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How to Travel on a Budget: Complete Guide to Cheap Traveling

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Is the travel bug in you biting at your heels? When you feel wanderlust calling your name, it’s a sign to pick up and go. Unfortunately, most of us barely have enough money in our bank accounts to fund an all-expenses-paid trip to an exotic destination.

So, what do you do if all your friends decide to go to Bali for your friend’s 40th, and your finances are tight?

Fortunately, we have a bunch of great tips to help you cut back on your traveling costs. Give these ideas a try when you decide to travel, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars on your trip.

Settling on Your Travel Date

The time of the year and the destination you travel to play a significant role in the costs of your airfare. If you’re trying to get around during the summer in the United States, or over the Christmas period, it’s going to cost you.

If you’re flexible on your traveling dates, then go for a vacation out of season. You get to see all the same beautiful sights of other countries or states, at half the price, and with half of the crowds. Visiting some warmer destinations like the Florida Keys and Cancun in Mexico is more pleasant out of season, and the weather is still warm – just watch out for those Hurricanes.

Otherwise, if you want to travel within the next 30-days, being flexible with your departure date can also save you a bundle of money. Airlines run last-minute promotions for flights that still have open seats.

We recommend using a tool like Skyscanner when checking airfare prices. This program compares prices on flights in the days leading up to our departure. You get to see what airlines are charging and if you can see if any good deals are available.

Cheap Vacation Ideas

Read: Cheap Vacation Ideas: Budget-Friendly Trips Guide

Book Your Flights, Car Rental, and Hotel Together

It might surprise you to learn that travel agents offer cheaper vacation packages than trying to source everything yourself. Agents benefit from group discounts with partners in the airlines, hotel industry, accommodation, and local tourism attractions.

As a result, they receive discounts and tax incentives for driving tourists to destinations. Sure, agents may have incentives to push you to go to certain countries over others, but if you’ve never been there, then why care?

Still, if you do want to go somewhere specific on the globe, then agents can help you get there, and enjoy your stay. The packages on offer from travel agents usually include hotel accommodation, as well as meals and some drinks. You can’t expect them to pick up your bar tab every time, but they go a long way to reducing your vacation expenses.

Package deals available for travel agents give you a one-stop-shop for all of your traveling needs. They offer affordable services that save you money on your flights, transportation, and tourist attractions. Trying to book everything yourself will inevitably cost you more, and it takes a considerable amount of your time doing things yourself.

Nomad Travel Insurance

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Choosing Your Travel Destination

When you close your eyes and dream about the perfect vacation, where do you see yourself? Is it somewhere specific? Are you imagining stretching out on the beaches of Tahiti? Or snowboarding through the alps?

It’s essential to make sure you’re flexible in choosing your vacation destination as well. Instead of visiting Tahiti, you could take a trip to Cancun. Both destinations are exotic and beautiful, but Cancun will save you thousands of dollars on your vacation costs.

If you’re traveling on a budget, and still want an international travel experience, then we have some ideas for you. Here’s a list of affordable travel destinations that are way under-rated, and incredible value.

The Best Countries for Traveling on a Budget

  • Thailand This is our top choice for anyone that’s never been over to South-East Asia. Thailand is a jewel found right in the heart of Asia. It’s a jump-off point to so many other destinations, including Bali, Malaysia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and India.
  • It’s for this reason that it’s probably so popular among international travelers. The freedom available in the country is not so easy to find in other regions of South-East Asia either. Thailand is full of interesting and exciting cultural destinations, and beautiful coastlines with islands that will make your fantasy of the tropics come true.
  • Other Destinations in South East Asia – Thailand is affordable, and there’s plenty to see and do while you’re there. However, if you’ve already visited the country, then there are plenty of other fantastic options in south-East Asia for your vacation. Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, all only a few hours flight away.
  • Eastern Europe The Balkans and Baltic Nations offer the best holiday value for your money in this part of the world. The Czech Republic has terrific beaches and coastal towns. Austria has breathtaking mountain landscapes, and Poland has a rich cultural heritage.
  • Portugal – Europe is by no means an affordable continent to visit. IF you’re going to the UK, France, or Germany, your vacation will cost you a fortune. However, if you decide to visit the PIIGS, then you’ll find things much more affordable. The PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) are cheaper destinations if you know where to visit.
  • Central America – From the sandy beaches of Cancun to the jungle tropics of Costa Rica, and Belize, Central America has plenty to offer the budget traveler. Traveling in these regions is a fantastic experience, but the risk of kidnapping is high, so make sure you know where you are going.
  • South America – Ecuador, Brazil, and Peru are all affordable vacation destinations in South America. Take a hiking trail for two weeks through the Andes, or wander the Northern beaches of Brazil.
  • India – You can’t get any cheaper than a vacation in India. However, India is not for the faint-hearted. If you find yourself almost bursting into tears when you see a homeless person approach your car at home, then you’re going to have a tough time in India. India has levels of poverty like you have never seen. The cities are a terrible place to stay, but the coastal regions offer travelers a better experience of the country.

Tips to Travel for Cheap

Traveling involves more expenses that airfare, accommodation, and transport. There’s plenty of things that cost you money while you’re away. We put together a few more tips to help you preserve your budget on your next trip.

Stay Local

When you visit a new destination, keep things as local as you can. By supporting the local community, you’ll save money compared to using brands while on vacation. Hiring a local guide instead of one that’s recommended by a hotel concierge will save you a few bucks.

Tour companies add surcharges on top of the guide’s fees and keep a handsome profit out of the hands of the local people. It’s possible to get good discounts on tours if you use local guides, and you’re helping to stimulate the local economy and create jobs.

Eating at local restaurants is also a great way to save plenty of money. Take Bali, for example. If you decide to eat at the ocean-side cafes in Canggu, then you’ll probably spend around $14 a meal. However, if you eat at the local restaurants a block away, you get bigger portions, tastier food, and it’s only $1 a plate.

When you need to hit the grocery store, shop local as well. For instance, Thailand has some fantastic fish markets on the beach. You can pick up a whole fish for a fraction of what you would pay at a store or fishmonger in Bangkok. Shopping at local stores gets you local prices. In an emerging economy, your dollars go a lot further than in the US.

Cheap Vacations USA

Read: Cheap Vacation Destinations in the US: Complete Guide

Take Public Transport or Walk

Hiring a car is often the wrong approach when visiting Asia or other areas of the world. If there’s a functioning public transport system, then use it and save money. Greece also offers scooters for hire that are far cheaper than hiring a car, and the ethanol they use as fuel costs you practically nothing to keep them running. When all else fails, take a walk and enjoy the local scenery.

Visit Free Attractions

Before you land at your destination, spend a few hours researching local tourist destinations. Look for attractions that offer free entrance, and you’re bound to find plenty of free options for your entertainment.

Take advantage of free entrance days at museums, attractions, and discounts on other sightseeing opportunities. Most cities have a tourism department that provides free walking tours, and you tip the guide at the end of the tour. Check with the local tourism board for more information on free stuff to do on your budget vacation.

Budget Accommodation for Travelers

After airfare, your most significant traveling expense will be for accommodation. Finding somewhere to stay is critical unless you want to spend your nights wandering the streets. Let’s take a look at the most popular choices for budget accommodation on your vacation.

  • Camping – Going camping in the great outdoors is a great way to enjoy the local environment. Plus, campsites are generally a third of the cost of a hotel or self-catering accommodation. Most campgrounds have ablution facilities like toilets and showers, and some of them even have laundries.
  • Glamping – One of the hottest new travel trends on social media, is glamping. Glamping is camping out in your camper van for a few days. When you’re in a new country in an emerging market like South-East Asia, you’ll find cars for dirt cheap. You can pick up a campervan for a few hundred dollars and make it your mobile hotel.
  • Independent Hotels or Chains? – Staying at a chain hotel is expensive, regardless of the country you’re visiting. We recommend you look for independent hotel chains or guesthouses when on vacation. Staying at the Plaza may give you a familiar experience, but it’s going to cost you three to four times more than a local independent hotel.
  • Hostels – If you’re young and traveling through many countries at a time with friends, then you can’t beat affordable hostel accommodation. Hostels are generally stop-off points for travelers going to other destinations. Therefore, prices are cheap for rooms, but you’ll often have to share the room with other people. Still, with hostel accommodation, you get an affordable place to sleep, as well as the chance to meet like-minded people who can give you plenty of travel tips.
  • Airbnb or Apartment Rentals – Airbnb is causing problems all over the world for travel agents and hotels. The rise of this platform means that anyone can find cheap accommodation anywhere in the world. You log onto the site, choose your location, set your budget, and the site filters your search results.

With Airbnb, you have choices for self-catering accommodation, serviced flats, rooms for rent, shared housing, and more. Airbnb offers travelers affordable accommodation anywhere they visit.

Read: Do You Need Travel Insurance? Complete Guide

In Closing – Prepare Your Documents

Taking care of your travel documents is one of the most important things you need to do on vacation. Never leave your travel documents in the room while you are out and about in the city. If the room gets broken into, someone’s bound to steal all of your documents and money.

Being stuck in a land where no-one speaks any English, with no money, and no paperwork puts you in a precarious position. Your vacation will turn from loads of fun into a nightmare. Always ensure that you keep your passport and money on you at all times.

However, don’t keep it in your pocket. Pickpockets in places like Spain and Portugal are geniuses. They’ll lift everything you own, and you won’t see it coming. Keep your passport and money in a hidden money belt. Wear the belt under the beltline on the inside of your shorts, skirt, or pants. Using this strategy, someone will literally have to sexually-assault you to get their hands on your valuables.

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Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased reporting.oliver@moneycheck.com


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank or credit card issuer and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Dear Oliver, I would like to disagree on INDIA narration – I would like to invite to INDIA, and can guide you to the History / Culture & Every state unique attributes. I don’t disagree on Poverty, but its not as much you think, We are fastest growing economy & have better growth than all the countries you mentioned. As far as travelling perspective, we have Mountains in North / Rich History / Beach in South & most important Heritage of best of the world. Let me know in case you haven’t traveled to INDIA – i can send you more information.

  2. Avatar
    Zerine John Reply

    Impressive post! I wish I had known this as I had been to Tahiti through Tahiti Surf Beach Paradise last month but still, then, all went well and was affordable. I’m going to bookmark this article.

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