Imagine going on a lengthy trip to the island of Tuvalu and having the time of your life but realizing you don’t have enough money to buy a return ticket back home. Or maybe you are traveling through multiple countries at once, say in Europe, and realize that you have spent way more than you were planning to during just half of the trip. Lack of a proper budget is what stops most of us from hopping on a plane to that place you’ve always wanted to visit. But some people manage to travel to several countries while earning just as much as you mainly because they have a few tricks up their sleeves, especially on how to manage their finances. Here are a few tips on how you can travel on a tight budget but have a whole lot of fun.
The most costly thing when one travels is perhaps the airplane fare. However, with a little research, you will be able to book your tickets at a lower price than usual. Airplane tickets tend to be the costliest during travel season: summer vacations, school breaks, festivals, etc. as people are generally willing to pay a little extra to travel when their schedule allows it. But if you are on a budget, the best thing to do is to book a ticket slightly before or after the travel season so that it will be cheaper and you will not be too much affected by the changes in weather. This is called the ‘shoulder season’, where you’ll still have a great trip but maybe the sun won’t shine quite as brightly or the snow won’t be as heavy. But one thing is for sure: Hotels and airlines lower their prices to attract customers during this time. Similarly, book your tickets in advance as airlines tend to increase the fare as your departure date draws near. Traveling on a weekday rather than on the weekend has also been proven to be cheaper in most airlines.
Eat where the locals eat
To go to a place as exotic as Puerto Rico and not try their local dishes like Tostones and Maduro, Pasteles or Pollo Guisado would truly be a shame. Moreover, in any country, their local food will always be way cheaper than food that has been brought from someplace else. Whether it is street food, an eatery or a sit-down restaurant, the locals usually know where the best and cheapest food can be found. If a place has a crowd, you can almost guarantee it will be good. Especially in developing or underdeveloped countries, western-style (or anything derived from it) tends to be more expensive and also only as good as what you can get back at home. All cuisines in the world have food that is neutral or spicy, healthy and unhealthy so you can surely find something that suits your taste. Also, if the locals are eating there, it’s probably safe and pretty good too.
Don’t buy what you don’t need
If you are traveling on a budget, this should be obvious. But you will be surprised how hard it’s to not buy that funky looking flower vase or custom-made shoes when you are out shopping (even if it’s window shopping) when you are on holiday mood. If you are only on a short holiday, then maybe you can buy them by adjusting your finances here and there. But if you are planning on being on a long-term adventure, seriously consider holding off on any impromptu purchases. You will be tempted to buy things that you like, especially if you are sure you will not find it back in your home country or city. But, ask yourself, “Will I really use this?” If the answer is no, you should leave that thing for some other time. If it is something you have always wanted, then that is a different story. But if we had bought every cute little locally made purse or an authentic carpet from everywhere we went, we would be broke. Plus our suitcase would get heavier and heavier (which might cost you later at the airport). For souvenirs, you can collect small denominations of money from every country you travel to. This takes up far less room and will be just as memorable as buying any other novelty items.
Catch public transport
Most taxis will charge you extra once they realize you are a tourist. One just has to look at how different taxi fares tend to be when it comes to Nepalis and foreigners here in Nepal. So don’t for a second think that you are not being ripped off. There is a much cheaper alternative to this: public transport. Unlike public transport in Nepal, countries that are more developed than Nepal have excellent public transport services. They are automated, digitized, and arrive and depart on time. So make sure to use them. Take the subway if you are traveling a little farther and take a bus when the distance is short. The difference in price between taxis and public transport can really help you cut down on your travel expenses. You just have to be brave enough to trust yourself to get on/off at the right stop and not get lost. Sure it might be a bit less comfortable than taking a private car, but as you are traveling on a budget this is your best option.
Accommodation is probably the biggest day-to-day cost of any traveler’s expenses. You might want to splurge a little and stay in a nice hotel but this is counter-productive to your long-term travel goals, especially when you are on a budget. If you have come all the way to someplace new by using up most of your savings, you should be outside exploring everything that the world has to offer, not sitting around in a robe watching TV in your room. Choose to stay in small locally-run guesthouses or homestays, or find cheap hotels on the edge of town. In many countries, these cheap accommodations are pretty clean and comfortable and offer the basic necessities a traveler would need such as a bed, running water, free WiFi, and tea/coffee making facilities. Moreover, if you are a student traveler and only need a bed to sleep at night, you can always opt to stay in a hostel. These are way cheaper than guesthouses and basic hotels.