If you are concerned about the economy outlook and traveling is still a far away dream that you are unable to fulfill, you maybe interested in what I am going to share on how you could better manage your travel budget, leveraging on certain skills, or maybe some tips to create an affordable trip of a lifetime! 🙂
Some common questions I tend to receive from friends were: “Keith are you from a wealthy family or simply are you rich? It must be very costly for you to travel to so many countries?” haha, I never blame anyone for asking me this question and for people who know me, I am NOT rich and have a wealth background! (I wish) haha To be honest, I am just a traveller making a humble living and believe in budget travelling. I saved on my daily expenses and find various ways to cut my traveling budget as low as possible. My general rule is to invest quality time in research which in return, will help me save valuable time and money, thereby allowing me to visit many places! 🙂
Disclaimer: Not everyone can take my style of traveling and this is only possible based on few conditions, you need to be adventurous, spontaneous and tough! haha Travelling is not as expensive as many people think, and every place have its own way to keep the budget lower than the promotional price online. I believe the more money I save for each trip, the more countries and cities I can afford to visit! Doesn’t this sound great to you? haha
I shall not keep you in suspense anymore, below are some of my tested and proven tips for budget travelling! 🙂
# 1 Getting To Your Destination
This is by far the MOST IMPORTANT step to save you tonnes of money should you do this correctly from the start! You can easily saved up to a couple of hundreds dollars (sometimes up to a thousand) by purchasing a cheaper air ticket. A tested and proven method is further explained below with two of my experiences on how I manage to save more than 50% on my airfares!
Strategy 1 (The 3 Ps):
When I was planning for my trip to Iceland & UK earlier this year, I was searching hard for cheap air tickets. The initial price from many airfare related search engines were ranging from SGD$2,200 to SGD$5000, which was really expensive. So I decided to call some airlines directly and ASK! Perhaps, lady luck was on my side that day when I spoke to a nice lady from the Airlines. Initially, she quoted me SGD$1300 for a round trip ticket from Singapore to London via Dubai (without a stopover stay) which was a pretty good deal. I tried my luck again and asked her check what was the price if my return city is from Dublin, instead of London, plus I would really love to check out Dubai and stay for 3 nights. Initially, I was pretty doubtful she would be able to help me get a cheaper flight than $1300. Feeling skeptical, I tried my luck by asking POLITELY, PRAISED her service to me and waited PATIENTLY for her over the phone.
After holding on for 10 minutues, she came back to me, and wanna guess what was the total cost for the airfare? It was EVEN CHEAPER than before! Only SGD $1100. She explained to me that was the best deal she could arrange for me. She even jokingly told me that the reason she managed to keep it low, was because I was nice and patience with her! 🙂 Well, so the first example demonstrated the three important attributes (3Ps) for getting a good fare “Polite” + “Patience” & + “Praise”. haha
Strategy 2 (Check and Check):
I was planning a trip with my brother to Nairobi, Kenya. The usual price via google was always around $3000 to $5000 via many prestigious airlines. Now, the trick I am going to share will involves a bit of Geography knowledge + some research and googling skills.
- Step 1: Check whether there are any direct flights to your destinations, if yes compare the price between the different airlines.
- Step 2: If there are no direct flights, look at the map and search for the cities that connects between your departure city and destination. You may use online travel search engine or google to aid your research.
- Step 3: Look at what are the airlines that are flying to and fro via the connecting city.
- Step 4: Check and compare the airlines that fly you to the destination via the connecting city
- same airline throughout
- partnering airlines package
- Step 5: If both flying with same airlines or bundle packages from partnering airlines via connecting city is beyond your budget, try to search and purchase 2 separate round tickets between:
- departure city to connecting city
- connecting city to your arrival city
- Step 6: If there are no available flights options or suitable budget, try to see if there are other options i.e. Fly to a neighboring city of your destination. You may need other mode of transport in getting to your destination i.e. train, taxi, bus shuttles and etc…
- If Step 1 to 6 doesn’t work out for your budget, try another connecting city.
Some examples how I got cheaper deals from above steps:
i.e. Step 4: Through this method, I found 2 partnering airlines (Jet Airways + Kenya Airways) that offered a much cheaper bundle package, and the round trip ticket only cost me SGD $1300 with a transit stay in Mumbai, India. Definitely another great deal! 🙂
i.e. Step 6: I flew to Glasgow and took a train to Edinburg, Scotland instead of flying directly due to cost and time. The air ticket + train ride is cheaper than I flew directly into Edinburg. The journey between Glasgow to Edinburgh is only 1 hour 10 minutes. 🙂
Tip: Congratulations to your first and a crucial step in budget traveling! Remember, exotic places are always more expensive than mainstream cities. So, you really have to spend some time and do a thorough research, this potentially can save you A LOT for a start! 🙂
#2 Booking cheaper flights
The most well-known strategy about booking your flight is “the earlier you book, the cheaper it will get!”. Well, I am not going to deny or challenge this theory. Planning in advance and checking out good deals on the discounted travel websites is a no brainer. Look out for coupon or promotional codes online, sometimes you can save additional 5-20% just by finding these codes diligently.
At times, a non direct flight can potentially save you thousand of dollars. The longer the connecting time, the cheaper it gets. But this also means that you would have to endure a long wait at the airport.
Maybe, should try sleeping on the beach while waiting for your long connecting flight, sure an experience! haha (I’m kidding!)
Tip: Subscribe to internet promotional newsletter or mailers to alert you when there is any promotion.
#3 Eat with the locals
Being a vegetarian, most of the time I cannot be fussy with food especially when I am travelling in a foreign country. Of course, I do splurge occasionally on food, but choosing a good strategy for meals, can save you a huge sum as well! A good way is to follow the locals and do what the locals do. You will not go wrong with this strategy. There is always a reason why so many locals will crowd or queue for a particular local stall, either the food is mouth-watering good or it is really value for money. Eating with the locals can give you a real taste of the country, opportunities to mingle with the locals and get more insider traveling tips. Win Win Win, sure WIN! 🙂 Definitely a big NO NO to “donate” your money to the scale up tourist-trap eateries or restaurant! 🙂
Tip: Avoid over tipping and ask locals for advice what is the standard rate for tipping.
#4 Avoid breakfast in Hotel
This might sound ridiculous, but I will skip breakfast at times because I am a late sleeper and love to wake up late (on days I do not have things to rush for). I avoid taking breakfast included by the hotels to avoid paying the incredibly overpriced breakfast meal. Instead, I normally choose to have a good brunch elsewhere in the city/town (combine breakfast with lunch for the price of 1 meal = value for money haha).
If you are a breakfast person, even though many hotels serve very good breakfast, instead of the boring “international” breakfast, try going out and explore the city for local delicacies.
Tip: Bring some nutrient bars along, sometimes you may skip 1 or 2 meals while traveling due to schedule, and it is also good to detox while you travel and refrain from eating all those unhealthy food that potentially can make you sick.
#5 Public Transport in Developed Cities & Car Rental In Rural Areas
Many cities, especially the developed countries have very expensive private transport. Using cheap public transport system is a must to cut costs. Avoid relying on private transport too much, it gives you comfort but not necessarily friendly on your wallet or even help you save time! For example, it is definitely cheaper and faster to take the metro train from Narita Airport to Tokyo Shinujuku, than taking a taxi. Don’t forget the traffic in developed cities are usually very congested especially during peak hours. For non peak hours, there will be a surcharge. So, wanna save money? Take public transport! 🙂
Use private transport i.e. renting a car when you are traveling across the country, between cities or in rural areas. It is always fun and exciting to do road trips in foreign land, as it gives you freedom and never-ending surprises from the things you see on the road. 🙂
Tip: If you are renting car, pick up your rental car when you are leaving the major city, and return the car before exploring your last big city. Use car rental when you are traveling in areas other than major cities! Cars usage are a hassle and costly in big cities.
#6 Overnight Trains or Flights
Taking an overnight train is the best option for travellers to save both TIME AND MONEY! For example, when you take a train during day time, you are wasting precious time on commuting between the cities. The precious time can be better use for exploring . Furthermore, you can reduce your travel budget caused you avoid an additional overnight stay in the hotel. To sum it up, it save you precious time as you sleep while you travel. Make sense? 🙂
In addition to this, I recommend taking the red-eye flight (overnight flight) to keep your budget low! They are usually cheaper than the day flights. I love flying to Europe on the red-eye flight, because it would get you to Europe the next day morning. This can save you money and earn you an extra day in Europe! Same goes to Asian countries as well, i.e. overnight flight to East Asia or Oceania will get you on the destination on the fresh new day. A strategy to save money and time! 🙂
Tip: Get a rail pass if you are traveling across multiple European countries. Good value for money and great experience of traveling in Europe! 🙂
#7 Currency exchange or ATM cash withdrawal
Now, this potentially can save you a fair bit if you do your research well. Currency exchange is like a market, most of the time, you need to bargain hard! The larger the amount you need to change, the higher your bargaining power! Banks usually charge a higher rate BUT, do weigh the opportunity cost between changing money at local streets and banks. Also depending on the country you are visiting. In some developing countries, due to poverty and high unemployment rate, it is highly recommended to change your currency in a safer place, i.e. at the airport or the banks itself than the streets’ money changers. An alternative way is to bring your ATM card for cash withdrawal, this will depend on the exchange rate of bank and admin charges (charged each time when you withdraw and with a daily credit limit). In this way, don’t be worried about bringing too much cash with you. But again, it also depends on where you go, some developing countries do not have many ATM cash withdrawal machines, sometimes it is better to change some cash at the airport or even you home country! 🙂
Tip: Try to minimise the bank fee during withdrawal by making fewer withdrawals and larger amount each time, more worth for your money. 🙂
#8 Stay with your friends
Instead of staying in luxury expensive hotel, why not opt for a home stay with your friends? This may work for you assuming you are charming, interesting and friendly. haha I am just taking the piss. 🙂 Honestly, an advantage of being sociable is that you get invitations to stay with your friends! Be it newly met, or BFFs (best friends forever), I bet you will get a completely different and interesting experience staying in a home stay than in a hotel. As you know, hotels are such a rip off nowadays. The price they charged are plucked from the sky and at times, it is also hard to get a decent room in some places. Staying with your friends or Couchsurf is a good way to save you a big sum of money on accommodation. Not only saving money, but you will also enjoy the cultural exchange and the unique experience that majority of the tourist will not get.
The reason why I enjoyed Brazil so much was because of my stay with my best Brazilian buddy, Gustavo and family. He hosted me during my visit in Fortaleza, Brazil. He brought me to his grandparents house, his auntie’s house and even dance with his grandma and mom in a big party event. A truly unforgettable experience! 🙂
Staying with your friends will provide you a TOTALLY different experience that a typical tourist will get! When I visited my Canadian friends, Jordan and Katie brought me not only to the main tourist attractions, but also showed me interesting places in Canada. They brought me to
- The place where Katie said yes to Jordan
- Tried out the delicious apple strudel at Katie’s amazing bakery shop
- Jordan and Katie’s loving nest where I kicked Jordan’s butt at a street fighting arcade machine game in their basement (I mean, who in the world owns an arcade machine in their house? haha)
- Intimidated by Katie’s HUGE DOGS
- Take me on for a mini golf competition with Jordan’s family and
- A nice chillax evening with Katie’s parents
The very personal experience were really AWESOME and truly unforgettable! Never the same if I stayed in a hotel. 🙂
Tip: Wanna know many awesome friends like me? Stay in the hostel! You will meet many interesting and exciting avid travelers. Or simply join a travelers’ club. 🙂
#9 Luxury Hostel or Budget Hotel
Well, after traveling for some time, you do need to splurge a bit to pamper, re-energize, unwind, rejuvenate and have a comfortable shelter to rest for the challenges ahead. Instead of staying in a luxury hotel, perhaps you can consider a luxury hostel or budget hotel. Yea, some higher end hostels offer nice, clean and individual rooms with comfort. Most of such hostels do provide solo room where you could enjoy a little privacy that you may need after traveling for a long period. Not only do you get to enjoy cheaper rates than luxury hotel, you also will have your desired privacy and the opportunities to mingle with fellow international travellers! Isn’t that a good deal? 🙂
On a side note, be it staying in budget accommodation or splurge on luxurious multiple stars hotels are both completely different experience. There is no right or wrong answer and is completely based on individual style of traveling and budget! To me, the most important thing is the travel experience and of course safety! Do research well and avoid sleazy motels or B&Bs. haha There were some cases that some sleazy privately owned motels/hostels drugged some female travelers (even male travelers) and molested them. Of course, I don’t wanna scare you. There are many great hostels and beautiful B&Bs in the world! Such cases are rare. Remember, low crime doesn’t mean no crime! 🙂
Read on a real case in New Zealand: New Zealand hostel owner drugged, molested, filmed at least 16 male backpackers
Tip: Sometimes telling the hotel reception that you could pay cash or stay minimally three consecutive nights could save you a bit of money as well.
#10 Ask for more during low season
Your destination LOW season can be your ON season! During low season, not only you might get cheaper airfares, paying less for better quality room, spending lesser time on queue lines, but you could also have a bigger bargaining power to ASK FOR MORE. Try to take advantage of the low price and free upgrades during this period. Sometimes, all you need is just a polite greeting, charming smile and simply open your mouth and ASK! 🙂 You will be surprised many hotels, hostels, airlines companies will be willing to provide you a free upgrades to keep you happy and satisfied! 🙂 Pay low price and enjoy more, why not? So start asking! 🙂
Tip: For free upgrades to happen, you need to ASK politely! Be nice to people i.e. Hotel Receptionist, Airlines Telesales or Check In Counter Service Crew. Never underestimate how capable they are to make or break your trip. 🙂
#11 Tax Refund in Europe/America
This may apply if you are a heavy shopper who are brand conscious, label conscious or quality conscious! Well, because you are conscious, you are spending more money. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong to be conscious about what you are paying for. I consider myself a brand conscious for certain things i.e. for shoes, I prefer and love Timberland shoes. They worked very well for me especially when I travel and hike. Anyway, always remember to check with the retailers whether there are any tax refunds from government. You could get back quite a sum as well. Again, all you need is just a courteous smile and ASK politely! 🙂
Tip: If you wish to claim for your government tax, please make sure that you arrive the airport earlier and give yourself ample time to get your documents filled up and locate the post box. I got really lost by the VAT instructions at the Irish airport when getting my claims.
#12 Shop at local convenience stores
Besides big shops and branded luxurious stores, there are many street stalls or local souvenirs shops where you can get GREAT deals. Rather than seeing standard things, why not check out some special and unique local merchandise for gifts. They are usually much cheaper options for souvenirs too. 🙂
Tip: Large departmental stores usually offer good deals for foodies such as chocolates or candies. Flea market is good for special and local merchandise where the prices are soft, so haggle as much as you can.
#13 Use good navigation apps
Whether you are smart or not, people are using smart phones today! haha For orienting myself in foreign land, I usually use my smart phone as a guide and navigate me around the city and places. However, many people have the misconception that you need to buy expensive data plans to use navigation system in smart phone. Well, I hope you will love me if I share this great navigation app I am using when I travel. It cost only few dollars, but it save me soooooo much money from subscribing oversea data plans when I travel.
Tip: Go and download MapswithMe, try the free version and see whether it works for you before you get the full version by paying a few bucks. The full version comes with more features i.e. you can enjoy unlimited navigation without using data plan, storing addresses, finding restaurants and attractions etc… All you need to do is to pre-download the map of the country you visiting. You will have the latest updated map in your mobile and you are able to use without turning on your data plan. Sounds cool right? 🙂
#14 Be an expert and plan your own itinerary, engage small private agency for exotic places
When you are visiting some exotic places and traveling around is not easily accessible. Perhaps, one solution is to hire a local guide or sign up with a tour agency. Usually, I will do my own customised tour and not the standard packages. I feel standard packages tours will waste my precious time, bringing me to places that I am not interested. A customised package tour can save a lot of time, and I can focus on the areas that interest me. Thing is, many people believe customised tour are very expensive. Indeed, it is usually mark up at a higher price due to the low economy of scale in executing the tour for you. On the contrary, things can be cheaper if you design your own itinerary and contact the local agencies to just to execute the trip for you. You will be surprised, most of the time, I can get really good cheap offers by these private local tour agencies. Judging at how well you know about their country and your planned itinerary will show them that you are a well-travelled and well researched traveler, therefore they dare not take you for a ride and give you a more competitive rate than other bigger agencies.
Tip: To negotiate not to bargain! Negotiate for the right amount to strike a win-win situation with the agencies as they need to earn their living, but bargain will earn you dirt cheap price and they might shortchange you in terms of quality and services! 🙂
#15 Bundle works the magic
You may come across and realised many of the developed cities will offer bundle passes i.e. transport passes. Usually they would throw everything in with
- Complimentary visit to attractions i.e. museums, historical buildings
- Public transport rides i.e. Bus, Trains or Trams
- Vouchers i.e for restaurants or retail stores
These passes will be extremely useful and can save you a sum depending on your itinerary. Imagine getting a bundle offer for:
One magical pass at $50 includes “Three museums entrance fee + unlimited bus + train rides daily + $20 shopping voucher at duty-free + $50 dining vouchers at restaurants” = Save lotsa $$$ why not? haha
Tip: A longer period pass (3 days pass) will be more value for money than a day pass, Invest in multiple days pass to enjoy more savings if you are staying long enough in a city. 🙂
#16 Card Rewards
For credit card user, do take note or call your banks to check if there are any credit card promotions. Credit card promotions or rebates for airfares, travel insurance or minimum oversea spending is very common today. I could easily save up couple of hundreds from purchasing air tickets, booking of hotel, or buying insurance using certain credit cards. Again, the trick is to RESEARCH and ASK! 🙂
Tip: While some credit card are useful, do not let frequent flyer mileage cloud your judgment. Between saving money and score more mileage points, the latter doesn’t value add as much as saving REAL money. 🙂
#17 Free Walking Tours by Students
In many cities, there are many free city walking tours offered by students, such services are getting more and more popular today. Especially when the schools encouraged and believe students can gain valuable experience, appreciate and gain good knowledge of their own country by showing foreigners around and also an opportunity to improve their social skills by interacting with international visitors. In many cases, these students wish to practice their language skills, hence they take up a part-time volunteering project by meeting travelers during off school time. Do check out online to see if there are such walking tours conducted by the students. Hope you don’t see this as taking advantage of the poor students, but rather, take this as an opportunity and platform for the students to learn. If you like their service, you may reward them handsomely with some tips, which they will definitely appreciate as well. 🙂
Tip: Try to search from the internet or via hostels. Usually, hostels will arrange more such services with the students than hotels, but, never rely too heavily on the students for your travel itinerary. Use the students as a short guide to fill your day with some brief explanations of the place you visiting. You do not want your plans to be screwed. A few hours or at most half day walking city discovery tour is the best way of getting such services.
#18 Use internet booking vs walk in directly
For this decade, everything is on the internet, social media, and network! Do tap on such promotions online. The rates are usually much better as compared to direct walk-in to airlines, hotels or attractions. Most of such facilities required pre-booking to control demand and not to exceed their capacity to serve. Make sure you plan early and get these booked via internet.
Tip: If you need to walk in directly, you can tap on the hotel’s free wi-fi and book the rooms via internet to get the additional 10-20% discount. haha 🙂
#19 Walk and walk
Train your legs muscles and prepare for long distance walking. Walking the entire day is possible! I have done it sooooo many times in major European cities. i.e. Venice, Paris, London, Reykjavík, Rome, Athens, Copenhagen, Stockholm and etc… Most importantly, walking is absolutely free! haha Most of the time, the attractions in the cities are pretty near and within walking distance. By walking around, I get to enjoy and appreciate the city at a slower pace, than exploring the city by a day transport pass! Of course, if you don’t wanna lose some fats and hate walking, getting a day pass is something feasible as well. 🙂
Tip: Invest in a good pair of hiking shoe for long distance walking. Personally, I love Timberland hiking shoe as it is good for long distance walking, highly ventilated, and the Goretex material makes it waterproof and breathable. After a long day of walking you feet doesn’t stink and stay dry! 🙂
#20 Use free communication apps
Wanting to communicate with your family or friends when you travel? Well, all thanks to technology that brings people closer and cheaper! There are plenty of good communication apps you can use to call or even video call your family and friends via phone apps. All these apps will need an internet connection. Data plans in some countries can be very expensive, so you will have to look out for hotels/hostels, cafe or restaurants that offers free wi-fi. In some exotic places, wi-fi may not be very common and it could come with a high surcharge. Then it might be a better idea to get an auto roaming service in case of emergency.
Tip: My personal favourites – Skype/Tango for video call, Whatsapp for text messages, Facebook for mass updates, Instagram for sharing of photos. 🙂
A Special Bonus Tip –> Learn Martial Arts
While all the tips I share above are guidelines to save money on traveling, learning martial arts and looking tough is a great way to deter people from stealing or robbing your money. Martial arts can improve your situation awareness, alertness and this skill can protect your assets, cash and even your own safety when you are at a foreign land! 🙂 haha
Tips: Wear a money belt, be wary of scams and commotions in crowded areas and be wary of fake policemen or sometimes real policemen who would extort you for money. Always never show people your passport or identity but only your photocopies to guard against fake policemen. It is better to be safe than sorry. 🙂
Well, I hope you like this article on 20 Budget Travel Tips And Save Money On Traveling and those personal tips that I have shared. If you find these tips useful, or have additional tips, please feel free to comment below. Also hope you can like Travel Inspiration 360 Facebook page, or follow on Twitters and Instagram! 🙂
“You might be poor on money, but rich on life” – Kasper Raunholst