Top 15 Budget Travel Tips That Every Traveler & Backpacker Should Know
By DAN FORTEZA
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If you will be traveling abroad on a small budget and looking for great tips in order to avoid spending too much, then this blog is perfect for you! You might be very excited into traveling but I bet you’re a little anxious on how to stay on your budget. Whether you’re a frequent traveler or a newbie in backpacking, I’m sure you’ll find this budget travel tips helpful. Here, I’ve outlined my top 15 budget travel tips that will make saving cash easy breezy!
Hi there! First of all, I am Daniel – a solo backpacker from the Philippines. If you don’t know my story yet, feel free to read this article where I talked about how I quit my job in order to travel. This article was also featured on TripZilla Philippines.
1. Book your flights / accommodation in advance.
If you book your flights in advance like 2-4 months or plan your travel based on the cheap flight deals, you can travel for so cheap. In fact, when I traveled to South America I booked my flights 8 months in advance! I use many different flight search engines, but hands down, Kayak is one the best search engines for scooping up great deals. You can also try Skyscanner.
If you don’t have much time or having difficult catching those low-cost flights, leave me a message below and let’s work on finding you the best deals to complete your travel itinerary.
Read also: My 14-day itinerary in South America with a cost breakdown.
2. Pre-book your main attraction tickets.
If there is any main attraction you intend to see in your trip (e.g. Great Wall in China, Machu Picchu in Peru), book it in advance so that you don’t miss or spend more money at the last minute. It saves you a lot of time which you can use for something else. Booking online from the official website is cheap, but also check for online deals or discount coupons. I used either Viator or GetYourGuide in pre-booking such major attractions. They are global companies with best customer support so you know you’re booking with confidence.
3. Don’t take too much luggage.
Not only they are difficult to manage, but the airlines will also charge you more for big luggage. In addition, it will be much more expensive if you have multiple flights. It would be worth spending more money by using a light weight Backpack and travel accessories like Power bank, Travel adapter, and portable lock because these are very important while traveling and you use them frequently. In case you’re going on shorter trips, try to keep all your stuff within the carry-on bag limits in order to avoid paying for check-in luggage.
Instead of luggage, I use a 55-L Backpack and a small laptop bag with all my stuff.
4. Stay connected.
When you travel abroad, getting internet after landing is very important. Most of the airports have free WIFI. If you don’t find one, look for restaurants or cafes. For sure you’ll find one offering free WIFI.
I also recommend getting a sim card with mobile internet. Some backpackers do not appreciate buying a sim card. But I always recommend buying one even if you’re just staying for a few days. Googling everything is a lifesaver especially in navigating the city! If you opt not to buy one, use Mapsme – it is an offline map app I use to navigate the city, no internet needed.
5. Mind your currency abroad
Avoid getting your currency converted at the airport because they usually don’t offer the best rate. It’s better to withdraw from local ATMs with your debit card as long as you keep in mind the charges of your bank. Also, make your withdrawal less frequent and worth the charge by taking out larger sums. You can conveniently withdraw cash once you landed at the airport (this is what I usually do.)
Additional tip: Aside from debit card, keep some dollar cash hidden somewhere in your bag in case you need it for an emergency. You’ll never know.
6. Get travel insurance before you leave.
While it does cost money, it’s totally worth it if you get injured, and can end up saving you a lot in the long run. It’s absolutely imperative to buy a travel insurance so you can avoid spending more on events that can almost always happen during your trips: lost luggage, delayed flights, missed flights, canceled flights, unwanted injuries, hospitalization, and many more. If you ask me what’s the best-for-value travel insurance – I’d say World Nomads (they’re the best!)
7. Go Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing lets you stay in someone else’s couch or room for free. Yep, for FREE. The hosts are often open to such arrangement especially if they simply want to meet people overseas or get a more in-depth experience of another one’s culture. Also, you can hang out with locals/travelers as it’s available in 200,000 cities around the world. I’ve been hosted a couple of times when I was backpacking in Indonesia and India. It was a really fun and eye-opening experience. It turns strangers into friends, but be sure to check references of the person before you meet anyone.
8. Try cheaper accommodation in hostels
If Couchsurfing isn’t to your liking, go with hostels! I’ve used hostels in many of my backpacking accommodations abroad. Yep, hostels are way cheaper than hotels especially if you go for a dormitory type room. In fact, an average room in Vietnam (for a one-night stay) is only the price of your Starbuck Coffee! Even in Thailand. Most hostels have FREE breakfast too – so take advantage of complimentary breakfasts to get as much food as possible and save some for snacks later. And the best part about hostels – they are also great places for meeting fellow backpackers and travelers around the world.
So go ahead and book your hostel now. I typically use Booking,com and Agoda but you can also use Hostelworld.
9. Bring a water bottle.
Don’t forget to bring a water bottle (filled with water, of course. haha!) with you while wandering around the city. The price for sodas and water might not seem much at first but if you add it all up, it can be a pretty hefty sum. That money can get you another night in a hostel every week!
10. Avoid eating near touristy restaurants.
If you are not specific about the food and want to save some cash, then avoid eating near touristy spots. They would charge you more than the usual price because they pay higher rental fees. Instead, go down a few blocks and eat where the locals do. It surely is a great experience!
11. Ask for locals advice.
To avoid scams and excessive prices, you should ask people for advice on what certain things should normally cost (e.g. the cost of a typical dinner meal.) You can do this by posting questions online on travel pages/groups, by asking the people you meet in hostels, the working staff in your accommodation, and more. Don’t be shy; many people love to share their favorite recommendations.
12. Walk and minimize your transportation costs.
Walk as much as you can. Not only it will help you keep in shape but also your wallet! The price for public transportation might not seem much but adds up quickly and again, it can be a pretty hefty sum. But hey, on the brighter side, walking around can also help build up your travel experience since it can lead you to scenic places that you wouldn’t normally find on a map.
If your destination is simply just too far, go for public transportation like subways, trains, and buses. Avoid using taxis at all cost. When I was in Moscow, I purchased a subway 3-day pass that I used continually for 3 days! It was all worth it as I was roaming around the whole city – how convenient! So ask locals if your destination has the same “day-pass” transportation arrangement.
Read also: My 4-day itinerary in Russia with a cost breakdown.
13. Take free walking tours.
If there are free walking tours available in your destination, go try it. This is the best way of knowing about the place and the local guide has so much to offer. If you have any questions, your guide will gladly help you with any information he has. The best thing about the free walking tour is since it is free your guide will try to impress you as much as possible so that at the end of the tour you will thank him with a tip.
14. Cross the border by land.
If you’re traveling between countries and possible to do land travels, go for it. It could save you a lot instead of going by plane. I did this while traveling from HCM, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia and from Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos. Sure it takes time but seeing the scenic places while on road trip is totally worth your while.
Between European countries, however, there are instances going by plane is much cheaper than utilizing trains or buses. So feel free to do a comparison – you can use Rome2Rio app. Try also to do as much buying of needed items as possible in the cheaper countries where your dollar can stretch farther, then avoid the souvenirs in the more expensive ones.
15. Minimize your souvenirs.
Lastly, don’t go overload on souvenirs, okay? Instead, buy something like a postcard or just take your own photos. Plus, the extra weight can add up, as backpackers will know.
Did you learn something today? Which travel budget tips is your favorite? I’m sure there are several other budget travel tips out there and if I’ve missed something out, feel free share them in the comments section below for the benefits of other readers. Let’s show the universe, the world rather, that traveling abroad doesn’t really need to be expensive at all. You’ll realize it as soon as you embark your quest to take a trip with these budget travel tips!
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Thank you, Ron! Glad you liked it!