How-To: Cut Down On Costs While Travelling
I’m not going to lie. Travelling CAN be damn expensive. As an Australian, I know how privileged we are to have a decent minimum wage and not have to work for tips. We get pretty good bang for our buck overseas but we’re always looking to increase the bang and decrease the buck so here is my list of how to cut down costs while travelling. Maybe you implement a few or all, maybe you have even better tips (please share in the comments and we’ll add to the list!).
Note: obviously, not all of the tips will work for all of the destinations. Put your thinking caps on (N.B. it's not a real cap) and pick and choose what will work for your situation.
- From the airport - if you’re staying at a hotel that offers a free shuttle, sweet, take that. If you don’t have that option, public transport is your best bet, or if you’re in a group of 2-4 a cab or Uber can* work out cheaper. *can, as in, possibly, so do your research. I know in Brisbane it’s ~$18 per ticket to catch the air train to the city and ~$50 to get a cab there so best to catch a cab if there's three or four of you!
- Walk everywhere - it’s free, you get to know the area you’re staying in better and find spots that are a little more hidden and out of the way. Plus, you’re exercising so you can afford to eat that extra croissant.
- If walking can’t get you somewhere, take public transport. Research your options before you get there and find out what the locals use. Buses, tuk-tuks, the tube, whatever it is, the majority of locals will use what is cheapest.
Food & Drink:
- If your hotel or hostel stay includes breakfast - make use of it. Eat breakfast like a king and take a piece of fruit for a snack.
- Choose street stalls or a small locally owned establishment over touristy restaurants for cheaper and more authentic cuisine.
- Stay away from eateries close to tourist attractions, they’ll be overpriced.
- If you’re only eating out for one meal per day, lunch gives you the best value for money where as dinner can be expensive and breakfast can be overpriced (like $22 for eggs benedict in Aus in some places… c’mon, two eggs, some bread, some sauce? No, but you can get an awesome pub lunch for $10).
- Even better, grab food from a supermarket instead. If you have access to a kitchen you can make some of your meals, and if not you can always put together sandwiches or salads pretty easily.
- While you’re at the supermarket buy snacks/gum/drinks/hair-ties. They are always more expensive at convenience stores or the airport.
- Buy yourself a water bottle with a filter attached to it so you can fill up your bottle instead of wasting money on a new one every day.
- Lay off the alcohol (a bit). I get it, you’re on holidays, but if you wanted to spend them blind-drunk you could’ve done that at home. Have a few drinks on a few nights but don’t go overboard. It’s expensive and you’ll enjoy your holiday more if you can remember it.
- While we’re on the topic of alcohol. Be wary. Party spots like Bali, Laos and Thailand offer VERY cheap alcohol but there is a reason for this. If you want to save your self the cost of a stomach pump (or you know, death) on your trip, opt for bottled drinks that are opened as you buy them.
- Exchange the majority of the money you need in the country you’re going to (but not at the airport).
- Find a debit card that allows you to make international transactions for free. (Aussies - I think Citibank is the best for this, with no fees for international transactions, but do your own research).
- Tip appropriately. Research what the usual is where you’re going and who you should be tipping. Don’t be stingy just because you’re a traveler. Some people live off these tips because they make shit-all in actual wages. If you’re struggling to calculate a tip (which is generally 5-20%), here’s a tip (lol):
calculate 10% by moving the decimal forward one place (e.g. 10% of $64.35 is $6.40 rounded)
double that for 20% ($6.40*2=$12.80)
half that for 5% ($6.40/2=$3.20)
add 10% to 5% for 15% ($6.40+$3.20=$9.60).
I love this Etiquette 101 guide on Tipping from Conde Nast Traveler but keep in mind it is from 2008.
- In certain countries, bartering is a must. It’s just the way things are done, so yes, barter and get a yourself good deal, but don’t be that idiot haggling over the equivalent of 20 cents. These market owners do this day in and day out for most of their lives to make a living. You get MUCH better results when you’re polite, you have a genuine smile, and you try to speak some of their language (even if it’s just hello and thank you). Barter with the intention of paying a reasonable price for what you're after, not the lowest price known to man.
- When you’re heading back home, or to another destination with different currency, do something with your left over coins/small notes. Buy snacks/tissues/band-aids for the trip ahead or donate the money to someone less fortunate where you are. Better with them than in your junk drawer for 13 years.
- Lots of cities offer free walking tours! Take them (and tip the guide!).
- Research the free attractions where you are - best beaches, free museums, etc.
- Make your own “Tour”. Use a popular tour as a reference and work out how to get to and from each one. In parts of Asia you can just hire you’re own driver quite cheaply to take you to all the places you want to go.
- Make friends with the locals who can tell you all the best stuff to do, not just what’s popular with tourists.
- Use free wi-fi at your accommodation or a cafe or invest in a cheap sim if you’ll be staying in one place for a while.
- You DON’T have to do everything that’s on offer. You don’t have to copy other peoples bucket lists. If you’re an adventurer, save your money for skydiving. If you’re a cultural traveler, save your money for temples and museums. If you like a bit of everything, just pick the must-do things.. as in must-do for YOU, not anyone else to get the most of your trip (and money).
- If you’re a student, take your student cards for discounts and cheaper rates.
- Traveling is cheaper with a plus 1 (whether that's with your partner or a friend). That’s not to say don’t travel solo, but it is what it is.
- Forget wasting money on souvenirs. What good are 50 key chains? The souvenirs I take for myself are photos, if I want to send something back to family and friends I buy pretty postcards and write about my trip. Way more personal than a fricking snow globe.
- While you’re away from home why not consider renting out your place with AirBnB? A bit of extra money while you’re away never goes .. astray (damn it, I didn’t want that to rhyme.)
- Keep a budget. It'll hold you accountable and if you overspend one day you know how much you need to under spend on another.
Share your best tips for keeping the costs down while you're overseas. I'll be adding to this post to keep it up to date!