Whether you choose to go on vacation or take a long trip, it’s important to save money, especially if you’re on a tight budget. That doesn’t mean you’ll have to lock yourself in your hotel room all the time. You came to explore the country and have fun! And I’m here to give you some simple advice on how to make good use of the money you’ve allocated to your trip!

Save it for later!

1. Eat local

Saving money whike eating at the market

This tip may seem obvious, yet many people struggle to find good food when they arrive in a new country. It can be confusing, especially if the dishes are completely new or if you’re traveling to a country where hygiene isn’t the same as at home.

My advice is to always look for the stalls or restaurants where there’s a queue or a lot of people inside. But I should mention that you have to see more locals than foreigners, it’s generally without fail (like 99%) a good way to know if the food is any good.

And if the town you’re visiting has a market, it’s even better, as it’s the best place to sample all kinds of cheap food!

2. Take out travel insurance

This is important, even if you’re not in your country for a short time. You must ALWAYS have insurance! Because you never know what might happen to you, an accident can unfortunately arises very quickly. You can also get sick, especially in Southeast Asia. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Bali belly, if not I invite you to google it, I’ll spare you the details here.

I’ll just tell you that you may have to go to hospital for medication, an X-ray or worse. Some will tell you that in some parts of the world, these things are cheap and you can get by without insurance. But, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, in some cases the opposite is true, and your insurance can be a lifesaver!

Nobody wants to pay a few thousand dollars in the event of a serious incident. It often even covers certain activities you might want to do abroad, so you don’t have to pay extra at the last minute.

3. Transportation card or Bicycle-sharing systems

Buying a transportation card is one of the first things I do when I arrive in a new country where I plan to stay for more than a week. You may not want to invest in such a card since you’ll only be spending your vacation there, but I can tell you from experience that not buying one will end up costing you a lot of money.

Most of the time, the things you want to see are quite far apart and you may have to change lines or buses. And if there’s no free transfer, you’ll have to buy another ticket.

And if you like cycling, you should check out the city you’re going to explore, as many people forget about this option. It can be very affordable and you usually only need to download an app or have a transport card.

I used this alternative a lot during my trip to Taiwan as there are lots of bike paths there. When you think that 30mns is only 0.15 cents, the calculation is quickly done.

Or if you’re like me and like to walk sometimes for more than an hour and a half to get somewhere, you can simply use your feet. They can take you anywhere as long as there’s a semblance of sidewalk.

4. Buy a SIM card

Buying a sim card to save money
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Data roaming is the worst thing you can do if you’re on a tight budget. In fact, I’d say that even if you’re not, you shouldn’t use this option if you’re traveling abroad. When you leave home, don’t forget to disconnect it, otherwise your next phone bill will be quite high.

You’ll find numerous counters selling SIM cards at every airport. All you have to do before you arrive is search the Internet to find out which cell phone providers offer the best packages, so you don’t get too confused or ripped off by buying the most expensive package.

This can be very useful if you like to venture off the beaten track, or if your offline map doesn’t work.

5. Work exchange & Couchsurfing

As I’ve already mentioned in another post, working in exchange for accommodation is a great way to save money, especially if you’re planning to live in the country for a while. It will also help you meet other travelers and make friends.
Most of the time, you can also get free food and a little pocket money.

And if you don’t have a visa to work abroad and are only there on vacation, you can try Couchsurfing. The concept is quite simple: it connects a local with a traveler looking for a place to stay, all free of charge (although you do have to pay a monthly subscription of $2.39 to access the site). With this option, you can share your experiences, a meal, and learn a lot about the place you’re visiting from someone who knows what he/she’s talking about, and eventually become friends.

I still remember the first Couchsurfing I did on a road trip. My friends and I ended up in a large house owned by a charming and fun couple. We shared food, drinks and had a great night and sleep!

The choice of your host is of course important, so be sure to check whether you share the same hobbies, lifestyle and type of accommodation…. Don’t hesitate to contact several hosts until you find the right one!

6. Use a flight comparator

Plane flying above a park

This may seem obvious, but using a flight comparator can save you a lot of money.

My best sites are Skyscanner and Google Flights, and I generally start looking for flights 2 to 3 months before the departure date. If you can plan further in advance, even better!

7. Shop at specific times or on specific days

Living in a country for a while and wanting to cook and eat good meals can sometimes prove tricky. Depending on the country, shopping can often be quite expensive. Whether it’s imported products or simply a high cost of living, it’s not always easy to fill your rumbling stomach.

However, it can get a lot easier if you know a few tricks. For example, some of the countries I traveled to used to give big discounts on products in the middle of the week. The reason was that this was usually the day they received new products and had to lower prices on week-old goods.

The same was true when I lived in Australia and New Zealand. But this time, I only shopped at the end of the day, an hour or less before closing time, and was able to get products at half their original price.

That way, shopping doesn’t have to be expensive and you can cook delicious meals without worrying about your wallet!

8. Try booking directly with the company

This applies to every aspect of your trip: flight, accommodation, transport…. Whenever I plan to go abroad, I of course use a flight comparator, as I said above, but only to check prices and choose the best date. I then try to book my ticket with the airline, as it’s safer and checked baggage is often included in the price. On the other hand, if you choose to book through a third-party website, you run the risk of paying additional fees and saving nothing or a very small amount of money.

Plus, third-party sites often don’t have good customer service, so in the event of a flight delay or other problem, you may not get your money back any time soon.

The same applies to accommodation and buses. Although some apps can be interesting and offer good deals, if I have the choice, I generally prefer to book directly, especially for transport. Websites tend to charge hidden fees whereas you’ll save money if you buy your ticket directly at the bus station.

9. Choose a debit/credit card with no foreign transaction fee

Foreign transaction fees can really spoil your vacation. You enjoy your trip, but when you get home and receive your debit/credit card bill, you’re surprised by how much you’ve actually spent. Especially when you know that they usually charge you around 3%.

The best solution for me was to open a second bank account dedicated to my travels. Fortunately, there are now many banks that offer card payment with no hidden fees, so you can relax and not have to worry about every purchase.

10. Pay in local currency

Local currencies to help save money
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Before a trip, I always exchange money for an amount that will last me at least a week. This is especially important in countries where payment by card is not common. Using cash can be very useful as you won’t have to think about the fees that can arise with a card, especially if you don’t have an account with no foreign transaction fees, as I mentioned above.

And if you don’t like to carry cash, which I totally understand, or if you can use your debit card, always remember to choose the local currency at checkout.
Restaurants and other retailers may add conversion charges on top of the exchange rate if you choose your own currency, which will cost you more in the end. Opting for the local currency will actually save you money! The same goes for ATM withdrawals!

I hope these tips make it easier for you to plan your next trip and save money! Traveling on a tight budget can sometimes seem like a challenge, but nothing is impossible. By meeting and talking with other travelers, you’d be surprised how many of us spend months, even years, traveling this way!

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