Let’s face it: traveling on a budget is hard. All of the everyday expenses can and will add up really quickly. Below is a list of a few simple tips to stretch your budget so you can spend more time focusing on what really matters: all of the experiences from your travels!
1. Be Wary of ATMs
Most ATMs in foreign countries charge anywhere from $2-$5 and your home bank typically charges you between 1%-3% of the amount of your total transaction. Let’s say, for example, you withdraw $60 from an ATM. Your bank charges a 2% transaction fee and there is a $3 ATM charge. You would in total be charged $75. Now let’s say you were to take out $20 three separate times over the period of a day, equaling $60. This would end up costing you $87. It is smarter to take out all of the cash that you need for the day (or however much you feel comfortable with) at one time to avoid racking up fees. Keep in mind those numbers aren’t including a foreign exchange rate, which can end up costing you even more. A good way to avoid these fees all together is asking your bank whether they have any partner banks set up where you will be traveling. Remember – always inform your bank before you travel to foreign countries to avoid setting up red flags which can lead to having your account frozen.
2. Take Free Walking Tours
Most popular tourist destinations offer free walking tours. With walking tours, you get to see all of the can’t-miss sites as well as back roads, and hidden gems. They are generally hosted by locals with a genuine love for their city. You get an authentic taste of your destination as well as lots of interesting historical information and fun facts. Afterwards, you are welcome to tip whatever you feel is appropriate for the quality of the tour.
3. Travel by Train
When traveling between countries or large areas, trains are your best friend. They’re a lot cheaper than air travel and a preferred method of many seasoned travelers. Train travel is also rewarding in that you are able to see landscapes, country sides, and villages that you would have otherwise skipped right over. You can score train deals by getting an InterRail pass.
[View from train window; somewhere in eastern Europe]
4. Avoid Taxis
As you probably know, taxis can be crazy expensive and many a driver has been known to boost that meter up whenever possible. Avoid taxis by knowing bus schedules and routes and picking a hotel or hostel in a good location for walking. If you absolutely must take a taxi, share with someone else (only if you feel comfortable, of course) and split the fare. Uber and Lyft are also a great options if available to the city or country you’re in.
5. Haggle with Street Vendors
Some of the best souvenirs come from street vendors and a great perk to this is that you can haggle on the price. It’s easy to do – let the vendor know that you are interested but can’t pay the asking price. The vendor wants to make the sell and they will most likely bring the price down if they can. My personal favorite souvenirs are the city maps I’ve collected country by country. A great way to score some memorabilia on your trip for free.
6. Look into Travel Cards
Many tourist destinations offer travel card packages. These cards can offer discounts on transportation and free or reduced entrance into many of the city’s largest tourist attractions. A simple Google search can help you find out whether the city you plan to visit has one of these packages available.
7. Stay at Hostels
Despite what the horror movie might lead you to believe, most hostels are clean, safe, budget friendly, and will have a super friendly, helpful and multilingual staff. Most come with safes to lock up your valuables and many offer private rooms for couples or those who just don’t want to share a room. Hostels are also a great place to meet fellow travelers and are especially recommended if you’re traveling solo. Hostelworld.com is a great resource to find and book the perfect hostel for you!
[Central Backpack King Hostel in Budapest, Hungary]
8. Be Cautious of Phone Charges
Phone charges can really add up quickly. You can incur hundreds of dollars in charges if you’re not careful. One option is to set up an international plan with your cell phone provider before you leave. For example, AT&T offers the “World Traveler Plan” where you get a set amount of texts and data and calls cost a few cents per minute. However, if you plan to stay in a country for a long period of time, it’s usually cheaper to get a prepaid phone (you can find them for less than $20) and a re-loadable calling card.
9. Check Out Local Grocery Stores
While it’s great to experience another culture’s cuisine, eating every meal at a restaurant is a sure-fire way to blow your budget. Buying a baguette and some cheese to eat for lunch instead of going out will end up saving you loads, and grocery stores can serve as a cultural experience as well!
10. Steer Clear of Tourist Traps
A good rule of thumb is that the more touristy a place is the more expensive it will be, and also the less authentic. Restaurants and bars tend to be the biggest culprits. A good way to avoid this is to ask the hostel or hotel staff or to look up reviews. Also, avoid places in major tourist hot-spots and with menus in a million different languages.
Traveling on a budget can be difficult, but it is possible. Keeping these tips in mind can help to make it a little easier. Happy budget friendly travels and feel free to leave your best money saving travel trips in a comment below!