Top Tips For Travelling On A Budget
Everyone enjoys going on holiday and getting away from it all every once in a while; however, what we don't enjoy doing is spending hundreds and hundreds of our hard-earned cash on flights, hotels and food. Fortunately there is an alternative! Sure, you can't afford a luxury holiday on a shoe-string budget, but then again, if you're a fairly adventurous person, you don't exactly go abroad to admire the hotel! The fact is, aside from lazy holidays by the beach, you're there for the sights - and fortunately for us they're often free or, if not, fairly cheap. So all that's left is transport, accommodation and food; and as long as you're happy to lower your standards a little, you can get away with a very cheap holiday indeed.
So how's it done?
Hostels - Now, hostels are certainly not to everyone's taste but if you don't mind sleeping in dormitories with complete strangers then they're a godsend. Hostels can be found in pretty much every country in the world and are of varying quality and cost. The vast majority cost about $10 - $15 per night with 6 - 8 people per room. Usually booking ahead is not necessary although it's always a good idea to phone up if you can just to make sure they have spaces. The other great thing about hostels is the people you meet - especially if you're travelling on your own: Generally the people staying there will be on a very similar sort of trip to you and are likely to be full of suggestions and places to stay away from, so be sure to glean every last bit of knowledge about the area that you can!
Eating - When you're on holiday you've got the perfect opportunity to explore new tastes and new ways of cooking. The easiest and cheapest way to eat is to eat local food from local restaurants, markets, cafés, anywhere! Local food is always a lot cheaper than what will be more familiar to you, simply because they cook with what's readily available to them and is locally sourced. A good idea is to just forget everything you dislike and try whatever they put in front of you - chances are you'll like it because generally people aren't in the habit of making stuff that doesn't taste nice. Another cheap option for food is to buy it from a (super)market and cook it yourself: ham sandwiches, for instance, are quick, easy and cheap!
Transport - It is indeed a tricky issue and really depends where in the world you are. Generally speaking, train journeys are usually fairly cheap and safe (and reliable!) and busses are usually ok (although in Central America in particular there is a bit of an issue with people holding up busses every now and then). Hire cars are generally a very expensive form of transport unless you really are going to be travelling around almost all the time - in which case, sleep in it! Tour companies are also a good, cheap and safe way of getting around, particularly if you're doing day trips out from a town. What is to be avoided is hiring scooters: although they're very cheap and countless thousands of tourists do so, particularly in Asia, often the companies have no insurance cover whatsoever and don't require that you have a licence to hire one; because of this and the slightly reckless driving in general in some parts of the world, it's a very dangerous thing to do and will, 99% of the time, not be covered by your travel insurance.
Money - Apparently it comes in handy every now and then. The best way to go about handling money is to never pay for anything with a card as there are an awful lot of scammers out there who will make a copy of your card and empty your bank account. The best thing to do is remove small amounts of local currency from ATM machines and pay for everything with that. Also invest in a money belt (a pouch that you wear under your trousers - as opposed to a fanny pack or bum bag) and put your cards and about 50 US dollars as if you get into trouble it's always good to have a reasonable amount of money to help out; and many places in the world accept dollars readily (but if you pay for everything in dollars they'll often assume you have a lot more money on you than if using the local currency - increasing the chance of muggings).
Language - Before you go off, make sure you know at least some of the local language. Even knowing the words for hello, please, thank you and excuse me can do a lot in terms of getting people on your side when you need help with something (or a discount!). Be warned though, in many places in South and Central America various indigenous tribes have their own languages and speak Spanish only as a second language - and no English, so if visiting there, make sure you have at least a basic knowledge of Spanish.
Haggle! - A lot of the time shop keepers will bump up their prices when they see 'rich' westerners coming their way so don't just buy stuff at the value they give, offer something lower than what you think it's worth and they'll usually meet you somewhere in the middle (that is, after telling you that you're robbing them, that they've got children to feed and that they wouldn't make any profit at all on it). What you do, however, have to take into account is that there will be double standards for tourists and locals and it's to be expected as generally what you're buying as a souvenir, they're buying out of necessity.
Well, those are the essentials for reducing the cost of your holidays; the one major thing not covered is air fares which, unfortunately, are very hard to judge: booking early can get you your flights cheaper, but sometimes last-minute bargain offers come up - so it really depends if you need to plan ahead or if you're flexible enough to run off to another country within a week or two of making the decision - maybe even less! Just always remember to get travel insurance and don't take your valuables out in plain sight!
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