5 Helpful Ways to Travel on the Cheap
We all know that one of the biggest challenges of traveling is trying to accomplish all you want to do without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are a lot of alternative travel options out there that can help you save money without sacrificing the experience. In some ways, avoiding the top restaurants and hotels can actually make your travel experience even richer, and help you experience the “real” part of the country you’re visiting. Ready to travel on the cheap? Follow these five tips:
5 Ways to Travel on the Cheap
1. Couchsurfing and Airbnb are great options.
Instead of heading right to the hotels, take a look into the many house stay options out there. Between Couchsurfing (which is totally free), Airbnb, Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO), and hostels, you can really save a good chunk of change.
Hostels have started to creep up in price over the past few years because of their increase in popularity, and in some cities, a hostel is hardly cheaper than some hotels, but it really depends.
You may not be staying in the absolute most convenient part of the city, but look at it this way, you’ll see somewhere you never would have otherwise.
VRBO isn’t necessarily all that much cheaper than a hotel, but depending on how large a group of people you are traveling with, you can rent a whole apartment or house, cram a lot of people in and you can cook instead of going out!
Couchsurfing is the cheapest, because it’s totally free. And it’s based around the idea of meeting new people and a new community, so you never know who you’ll end up staying with! You have to spend some careful time on the site, and pick a host who you think is in line with what you want out of the experience. You may not be staying in the absolute most convenient part of the city, but look at it this way, you’ll see somewhere you never would have otherwise.
2. Seek out budget airlines and bus options.
Most people by now are aware of the major discount airlines, but Europe is actually filled with tons of smaller discount airlines not to mention other travel alternatives. My biggest piece of advice is to shop around.
While getting the Eurail pass is romanticized, and was at one point very economical, that is not as much the case any more. While trains are a very beautiful way to travel, they are also very time consuming. The passes are quite pricey, are generally limited to a certain region of the continent and don’t cover all of the costs of the train. For most countries, you will still be required to purchase a seat reservation, which may range from 8 euros to over 100 euros.
Often flying with one of the many discount airlines (Ryanair, EasyJet, German Wings, Vueling, WOW, etc.) can save you a lot of time and money. The bus is also a good option that is often overlooked. Sometimes a bus is actually the most direct (though least glamorous) way to get where you want.
A great app that can help narrow down your options is Rome2Rio which compares general prices and time for all of the different transit options out there. You can’t book anything through the actual app (like Kayak, it will take you to the actual website to complete a purchase), but it’s great for research.
3. Rethink that shiny Ristorante with a “Tourist Menu”
Food is one of the most enjoyable things about traveling because it means getting to experience the authentic cuisine of another culture. But it can also be extremely expensive and hard to know where to go. The number one tip you absolutely should follow no matter where you’re visiting is avoid eating anything in very touristy areas.
Certainly, there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, food in touristy areas is overpriced, inauthentic, and not very good. It is geared toward tourists who don’t know any better.
The second piece of advice is, don’t be afraid to ask locals; they are going to know the best places to go, better than any guide book.
The second piece of advice is, don’t be afraid to ask locals; they are going to know the best places to go, better than any guide book. This is another great thing about using Couchsurfing for lodging–you have a built in local who is generally more than happy to offer advice about his or her city. And bonus: they usually live in non-touristy areas so you can discover places that the average tourist would never see.
Hostels are also usually pretty good resources for recommendations on cheap, delicious food. You’ll find some of the best food at small local places, with reasonable prices. A lot of European countries are also known for their various street food, so find out what that is and dig in! I spent an entire weekend in Berlin subsisting off of kebab and currywurst, and I couldn’t have been happier!
4. Find alternate sites to see.
While you obviously want to hit the major tourist sites if it’s your first time visiting a new place, there are often really pricey entrance fees — some places are worth it and some aren’t. Pick the absolute must-sees to go inside. For the others, you’d be fine just walking past, and skipping the rest.
While it’s gratifying to say you’ve seen the big sites, you’ll have some of the most fun by creating your own unique memories in each city. You’ll save a lot of time and money (and the annoyance of being in large crowds) by getting off-the-beaten-track, finding cool neighborhoods, and discovering the parts of the city that make it unique.
You can find some great free walking tours, and the bus or paid tours of major tourist sites are grossly overpriced and often don’t include admission to the actual site, and can even spout incorrect information.
I would also recommend avoiding the pricey guided tours. You can find some great free walking tours, and the bus or paid tours of major tourist sites are grossly overpriced and often don’t include admission to the actual site, and can even spout incorrect information. Not to mention that you instantly give yourself away as a tourist and annoy all of the locals. Grab a map, go for a walk and talk to people!
5. Choose your souvenirs carefully.
Here is another way that you can easily drop money on items that you’ll never use. Do you really need that foot tall statue of the Eiffel Tour? I find that the most meaningful souvenirs are things I find in thrift stores or small local places, that may give no indication of their origin but are special because I know where they’re from.
It’s like a secret you keep with you and it’s so much better than bringing back another keychain or useless, generic souvenir just because that’s what you’re supposed to get in that country.
Food is also a great souvenir (though you have to be careful with customs). Local food that you can’t get back home is such a treat to have in those few days back from vacation when you’re missing the exciting adventures you just had!
5 Ways to Travel on the Cheap
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Have you traveled solo? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.