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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tips to travel on a budget

How are you able to travel for such long stretches of time? Who funds your travels? What is your job? I want to do this too, but whenever I travel, my money runs out faster than I anticipate it to. These are some of the reactions my friends and fellow travelers have when they see me traveling for many months. I thought it was best if I wrote about some of the techniques that I use to sustain travel for long periods of time. These are tips based on my travels and from ideas that I have heard from other fellow travelers, but have never come to terms with using them. I have split them into ‘how to save money’ and ‘how to make money’ while traveling. I hope this list of tips helps you plan a longer holiday for the same budget.

How to save money while traveling?
1) Never take a tour, a package or buy some service from a travel agent. You are always going to pay his margin, which could take precious dollars away from your budget. Go to the agent to get an idea, but always book things on your own directly from the service provider.

2) Be ready to walk and walk long distances. Sometimes even with a heavy backpack.

3) Always take public transport. This is generally the cheapest form of commute all over the world. And when you book such public transport, book it directly with the train/bus/ferry provider.

4) Travel as light as possible. This will help you be very mobile and also help you save cost with these low cost airlines who charge extra for check in baggage.

5) Stay in hostels, dormitories and cheap guest houses. Not only does it help you save cost, it also allows you to meet like minded people. These places are basic, but are generally pretty sufficient for backpackers with all the basic amenities.

6) Try and eat street food as much as possible. Not only does it give you a local taste, it also helps you save on some money as street food is the cheapest in every country. If you feel street food is not hygienic or if your stomach is a little too weak, either cook your own food or find out some cheap, yet safe restaurant.

7) If you are traveling solo, always be mentally prepared to meet strangers, make friends with them and share accommodation with them in places which don’t offer dormitories or hostels. This can apply to men and women and helps both the parties save on the cost of hotel rooms.

8) Make a list of all the low cost airlines in the world and ensure that you subscribe to their offers and email updates. You might get some insane deals. Air Asia, Tiger Airways and Ryan Air to name a few have thrown some mind numbing offers in the recent past and below $20 flights are still common to even this date.

9) Make lots of friends during your travels. If ever they offer to host you in their house in their country, remember that offer and take it when the opportunity presents. Not only does it allow you to catch up with your friend, it also helps you get a local flavor without spending money on accommodation. You can always repay your friend in kind or host him/her when they come to your country.

10) Use Couchsurfing. A lot of people use couchsurfing to cut on the costs of accommodation. While, this is a great way to meet local people, understand the local culture from them and save on the accommodation costs, I have personally never done couchsurfing before even though I am a member. I have heard some good reviews from fellow travelers, though watch out for people that solicit sex with couchsurfers.

11) As much as possible, try and walk into a city and search for accommodation. Generally, this means walking a lot and finding out the cheapest hotels in town. If you book via the booking websites, you will always end up paying more unless they are running a special scheme, in which case, keep a tab on it. It is also smart to check in with other backpackers and travelers to get a quick idea of which area is the budget area and what kind of prices do they have. I have more or less done this always in my travels where I have gone to a restaurant, introduced myself to other travelers and understood the local hotel topology.

12) Carry a hammock with you always in your backpack. In case, hotels are sold out, it is high season and it is expensive or the accommodation is way above your budget, you can always put your hammock on the beach or in between some trees and  spend the night. This can sound scary to some, but it works out sometimes.

13) Try and avoid long day travel as much as possible. It is always good to do night travels as it will allow you to save the cost of accommodation while allowing you to cover long distances.

14) Always do research when it comes to financial transactions. Many banks charge a fee for international ATM transactions. Some banks charge lesser than the other, while in some countries, banks do not charge a service fee at all. Find out such banks and save on the service fees.

15) Always be ready to talk to fellow travelers. Everyone has interesting stories to share and some of them include some unbelievable tips. Learn from them.

16) Use free wi-fi as much as possible to stay in touch with friends and family. Most of the hostels, hotels and guest houses offer free wi-fi. If you don’t find such places, find a shopping mall, coffee shop or restaurant which offers wi-fi for free. Only take a local data plan only if you need to be connected always.

17) Buy a local sim card only if you have lots of local friends and you need to keep in touch with them. Else, avoid it.

18) At no costs, use a local phone to make an international call. They are always expensive. Use that local phone or your international roaming phone only in emergencies. Instead, use skype. Put credit in it or buy a country subscription and make international calls at local prices.

19) International Roaming is always expensive. See if you desperately need your international phone number. You can always buy a local one and share it with people who have to reach out to you.

20) Build your immunity. Drink filtered local water instead of bottled mineral water. A lot of cities provide filtered water. Ensure you always refill your water at such places. Water is such an important resource, but in many countries, bottled water is fairly pricey and hence can have a significant drain on your wallet.

21) While traveling, always keep some food and water with you. This will stop you from paying exorbitant prices for food and water while traveling.

22) Medical care is always expensive in any country you go to. Hence, always carry a basic first aid kit for small needs and go to a clinic, doctor or hospital only during emergencies.

23) Have a good travel and medical insurance plan with you that takes good care of you during emergencies. This will help alleviate all your stress during contingencies and emergencies.

24) Try and control your drinking and smoking in countries where it is too expensive. If you cannot control it, try the local beer/liquor and local cigarettes. They always tend to be much cheaper than the international ones which are imported. While doing this, beware of spurious products.

25) Keep your valuables safely with you and always on person with you or in safety lockers. Any loss will mean significant drain on your finances.

26) Stay flexible and ensure that you are able to change your plans at all times to save on cost.

27) Having a travel ATM card always helps. Depending on your country and bank, such cards do not charge any fee for international transactions. But, they might need you to keep large sums of money in your bank account. Every bank and country have their own clauses. Be sure to read them properly.

28) As much as possible, do not use your credit card to withdraw cash. You will end up paying significant interest to your bank. Instead, use your debit card and only spend the money that you have in your bank account and not what you don’t have.

29) Make sure you can sleep with noise and lights around you. If you cannot, then keep eye blinds and/or ear plugs ready.

30) Don’t shy away from leveraging your contacts and network in every country that you go to. Sometimes, these contacts are happy to host you or give you excellent local tips that might help you save some serious dollars. At the other extreme, don’t push them to the limits by staying with them for long periods of time.

How to make money while traveling?

1) Go on a working holiday and do some part time work. Some countries allow tourists to do part time work and get paid decent sums of money. Some countries like Australia promote working in farms.

2) Work part time jobs in the tourism industry in places where you can stay for long periods of time. These jobs can be bartending, waiting tables in a restaurant, managing the front desk of a hotel or be a hotel manager. Most tourist countries like expats who can speak many foreign languages. Keep in mind the rules related to your visa. Sometimes, this might be illegal as employment is mostly prohibited for people traveling on tourist visas.

3) Do a job that doesn’t require you to be in a specific location. All you might need is internet connectivity. These can be jobs in information technology or computers, media, design, journalism, writing and many more.

4) Maintain a travel and/or photography blog and make some advertising revenue from it.

5) Do writing and photography assignments if you think you can be a good photographer or a writer.

6) Take language translation assignments if you are good with the local language. Sometimes, you can become a guide if you speak the local and the international language. For example, take French, Spanish or Japanese lessons online in order to bolster your ability to find work in countries who speak these languages.      

7) Partner with a local and start a business: a hostel, a guest house, a dive shop, a travel agency, a travel outfit or something else that allows you to make money and also travel. Keep in mind that this might require some initial seed capital.



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