11 Free Tips for Low-budget Travel

“Where does he get the money?” I’m often asked this question, especially by Dutch people, some of whom seem to think I won the lottery.

The somewhat disappointing truth is that I don’t have a lot of money stashed away. What’s more important is that I don’t need a lot of money to travel. Okay, I do get staff discount on some routes, because I work for KLM, but I think you’ll find that the following tips are not only more important than discount flights, but will also make your travels more intense and interesting.

Budget travel

1. Calculate in local currency

Start calculating the local currency as quickly as possible, check what locals are paying and what the average local earns. Keep that in mind when you’re negotiating prices. Avoid saying: “It’s just a couple of euros.” Instead say: “Wow, that’s almost twice as expensive!” or “Wow, most people here don’t earn that in a week!”

2. Use local public transport

It’s very tempting to rent your own wheels, with or without a driver, because it allows you travel quickly and comfortably whenever it suits you. The problem is that it’s (a lot) more expensive than taking a local bus, train, subway or other mode of transport. What’s even more problematic is that you detach yourself (partially) from the local population. Public transport may take more time, you get a lot in return, because you’re connecting with locals.

Boris with locals on a boat

3. Modesty is the best policy

Travel costs are dictated by your need for comfort. If you opt for the full package, with five-star hotels and your own wheels, you expenses will rocket. If you make your own arrangements, opt for cheaper accommodation and live like the locals, you will drastically cut costs and make your travel experience all the more memorable.

Living like locals

4. Dare to haggle

Maybe you’re not a routine haggler, but in most parts of the world it’s completely normal to negotiate prices. The key word here is respect, preferably with some humour thrown in. The deal should be acceptable and beneficial to both parties.

5. Avoid the peaks

Travelling outside the peak season assures you of a broader range of accommodation, a stronger negotiating position and less congestion at all those special sites you want to visit. Always read up on the local weather. In some cases, the peak season may actually be the best time to visit a country. Or not. Europe is a classic example, with hordes of tourists arriving in summer, while spring and autumn are actually better travel seasons.

6. Be critical of your travel guide or app

Once a hotel is listed in your Lonely Planet guide, visitors start to flood in, often causing prices to rise. There are almost always alternatives. Your guide simply can’t list all the options. Check which district has plenty of hotels, take a walk around, check and compare!

7. Avoid taxis

Avoid taxis if you can. Drivers often have a nose for tourists and they know how to “take you for a ride”. It’s always more fun to explore on your own two legs. And if you’re going long distance, you can always rely on local railways, busses, trams or whatever the locals are using to get around.

Boris with a bike

8. Splitting costs

If you’re heading to remote places or have no choice but to organise a small expedition, try to make advance or on-the-spot arrangements with people who want to do the same and are willing to split costs. You may even make friends for life!

Meeting friends along the way.

9. Have lots of picnics

If you get hungry while exploring a city, go to a local shop, buy whatever takes your fancy, head out to nice spot nearby, something with a great view or lovely setting, and have a picnic!

10. Make online arrangements

Check internet forums for information about your destination and see/ask what other people were paying, to get a general idea. You’ll often find practical tips that make local travel cheaper.

11. Forget the daily budget

There are, of course, all sorts of reasons to allocate a general budget (with a sizeable margin) for the entire trip. It’s also handy to check whether you can get hold of cash locally (ATMs) and whether you’ll be able to pay with cards (there are still countries that only take cash!). But apart from that: forget the daily budget, because your spending will vary from day to day. The last thing you want is budget stress while you’re on your dream holiday.


The main thing is to enjoy your trip, which is exactly what you came for. Sometimes that special site you wanted to visit or that great little restaurant you wanted to try or that fun activity you had planned is more expensive than you’d anticipated. If so, you need to ask yourself: will I ever be back here again? And will I later regret not doing it? If the answer to the second question is “yes, probably”, then don’t hesitate to do whatever you had mind.

Do you want to read more about Boris’ travels, check his website

Posted by:   Boris  | 
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We avoid the hotels and use apartment rentals. It’s a great way to feel a part of the city, get to know locals and save money eating in, rather than being forced to eat all your meals in like in a hotel.
The other way we have save money, is research the transit passes. Often we’ve found the tourist tickets to be high, we find what the locals use. In Paris, a 5 day 5 zone tourist ticket will run you 60 €. We picked up a NaviGo Decouverte card (locals contactless transit pass). Cost is 5€ for the card and 21 € for a full week of travel in all 5 zones. Plus, it opens up more turnstiles to use in larger stations and it’s faster.

Joseph B. Cassidy, III

I have to completely agree with you. It makes a lot of sense. Plus, it’s much more relaxing too. If you live more like you do at home, the experience becomes a lot more enjoyable, and memorable. Why deal with stress? It’s your vacation/holiday, so why not enjoy it as such? It works great for me!


Thanks, James and Joseph, for these additions. Of course, there are many more than 11 tips for budget travel – you have named a few of the other hundreds ;-) with the added advantage that you actually experience the place you are visiting. which, at least for me, is the whole idea behind travel in the first place…


Great story, as usual. Thanks for sharing!

ekta atmaramani

Absolutely true this I call Budget travelling you go to explore places not comfort because memories are created when we travel.


hi ekta, very true indeed! travel is not about ticking off sights, but about immersing yourself with local life, feeling it, and learning about it (and yourself) in the process.

MWL Canada

Hey, I really enjoy reading your posts and KLM blogs. They are well written, interesting and full of good info. I am also an ex-corporate suit who travels a lot like you do and I have now created a company to help feed hungry children around the world by educating Western children and adults about healthy eating, global food cultures and learning how to cook :)

Do you have a website with more about your travels ? Would love to read more about them. You might also be interested in some of the stuff I do. Keep up the good work.


hi MWL,
thanks for your positive feedback! always nice to hear!

your project sounds very interesting. will try and look it up.

my website is: http://www.traveladventures.org – with over 18,000 pictures from over 185 countries. it might keep you busy for a while ;-)


Thanks for all the good tips, i love traveling and im already doing a few tips u have here. THANK YOU!!!!


hi lettie – thanks! my question to you is, of course: which suggestions did you find useful? happy travels!

Ginny Gooding

What great advise only wish I was younger xx


dear ginny,
while i don’t know your age (and wouldn’t dare to ask) – i think that nowadays, almost anyone can travel. the only obstacle would be physical challenges.

travel keeps your mind young!

Félix Maltchinski

Subscribe and receive special offers from KLM.

John Caselli

OK, please send me KLM special offers! I am going to Africa in August and would like to save somthing!!

Chuck Clark

Lets take a trip


Very good in deed. I never failed to read your blogs – very interesting and educational. How I wish I could travel more like you. I really love traveling. Thank you very much for this beautiful and educational insights.


dear lolita,
thanks again for your sweet feedback. i wish i could take you on one of my trips some day! meanwhile, i will keep you posted; you can of course also visit my website where you can find many more pictures of all my travels: http://www.traveladventures.org

Petrus Matjila

It’s very interesting and educational

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