When you’re away for an extended period of time it’s essential that you know ways to save money whilst travelling. You’ve no doubt scrimped and saved for the trip, now you’ve got to make your budget stretch as far as possible!
You might notice that ‘have a strict budget’ is missing from this post. I just don’t think setting a weekly or monthly budget is realistic because what will work for one country won’t for another. Instead my philosophy is to spend in a considered way without scrimping on fun and regularly check in with my finances. Ask yourself “If I carry on spending like this, will I have enough money left?”
I wanted to share a few money saving travel hacks that I’ve picked up over the last four nomadic months. If you’ve got any awesome money saving tips then please leave them in the comments!
“Every penny (cent, rupiah, baht, yen…) counts!”
1. Travel overnight and save on accommodation
Book a night flight, sleeper train or bus between destinations and save yourself a night of accommodation! I did this between Singapore and Sydney, where I booked a 1am flight. I made the most of my time in the city, enjoyed the luxury Changi airport and then slept the whole way to Australia.
I also travelled via sleeper train between Sydney and Melbourne and saved myself a night of accommodation and travel to and from the airport either side because the train stations are in the centres of the cities! The fare was also cheaper than a flight. Triple win! This is one of my favourite ways to save money whilst travelling.
2. Think in the local currency
Switch your money mindset to the local currency as quickly as you can.
It helps to know a rough exchange rate – remember how much £10 is in local currency for example for quick conversions – but it’s better not to be continually comparing prices to at home. You’re not at home, it’s irrelevant.
In Bali, 130K IDR is very expensive for a cocktail. In the U.K. that would be about £7 and considered good value. Thinking in your home currency abroad can lead to silly spending whereby you constantly justify things as cheap by the standards of an entirely different economy!
3. Learn the tipping culture
Just like above, don’t just apply the same tipping rules as in your home country. Find out what the appropriate tip percentage is – or if you should tip at all – and then stick to that.
4. Learn to haggle
Where appropriate, learn to haggle. That means learning to walk away too (often they’ll soon be calling after you!) You might only be negotiating over the equivalent of £2 but somewhere in Asia that could be 4 meals!
5. Be flexible with your itinerary
This one is controversial: some say book ahead, others say travel spontaneously. I’m firmly in the latter camp.
The only caveat to that is if you’re somewhere with very limited accommodation where you may want a wider pick of the bunch. Certainly though, having date flexibility is one of the best travel money saving hacks! You can make the most of cheap flights, awkward timings and last minute discounts.
In Asia it’s easy to just turn up at budget lodgings and negotiate an even cheaper rate than advertised rather than booking ahead or online.
6. Be aware of weekends
When you’re travelling full time it’s easy to forget which day of the week it is. It’s one of the joys! The locals haven’t forgotten though and not only will places be busier but often more expensive too. For example, lots of Australia has a really annoying Sunday surcharge on restaurants bills and the like.
7. Walk or travel like the locals
If you’re somewhere that you can walk then do! If it’s too far or too hot, use the cheapest form of local transport. Sometimes, if there’s more than one of you, that actually can be an Uber! In Sydney the fare often equalled two public transport tickets. Whereas in Singapore, the metro was awesome. Ultra clean, cheap and efficient.
8. Self cater where possible
Eating in is normally always cheaper than eating out, with a few exceptions. Often Asian street food is cheaper than buying the ingredients for yourself!
Buy a multi pack of cereal bars for when you get peckish to stop you popping into a cafe for a snack. A box of cereal and a carton of milk is going to cost you a lot less than buying breakfast every day. Look out for hostels and homestays with free meals included too! On Gili Trawangan we had an air-conned double en-suite room and free breakfast for £6 a night.
9. Drink less
I’m not here to stop you living your best life, but ask yourself whether you actually want a drink or if you’re just having one because it’s the done thing? Alcohol is normally half the price in grocery stores as it is in restaurants too, and that’s before they add tax and service charge!
10. The best souvenirs are free
Steer clear of tacky trinkets. They’re expensive and they take up room in your bag! Instead take photos, keep ticket stubs and record a journal to look back on.