After the sometimes excessive costs of buying a plane ticket and forking out money on travel insurance, it can be easy to think that taking that dream holiday will be far too expensive. But don’t be put off! There are so many ways to keep travelling cheap and fun, if you know where to look and how to go about it.
Here are my tips for cutting costs along the road:
Choose destinations that have a cheaper standard of living, like South-East Asia, South America or India. Not only do you get better value for money, you will also be contributing to their tourism industry and helping the country grow (that’s provided you are supporting the local businesses). Aside from the initial air fare, your holiday won’t cost much at all. When I was last in Asia, I was able to get a Pad Thai and a fruit shake for a total of $2! Accommodation, transport and drinks will also be significantly reduced.
Make the effort to search for cheaper accommodation. Hostels, home stays and couch-surfing are all great ways to save your money for the important things (like experiences and food)! Over a week, even a $10 saving on a room will add up to $70 saving, which can then be spent elsewhere. Also, cheap accommodation will more likely offer really good deals on tours and food. I remember staying in a hostel in Vietnam that cost $4 a night for a bed in a dorm room, which included a free breakfast and free beer. Best bargain ever!
Look for combination deals from tour agencies (and make sure you use ALL the vouchers to get the best value for money). For example, you can get large discounts on Great Barrier Reef diving expeditions, white water rafting, Fraser Island four-wheel drive tours and all the North Queensland attractions if you buy them in bulk. Be sure to try a few different adventure travel agencies before booking though – they will fight down the price because there is so much competition!
Buy your flights online – yes it requires a little more effort, but you will avoid hefty booking fees from travel agencies. That extra money can be spent on making the most of your holiday.
Search out train/bus passes. The best ones to get for longer trips are ‘hop-on, hop-off’ as you can keep your trip flexible. Make sure you use the passes to their full extent. If you’re not going to make the most of the pass, book tickets as you go, as it will generally work out a bit cheaper.
Don’t pre-purchase accommodation/transport. Often, it is cheaper to buy from the country itself. For example, buying bus tickets online for Thailand worked out a lot more expensive than finding a deal on arrival.
When you find yourself in a new place, take the chance to explore it by foot. Not only is it free, it also gives you time to explore all the little alleyways, shops or countryside, that you would otherwise miss if you were zooming past on a bike or in a car.
Take sleeper-buses where you can. They are often not much more expensive than a regular ticket and you get to save on a night’s accommodation.
Look for happy hours and meal deals in the places that you go. Most pubs will offer meal deals at certain hours of the day. Also, look out for free drink vouchers given out at the hostels.
Shop where the locals do – markets are the best way to get a cheap deal, if you know how to haggle. It can be a bit stressful if you’re not used to it, but a smile can go a long way.
House swapping. This sounds like a fantastic option if you have a family (and a house) and want to really immerse yourself in a different culture/community for a while. I’ve had friends who swapped houses with people overseas for year-long blocks. Yes, you have to put trust in other people using your belongings, but remember they have to trust you too.
House-sitting. This way, you get to stay in some beautiful accommodation for free, whilst doing basic maintenance work, like watering the gardens, keeping the place clean and walking their dogs or cats.
Relocation cars – if you want to get from A-B but can’t afford a bus ticket, consider getting a relocation car. Basically, you drive a vehicle from your location to another for free! They get their car moved, you get a free ride. Obviously, this is not good if you want to sightsee along the way, as you are expected to drive the car within a select time period.
Eat local – if you buy a pizza in Asia, it’s going to be a lot more expensive than their local Fried Rice or Pad Thai. Be smart about it and look for fresh ingredients and places where people are lining up!
WWOOF-ing: Willing Workers On Organic Farms. You offer your time and labour for free board and accommodation. This goes on all over the world – I’m yet to try it but I’ve heard of plenty of travellers who love it!
Earn your keep with a few shifts at a hostel (just be careful and do the maths first – there are some con-artists out there who will try to take advantage of newly-arrived backpackers).
Volunteer at festivals – you generally have to volunteer your time for a 3-5 hour shift each day. Then you can enjoy the music all night long with a free festival pass!
Two-for-one vouchers in visitor brochures are a great way to save if you are travelling in a pair. You can generally find good deals at most information centres.
If you can play an instrument, frequent some open mic nights along the way. You play a set of music and you often get a free drink in return (depending on the venue). It’s always a great night out!
How do you keep costs down on the road? I’d love to learn some more tips!!!