12 July 2012

#travel week: 5 tips for a budget travel

Note: these are tips for independent travellers. I believe you can buy a really cheap package to a resort in Jamaica. But that's too easy!

1. anticipation: plan in advance

marrakesh in the summer? maybe not the best idea if you suffer with heat - hooray for shadows!

Check the best season to travel to your destination (an ideal combination of ok weather and low season - hard sometimes). Check fares in advance. Start saving money early. Check for holiday season in your destination country (for example: never travel to Japan in the beginning of May - it's golden week the busiest holiday season when all japanese are moving around and prices increase substantially). Check if a visa is needed - we europeans are so spoiled for being able to travel to so many countries with and ID only but more distant travelling might require a visa - and this can take some time so prepare (for example last year we travelled to mongolia from portugal and we had to send our passports to paris to get a visa! very stressful two weeks thinking of our beloved passports travelling alone in europe.)

This might all seem pretty basic but in the midst of so many decisions "when can I go?", "how much money do I have?" and an endless list of possible destinations doing some preparation can help to smooth things.

2. departure: sign up for all major airlines newsletters

Easy one although the junk mail can be annoying. Very frequently airlines advertise their promotions through newsletter and it's a first grab thing! This of course demands some flexibility with the destination but hey, maybe you had never thought of going to Bamako and end up having a blast or you can finally go on that trip to Paris on a cheap flight. Or maybe you just feel more frustrated with all the possibilities you can't grab (don't. stay cool.)

3. accommodation: visit friends and family or make new friends / stay in apartments / travel during the night

Couchsurfing mess in our home! Hosting couchsurfers is also a great way to travel without leaving your home!

Ok, this might sound lame and maybe you shouldn't choose a destination based of free possible accommodation (or that shouldn't be a condition) but sometimes friends and family are the reason to travel, because you miss them and you want to know about their life abroad. I have surely done this and it's a great way to see a new place with a local's eye. But don't expect that they will welcome you with open arms (or they might be excited about your visit but still suggest you stay in a hotel). Be considerate about their space availability or privacy standards. They might live in a small bedroom or be in a very stressful period of their lives and your presence be more a disturbance than a pleasure. But, hey you're friends/family so you can talk about it, right?

If you don't know no one in town, why not meet? I'm a huge fan of couchsurfing, the internet network of travel interested people that make their couch available to travellers. All you have to do is register on the site, build up a profile and start contacting people in your destination. It's not magic, takes time to choose a person you might like and you have to be lucky that they like you too and have the time to host you. The whole system is based on referencing so it gets better the more you use it (if you collect good references, of course). A few rules: if you start by hosting you might get better chances of finding a place when travelling; Be kind and considerate - people do this for free!; Never offer money - instead bring a present from your home country or offer to prepare a traditional meal; If you're staying at someone's house always clean after yourself. Enjoy!

Hmm... still couchsurfing not for you? Well you can always stay in hostels or find a private appartment through sites like airbnb, where you can find private accommodation at affordable prices. This can help you for the following tip.

And last one: try to do long travels during the night. Although your back might complain, you save a night and you don't loose a day "just" moving (you might also loose great sightseeing and opportunity to listen to your favourite songs).

4. food: cook / buy food from farmer's market / supermarket

Oh the glamorous noodle soup (but with beer!) - it tasted like heaven!

Another basic one but if you stay in an appartment (or a hostel with kitchen) you can save a lot of money by doing your own meals. I also like to shop in supermarkets/farmer's market during the day and eat lighter in parks instead of always going to restaurants. This might also sound like a drag - you're travelling and you have to cook or go to supermarket? That's boring! That's real life! What about all those amazing restaurants you can see in every street of Florence? Well, you don't always have to eat bread and noodles: I'm a huge fan of balance and compensating, I prefer to save on 5 meals and then splurge on one amazing place than to have 6 meh meals. 

5. transport: travel slow

Best (and cheaper) way to visit Lisboa, my hometown? Walking! 

This is a tricky one because you always want to see the most of it - there is this hunger to know the place right? But I've been learning that dragging myself around 300 places in one day or 45 cities in one month is not for me! You get tired, you loose the mojo, you just wanna go home.
I rather choose a neighborhood per day and walk around and I prefer to take buses and local trains when visiting different cities. It takes longer, it's (usually) cheaper, you see less but you enjoy more.

Another tip (that might contradict the previous): sometimes buying a pass is a good idea, interrail, japan rail pass, daily or several-day tickest when visiting a city can make you save a lot of money in individual tickets and simplify your life.

Well, this was what I could think of that can make a travel more affordable. What about you? What do you do to save money on your travels?


  1. gosto, gosto, gosto ! gosto sobretudo de viajar, mas por agora contento-me em planear e planear...;-)

  2. When we travel we almost never go to restaurants (we don't go at home either) even if we don't have an apartment with a kitchen. We love going to foreign supermarkets and get our food there. Often we get stuff to make sandwiches. Or we buy food from street vendors...there's tons of options to eat good while being on vacation without spending lots of money in restaurants.

  3. Traveling is certainly a breeze when planned in advance. You'll get to save many hours of time and most importantly, money!

  4. Haha noodles and beer, what a meal! Pictures are looking very nice.


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