5 Tips to Travel Cheaply (But Well)
As a backpacker, I’m a great advocate of cheap travel. I’ve gone to Europe and back without touching my primary savings account, but I didn’t deprive myself either. I ate mussels and waffles in Brussels, went inside the Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen (my friend Nis paid for my entrance fee), flew from Prague to Athens to save time, and even splurged (based on my standards) by going to Santorini.
Yes, you can really travel cheap in Europe, but even if you don’t have concrete plans (yet) of going there, you can save up and prepare for your first Eurotrip in advance. Does this mean that you can’t travel anymore, since you’re saving up for that major trip? Should you spend all your free days at home twiddling your thumbs?
Definitely not. Even if you’re on PG mode, you can still travel. The secret is knowing how to spend as little as possible while still enjoying yourself to the max. Here are my tried-and-tested tips to travel cheaply, but well.
Keep on the lookout for airline seat sales.
Most of my friends and colleagues wonder how I can travel so much in and outside the country. The secret? Cheap airfare! Since the budget airline industry exploded in the market a few years ago, I have flown to various destinations paying only a fraction of what the ticket usually costs. (Read: How to Find Cheap Flights)
So check out the websites of your favorite airlines, and if there’s an option available, sign up to be sent alerts when there are scheduled seat sales. The reason is simple: cheap seats are usually limited in number. By the time you read it in the newspaper in the morning, all the allotted seats will already be taken. Be one of the first to book and you’ll be guaranteed a slot! (My Coron, Palawan return ticket next month cost me P500, and it was only booked last month.)
Join free walking tours.
Yes, you will be surprised to know that there are walking tours that are free. I was in Budapest when I learned this, and despite being free, it was very well done. In the Philippines, there’s also a monthly tour of the heritage buildings in Manila which will include the beautiful Metropolitan Theater and Manila Post Office. You can also check out the local groups in Couchsurfing. There are always members there arranging tours and meet-ups.
Stay in hostels rather than hotels.
If you’re not comfortable staying for free on someone else’s couch (because of course, the purpose is more on interaction rather than just a free bed), you can stay in hostels rather than hotels. Dorm beds are so much cheaper; you don’t need your own room, anyway, as you’ll be out most of the day. I’ve been using Hostelworld for years to find the best deals, not only in Asia but in Europe as well.
When I was in Kota Kinabalu, I stayed at a backpacker hostel which cost only US$6 per night. The dorm room was small, and there were a lot of beds, but it was comfortable enough. I met people there whom I later went out with to drink the night away while watching the championship game of the World Cup.
The best hostel I’ve stayed in though, was Caveland Hostel in Santorini. There was only me and a young guy in a huge room, and when he left, I had the whole room to myself! At only US$22 per night, it was a great deal, given that there was also free breakfast and airport transfer.
Take advantage of the deals in group buying sites.
The recent years has seen the rise of group buying sites. Indeed, who can resist them? You get as much as 90% off in some of their deals! As a recent convert, I sometimes dread checking out my favorites, which include Groupon Philippines, because I know I will have a hard time resisting to buy, especially when it comes to massage, household products, and yes, even laboratory examinations!
What’s nice about these group buying sites is that they also offer inexpensive travel deals that are sometimes too hard to resist. One offer, for example, was a visit to Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. I regret that I had not seen this when I was in Singapore for five days last month, otherwise, I would have really taken advantage of it.
One major warning though: not all group buying sites are the same. Some have received a lot of complaints already for either misrepresenting the deal or for not fully disclosing all the information. Sometimes the price is exaggerated to make it seem a better deal than it really is. So, before you book a trip through these sites, do your research first and find out if the company is legit!
Don’t be too cheap.
Yes, there’s such a thing as being too cheap. It’s nice to think primarily of your wallet, but not at the expense of experiencing something memorable. I was in Athens, for example, when I thought of going to Santorini. I initially rejected the idea, thinking it would be very expensive, but then, I asked myself: I am so close already, do I really want to go home without ever seeing it, just because I didn’t want to spend a hundred dollars?
I was so glad I decided to push through! What I spent there (which wasn’t much, since I stayed at the inexpensive Caveland Hostel) was definitely worth it.
So, yes, you can travel cheap. You can forgo some pleasures while traveling to help stretch your budget a bit more. But remember, money can be earned. There are some experiences that are worth paying for, and you shouldn’t miss out on those just because you can’t break your budget.
How about you? What are your tips for cheap travel?
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Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!