Backpacking or low-budget traveling is becoming popular among millennials. With the rise of low-cost airlines and the emergence of inexpensive and sometimes practically free accommodations, traveling has never been more accessible. A budget, however, should always be set. So aside from waiting for seat sales to happen, I have listed down 12 simple money-saving tips for stretching your travel budget and enjoying your trip at the same time. As I always say, traveling doesn’t necessarily have to burn a hole in your pocket for it to be enjoyable.
1. Bring an empty water bottle (preferably 500 ml in size).
Buying bottled water can be costly when you travel outside the country and even while you are inside a plane. What I do is I bring an empty bottle with me and after I pass through immigration, I look for water refilling stations, which are usually located near restrooms. You can also refill water in some restaurants or hostels where you plan to stay.
It is also cheaper if you will buy two-liter bottled water, instead of buying 4 500 ml bottles. What I usually do is I transfer the water from the two-liter to the 500 ml bottle. It will help you minimize your spending and the same time, when you stroll around the city, your bag wouldn’t be as heavy carrying a 500 ml bottle.
2. Share a cab.
Two to three hours before I check out of my hostel, I tell the receptionist to get me a cab at checkout time. I also ask them if there are other travelers going to the same destination (airport or bus terminal) and whether they want to share a cab with me.
In my experience, most travelers won’t mind sharing a taxi ride with other travelers as this will split the cost of the cab fare and at the same time, you’ll have an instant travel companion.
3. Try Couchsurfing.
This is one of the best ways to save money while traveling, as accommodations will probably get the biggest chunk of your budget. When you try Couchsurfing (CS), however, avoid having the mindset that you are just there for the free stay. Instead, treat it as a way to experience your host’s way of life, an opportunity to learn their culture, and a chance to get to know their stories.
Thank you Ali for letting me stay for free in your hotel. I found him on couchsurfing and he is letting travelers stay in his hotel dorm for free and with free breakfast! Salam! #goodsamaritan #iran #persia #yazd #silkroadhotel #bbackpacker #pinoybackpacker #shiraz #tehran #isfahan #travel #igtravel #wanderer #wanderlust #hashtagwhore
I never paid for accommodations in my whole stay in Iran. It was my first time to try CS and it was an amazing experience. My CS hosts welcomed me into their homes as if I am an old friend of theirs and even helped with my travel plans. They were sincerely interested in learning about the Philippines and our culture. I gained friends along the way, learned their cultures, and at the same time, I was able to save money.
4. Stay at shared accommodations (backpacker inns, capsule pods, Airbnb).
If you’re not yet ready to try Couchsurfing, stay at hostels, backpacker inns, or Airbnb. You will not just save money on accommodations (compared to when you stay at hotels), but you will also meet travelers from other countries.
When you stay at shared accommodations, you will somehow be forced to chat with other travelers. It will be a great way to learn a thing or two about their travels and you’ll probably gain a friend in the process.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something a little unconventional, staying at capsule pods is inexpensive, too.
5. Don’t buy food in areas popular with tourists.
Whenever I visit a tourist spot, I make sure to bring food with me. If I forget to bring food, I walk at least a few blocks away to look for a local place to eat. The food will definitely be much cheaper compared to the restaurants located just around the popular tourist destination.
When I visited Sydney a few years back, I sat on a bench facing the impressive Sydney Harbour Bridge outside the Opera House and decided to eat my leftover shawarma that I had for lunch. I also brought bottled water with me instead of buying food and drinks there.
6. Commute like a local.
Learning how the locals commute will save you a lot of money. When I visited Iran, I met two Turkish guys in a shared accommodation, and when they learned that my next destination was Istanbul, they taught me how to travel like a local in Istanbul.
I took a bus, ferry, and tram from the airport to my hostel and it cost me less than P200. If I took a cab that time, it would have cost me around P2,000.
7. Buy food at a grocery store.
Instead of eating every day at restaurants, buy food at supermarkets, convenience stores, or grocery stores. You can buy bread, fruits, and sometimes even hot meals, saving you a few bucks.
If you have a tight budget, you can prepare your own food with food you bought from the grocery store, or have breakfast and lunch at low-priced eateries. For dinner, you can eat at a fancier restaurant. Just remember that you don’t need to eat every meal at a restaurant.
During my travels, I try to walk as much as possible since this helps me get a real feel of the place. I get to interact with the locals and see their way of life. Walking also means saving on transportation costs and getting my daily dose of exercise.
9. Familiarize yourself with the places you plan to visit.
Before leaving your country of origin, make sure to familiarize yourself with the places you will visit. Check any landmarks near your destination. Save on Google Maps the locations in your itinerary.
Google Maps has a feature that lets you access maps even if you don’t have an internet connection. Offline maps are particularly helpful when you are on a walking tour, so you won’t get lost and spend unnecessarily on a cab ride.
10. Take a sleeper bus or train.
This will save you money not only on accommodations, but also save you time. Just make sure that the bus or train you are taking has a good reputation when it comes to safety and cleanliness.
I was reluctant to try a sleeper bus in Vietnam at first as I thought I wouldn’t be comfy in it. Surprisingly, I had a fairly comfortable ride.
This one is definitely the easiest to follow for us Filipinos, as we are experts at bargaining. While traveling in Iran, the two Turkish guys I met were amazed at my bargaining skills and wanted to learn how I do it. I told them to immediately ask for half the price then start haggling from there. It works for me so it might work for them.
12. Take it easy on the souvenirs.
This is probably one of the most difficult to follow on this list, as we Filipinos are generous. Whenever we travel, we tend to buy pasalubong or gifts for everyone – our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors. When traveling on a tight budget, however, learn to limit your expenses.
Instead of buying t-shirts for your friends, send them postcards. Instead of giving your coworkers individual gifts, bring food for them to share. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. – Rappler.com
Bla Aguinaldo is a travel addict. He is an accountant by profession, and works as an SAP consultant. He goes on adventures as a backpacker, and plans most of his trips on a shoestring budget. He is currently on a journey to explore places that your parents warned you to stay away from, one vacation leave at a time. Visit his blog over here or follow him on Facebook.