Travelling on a tight budget so you can discover as many overseas destinations as possible? Then check out my top travel hacks to save money and hassle on your next adventure
Stay in hostels
If you’re a budget traveller, this is an easy one. Don’t stay at hotels – you really don’t need a private room, all you’re doing there is sleeping. Ditch the hotel, and book a hostel. You can prepare meals, get free wi-fi, meet like-minded travellers from all over the world, get local tips from the awesome staff, and pay an average of $A20 to $30 a night. You just have to share a room with a bunch of other travellers.
Many hostels also offer a range of activities ranging from free walking tours to movie nights to cooking classes. You can also hire bikes at some hostels.
Even light sleepers can stay at hostels. Trust me – you do get used to people coming in and out. Even though I’m a light sleeper, earplugs and an eye mask is all I need most nights to guarantee a good night’s sleep.
The best earplugs I’ve found are made of mouldable silicone and are designed for swimmers to stop water getting in your ear. You can buy them at sports stores such as Rebel Sport. But I use them at hostels because they mould better into your ear and block most of the sound – so you can go to sleep even if people are still up and about.
There are many top rate hostels out there and HostelWorld is a great resource. Check out the reviews before booking – this is a reliable way to make sure the place is not a dive. You can book hostels through the website or use this simply as research and go to the hostel website if they have one to book.
Check the free food shelf at hostels
It’s your first night in a new place, you’re hungry, on a budget, and you’re about to head to the supermarket. Before you go, make sure you check the free food shelves at your hostel to see if there’s anything there that you need. Travellers often leave behind food such as milk, bread, butter and pasta – rebuying all this stuff every time you get into a new city can get expensive so stop food wastage and see if there’s anything you can take before you head to the supermarket.
If possible, try to pick up any food you need from supermarkets rather than the local 7-Eleven or the local convenience store which is twice the price. Aldi and Lidl are great supermarkets in Europe (and also Australia) where you can get really cheap groceries.
You may have to go a bit further out of the city centre to find one but there’s usually one nearby. Just ask the staff at your hostel for the nearest one.
If you really want to save some money, Couchsurfing is the perfect option.
Couchsurfing is another great way to meet like minded people and you stay for free. The idea behind couchsurfing is not just for travellers to have a cheap place to stay, but connect with locals and share your travels. So sit down with your host for a meal or a drink – they’re generally happy to have a chat if they’re free and you’ll probably get some great travel tips.
Find a couch to stay on (or sometimes you might even get a private room) at www.couchsurfing.com
Couchsurfing works on references – I usually look for people with at least a handful of references.
Use public restrooms in fast food chains
Most countries in Europe charge for you to use public bathrooms. Ok so public toilets aren’t that expensive but it all adds up and coins are handy for the metro. If you’re wanting to save a few cents and aren’t in a great rush, find a McDonald’s and Starbucks and use their restrooms.
In Europe, most McDonald’s restrooms need a keycode to enter but there’s always people coming or going so just wait for someone to come out to open the door. McDonald’s are often easier to find than public toilets.
Take advantage of free WFi and use Google Maps in flight mode
You’ll find WiFi at your hostel – it’s basically unheard of these days not to have some sort of WiFi. Most times it works brilliantly – but not always in your room but it’s not hard to hang out in the hostel foyer to check your Facebook.
But if you’re out and about, you’ll usually find free WiFi at McDonalds, Starbucks and often shopping centres. Some countries also have free WiFi in their CBD areas.
I’ve found I don’t need a lot of data when travelling overseas – I use the hostel WiFi to upload photos and do my research. Most hostels around the world offer WiFi, as well as many airports. I just carry a travel SIM with some phone credit and data to use as an emergency.
You don’t need data to use Google Maps as long as you load up the map while you have WiFi. Load the map, leave the page open on your phone or tablet, put it on flight mode, and then the GPS will show you where you are as you travel on foot or in a vehicle.
Google Maps has been a lifesaver in finding my accommodation each time I arrive in a new city. I just load up the route from my origin (airport, train station etc) to my hostel and the GPS will work in flight mode to show me where I need to go. It’s really handy on buses when I don’t know which stop I have to get off at. I just wait until the GPS dot tells me I’m near and then get off at a stop as close as I can.
Don’t throw out your water bottle at the airport
You don’t need to throw out your water bottle every time you go through airport security. Just empty the bottle of water and fill it back up on the other side. Most airports these days have water taps outside the restrooms. You don’t need to buy a new bottle of water every time you go through an airport.
Speaking of airports, buy your snacks at a supermarket before you go to the airport. You’ll save heaps of money simply by avoiding buying anything at the airport. I also try to bring sandwiches with me to the airport so I don’t have to buy a meal.
It’s an obvious one, but you can save a lot of money by walking and not always taking public transport. If it’s a city on the small side especially – hit the footpath and explore. Some of the most interesting sights I’ve found are because I got a little lost and stumbled onto them. I love wandering quaint neighbourhoods especially of the cobblestone variety, or checking out the street art, unique buildings and simpl# seeing locals go about their daily life.
Where you want to go could be an hour’s walk away but you’re likely to see some interesting places along the way and exercise never hurt anyone – and on the plus side more exercise means you can indulge more on the local food!
Buy a travel card for public transport
Staying in a big city for a few days? Then before you buy that single metro ticket make sure you look if there’s an option to buy multiple tickets. Generally buying multiple tickets at the one time is cheaper than buying a single ticket every trip.
For example, a single ticket on Spain’s Metro in Valencia is $1.50. With a 10 journey travel card, it’s 7.20. Or in Budapest, you can buy a 24, 48 or 72 hour travel card giving your unlimited trips on the city’s metro and bus network within the city boundaries over the selected time period.
Take public transport to the airport
A lot of people opt to take taxis and shuttles to and from the airport but in many countries, metros or buses go straight to and from the airport. I think the cheapest I’ve found is in Poland for about $A1.50 by bus from the airport or in Lisbon it’s about $A2 on the metro to the airport. Yes, public transport takes longer but just plan around it and you’ll save a lot of money.
Take a first aid kit and some medicine from home with you on your travels
This one can save you money, a lot of hassle and even discomfort. And it will weigh almost nothing and take up little space.
The last thing you want to do is go see a doctor for something minor and if you don’t speak the language – it can be a difficult process. So try and bring a couple of things from home that might save you a trip to the doctor or pharmacy.
The following list of items I carry with me each time I travel and it’s saved me a couple of times from needing to visit or doctor or buy expensive items last minute at a pharmacy.
- An antiseptic cream or spray
- Something like Stingose to deal with insect bites
- Antibiotics. I regularly get sinus infections when I travel and need a dose of antibiotics to clear it up. I’ve learnt my lesson and carry a packet with me now.
- Items such as Imodium and Buscopan to deal with stomach complaints. Some travel doctors sell kits with prescription medicine to deal with gastro complaints. I have one of these now and it’s saved me a couple of times as I travelled through Central and South America.