You’ve probably heard the quote “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”, and I couldn’t agree more. I often say to friends, you won’t be reminiscing about things and possessions, when you’re in the old age home… Personally I would much rather spend money on experiences, it will not only make for some interesting stories and photo albums, but also enrich your life immensely. Don’t get me wrong, I like creating a beautiful living space with pretty things, but If I have to choose, I will always choose the experience.
However, exploring distant shores can give your savings a rather crippling blow, especially if you are paying in Rands! We have a few seasoned travellers on the team, and here is some of their best advice for exploring abroad on a budget.
1. Travel off-season
A city like London, Paris, Budapest, Munich and Rome are beautiful throughout the year and offers visitors plenty of reasons to visit, so try to avoid them during the peak season whenever you can. And for destinations that are very weather dependent, try to go during mid-season. Generally you’ll find accommodation at a better price, spend less time in queues, and meet more locals than tourists.
2. Have a Picnic
Many grocery stores have deli sections where you can buy delicious cold meats, breads and fruit, or get a ready-made sandwiches or light meals. Then find the nearest park, square or beach and enjoy lunch at the fraction of the price of a restaurant meal. Alternatively you can dig into some street food or find the local market for some hearty fare. It’s a great excuse to do some people watching, or take in the unfamiliar surroundings.
3. Eat like the locals
Eat like the locals. Travellers looking to have an authentic experience will try the local food and drink of the country they are visiting. This will more often than not also guarantee the best price, and value for money. So when in Rome…have spaghetti alla carbonara and house vino.
4. Find Freebies
Do some research to find out what you can do for free at your chosen holiday destination. Many museums and churches charge no entry fees, in the UK there are quite a few national museums that one can visit free of charge. And many other museums in major cities have certain days that they are open to the public for free. In Paris, for example, they have the Free First Sundays Program when most museums are free on the first Sunday of every month. In Paris you can also go on a free guided tour, free concerts and even a free cinema screening during summer months. When visiting museums and other sites, also enquire about special rates for groups, students or seniors citizens.
5. Cheaper by the Dozen
If you are planning your own trip and transport, consider taking your besties along. When renting a car or apartment it makes a lot more financial sense to travel in a group of four, as you will be able to split the cost of accommodation, taxis or car rental, parking, guidebooks and food.
6. Pack your own Food & Drink
We as South African are used to drinking great wines at a very reasonable price. Depending on which country you visit, wine is not always so regularly available, and can be very pricey. So if the idea of paying through your nose for a glass of vino does not appeal to you, take some of your own. Although the customs are different for each country, most countries will allow you to take in some alcohol, and a bottle of spirits should get you quite far. Also take some snacks if you have extra space in your suitcase. Stay away from fresh organic foodstuffs, but biscuits, crackers, cakes, granola bars, cereal, pasta, noodles, chocolate and sweets are generally not a problem. Make sure you know what the restrictions on food and alcohol are for the destination you are visiting, and remember to declare when you go through customs. If you are unsure of whether it is allowed, rather leave it behind.
8. Stay in Fewer Places
Moving around frequently, and paying for airfare, car rental or train tickets, can easily increase the cost of your holiday. Consider taking things a little slower and exploring fewer places a little better. Also choose accommodation that is central so that you can explore by foot or bicycle.
Unless you are in Asia, where restaurants and food are generally very affordable, make sure you have accommodation with kitchen facilities where you can prepare your own food.
10. Travel Light
Airlines are becoming stricter about the number of free baggage that is included in the airfare, while many low-cost airlines charge extra for luggage. So packing light and right will give you more bang for your buck. It will also help you to explore better by foot. Try not to buy unnecessary souvenirs that will take up extra space in your luggage. Rather spend more time getting that perfect photo and framing it when you get home.