posted by Guest blogger - Matt Kepnes | 0 Comments
In his latest guest post, Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com gives us his top 20 money-saving tips. Matt has been on the road for six years and is an expert at how to save on the road. If you want more tips, as well as visit his blog we advise you follow him on Twitter and like his page facebook. Seriously - you really should.
One of the biggest misconceptions about travel is that it’s expensive and a luxury. Travel commercials make it seem like a vacation is something available to the select few who can afford it. But that is a myth – travel isn’t expensive. Locals where you are going don’t spend lots of money and neither should you. Below are 20 incredible ways to save money without sacrificing comfort.
1. Take advantage of lunch specials
In many parts of the world, you can dine on dinner menus at lunch special prices. The 'plate of the day' as it is called is the best bargain in the world. For example, while I was in Barcelona, I went to eat at the seafood restaurants near the beach. However, dinner was around $50 USD. Yet the lunch special the next day for the same meal was only $20 USD.
2. Buy fare cards
City metro cards provide a considerable discount off buying point to point tickets. Even if you are simply going to be in a city for a few days, you can usually buy a set number of tickets for a cheaper price. For example, in Paris you can buy a carnet (card) for $16 USD, which is $6 USD less than buying them individually. In Bangkok, you can purchase day passes for the subway for $4 USD for unlimited travel for the cost of 4 trips individually.
3. Cook your meals
A week's worth of groceries is far cheaper than eating out for a week. I generally find that I spend about $60 - 50 USD per week on groceries when I travel, as opposed to $20+ per day I would spend buying all my meals. That’s a huge savings! I eat the same way I do back home and how the locals do – cook a little, eat out of a little.
4. Fly into smaller airports
Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly into airports other than your final destination, and then take a train, or a cheap budget airline to where you want. Larger airports have higher landing fees, which drive up the cost of a ticket. Smaller airports are cheaper. Be sure to look at airports nearby to see how much tickets are before you book.
5. Check an airport's carriers
One thing I often do is visit an airport's website to see what airlines fly into it. This is to make sure I checked all possible airlines and turned over every rock for potential deals. Sometimes you find small airlines that are not listed on flight search aggregators like Kayak, Expedia, Momondo, or Skyscanner. When I was flying from Tallinn, Estonia to Aarhus, Denmark, I couldn’t find any flights listed on the flight booking websites. Checking the Tallinn airport website, I found Estonian Airlines listed and checking their website found that they flew to Aarhus via their partner SAS. I ended up finding the flight I needed simply because I took the time to check which airlines fly in and out of the airport and go to their websites directly.
6. Work on a farm
WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a service that matches people looking for work on farms that are looking for labor. You don’t need any previous experience in farming to do this – just a desire to work. There are farms all over the world that let travelers work for them for room and board. It’s a great chance to learn about local culture and save money.
7. Stay in hostels
Hostels are the cheapest forms of paid accommodation in the world. Hostel prices are about a third less than a hotel room. A cheap hotel in New York City is $100 USD while a hostel room is $30 USD. In Thailand where a hotel is $30 USD or more, you can get a cheap hostel room for $5 dollars. In Australia, a hostel room is $25 USD versus $110 for a hotel. This is why I always tend to stay in hostels when I travel.
8. Drink the tap water
Get a metal water bottle or reuse your plastic water bottle a few times to save money. I usually use a plastic water bottle for about 4 days, more if I can find a place to clean it. Instead of buying 3 bottles a day, I usually buy 2 per week. I may only be saving a small amount of money each time but over the course of a long trip that can really add up. Check out some of Matt's other ways to eat cheap around the world.
9. Take local transport
Forget the private coaches, taxis, and tourist buses - do what the locals do and take local buses or trains. It may be easier to get in that tourist bus as companies will pick you up from your hotel or hostel and take care of any logistics for you, but it's more fun to figure out the local transportation system and saves lots of money by doing so. That’s half the fun of traveling right? Learning the way.
10. Get train passes
Train passes are offered in many regions of the world and can represent a 50% decrease off the price of train tickets. These passes will either allow you a set number of train rides or unlimited rides for the duration of the pass. Rail passes in Australia save close to 70% off the normal price. In Europe, Eurail passes can save you a lot of money if you are traveling across the continent and on high speed rains. When I used a Eurail pass, I saved hundreds of dollars.
11. Get tourism cards
Tourism cards are something I can never figure out why travelers don’t use. Local tourism offices issue cards for all their attractions, tours, and restaurants. This card gives you free entry and substantial discounts on all the attractions and tours in a city, free local public transportation (a huge plus), and discounts at a few restaurants and shopping malls. In Oslo Norway, the VisitOslo card offered by the city tourism board costs $60 USD but saves you $30 USD. In Paris, I saved $85 USD with the museum pass. In London, I saved over $100.
I hardly ever used them during my first trip around the world. Now, if I know someone is going to see a lot of attractions, I shake them and say “save money, buy a tourist card!”
12. Use discount cards
The discount cards like the ISIC student card, YHA card, VIP backpackers card, and the international youth card offer discounts at museums, attractions, and activities throughout the world of up to 50%. If you are eligible for any of these cards, get them!
13. Work for your accommodation
You can also work for your accommodation at hostels throughout the world. You’ll have to make the bed, clean the floors, and make sure the bathrooms are spotless. Essentially, you are the housekeeper! It’s not glamorous work, but at least you get a free bed in return and it’s only for a couple of hours a day!
In many parts of the world, it’s still safe to hitchhike. It’s a popular thing to do throughout Central America, New Zealand, parts of Australia, and Central Asia. I have done it in many parts of the world. Just make sure you use common sense – if it doesn’t feel right to get in the car, don’t!
15. Get no fee bank cards
If you are in the United States, getting a Charles Schwab bank account will eliminate your ATM fees and Capital One credit cards have no overseas transaction fees. It’s a great way to completely eliminate your bank fees. If you aren’t a US citizen, all the major banks of the world have a large ATM fee free network you can utilize. You can read more in this post on eliminating bank fees when you travel.
16. Get a cheap sim card from Vodafone
When I travel, I buy a cheap pre-paid SIM card with data so I can stay in touch with friends, surf the net, and call up hostels or tour companies for bookings. While they don’t have the best coverage in the world, Vodafone offers 10 mb per day of free data. (Which, if you have a smartphone, can be used to call via Skype, thus not using your phone credit.) What I also like about Vodafone is they have stores worldwide.
17. Free museums and free museum days
Most museums have special discount times or free nights for visitors. Before you go anywhere, make sure you look on the museum website to find out if they offer free visiting hours. Even famous museums like the Louvre and the Guggenheim offer free entrance. Always look and see before you go!
18. Take a free walking tour
Free walking tours are a great way to see a new city. I take them all the time and it is usually the first thing I do when visiting a new city. They are a great way to familiarize yourself with city attractions, learn some history, and get your bearings in a new environment so when you walk around alone, you know where you are. They typically last two to three hours. If you are interested in taking a walking tour and this company doesn’t offer one in your city, the local tourism office and your hostel should have a list of companies that offer free walking tours.
19. Avoid Travelex currency exchanges
When you are overseas, avoid all Travelex currency exchange booths. Not only do they charge a huge fee for changing money, their conversion rates are awful. You are much better off using the ATM or your credit card. Even if you have to pay the ATM fee, it will still be less than using Travelex as banks give you a much better exchange rate. Do whatever it takes to avoid Travelex. They have the highest commissions and conversion rates!
20. Book tours last minute
I know you probably want to book it ahead of time and get your travel plans all figured out and sorted but tour companies don't like unused spots. It reduces revenue and unlike airlines, they will give great last minute booking deals. You can usually find last minute tours up to 25% off their normal price. Buck the trend and book late when doing a tour. You may not find the exact tour you want but you can always find something. Tours, unlike flights, are best booked at the last minute.
We often watch ads for fancy cruises, expensive resorts, and luxury holidays. These ads give us the impression traveling is expensive but it’s not. People around the world don’t spend lots of money in their local city and you shouldn’t have to either. Using the tips from above, you’ll find that any destination you visit can be done cheaply without sacrificing comfort or fun.
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