Travellers can usually be divided into two large groups-those who travel on a budget and those who don’t. When it comes to travel expenses, the bulk of our expenditure is often on the flight tickets. What comes next for me is usually activities or excursions, which leaves me with food and accommodation to play around with.
If you’re looking for ways to save money on your travels – always a good idea if you enjoy travelling solo or if you prefer to travel for extended periods- here are some ideas to cut costs:
1. Stay in guesthouses or similar family-run establishments
Guesthouses and bed & breakfasts run by families always cost less than larger hotels. An added bonus is that family-run places are usually more personal and tend to look after you better.
2. Don’t pay for wi-fi
One rule I always keep to when I travel is to never pay for wi-fi. I don’t stay in hotels that charge for wi-fi usage because it’s 2014, and guests shouldn’t be charged for something that everyone uses nowadays.
3. Stay in places where breakfast is included
Unless there’s a much better selection in the local restaurants or cafes, pick a hotel that serves a buffet breakfast and eat to your heart’s content.
4. Eat in restaurants that offer a lunch set
Lunch sets are targeted towards office workers so they usually come with a drink and dessert, and are reasonably priced.
5. Go where the locals eat
It isn’t difficult to figure this one out- you can ask the hotel staff and taxi drivers where they bring their families for meals. I can almost guarantee that wherever they eat, the food will be tasty and affordably priced. It’s also easy to know where not to eat – any establishment with tour buses parked outside.
6. Avoid taxis if you can
Fares will depend on traffic jams, distance and sometimes, the driver himself! Walk, or if that’s not possible, take public transport. I always find that I enjoy a new city or town more by walking through it.
7. If you enjoyed a meal but can’t finish it, have it packed to eat later
If we da bao our food at restaurants at home, there’s nothing wrong with doing the same when we travel.
8. Bring your own water
Often, it’s the beverages that hike up the bill. If you’re not trying out the local drinks- alcoholic or otherwise – bring your own mineral water. You can also boil water in your hotel room and refill your bottle.
9. Search for deals
If you’re a museum freak, go to museum websites to look for special deals. Lots of major cities around the world have ‘free museum’ days where visitors can enter for free on a specific day of the week. Some cities also have museum passes that allow entry to a selection of museums at discounted prices.
10. Go easy on the souvenirs
I once travelled with someone who bought a t-shirt at every town we stopped at, and we were travelling for a month. Imagine a foreigner buying t-shirts from Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Langkawi, Penang, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Exactly.
11. Disable your SMS updates
If you normally receive news updates via text message, disable or suspend the service before you travel, otherwise you’ll be charged every time you receive a text.
12. Allow calls only from important people
Just like text messages, you will also be charged when you answer phone calls overseas. If you prefer not to receive calls from telemarketers or worse, someone who dialed your number wrongly and insisted that he hasn’t, set your phone to allow calls only from a particular group of contacts.
13. Switch off your data roaming
Turn off your data roaming when you’re overseas, otherwise you’ll be in for a nasty shock when your phone bill arrives. Use only (free) wi-fi.
14. Check out the local markets and fairs
Ask your hotel staff if there’ll be any local markets or fairs during your stay. Not only are street markets fun to visit, the food will be cheap. If you want to know which stalls are the best, look for those with long queues. Just pay attention to the cook-if you’re uncomfortable with the condition of the stall or the person manning it, move along.
15. Look out for guesthouses that host special ‘free dinner’ nights.
This is when the guesthouse serves free food to its guests, usually on a specific night of the week. I’ve been pleasantly surprised whenever these nights come by because the food has always turned out to be quite substantial, and never just a bowl of soup and a sorry-looking bread roll. These events are also a great way to make new friends.
At the end of the day, what one spends on depends on one’s priorities. I prefer to set aside money towards activities and excursions so I simply cut down on unnecessary spending elsewhere. If you need to keep within a budget, these tips should help you out.
*Anis Ibrahim also writes at Five Foot Traveller