I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve been trying to find a cheap deal for my trip to Bangkok from Kolkata for days. And after multiple searches with different airlines and hours of browsing cheap flights sites, I saw the fee of $45 USD. It was surrounded by prices ranging from $150 to $300 USD. I didn’t spend any time thinking about it and I booked the one-way ticket right away. The fact that I was able to get such a good deal allowed me to build a whole itinerary around this trip. What was supposed to be few days in Bangkok turned into a two-month adventure in Southeast Asia, featuring 6 different countries And I survived these two months with less than $900 USD, with all bus, train and flight tickets included! So, you could say I know a thing or two about travel life hacks and I wrote this article to show you what is travel hacking and how can you do it!.
1. Budget travel tips 101: Booking your flight
Many people think that booking a return ticket is always cheaper than booking two different flights. I must say, that’s a myth. Yes, it’s true that return flights are cheaper most of the time, but if you look thoroughly you can get a very nice deal as I did with my Bangkok trip.
2. Consider traveling in the off-season
This is also another one of the basic budget travel tips. Research and find out when’s the off-season in the place you want to visit. And when I say off-season, I don’t mean you should go to Southeast Asia in September when the rainy season is at its peak. Just pick a time of the year when the weather is cooler, but not rainy. Not only the prices for everything will be much lower, but you will get a more authentic view of the place. Without a rush of tourists, I mean. You will be able to observe the actual life of local people and learn much more about that country.
3. Use booking sites for accommodation
There are many sites, like Booking, Trivago, Agoda etc. Using these sites, you can always get a better deal than if you went straight to the hotel.
4. Google for discounts
Before buying anything, always make a search on Google including the words discount or code. You could get some really nice deals this way. Do that when you book your flight and accommodation as well.
5. Check out the exchange rates
Following the world’s economy never hurts. Compare the currency of the country to the currency of the country you intend to visit. For example, it’s a really good time for US citizens to visit Europe now because the value of the Euro has been decreasing lately, compared to the US dollar.
6. Consider group tours
Even when you travel alone, you can still use the benefits of group travel. Just check out for prices of group tours for the places you want to visit. Let the professionals do all the logistics. That’s much easier too. There are a lot of companies out there that are targeting solo travelers.
One of the best budget travel tips I can give to a solo traveler is ‘Stay in a hostel’. You share the room with other people, you pay only a portion of the price and you get to make new friends. There are a lot of luxurious hostels as well, with a pool, gym and other commodities too. You can also think about homestays and Couchsurfing. And the best thing about them is:
8. Check Hostel Calendars
Many hostels organize different activities for their guests. From theme parties to cooking classes to tours to visit a famous landmark. Sometimes the activities are even free of charge, but even when it’s not, the price is much lower than what you would normally pay.
9. Get a local SIM card
When you’re traveling to a foreign country, especially if alone the access to maps is invaluable. When you’re alone and when there aren’t many English speakers around getting lost can be a bit scary. That happened to me in Hanoi. If you have the SIM card, not only you won’t get lost but you can also walk to the nearby sights and avoid paying for cabs or public transport.
10. Avoid using the ATM
If you’re withdrawing money from the ATM, commissions for using your card in a foreign country can be high. There’s a commission charged from your bank, and often there’s a commission charged by the ATM as well. Some banks will offer fee-free cards that you can use when abroad for a yearly fee. So search for the banks that provide this service in your country.
11. Don’t exchange your money at the airport
Or exchange a small amount that should cover the transportation to your hotel. The exchange rates at the airport are terrible and if you are exchanging a big amount you’re practically getting ripped off.
12. Take twice the money and half the clothes you think you need
I know, the money part doesn’t really correspond with the title. But this is something I learned after losing a lot of money when withdrawing from the ATM. And the reason why I had to withdraw from the ATM is that I was planning my budget until the last penny and I thought that the amount I took will be enough. Planning your exact budget in advance when traveling never works. And the part about the clothes is just to make it easier for you to move when you’re backpacking and avoid extra luggage charge at the airport. You’re not gonna need half of the stuff anyway. If you want to learn how to pack like a pro, check out these Tips for packing only hand luggage.
13. Use public transport
There’s no need to mention how much using the public transport saves you money. However, some people don’t feel comfortable in the crowded public transport vehicles. And these places are often filled with pickpockets. So if you don’t want to use public transport, at least…
14. Share your rides
Uber and most of the local versions of it allow passengers to share a ride and pay significantly less. Another good thing about this is that the drivers use GPS so you won’t have to struggle to explain where are you going if the driver doesn’t speak English.
15. Find freebies
The best thing about traveling alone is that you decide where you want to go and when. And a lot of cities have a lot of interesting things that are free, like museums, festivals, concerts etc. And if you didn’t make your research on time you can always find the tourist bureau and ask for information.
16. Stop constantly looking for souvenirs
Sorry, Joey 🙂 I know you care about your loved ones, but buying gifts for a bunch of people can not only be very expensive, but time-consuming as well. Just devote the little time that you have to explore the cities and learning new things. If your friends and family love you they’ll understand.
17. Say yes to Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is the most popular app for travelers that allows you to crash at a local’s place. However, if you’re scared or feel awkward doing that, you can still use the app to meet local people. They know the city and they can take you to the best and cheapest places. The ones where locals go. So, not only you are going to have a great experience, but you’ll save money as well.
18. Restrict restaurant meals
Of course, there are a lot of cheap restaurants as well, but you can’t know them when visiting a place for the first time. One of my main money-saving secrets is that I avoid restaurants. Especially in Asia, where the street food is amazing. I survived in Southeast Asia for two months by eating street food 80% of the time.
19. Use the benefits of technology
Just like with everything else, technology can make your travel easier as well. Make a search and download some useful apps that can make your trip easier. My personal favorite is City Maps2Go which allows you to access maps of different cities offline and pin the places you want to visit.
Related: Take a look at the best travel tripods.