If you crave authentic travel experiences, chances are, you’re often thinking about that next trip. This also means reflecting on how to pay for it -and how to save money during the experience. Here are nine ways to save money while travelling, that also bring you closer to the local lifestyle.
1. Do lots of walking and transit vs taxis
This seems obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget. It’s comforting to fall into a taxi when you’re unsure of your route. So instead, make the alternatives easier. Prepare well, by downloading maps in advance. And consider downloading an app that allows you to navigate offline. While it still has some glitches, the Navmii app is one example. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask friendly locals for advice. Most people do like to be helpful.
2. Spend less on food
We often try to have at least one meal a day on the cheap. Often this involves buying street food from a local vendor (see upcoming blog for more tips on this topic). It can also mean buying fresh produce, cheese, and bread for an outdoor picnic, whether from a farmer’s market or local shop. And, save costs by eating your main meal at lunch -many restaurants charge less at lunch and more for dinner. Then have dinner in your room/apartment, freeing up funds for entertainment -or a future trip.
3. Avoid the guided tour, but if you do one, choose a walking over bus or trolley tour.
We’ve come to love walking tours, both because they are less costly than bus tours, and because they provide a more interactive and immediate way of learning about the local history and current lifestyle. Walking tours are often more amenable to creative touches, including story-telling and personal anecdotes. Also, they tend to be smaller.
4. Go to a local sporting event -especially if it’s minor league or amateur.
While travelling in Granada, we stumbled on a local cricket game, which gave us fascinating insights into the local community. Cricket is the slowest game imaginable (you can tell I’m not a fan). But an hour watching people just hanging with each other, having a laugh, catching up, was worth the entry fee.
And in Mexico City we took a walking tour that culminated in going to a Lucha Libre match. Definitely one of our trip highlights.
5. Use your own steam at local viewpoints
Try to walk up and down on your own steam -or at least walk on the way down. It’s an antidote to any over-indulgences , and you may get to see some overlooked sites. We paid to go up in the funicular in scenic Guanajuato, but enjoyed the walk down. The photo below is of one of the new friends we made in that process.
6. Research local liquor laws
I can remember taking a picnic to a free summer concert in Florence, complete with wine. Buying your own bottle is way cheaper, when local liquor laws allow it. Unfortunately most Canadian provinces don’t, but a blind eye is often turned in Quebec cities like Montreal. It helps if you’re discrete.
7. Check out the local parks and their programming
At least in summer, many North American and European cities often have free festivals, or free events linked to those festivals that charge admission. Also, look for buskers. I do believe in paying buskers, but do so according to what you can afford. It will still be cheaper than attending a more formal event.
8. Use your social network.
If a friend, relative, or a friend of a friend lives in the spot you’re visiting, buy them lunch or dinner in exchange for a half-day tour. They may lack the in-depth historical knowledge of a paid guide, but they are more likely to point out sites, features, and customs that will interest you personally.
9. Learn the language
Or arm yourself with at least enough words/phrases plus Google translate to be comfortable reading basic text in the local language. How will this save you money? Any restaurant in a non-English speaking country that offers English menus is at higher risk of charging tourist prices. Conversely, local hangouts will be more ŕeasonable.
When we stayed in an up-and-coming suburb in Prague, the local bar /restaurant had prices 1/3 the cost of those in tourist areas. We had taught ourselves just eight words in Czech, but using them on Day#1 as foreigners must have endeared us to the locals. One man with a bit more English than my Czech helped translate a few items so we could order. And so this helped me, as a vegetarian, quickly learn to say -and spot Greek Salad on menus exclusively in Czech. (In case you wanted to know -it’s recky (pronounced “retzky”) salat.)
These are just a few tips which could help you save money while travelling, while also putting you in more direct contact with locals and local experiences. By saving money you’ll be able to extend your travel budget further, giving yourself room for more authentic travel experiences on your next trip, and others in the future.