So the past 9 months have been a gruelling struggle of waking up before the birds utter their first chirps, and crawling into bed as the nightclubs close their doors. You often share your journey home with fast food guzzling drunken delinquents and early morning cleaners alike. You know more about the chick at the back of the N53’s previous relationship than your best friends. You’ve seen more penguins in London than hours of daylight in the past few months as you frantically cram in as many jobs as humanly possible.
You finally reach your budget, hand in your (multiple) notices, invest in some packing cubes, have 7 minor breakdowns and wave goodbye to your emotional mother at a hectic terminal 2 as you frantically search for that pair of nail scissors you mistakenly packed into you carry on.
You’re ready to take on the next 12 months of sleeping in the same bed for no more than a few nights, making more friends than your entire high school population, climbing peaks, swimming oceans, sharing the streets with animals you’ve only ever seen in zoo’s before and making oh so beautifully sweet ass memories.
Here are my top tips for stretching your budget without sacrificing the experiences. After all, there’s no point being on such a tight budget that you miss once in a lifetime opportunities. It costs more to go back and do the things you didn’t do – in that same breath you often get a better experience when scrimping as you see more of the real country and less of what the tourism board wants you do see/splash your cash.
Use your head, but follow your heart.
AT THE AIRPORT
- Never pay for water – bring an empty water bottle an re-fill it once you’ve passed customs
- Get free wifi – sit outside the VIP lounge (or try your luck sneaking in) to soak up the wifi rays
- Avoid excess baggage fees – always travel light. Your international flight may include 20kg luggage allowance but domestic flights aren’t usually as generous
- Avoid expensive airport food – bring snacks. Nuts, oat crackers and ‘just add water’ meals are good to have
- BYOB (Bring your own booze) – you can pack mini spirit bottles into your hand luggage if they fit in the liquid allowance
- BYOT (Bring your own tea) – economy flights charge a fortune for tea and coffee – bring your own teabags and a thermo bottle/paper cup and ask for hot water
- Don’t prebook – often the cheapest accommodation isn’t advertised online. Head to the main backpackers area and ask around. Also, you may want to stay longer or shorter in one place and will loose money if you have prepaid accommodation.
- Volunteer – workaway and WWOOF are fab website where you can find trusted volunteer work in return for food and accommodation
- Couchsurf or housesit
DO AS THE LOCALS DO
- Eat local streetfood – ask your hostel reception or your host what that place is known for and try it – the signature dish is bound to be at least half decent!
- Travel on local buses, trains and ferries – it takes longer but you get a better taste of local life. Travel coach rather than first class and mingle with the locals
- Go online and find out what’s going on/what there is to see in the city/place you’re in for free
- Hitchhike – I wouldn’t advise doing this alone – safety in numbers!
- Get local flight prices – Book internal flights on the country’s website rather than the English alternative
- Think in local currency – £5 may be cheaper than primark for a cute printed playsuit in a Balinese market but consider the national annual wage and work out whether you can get a better deal
- Barter – market stools will start out with a crazy high price, offer a third then negotiate from here
- Use ATM’s – to withdraw money rather than exchanging cash at airports or buraeu de change’s
- Use local currency – If the price is advertised in US dollars ask how much it will be in the local currency, do the conversion and pay in whichever comes out cheapest
- Get visa’s as you go – a Chinese visa (for UK passport) in London is £65.25, yet the same visa obtained in Ulaanbataar (Mongolia) is only $30 (£20.62)
- Keep the boozing down – alcohol will amp up your spending drastically
- Ditch drinks with meal – opt for water instead of fizzy drinks and smoothies, they may only be £1 for a delicious, nutritious glass of heaven, but added to every meal will no only eat away at your budget, but will add inches onto your hips too!
- Travel off season – the lower the demand, the lower the cost
- Use a credit/debit card that does not charge overseas withdrawal fees – nobody wants to be losing money simply by using money. I highly recommend Halifax Clarity and Creation