Planning a trip? Here are nine simple steps to ensure that you don’t come back with a mountain of debt in your backpack.
1. Talk to people
This can’t be more important. Before you go, talk to friends and family who have been to the same place and see if they have any recommendations for cheap places to stay or places to eat. Sometimes it can be worth speaking to a travel agent to get advice, or at least pick up their country guides and brochures which are free.
Don’t be afraid to speak to the locals when you’re away. They know the area well and may be able to give you some ideas about where to go and what to do. If you have a reputation for getting lost, the locals can also be a major help to send you back in the right direction!
2. Cheaper travel times
If you can, try to travel at the cheapest time of the year. Generally, winter is the off-season, and non-school holiday times will also be cheaper. Flight prices and accommodation do greatly vary month to month and even day to day. Friday afternoons and Sunday nights are more expensive than Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons, for example.
So if you’re flexible with when you’re travelling, keep this in mind. A month or two might not make a huge difference weather-wise but can save you thousands.
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3. Pack Light
Packing too much can become a burden when you are travelling. It’s heavy, it’s expensive and it’s just a pain in the neck. If you pack lightly enough you can take your bag on the plane as hand-luggage, which means you don’t have to wait at the luggage collection for your bag to come around.
If you do check your bag in, packing lightly will avoid additional charges for overweight luggage. So get back to basics, and follow the rule of ‘less is more’.
4. Avoid cabs
Get out of your comfort zone and walk when you can, or find a local bus or train.
You’ll save money and also see the area from more of a local perspective. You may also meet other travellers on the way or locals who want to have a chat.
There’s nothing better than a local bus in a foreign country.
5. Travel Insurance
People say if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. This is absolutely true. Do your research and compare rates from different companies to ensure you are getting the best travel insurance policy that suits you.
Many travel insurance companies have an online quote tool where you can enter your destination, age, number of people travelling and time period that you will be away for. Make the most of these tools and look around for the best deal.
6. Sight seeing
Many big cities have free or cheap events. Museums are often free or have a low entry price. Some cities also offer free walking tours, which are great for getting your bearings and finding some sites you never would’ve come across.
There are heaps of other free activities, like going to the beach, finding a route to hike or having a picnic in the park. Not only will you save money, you may find yourself off the well-travelled path, looking at things which other tourists generally won’t see.
7. Bargain when you can
This can be fun. If the culture allows it; bargain, bargain, bargain! Many locals have the perception that tourists have an endless amount of money, so they will attempt to get as much out of you as possible.
When buying something, ask a few different places for their ‘best price’ so you can get a rough idea on how much people are asking for. Then think about how much you’re willing to pay.
As a guide, if the prices seem extreme, offer a price just below half of what they’re asking for. If they dramatically lower their price they were probably trying to overcharge you. Stick to the price you have offered and slowly increase it.
If they are not budging the ‘walk away’ tactic often works well; often the seller will chase you down the street and agree to your price or a price close to what you have offered.
8. Watch out for scams!
In some countries you might as well have a huge sign on your head screaming ‘I’M A TOURIST’.
Like it or not, you’ll be a target and people will try their best to scam you. They may offer to take you to expensive jewellery shops on the way to the airport, or persuade you to come to their art school so you can buy their art work. Some even have the nerve to pinch the money out of your pockets while you are distracted.
Mind you, not every country is like this. Do your research, trust your gut, and always be on the cautious side when someone is extra extra kind.
9. Find reasonable accommodation
These days there are plenty of online booking sites which will give you cheap rates for hotels.
There are ‘last minute’ specials, which come in handy for those on a last minute trip. You can look at reviews on these sites to see what other travellers have thought about the accommodation, and make a booking online without paying for anything until you arrive at your accommodation. Don’t forget to keep your possessions safe, and keep the address of where you’re staying on you in case you get lost.
Follow these tips and you’re well on your way to a great trip that won’t cost a fortune.
Main pic: epSos.de via Flickr.