How to save money
• Destination: Saving money starts with the choice of your travel destination. In the chapter “Where and when to go” it is already mentioned that countries have different price levels. Indicators such as the cost of living index, the restaurant price index or the local purchasing power index can give you an idea of how expensive it will be to spend time in a certain country. Click here to get a good overview of this. It is noticeable that that you get the most for your money in Central and South America, big parts of Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. Besides the price level of a country, you should also check whether the country’s infrastructure meets your demands. It can be quite challenging and therefore also expensive to find proper accommodation, food and transport at isolated, for tourists unexploited places (North Canada, little Pacific Islands, etc.).
• Flights: Usually flights are the highest fixed costs of your travels. Thanks to the rise of international budget airlines, the big competition in general and deal finding websites, it has become much easier to fly around the world on a low budget. In this section, you find all our tips and tricks how to find cheap tickets:
When to fly:
Airline ticket prices vary significantly depending on the day of the week, the time of year, and upcoming holidays. When your flight is during a time when most people in your home country are off and therefore planning to fly on holiday, then you’ll most probably have to pay higher fares. Moreover, it is usually cheaper to fly during the middle of the week, because most people travel on the weekends. Prices are also cheaper if you fly in the early morning, late at night or after a major holiday.
How to book:
As the times when people turned to classic travel agencies are nearly over, we like using search engines on the internet such as Momondo and Skyscanner. Both provide instant comparison on flight prices for over thousands of routes. If possible, give yourself the opportunity to catch any of the cheap flights by searching a couple of days, also around your preferred departure date. Once you have found the cheapest price, compare it directly with the airlines own website. Sometimes the airlines offer even lower fares when you book online on their site. Besides flight search engines there are also websites that concentrate on special offers and error fares which can be great deals if you are flexible concerning where and when to go. To stay on top of travel deals we can recommend:
Holiday Pirates inform you about error fares on your smartphone. You are able to choose your destination and your budget for a flight and they will send you push messages as soon as such an offer is online!
When to book:
In general the best booking window is 6–10 weeks before your flight, or around 3-4 months before if you are going to your destination during peak season.
Some more tips:
• Transportation: If your travel destination provides a proper transport infrastructure, the cheapest way to get around is usually by public transport like bus, train or boat. Furthermore this is a great option to get in touch with locals who can always provide useful insider information such as good value restaurants, interesting things to see and do and so on.
If time is short or more flexibility is required, then renting a car can be a good option (But be aware of the foreign traffic rules!). Chris and I have already gone on a couple of amazing road trips, for example in the USA, South Africa, Namibia, New Zealand or Morocco. Keep in mind that prices can be quite high and vary widely depending on the country! To save the time of endless bus or boat rides or cover huge distances, you may even take a (domestic) flight which can be of great benefit.
If you want to check out the local area of the place you are staying at, consider renting a scooter which is very popular and cheap e.g. in many countries of Southeast Asia.
Share costs with other travelers wherever and whenever you can! When you meet other travelers (e.g. in hostels, on tours, etc.) there might be someone who is looking for people to share a private car, taxi, minibus etc. That’s a great way to get around and splitting costs is always more cost-effective. A special tip for taxi rides: often there is no taximeter, so ask a local about the standard fare for your selected route and fix the price with the taxi driver before departing – otherwise you may be charged way too much! In many countries it is also safe and common to hitchhike. Give it a try after having checked whether this is also the case in your destination.
• Accommodation: Accommodation is one of your biggest daily expenses when you travel – and lowering it, can lead to huge savings.
Hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed – usually a bunk bed – in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex and private rooms are usually also available. When picking hostels on websites like Hostelworld or HostelBookers, I look at user reviews, pictures and facilities. Of course hostels are not the most comfortable accommodation but they offer big advantages: there is usually a friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff that provides you with great insider information, free city maps, tour booking and so on. Additionally you will meet lots of other travelers who like to share their experiences and make proposals on what to see and do.
Really good hostels also organize activities such as walking tours, bar tours or BBQs to spend a fantastic time together. If you stay in a dormitory of a hostel, you should not forget to bring earplugs, a padlock (to lock your valuables in one of the often provided lockers) as well as flip flops (to wear in shared bathrooms and showers).
Apartments are often too expensive for single travelers but if you are part of a group or a couple who is looking for a break from the dorms and crowds of travelers – but don’t want a hotel room – this might match your taste. Furthermore apartments provide self-catering facilities which reduce your food costs. A popular rental website is Airbnb. Usually the host is friendly, helpful and can give you good advice on what to see and do in the area.
Hotels are not our favorite due to the usually higher prices but sometimes you can find very good deals especially as a couple, for example on www.booking.com. They have listed nearly one million properties around the globe including hotels, apartments and hostels. You get a best price guarantee and the cancellation of most rooms is free.
Staying with locals:
One of the best ways to save money on accommodation is by not paying for it. Hospitality networks make it possible to stay with locals who open their homes to you. This is not only a great way to save on accommodation but you also get to interact with locals who can show you where to go and what to do, and you experience local culture at first hand. A good website is www.couchsurfing.com. Staying at a "homestay" also means that you stay with the local people but in this case you usually pay for it.
Another cheap option is to set up a tent in a national park, a caravan park, on the beach or just in the grounds of hostels or backyards of local people you meet. Camping in warm and dry regions is much easier than in colder and wetter ones because you get along without an expensive high quality tent and a heavy sleeping bag. Keep in mind that your camping equipment means additional weight to carry around! To save money and carry less, we always try to buy our camping gear in hostels (via notes at the reception) and sell it again after we don’t need it anymore.
• Food: Unless eating out is incredibly cheap – like in many Asian countries – we prefer self-catering accommodation (usually hostels) because buying groceries and cooking them by yourself can save you lots of money. If you decide to eat out, go for local food which is usually the cheapest. Of course you can get lots of quick calories by ordering some burgers at McDonalds for as little as € 5,- but local food is much more authentic and it supports the domestic economy as well as private households. When looking for local food always pick places that are popular with local people. This is a good indicator for fresh and good value food! We also recommend street food. In most places around the world, you will find areas where food is cooked on the open street. You will enjoy a delicious meal which is usually cheap and a great way to really experience the local cuisine. You should keep in mind that restaurants or street food located next to tourist attractions are usually more expensive and less authentic, so just go one street or one block further!
• Travel slowly: The biggest costs in travelling are transport, accommodation and stepping into price traps due to a lack of information. By travelling slowly, you lessen the need for frequent transport. Furthermore many hotels, hostels and especially apartments provide their best deals when you stay longer than just one night. Besides, travelling is not about hurrying from place to place, it’s about experiencing a new culture and gaining the most from every place. The longer you stay at one place the higher the chance of figuring out about the best price deals.
• Sleep while travelling: When travelling by plane, train, or bus, try to do so at night. This way you don’t have to pay for a night’s accommodation. Of course this is not the best strategy if you are not able to sleep on public transport!
• Find special offers: If you watch out for special deals or discounts you can also save a lot of money. They can be found on websites of travel blogs or coupon sites, in tourist magazines and brochures, on the back of supermarket receipts, at the tourist information or simply pinned in the lobby of your hostel. In Australia, for example, there is a page called bookme.com.au where you get many deals and discounts on different activities, tours, restaurants and so on. This might also apply to other countries.
• Free walking tours: If you are heading for a big city and want to learn about its history and people, and see the major sights, you should consider joining a free walking tour. You can find them in 90% of the major cities in Europe, and there are also a few in large Asian cities, South America, New York, Australia, and New Zealand. To find these tours, ask the local tourist office, your hostel staff or google “Free walking tour (city name).”
• Avoid price traps: If you are not sure about fair prices, ask the locals or your hostel/hotel staff about usual costs and try not to pay more for anything from transport to food to activities.
• Credit cards: Switch to No-Fee ATM credit cards and check the program and benefits of your particular credit card. You might be able to use collected points for accommodation costs or frequent flyer points.
• Save costs at home: I always lease my apartment while I am travelling to save unnecessary costs at home.
13.03.2018 - Chris