How to travel on a budget: 5 insider tips

Monday, May 23, 2016 Travel Tips and Hacks by Elina Pedersen

Many years ago I was absolutely sure that travelling is expensive. But I was wrong.

The more you travel the less you spend – It might sound absurd, but it is true.

Travelling is a skill that you need to learn and with time you will travel more, but spend less.

Avoiding overpriced places and experiences is not always easy, so here are some tips on how to travel on a budget that will actually increase the quality of your stay.

Budget travel tip #1 – Eat Local

One of the best ways to save money and travel on a shoestring is to avoid the tourist restaurants and hotels, and take a plunge into the local cuisine!

Depending on where you are, it is often far cheaper if you go to the market to pick up some cheap bites.

Street food is by nature incredibly delicious, whether it be in the bazaars of Marrakech, the vibrant streets of Calcutta, or the fine lanes of London.

Street Food

It is also one of the best ways to meet people and experience the local culture as well.

For example I suggest you try a local night market in Ubud, Bali.

Bali is known predominantly as a haven for surfers and a tropical paradise filled with castaway beaches and hidden coves.

While that may be true, it’s cultural heart is the town of Ubud right in the centre of the island.

This sleepy peaceful place is nestled in between rolling volcanic hills, lush green banana groves and terraced rice paddies.

Bali fields

With such fertile land, it’s no wonder that the food is so delicious.

A stroll down to the night market will reveal a wonderful array of different food sourced from the local area.

Five types of rice, tofu, coconut curries, tapioca sweets filled with nectar-like palm sugar, the local delicacy bebek goreng (Balinese duck) and every kind of tropical fruit you can imagine, some of which you may never have seen before.

All of this can be bought for next to nothing (┬ú1,5 or €2,5) and it is absolutely delicious!

So yes, eating local is a great way to save money if you decide travel on a budget.

Budget travel tip #2 – Be Independent

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a tour group will be the most efficient way to save money and enjoy a trip to a distant and unfamiliar place in the World.

However, you may find that it ends up being a lot more expensive than you think, plus it is far much more restrictive of your experience.

So, why not try and arrange things yourself?

From my experience I can tell you that it is far more fulfilling and interesting to do things this way.

It is also an irreplaceable part of travelling on a budget.

Whether you’re going to somewhere not far from home, or if you’re going much farther afield to the tropics or a great mountain range like the Himalayas, there are ALWAYS local tour operators and guides there to help you.

You can even read their reviews online these days so you can be sure that you’re staying somewhere respectable and decent.

You can always use Air B’n’B to find a place to stay (they cover a lot of countries these days, more so in Europe and North America) or even better, just get to the spot and look for a place that isn’t sold out.

I guarantee you’ll be able to get a discount if you barter a little.

Which brings us to my next point:

Budget travel tip #3 – Barter

The idea of bartering is something that we are not particularly familiar with in the West, with few places you can haggle. But in many other countries across Asia and Africa bartering is a way of life, and you find that you can do it for nearly anything.

Tourists are an obvious source of easy money, so you must be on your guard for touts and vendors selling fake wears.

Then again, if you learn to master the craft of bartering you can make your holiday quite a bit cheaper!

The trick is to go in very low with your bid – the vendor will seemingly go mad at the thought of such an insulting offer.

The vendor will then make a very high bid, after which you very gradually come up and the seller will start to come down until you reach the price that you both agree on.

It can be quite a timely process, and quite trying sometimes – but it is a sure fire way to save a bit of money and it can be quite fun as well if you have the patience!

Marrakesh is a great place to improve on your bartering skills, as well as a fantastic location to travel to on a budget.

While not Morocco’s capital, Marrakech harbour is a great profusion of Arabic culture and history, and as such is a popular destination for all types of tourists.

Nestled in the heart of the old town, the souks are one of its main attractions – a bewildering and endless number of stalls lining equally endless winding alleyways – selling anything from leather goods, jewellery, huge heaps of spices, musical instruments and much more.

Marrakech spices

This is a prime place to put your bartering skills to good use, and the shopkeepers are well versed in the art, so come prepared and ready to drive the hard bargain!

Budget travel tip #4 – Use Public Transport

While stripping away the comfort and ease of a tour group or private hire to get around may seem like a daunting prospect; you may find that as well as saving a lot of money, you could end up having a far more unique and fulfilling experience as you travel from place to place.

You’ll have more chance to meet locals and perhaps strike up conversation.

Even with a language barrier you can always have funny and interesting encounters, trying to communicate in hand gestures and noises.

On the whole buses tend to be the cheapest (and slowest) way to get from A to B, especially if you are travelling on a budget and while it can be a tricky to find the bus station and communicate where you want to go to the person behind the desk, there’s something I always enjoy (even when seated in an uncomfortable seat for several long hours!) about traveling in this fashion.

One note of caution though – I wouldn’t recommend this method of travel if you are in a hurry!

If you are feeling like you can spend a little more, or if you are sick of taking long bus rides, you can always travel in style and take the train.

It usually does cost more, but not in every country.

Turkey, South Africa, Egypt, Malaysia and India for example have cheap train travel.

Train ride in India

One quite novel way to travel by train is to go a long distance on an overnight service – journeys often last between 10-14 hours.

These services can be pretty comfortable as well, if you get a 1st or 2nd class ticket you will get a bed, usually set in bunks of three.

If you want to buy the cheapest available ticket, it will not likely be very comfortable or clean but it will at the least get you where you want to go!

Bringing friends along, can make your train journey absolutely unforgettable – it always reminds me of travel novels.

Lastly, there are also domestic flights – which I suppose can be seen as a type of public transport.

Tickets can be very cheap indeed in some parts of the World, and in developed countries you can sometimes get a flight for less than the cost of a train ticket.

This is a great option for getting somewhere quickly, the main downside for me is that you don’t experience the change of scenery and landscape you’d get if you were traveling overland.

Budget travel tip #5 – Be Bold

One last thing that sums up everything I’ve mentioned so far is more of a mental point, but as it happens it can also end up saving you money.

The reason and purpose for travel is to enjoy new experiences and learn from other cultures, and to meet new people.

One of the best things you can do to save money is to be friendly, meet people and don’t be afraid to make conversation!

The chances are people will always be nice and helpful, and by striking up a conversation you may open up a door to experience that could be very special indeed.

You may find that by having a chat with a local, you could end up being invited for tea, or perhaps for dinner, or even a place to stay for the night!

It’s certainly possible – I have a friend who has been asked to attend a wedding off the back of one of these encounters!

I really hope that these 5 tips will help you save money and find new friends on your next trip.

Hope you are planning a trip to some amazing location soon!

Be bold, be happy, travel and if you don’t have an umbrella steal a map from your friend.

Budapest palace

Elina