Sunday, 14 September 2014

10 tips on budget travelling


In line with the recent interview I did with 联合早报 (the local Chinese newspaper) where I briefly talked about how travelling doesn't have to burn a hole in your pocket. Here are a few tips on how to travel on a shoestring.

0) Start a travelling fund.
Set aside a sum of money every month for travelling so that you won't find yourself saying 'But I don't have the money to!'

1) Buy a cheap air ticket.
Subscribe to airlines newsletters so that you'll be the first to know when they are having promotions. For travels within Asia or Australia, I look out for sales on all the budget airlines. For travels to further places such as Europe, I look out for Qatar, Qantas, Emirates and Malaysia Airline sales. Sometimes when I have a few destinations in mind (or none in particular), I enter the dates that I want to go and then I type "everywhere" into the destination bar on skyscanner.com. They will show me a list of countries with prices during the period that I want to fly. I can then choose the cheapest/most reasonable priced air ticket.

2) Book everything early.
I saved A LOT by booking in advance. Hostels, bus rides, flights, everything. Yes this means that I can't change my itinerary but it's not like I have a lot of time to play with. As soon as I've planned my route, I start booking everything.

3) Stay in a hostel or airBnB or tent.
Hostels are the cheapest accommodation you can find. The more people in the room, the cheaper your bed. The biggest dorm I've slept in was 20 people? But the room was really well organized, so it wasn't crowded nor noisy at all. AirBnB has cheap rooms to rent too and it's can be better than a hostel if you are travelling with friends. Camping sites are even cheaper but you have to bring your own tent and sleeping bag. I really want to try a camping road trip (drive in the day and then pitch a tent for the night) or a road trip in a campervan.

4) Do some research.
Google and find out about the cheapest way to get around, whether there are many tourist/student discounts you can make use of, tips and advice from other travellers, etc. Also, speak to the other travellers and see if they have any money saving tips. Like when I was in Paris, I met Singaporeans on exchange who told me about the unlimited ride metro ticket or when I was researching about Ho Chi Minh, I found a local bus that takes you to the city center for a few cents instead of a few dollars if I were to take a taxi.

5) Choose a few tourist attractions to visit.
Tourist attractions are often very expensive to visit, so choose a few that you really want to go. You can admire the rest from the outside. Travelling isn't just about ticking off tourist attractions, so there's no need to visit every one when there are so many other free things to enjoy!

6) Go for "free" walking tours.
I say "free" because they are more like tip-supported walking tours. You pay whatever amount you want to at the end of the walking tours. I love going for walking tours because some guides tell really interesting stories about the city and they give good recommendations and tips. Plus, I've already mentioned this before but I made a lot of friends through these walks. It's a great way to see the city and know people.

7) Don't buy useless souvenirs.
I never buy myself any souvenirs (key chains, fridge magnets, I ♥ Paris Tshirts, etc) because they'll just end up collecting dust at home. The only "souvenir" I bought was carpet in Istanbul haha. Photos and memories are the best souvenirs for me.

8) Cook your own meals.
Cooking can save you a lot of money if you're on a long trip. Do eat out and try the local cuisines but do it at most once a day and cook for the other meals. I'm not a fussy eater and sometimes I just eat bread and yogurt when I'm lazy to cook.

9) Walk, walk and walk.
Walking is my favourite way of getting around. Buses/Metro can only get you from one point to another, but you don't really get to experience and enjoy the place so I walk A LOT when I'm travelling (explains my need for a comfy pair of shoes). Besides, you get to save on transportation too!

10) Set a daily budget.
Calculate how much you think you will need per day and stick to that budget. If you overshot one day, spend less the next day. And don't tempt yourself to withdraw money overseas, bad exchange rate and transaction fees.

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This is how I manage to travel and not be too broke haha. If you find that keeping to a budget is really too hard for you, just forget about it and enjoy yourself. Money can always come later. :) At the end of the day, it's all about your priorities I guess. I put travelling as my top priority, so instead of going for a fancy dinner or buying new shoes/bags, I book a new flight or a night in a hostel.

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