How to Travel Cheaply
One of the most common reasons people give for not traveling is it’s too expensive. But it’s all a matter of priorities, and people who value the travel experience usually find a way to make it happen. Here’s how you can minimize the expense of your travels:
Airline tickets are often a traveler’s biggest expense. Spend a longer time abroad and see more of the surrounding countries to help cut down on the per-trip cost of getting there and back. Look at trains and buses if your destination is close enough. Buy tickets well in advance and try to avoid travel immediately before or after major holidays. Stay current on world events. Flights to Mexico were going out empty (and cheaply) in the wake of Swine flu thanks to the media’s sensationalistic reporting.
Look online to get a feel for local room prices in hostels and hotels. I’ve repeatedly found private rooms in hostels to be the best value for the money: you get the privacy and security of staying in a hotel without the high cost. Once you’ve narrowed your options to a few cost conscious candidates, check tripadvisor.com for firsthand reviews. I know a lot of travelers who simply show up and find accommodation upon arrival, but I prefer to book in advance for at least the first couple days of my stay. I’d rather have a place to go upon than have to deal with finding a place to sleep, and it’s nice to lock in the price beforehand.
Eating and drinking
I love experiencing local culture through food and drink, and eating out is always a big part of my budget. It needn’t be expensive though. Avoid tourist restaurants as these tend to be the most expensive and ironically the least authentic. In India you can pay a premium to sit down for a meal at an upscale place with English menus and air conditioning. These types of restaurants tend to be frequented by foreigners and are utterly lacking in culture. What’s the fun in that? Travelers who put in the legwork will find a far better meal at a much cheaper price, and you’ll be better connected with the locals that way.
Travel presents a unique opportunity to cut out the middle man and support the local economy while still getting a better deal than you would in your home country. Clothing, for example, is inexpensive in Asia. You have to be willing to negotiate, and pay attention to the quality which can be hit or miss.
It’s easy to load up on too much stuff. Unfortunately your lifesize Buddha statue probably wont have quite the same appeal when you put it in your living room back home. I use pictures as my souvenirs – they’re free and they don’t take up any space in my bag. Refrigerator magnets and postcards also make great low key gifts while letting your friends know you thought of them.
Plan your destinations to maximize value
Europe in the summer is pricey. Europe in February? Not as bad, but are you willing to deal with the cold? Prices vary drastically depending not just on where you’re headed but also when you’re going. Research goes a long way.
Look for alternatives
Search out the undiscovered. Costa Rica was cheap before the tourism boom, but today it’s teeming with foreigners happily spending their US dollars and Euros. Look to Nicaragua and Guatemala as alternatives – they’re still cheap and just as beautiful, and you won’t have to wade through throngs of tourists to enjoy all that scenery.
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