Travelling is expensive. Aside from the large overhead costs of air tickets and hotels, you then have to take into account food costs, ticket prices, and (for some jobs) a reduced salary for the period that you're travelling. While some people might be able to afford travelling without having to think about the money involved, the rest of us have to worry about cost. With this in mind, I've made a short list of things you can do to make travel a bit more affordable for those of us on a budget.
- Fly budget. If there is a budget airline that flies to your city, or to a city near yours, it's very much worth checking their prices. While budget airlines do not offer the same comfort as a full service airline, the savings when flying budget airlines can be significant. Given that the primary aim of your holiday is to experience the country that you're visiting, rather than to experience your plane ride, the loss of airline services is unlikely to impact your enjoyment of your holiday. It's also a good idea to compare the prices of major airlines before travelling. While full service airlines are often more expensive than budget airlines, sale prices can make a full service airline the cheapest option. I've subscribed to several airlines' online newsletters, just so I can receive news of any deals. I also regularly check the airlines' websites. Some full service airlines are also cheaper than others. Sri Lankan Airlines, for example, is a full service airline that often has prices which are competitive with budget airlines.
- Visit developing countries. I've blogged earlier about my opinions on tourism in developing countries. Aside from the benefits which I mentioned in the latter part of my post, there is one other reason to think of travelling to a developing nation: the cost. You can stretch your dollar much further in a developing nation than you can in a developed nation, and (for those of you from developed, western nations) can get to experience a culture much more different from your own than were you to travel to, say, France.
- Stay at a hostel. Staying in a hostel is much cheaper than staying in a hotel, and comes with other benefits as well. The environment in a hostel is much more open than in a hotel, making it easier to connect with fellow travellers.
- Travel with a friend. If you don't want to sleep in a dorm, travelling with a friend instantly halves the cost of accommodation and taxis, as well as providing you with companionship, someone to watch your back, and someone to share food with when you're savouring local delicacies (particularly useful in places where the custom is to buy a variety of dishes and then share). It also gives you greater bargaining power when trying to get cheaper prices for tickets and activities. Just be careful that you're both on the same wavelength when it comes to what you want out of the holiday. If both people have a different idea of what they want to get out of the holiday, travelling with a friend could simply create unneeded tension.
- Eat what the locals eat. Locals often pay far less for their food than tourists do, even when dining out. Find out where they get their food from and eat there. It's probably better than the food they're selling at the tourist trap restaurants anyway.
- Borrow your copy of Lonely Planet (or other guidebook) from the library, rather than buying it. After all, it saves about $20, so why not? Perhaps this is not such a good idea when you plan on spending 3 months "doing Europe", but if you're only travelling somewhere for a week, or two, there's little point in shelling out the money when you can get a copy for free.
- Take public transport. Public transport gives you a unique insight into the city that you're visiting, and it's not even necessarily slower than taking a taxi (especially in rush hour).
- Ask a former traveller for advice. From giving you a heads up on the local scams and telling you how to find a place that server awesome food for cheap, to telling you which attractions are worth the price and which aren't, former travellers are a gold mine of information. Get as much out of them as you can, and you'll get a better holiday out of it - and you might save a few bucks at the same time.
- Don't buy too many souvenirs. Before you buy anything, consider whether or not you really want it. A large number of goods marketed towards tourists are overpriced. If you really want to buy an authentic souvenir, consider asking a local where they would buy it. Sometimes, you can find the item you want at the supermarket, for a far better price than you'd pay at the souvenir shop, and with far better quality to boot.
- Make travel a budget priority. If you really are keen on travelling, then in order to make it affordable, you may need to cut down in other areas of your life. So go and buy the cheaper toilet paper, cut down on chocolate and try to control your impulse purchases. If you've decided that travelling is to be your new entertainment, then see if you can cut down on your other entertainment costs.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and if any readers have any ideas of their own, feel free to mention them in the comments!