1. Create a budget – and stick to it!
Depending on the country I’m visiting I typically budget out anywhere between $35-$50 a day. Again, this depends on where I’m at, but in many places this is more than enough to cover food, accommodations, and activities for the day.
2. Ditch the resorts and hotels
Couchsurfing, staying at hostels, and finding a cheap apartment or bed on AirBnB.com to use are all great budget accommodation options.
3. Stay in a hostel that offers breakfast
Nearly all of them offer at least coffee/juice and toast, others pancakes and eggs if you’re lucky. This will eliminate the cost of one meal every day of your trip, giving you more money in your daily budget to spend.
4. Get rail passes
If you’re traveling throughout Europe or Australia you can save over 50% by booking rail passes. If you have a set schedule already planned buying a rail pass in advance will save you even more cash.
5. Buy groceries and cook at home
If you’re going to be staying put for awhile in a specific hostel or cheap accommodation, it pays to go to the local grocery store and cook at home or in your hostel kitchen.
6. Walk everywhere! Skip the taxi.
This is a wonderful way to get a real feel of your new destination. Observe everything you can on your walk – the smells in the air, the people, interesting buildings or sites, unique signs, etc. Talk to locals, visit the markets, and take photos.
7. Do everything free you can find
Do research beforehand and visit attractions on free days if you can. Many museums and other tourist sites offer free admission on certain days of the week or month. Aside from attractions that typically charge a fee, take advantage of the local beaches, waterfalls, scenic areas, etc.
8. Bring your student ID
Think your student ID is only good for half off movie tickets and bar deals in your college town? Think again. Tons of places overseas will give you a student discount just for flashing your university ID.
9. Sign up for e-mail notifications
The best sales on hotels, airfare, and activities often go unannounced and slipped quietly in a business’s weekly newsletter.
10. Contact the local tourism board
Whether you visit them in person or send them an email before your trip, tourism boards want their visitors to see as much of their city as possible and are a great resource for coupons and discounts.
11. Sleep while traveling
If I know I have a 12-hour bus or train ride I always try and schedule my ride for nighttime. This allows me to sleep during a possibly otherwise long or mundane trip and it saves me money on overnight accommodation.
12. Attend time-share presentations
If you’re willing to exchange 90 minutes of your time at the beginning of your trip to listen to a pushy sales pitch in order to receive a free hotel stay, this is an excellent way to save some cash.
13. Avoid the tourist centers and get off the beaten path
Is there anything sadder than when someone comes to visit NYC and they go right to Times Square to eat at Olive Garden or Bubba Gumps? Restaurants in major tourist hubs or streets are usually much more expensive than if you would have just skipped a few blocks over or went to a local neighborhood.
14. Pre-game before you go out
This is something many people do whether they’re traveling or not but it saves loads of money if you drink at home before heading out to a bar where the drinks will be expensive.
15. Speaking of drinking, learn the local word for ‘beer’
One time I arrived in a foreign country and was in the mood for some serious spirits but I had no idea what to order. This resulted in me accidentally ordering a $30 shot of rum. An ex-pat sitting across the bar laughed at me and told me I could have just ordered a $2 beer. I felt like an idiot and the lesson was learned: learn the local language regarding food and drinks. It could save you quite a bit of cash.
16. Know the currency exchange rates before you travel to another foreign country
Never exchange money at an airport, they’re known for giving the worst rates. ATMs or visiting a local bank are your best options, as the rates are competitive. Always contact your bank before you travel internationally so they’re aware of where you will be. They’ll also be able to give you a heads up on any fees they charge for using your debit card overseas.
17. Travel as the locals do
Taking public transportation via bus, train, rickshaw, etc are great ways to get an authentic feel of the local culture. I’ve met some of the most interesting people when taking public trans and many times, this is way cheaper than taking a taxi or renting a car.
18. Use Skype to call home
Avoid ridiculous international calling costs (assuming your cell phone doesn’t provide good rates) and use Skype or Localphone to call home. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your hostel will offer free calls to the US, which is great if you just want to call your parents or loved ones to let them know you made it safe.
19. Take advantage of free wifi
Only book hostels that offer free wifi or try to scout out a café with wifi in the city you’re visiting. This will save you loads of cash you’d otherwise spend at computer cafes that charge you by the minute to use their painfully slow internet.
20. Skip out on the guided tours
Unless you’re going to a historical area where the information and history lesson you’d receive from a local guide would be appreciated, it’s more cost effective to rally up some travelers from your hostel who are going to the same place and head out together. Do you really need to pay $50 for someone to walk you to a waterfall or other scenic point? Probably not.
21. Start a travel blog
This might not be realistic right off the bat but many travel bloggers get free perks during their trips just by contacting a tourism board or tour operator before their trip and offering a blog post and review featuring their activity, hostel, etc in exchange for receiving it for free or at a discount. I’ve received some great deals this way and other travel blogger friends have been able to do some majorly cool things (like skydive over Belize) for free as well.
22. Sleep in large dorms
Hostels are one of the best options for budget accommodations but often, the more beds in a dorm, the cheaper the room will be. Some dorms will offer all female or all male dorm rooms so even if there’s 15 people to a room, you don’t have to worry about the added hassle of dealing with the opposite sex if that worries you.
23. Group up
Even if you’re traveling alone you can easily find other solo travelers at your hostel who are looking for others to do activities with. Buying as a group or twosome can save money tours. If you can’t find anyone in person go to Bootsnall or Lonely Planet online forums and connect with people that way.
24. Skip the tip
Tipping is mostly an American construct that is not used in other parts of the world. In some countries tipping is actually seen as an insult. Find out before you go to a restaurant what the norm is. You don’t want to spend money on a tip that was unnecessary or even worse, insult the locals.
25. Travel in the off season
If you’re willing to travel during the low season, or the time of year that is least popular with tourists, you’re going to be able to save a lot of money on your trip. Many tour operators, hostels, and other businesses offer a discount to travelers during this time of year.
26. Ask for table or tap water
Many times when you travel overseas and you ask for water at a restaurant the server will bring you an expensive bottle of water. If you’re in a country that is known to not have safe water, then of course, bottled water is necessary. If you know the water is safe, ask for table or tap water so you won’t be charged.
27. Talk to the locals
Travel guides are great for giving recommendations for times when you’re brand new to a city, exhausted, and just want to find a place to eat or sleep. If you have the time though, you really should strike up a conversation with the locals. Many times locals can point you in the direction of some hole-in-the-wall cheap restaurant with excellent food or a local festival or event happening you may have never known about otherwise.