I received such positive feedback after last week’s blog regarding how much we spent while travelling for 6 months. However, there were some people who seemed a little perplexed at how me managed to do so much and stick within budget. My answer to them was… we spent our money on the memories and then cut corners on all the non-essentials. Simple!
I can honestly say hand-on-heart that Ciarán and I have no regrets from our trip. We did everything we could imagine and then more. I believe that this is down to the fact that we are both advocates for saving money where we can, once it doesn’t affect our experiences. We worked our asses off to save beforehand and I would be damned if we came home without ticking off everything on our bucket list.
However, doing all the big-ticket items meant that we had to closely monitor our everyday spending and come up with some cost saving initiatives along the way. Here are 23 tips that we learnt and lived by while on our little adventure.
Get yourself a Revolut card. Revolut is an app-based banking alternative that enables you to use a prepay debit card without incurring those pesky international transaction fees.
If you don’t have time to get a Revolut, use a credit card that doesn’t charge you international fees while travelling. It can save you a fortune over an extended period of time.
If neither of these options are available and you need to use your personal debit/credit card, research the transaction fees for each bank in the country you are in. Go to the bank that is offering the lowest international transaction fees to withdraw your money. You may be lucky and find some that don’t charge at all. This is well worth the walk if required.
Avoid exchanging your money at the airport as this is where you will end up getting fleeced. If stuck for cash, withdraw local currency from ATMS as they often offer much better rates.
Use Skyscanner for booking flights. This website will help you find the cheapest flights to wherever you wish to go. It is a one-stop-shop providing you with details on local and long-haul flights, ensuring you get the best value for your money.
This may seem like an obvious one but avoid using taxis and get public transport instead. Or do one even better and walk everywhere. This way you can take in everything that your surrounds have to offer.
Take overnight trains and buses when you can as they tend to be much cheaper than the day operations. People can be put off thinking that they will miss out on a night’s sleep, but they are actually very comfortable so don’t be too put off by what you read on-line.
Book your big-ticket items like your long-haul flights as far in advance as you possibly can. The closer to the time you leave it, the higher the cost goes up.
Be flexible with your itinerary. When you get to a town or city you may find local agents selling train, bus and boats tickets for a fraction of what you would buy on line. This is especially the case around Asia, so don’t be afraid to go somewhere and not know when you will be leaving.
Purchase an unlocked phone before you go and use local sim cards. If you are like me and have a habit of turning the data roaming on by mistake, this will save you a fortune in phone bills.
Use Apps like WhatsApp to call and text home. This can be done for free when connected to Wifi and its one less bill to worry about.
When eating out, don’t eat in major tourist spots and only eat where locals eat. A restaurant full of locals is always a good sign that the food is tasty and of good value.
Look for menus of the day or “Menu del Dia” in South America. This concept was developed in Spain and is an economical way of eating generous portions for small prices.
If street food is offered, give it a go. People can often be frightened of trying out street vendor food but fear not. Unlike restaurants, you can see the food being cooked in front of you and will know the hygiene standards immediately. Some of the best and cheapest food we ate was street food.
Drink local wine and beer. By drinking local alcohol produce, you avoid having to pay the associated import taxes with the international brands. You are also helping the local economy, so it is a win-win for everybody.
Stay in accommodation which has a kitchen. Believe me you will be happy for a home cooked meal after being on the road and travelling around for several weeks. You can cook using local produce for a fraction of the cost of eating out
Avail of buffet breakfasts in hotels. Be sure to eat enough at breakfast so that you will be full for the day. You may be even lucky enough to make a sneaky sandwich that you can snack on later in the day.
Give dorms in hostels a go. Sharing a room with strangers might not be for everyone but accommodation will be one of your biggest costs while travelling. Staying in dorms can cut your spending down dramatically. It is also a great way to meet people if you are travelling alone.
Use the same Apps for booking accommodation. This will enable you to build up credit and receive rewards. I am a big fan of Booking.com and both Ciarán and I became Genius Loyalty Members. This meant we got major discounts and benefitted from nice little perks like free late check outs, complimentary welcome drinks, and discounts on regular rates and access to hidden deals that change each day.
Avoid using third party agencies, both online and their offices. Instead buy from official vendors when doing tours. Third party agencies will want a piece of the pie resulting in steeper prices. We found this to be prevalent when doing the Salt Flats in Bolivia. People in our group paid almost double what we had paid just because they booked the trip online through an agent. We even saw agencies refuse to refund tickets.
Skip the tours and go to locations on your own. Find itineraries online and book each of the activities yourself, enabling you to dramatically cut costs. We were able to save a fortune by taking this approach when visiting the Galapagos Islands.
Do free walking tours or “tours for tips” when in major cities. These are pay what you like tours with no set fee. You only pay what you believe is an appropriate amount. It’s important not be scabby and give your tour guide a fair amount but they do enable you to stick to a tight budget and get some amazing insights on your destination.
Get travel insurance and TRIPLE check the T&C to ensure you are covered in all eventualities. This should alleviate the burden of dealing with an unexpected event like losing your bag or worse, a medical emergency. It can ensure that at the end of it, you are not left high and dry with the unforeseen bills that can eat into your budget.