Doing the basics of traveling on the cheap is probably second nature to you now. I’m sure you’re a trooper when it comes to watching for that “piso fare.” You also travel light by foregoing the pricey baggage fee. You’ve learned to avoid buying travel packages that give you too little time to explore your destination and too much time going to tourist traps (like, you know, those infamous jewelry shops). You buy souvenirs from markets, not at tourist spots where the markup is bound to be big. And before you hop on that plane, you scour travel blogs for sample itineraries and breakdown of expenses to give you a rough idea on what to do once you get there. And, you go in groups to split the costs of travel.
You’ve done well. And you can do better. There’s still more fun to catch, while still being economical. We’ll tell you how.
Get tips from a local or someone who has lived there for a long time
Travel blogs are useful initial sources of information, I acknowledge that. But the tips usually given in blogs are from an outsider’s point of view. Although the POV is fresh, it usually falls short on insider knowledge on off-the-beaten path destinations, off-the-grid local cuisine, locally-priced tours and things, and, of course, economical ways to get there. So be friendly with locals. Or, if you have time, scan your Facebook friends on who might be living on the destination of your choice. Who knows, you might just score the trip of a lifetime to little-known destinations.
Bring a water bottle and refill it
Sometimes, you may not notice it, but the beverage bills tend to pile up while traveling. Or that a bottle of water seemingly becomes more precious than gold when you mentally convert currencies. The simple solution is to bring a water bottle, and just refill it when you get the chance to. You can refill it at food courts, at the park, at the airport, at the hostel you’re staying, or anywhere else where free water is available. Not only will you stay hydrated, your wallet will stay loaded, too.
Buy local food from the market, the grocery store, or the food court
Of course, one of the highlights of your trip, as many Instagram and Facebook posts will tell you, is the food. While trying out the local cuisine at a well-known restaurant is a worthy goal, it’s also worth noting that eating pricey dishes for three meals a day can make a big dent in your wallet. So why not make the price of your meals as balanced as the nutrition you put into it? That is, you can opt to eat two cheap meals and splurge on one feast. Cheap meals can be eaten at the market, from the grocery store, or at the food court. Think about those 30-baht rice meals that can be had in Bangkok’s streets or those 2,500-won kimbap that can be bought around Seoul. You can also try localized fast-food fare to excite your taste buds. Think, bulgogi burger at a McDonald’s in Seoul or a citrusy-spicy chicken at a KFC in Bangkok, or an herb-filled (and spicy!) chicken-and-rice dish at a Carl’s Junior (also in Bangkok). A variety of dishes at various price points will surely make your tummy (and wallet) happy.
Hotel vs. hostel
A hostel, a homestay, or Airbnb are popular economic ways to keep lodging costs low. You can forego hotels, since you’ll be out and about, anyway. And nowadays, staying at hostels doesn’t have to be a sorry experience. A good number of hostels offer comfortable stays in simple but clean rooms. Some even offer breakfast! But if you must book a hotel, there are plenty of ways of booking a room at a discount. You can try sites like Agoda or discount sites like Deal Grocer and MetroDeal. Or, for even greater deals, you can also check out the hotel or hostel website directly and look for special promotions. Often, you can snag deals that are only available on the lodging’s official website or social media account. Trying out Airbnb is another great option, too. Just have to scour the app/site for great deals. Time to start clicking!
Get the apt app
In the age of smartphones, there’s an app for everything, even traveling to a new destination. In a lot of places, you can download apps that can give you a general idea of the place you’re visiting, especially if you’re cramming your knowledge about your destination while you’re en route there. Find apps that can give you a map of the place, a list and description of prime tourist spots, accommodation options from low to high, must-try restaurants, how to get around by subway, bus, car, or bike, and any other useful traveling tip. Also, research if there are these apps that are available even when you’re offline. A hassle-free reference in today’s tech-filled world is one that can be accessed both online and offline.
Find free things to do…especially for foreigners
Granted, some cities are more expensive than others, but there are still some things you can experience for free, if you know where to find it. Visit a museum’s website to find out which day the entrance is free. Go to a park and have a picnic. In some instances, there may even be free concerts at the park. You can also search Facebook for free events. Do a simple online search to see if a certain destination has special tourist programs. Or better yet, visit your destination’s official tourist site and check if there are special discounts/coupons for tours or products for foreigners, or if there are programs like walking tours you can sign up for.
Take public transportation or walk
Taxis or rental cars can be convenient. But it can also be pricey. Plus, it minimizes interaction with locals, which also lessens the fun of traveling and experiencing new things. That’s why taking public transportation can be a better option. Not only is it relatively cheap, it also provides more local color as well as insight into your destination’s culture. Getting a lodging that’s relatively near most tourist spots can give you the option of having a leisurely walk there. Once you arrive at the airport, get one of those free maps. Or better yet, download the map, or an app with a map.