If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you too can be a globetrotter. Even if you don’t have a suitcase full of money lying around. You won’t need it, except maybe to carry your clothes. Yes, it’s true that I can fly at discount prices on some routes, because I work for KLM, but there are more effective ways to trim your travel expenses.
Prepare yourself online
This may sound obvious, but a thorough internet quest can make your trip a lot easier and a whole lot cheaper. Check out travel forums for your chosen destination and ask what others paid when they were there. You may even get some handy tips for making your travel in the region cheaper.
Forget the daily budget
Of course you need to know approximately how much the trip is going to cost. You should therefore make a rough estimate, with a sizable margin for unexpected costs. Also check whether you can withdraw money on site or whether you need to take cash along. Yes, there are still countries where that only take cash. The reason to dump the daily budget is that costs tend to vary per day and per region. Sticking to a budget causes stress and that’s the last thing you want when you’re on holiday.
Be prepared to accept less
Travel is as expensive as you make it. If you opt for a full package trip, with your own wheels and five-star hotels, your costs will rocket through the roof instantly. An easy way to keep the costs down is by arranging everything yourself. Use public transport, opt for simple hotels or B&Bs, and try to live like the locals. Special memories are guaranteed.
Aim to pay local rates
Things that seem cheap to you may be very expensive for local people. That means it’s a good idea to find out as quickly as possible what the locals pay and the size of the average income. Keep this in mind when you compare prices and while negotiating. If a bus trip is going to cost you the equivalent of the average monthly salary earned by a local, it might be a good idea to rethink your plan. Is it really worth the expense?
Taxis are very comfortable, of course, but there’s also a price tag. Local buses, trains, metros, rickshaws and other modes of transport are usually a lot cheaper. They may be somewhat slower, but they also present an ideal opportunity to engage with local people.
Dare to haggle
Haggling is almost a way of life in many countries. It’s always a good idea to negotiate prices. Preferably with a touch of humour and always with respect. Don’t undercut the price too much, because sellers have to live off their earnings. Aim for a deal that suits you both.
Travel outside the peak season
This is another obvious one, but travelling in the off season ensures a wider range of accommodation as well as lower prices. And let’s not forget the lack of tourist hordes. Be sure to check the climate of your chosen destination. Sometimes the peak season may simply be the best time to visit a country. Travelling in the Amazon can be a nightmare during the rainy season. On the other hand, the off season may be ideal in some places. Southern Europe is a case in point. Things can get crazy there in the summer, but the weather is often just as pleasant in spring and autumn.
Look beyond the Lonely Planet
Once a hotel or landmark has featured in the local Lonely Planet guide, it will attract tourists like bees to a honeypot. As a result, the prices will rocket. But don’t despair, because there’s always plenty more to see than you’ll find in the travel guide. Get out your magnifying glass and find the district with the most affordable hotels. Take a walk around and you’ll probably find something that’s not only lovely, but also affordable.
The more, the merrier, and the lower the costs. If you travel together, you can usually split the costs for an expedition or tour. If you want to visit a remote spot, for instance, or undertake a long hike. You may even make friends for life!
Opt for local cuisine
Things can get quite expensive if you go out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Why not go to the local store or market and do some grocery shopping? Then head out for a picnic at a park or some scenic spot alongside a river or on a hillside. If you want to try new flavours, savour the local street food or ask locals to tell you which is their favourite restaurant. Local favourites are often excellent and affordable.
But the most important tip is: don’t forget to enjoy your trip. That’s what you came for. Don’t get too stressed about your bank account and keep an eye out for wonderful experiences. Some places may be more expensive than you expected. These things happen. You need to ask yourself: will I regret it later if I don’t do this now? If the answer is “yes”, don’t hesitate to spend your money. You may never get another chance.