Backpacking or low-budget traveling is becoming a lifestyle for Millennials. With the rise of low-cost airlines and the emergence of inexpensive and sometimes practically free accommodation, traveling has never been more accessible. However, setting a budget should always be considered as traveling equates to spending money. So aside from waiting for seat sales to happen, I have listed down 12 simple money saving tips on how you can stretch your travel budget and enjoy 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.
- 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) on the plane. What I do is I bring an empty bottled deleted d(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 a two-liter bottled water, instead of buying 4 bottles of 500 ml in size. What I usually do is I transfer the water from the two-liter to the 500ml 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 500ml than the two-liter.
- Share a cab
Two to three hours before I check out of my accommodation, I tell the receptionist of the hostel I am staying to get me a cab at check out time and where I will be going (airport, bus terminal). I also ask them if there are other travelers who are also going to the same destination 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 have an instant travel companion.
- Try Couchsurfing
This is one of the best ways to save money while traveling, as accommodation will probably be the biggest chunk of expense on your travel budget. However, when you try Couchsurfing (CS) avoid having the mindset that you are just there for the free accommodation. 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 while staying with them.
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 accommodation in my whole stay while I was 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 our country and our culture. I gained friends along the way, learn their cultures, and at the same time able to save money on accommodation.
Read: Iran Part 2: How I survived Iran through Couchsurfing, hitchhiking, and Iranian hospitality
- Stay at shared accommodations (backpackers inn, 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 accommodation (compared 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 make conversations with other travelers and it will be a great way to learn a thing or two about their travels and 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 another way to get an inexpensive accommodation.
- Don’t buy food in touristy places
Whenever I visit a touristy place, I make sure to bring food with me. And on instances that I forgot to bring one, I walk at least a few blocks away from the tourist place 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 just outside the Opera house and decided to eat my left over shawarma that I had for lunch. I also brought bottled water with me instead of buying food and drinks in a place herded by tourists.
Read: My Australian Winter Story
- 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 a tram from the airport to my hostel and it cost me less than PHP 200. If I took a cab that time, it would cost me around PHP 2000.
- Buy food at a grocery store
Instead of eating every day at restaurants, buy food at supermarkets, convenient or grocery stores. You can buy bread, fruits, and sometimes even hot meals. (and) it will definitely save 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 eat at low-priced eateries for breakfast and lunch. And for dinner, you can eat at a fancier restaurant. Remember, you do not need to eat every meal at a restaurant.
On my travels, I always try to incorporate walking as much as possible since this helps me get a real feel of the place. I get to interact with the locals, see their usual way of lives, and at the same time, it keeps me away from taking a cab ride. It also serves as my daily dose of exercise.
- 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 have this feature that even you don’t have an Internet connection you can still access its maps. Offline maps are particularly helpful when you are on a walking tour so you can avoid getting lost and spending unnecessary cab ride.
- Take sleeper bus or train
This will save you money not only on accommodation but also save you time during your travel. 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.
- Haggle on prices
This one is definitely the easiest to follow for (us) Filipinos, as we are expert 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 Pinoys are generous. Whenever we travel, we tend to buy pasalubong for everyone, to our family, our friends, our officemates, our neighbors, (we give them pasalubong). However, when we are traveling on a tight budget, we should learn how to limit your expenses.
So, instead of buying t-shirts for your friends, send them postcards. Instead of giving your officemates individual gifts, bring food for them to share. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.