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Published on July 29th, 2013 | by Daniel

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10 Ways To Travel On The Cheap

There are two approaches to travelling with as little money as possible. One is simple and materialistic: why spend a lot of money when the same can be done for less money? This approach is just concerned with the best value for as cheap as possible. The second approach is philosophical and esoteric – it is a way of life. By travelling around the world with very little money and possession, you can become free of materialistic wants and needs.

Ironically, while these two approaches are diametrically opposed in spirit (materialistic vs non-materialistic), they ask the same question: how can I travel without spending much money? This article will give ten pointers for ways to achieve this goal.

1. Use Price Comparison Websites

Most people know about this but I have noticed that still not many use them in the right way or even at all. First of all there are the airfare comparison websites as SkyScanner, Kayak, Vayama and Momondo. These are great search engines which you can use to start out your search with. Use two or more for your search as they can differ from each other a little bit in their offerings of airlines and prices. One big tip is that you should play around on a comparison website with data and departure times as there can be a huge difference in price this way.

After this you should check if you missed smaller carriers which are not included in the comparison engines. To find all airline routes between two cities, type in google “flights City A to City B” and the result will give you all the routes for a common week. This way you can see what airlines fly on the route as well. After you have found some good options you should check the website of the airlines itself. There are cases in which the price is lower on the airlines website (maybe there is a special deal as well). Try this both in your currency and in the local currency as this can result in diverse prices.

If you are looking for cheap accommodation the comparison website Hotelscombined is an excellent source to find the best money-for-value hotels, hostels and apartments.

2. Be Flexible

It is almost an iron rule in travelling that the less options you have to change, the more expensive it will be. So if you go in with a flexible mindset and are willing/able to change your plans on a whim, you can save money to large extents. There are many booking websites out there which can offer discounts if you book a package, or book 3 nights instead of 2, and so forth.

Think also about being flexible with flight dates, places to stay, activities and duration the trips. When you travel at a slow rate like this, not only will you be able to snuff out the good deals, but you will feel also much more relaxed mentally to make the optimal decisions.

3. Pack Efficiently

Doing packing the right way is often an underestimated method to save money (and time) on travel. There is a big difference if you bring two bags or one. Sometimes there is an unexpected surcharge for the extra bag when you use transport (air, train, bus) in foreign countries. Second, it is great not to have to check in (and pick up) that extra bag on your plane travels. Furthermore, carrying more will have you move slower, will cost you more energy and is just plain annoying sometimes.

So ask yourself with any item you pack: is this really necessary? I used to pack cautiously and packed to much stuff. More than half if it I would not use on my trips, or only on the way to the airport for instance. Now I pack much smarter and it made travelling so much more convenient. Also, sometimes things as clothing and shoes can be insanely cheap abroad – so you can choose to not pack these with you but buy them on the spot.

4. Subscribe for Miles and Memberships

Now, this can take a bit of work but it is worth it if you travel a lot. Most airlines have a membership program. The more you fly, the more “miles” you will earn. These miles can be exchanged for all kind of benefits and free tickets. When you are flying anyway, why not subscribing to the miles program just in case?

There are also special membership credit cards with which you can earn travel miles. Do a google search for your specific country to find the available ones. For intrepid travelers it can make sense to get this kind of card. And sometimes you will be alerted to membership only deals as well. These can be quite lucrative from a financial point of view.

5. Go with a Group

When you travel in a group you can get a lot of extra discounts. First of all, your leverage power is much greater, especially regarding accommodation. And as a group you can rent a big house or apartment economically per person. Also, when you travel in a group you can share things so you do not have to rent or buy them for only yourself. Say, car rental or kitchen materials. Cooking and eating together is cheaper as well, besides it can be a lot fun.

To find a group to travel with, you can sign up for group tour with a lot of travel agencies. But maybe even more fun is to organize a group trip yourself. Put down an ad online or in the local newspaper and define the characteristics of people you would like to travel with you. And you can always ask your friends.

6. Negotiate

It never hurts to ask. Especially with smaller transportation abroad (as busses or taxis) it can be very beneficial to negotiate. Do not take the first offer they make you. If you think the price is too high, do not hesitate to go to another supplier. Or in other words, never be afraid to walk away. Do not get too hung up on a product or a price.

Some of the biggest advantages to be attained by negotiating is the costs for your accommodation. As I explained before, you can get good discounts when you go either at the last minute or book very early. Last minute is especially great as it will give you a lot of negotiating power. The only real downside is that it will result in more limited options.

7. Secure your Valuables

Robbery can be a big concern for travelers, in specific when you are on alien ground. In some countries you will be seen as a walking ATM by your appearance alone. Be prepared for this.

When something goes amiss, and you lose valuables or you need to shell out cash for an emergency, it can be the most expensive thing that happens to you on your trip(s). So in any case, take the common security precautions, like:

- Make photocopies of important documents and keep them in different places
- Have more than 1 creditcard/debitcard
- Use VPN wherever you go
- Lock your bags when you travel
- Have some sort of Travel Insurance

After all, money saved is the first money earned.

8. Be like a Local

Local prices and tourist prices can differ to astonishing levels. That tacky restaurant on the famous main street can be 5 times more expensive than that small unassuming restaurant in an unknown backstreet. While serving exactly the same food. In my experience, the latter restaurant even serves better quality food in most cases, although in a much more basic atmosphere.

And it is not a secret that in many countries locals get charged lower prices than tourists/foreigners. If you look like a tourist or stand out, there is not much you can do about that at first. But what you can do is ask around and look where the locals go to eat and play. This will give you plenty of opportunity to get a more “authentic” experience and save money along the way. Even better if you get to know locals personally who will show their favorite spots and/or sleep at their place (i.e. Couchsurfing as a source for this is great).

9. Do your Research

When you are close to center of action (i.e. city center) it often costs more to live there on average. But when you think long term in can actually more cheap than living at a place in the outskirts which has a lower rental price. After all, it takes time and money to get from the outskirts to the city center every time. Think about taxi fares, bus fares, metro fares and also about the inconveniences to go home from the center to the suburbs at 4am in a foreign city.

Nonetheless I have noticed this factor is forgotten by some. But in my view it is one of the first things I look at when I am scouting for a new place or city. I study the map and read travel information source (i.e. Wikitravel). In this way I know what kind of activities I want to do and where approximately I want to live. Furthermore, easiness to get to and from the transport hubs (i.e. Airport) can make a big difference financially, especially when you stay short term.

10. Work on the Road

Of course, a great way to travel on the cheap is to make more money while you are travelling. Being a digital nomad is what this does exactly, but you can also think about more “normal” jobs like:

-          Working at a local (organic) farm
-          Working on a cruise ship/private yacht
-          Teaching English
-          Working at a hotel/hostel
-          Taking care of other people’s home (housesitting)

Through work you are bound to come in contact with other foreigners and locals. This will also enable you to achieve other points from this list in a relative easy way.

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