch your tent wherever takes your fancy you'll probably find it's alot cheaper (Free!!!)
BUT... check the law about free camping in the country you're visiting. In many places it's illegal to camp unless you're in a managed campsite or licensed area. Camping in the wilderness sounds good but the reality may be different - where are the power showers? ALWAYS think about your own safety. DON'T camp somewhere where grizzly bears are known to hang out for example!
Backpackers Hostels Staying in a backpackers hostel isn't as nasty as some people imagine. Firstly they tend not to be called youth hostels anymore because people of all ages are welcome to stay. Secondly, hostels aren't necessarily filthy, infested with bed bugs or full of drunk travellers causing such a noise you can't sleep. Backpackers Hostels have improved greatly over the last couple of years what with the growth in "flashpacker travel".
What's a flashpacker? Well this term tends to describe those backpackers who can't travel without their i-pod, mobile phone, tablet or even their laptop. These backpackers expect more from a hostel, sometimes a bit too much, but nevertheless the hostels have responded to this growing market by improving their facilities and services. When travelling through Australia and New Zealand for example, you'll find that nearly all hostels offer the following as standard:
- Free linen and blankets (gone are the days of lugging around a sleep sheet and/or sleeping bag)
- Internet facilities (and Wireless in most places)
- 24 hour reception / check-in (never be locked out again - 24 hour reception /check-in tends to be available in cities only)
- Safes and / or lockers (don't worry about that dodgy looking fella in your room taking your valuables)
- Female only dorms (being a female travelling alone is sometimes a little daunting, if you don't feel up to sharing your room with boys, request a single sex room)
Staying in backpackers hostels is now a pleasant experience and the standard of accommodation (especially in private rooms) is near hotel quality, but you get communal areas to meet other backpackers and it tends to be a lot cheaper than a hotel!
4. Don't pay for your accommodation
Don't panic I'm not advising you to do a runner from your accommodation of choice... there's a much easier (and legal) way to stay for free. If you're staying at a backpackers hostel, in most countries there's often an option to do a few hours work per day in exchange for a night in a shared dorm.
Most of the time this work involves cleaning, however there are other jobs available out there including hosting activities or organising them, helping out in the kitchen or just being a glassie in the bar. If you're on a budget then free accommodation is well worth asking about! Be aware however that you must still have a valid working visa in many countries to get accommodation in exchange for work, and that in some countries it may in fact be illegal to work for accommodation.
5. Seek out Discounts
Tourism operators and Accommodation providers are looking for business. When their biggest market are backpackers, they know that offering them a bargain is the best way to get them interested. So all you need to do is know where to look for those bargains. When you first arrive somewhere you'll almost always see a FREE guide to the City. Take that guide with you... You can find loads of discount vouchers in these free guide books, varying from half price coffee to free photos when you do a bungy jump. Every little helps as they say. If you're looking for ongoing savings why not buy yourself a backpackers discount card. The most well known ones in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji are VIP, YHA, BBH and Mad Card.
6. Look for free things
Not content with a discount? Why not try and get stuff for free! We all know that favourite saying "There's no such thing as a free meal". Well, sometimes there is... backpackers hostels often offer a free meal (breakfast or small dinner) included in the price of your nights accommodation. But there's more... Loads of hostels will offer you free stuff so that you stay at their backpackers rather than one of the many others around. Free things include:
7. Don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself
How can making a fool of yourself save you money? You'll find that being a backpacker turns you into a special breed of traveller. You tend to hang around bars aimed at the backpacking market and start acting like one of those backpackers you thought you were better than. Why hang around backpackers bars? Well for a start the drinks tend to be a lot cheaper, either because of a drink special on that night or just because they know backpackers are always looking for a bargain so they offer stupidly priced drinks to get you in the door. If cheap booze doesn't make you want to go in to the bar then the chance to win your bus travel up the east coast of Australia, or around New Zealand may just do it for you. I'm going to tell you a little story. When I started travelling my mantra at the beginning was "why go out and get drunk, I can do that at home".
Well you soon forget that when all your mates cajole you into taking part in a pole dancing competition...Why on earth would you? Easy, if I took part and made a fool of myself in front of a bunch of strangers then me and my mates got to drink free champagne and if I'd won I'd have received a 3 day sailing trip around the Whitsundays.
Making a fool of yourself (like I did in spectacular fashion - being one of those unfortunate people who has no rhythm) isn't that bad when you realise you're on the other side of the world and you're probably never going to see these people ever again.
BUT... you could be a bit unlucky and while you're working away in a different town one day, someone may come up to you and say "Aren't you the girl who kept falling over when she tried to pole dance down in Airlie Beach?" True story!
8. Get a Job!
Getting a job when you're travelling isn't always that hard. Most of the places you stay at will have staff on hand to give you the best advice on where to look for work or which agencies will be the most useful to.
Jobs within the Travel & Tourism Industry may be an area you should consider rather than an office job because you still feel like you're on holiday if you work at a hostel or work on a scuba diving boat like I did!
BUT... Make sure your Visa / Permit is valid for you to work. If it isn't you might be thrown out of the country and never allowed to return!
I hope you've found these tips useful, if you have any other tip let us know below.