This year I’ve been trying to cut back on my expenses when traveling. No, that doesn’t mean traveling on Spirit airlines and staying in hostels. I’m talking about expenses during traveling after you’ve booked your hotel and airfare. Here are some tips on how you can save money on your next international trip.
Hotel Elite Status – This is a big factor in saving money because free breakfast is a huge plus. Sometimes you can have breakfast as late as 10am and can serve as brunch! You’re saving money on foregoing lunch expenses. Holding elite statuses such as Hilton HHonors Gold and SPG Platinum help tremendously in scoring free breakfast. Some hotels even have an free evening happy hour in the executive lounge or restaurant where you can snack on light bites. If you eat enough lite bites, it could substitute as dinner!
Take public transportation – If you can, avoid taxis whenever possible. I know that I’ve been trying to do that and it’s tough because some airports don’t have public transportation and you’re succumbed to the taxi cab mafia. It’s very easy to take public transportation using Google Maps’ Transit feature. Just map out your starting point and destination and click on the “Transit logo”. Sometimes it doesn’t have routes in some countries, and in that case, you’ll have to open Google Maps and check for bus stops. I really like “To and From the Airport” website where it lists all the possible ways to get from the airport to the city center. Even taking public transportation to the city center and then catching at taxi from there to the hotel could save you big bucks.
Take street taxis – Street taxis are plentiful throughout cities and it’s much cheaper than a Remisse or Radio Taxi. Hotels always want to offer you their private black car as transportation and those are usually the most expensive, so avoid those. Try using UberX which could be cheaper than a street taxi.
Buy cheaper souvenirs – Now I’m not a big fan of haggling with street vendors in poorer countries because they have a family to support and all they do is make/sell handicrafts for a living. If you’re at a place where they’re selling the same exact thing in stall after stall, it does pay to shop around. Without haggling, I simply inquire what the price of the item is. Usually the first store you go to is the most expensive because it’s right by the entrance. You’d be surprise on the price variance when inquiring 3 different vendors.
Avoid buying anything from the Airport – Everything in the airport is expensive. I’ve seen shot glasses sell for $17 USD. There is absolutely no reason to buy anything in the Airport stores unless you really need an item. Buy souvenirs from flea markets, artisan markets, and street vendors in order to save money.
Avoid Pricey Attractions – For almost every attraction, there is always a discount whether it be a child discount, senior discount, group discount, visitor discount, military discount, or student discount. Sometimes it can be cheaper to buy an attraction online than on location. Try to avoid attractions that are pricey and see if there are alternatives to do it cheaper.
Avoid Tour Packages – These things are super expensive because they are convenient for tourists. A tour package to Teotihuacan in Mexico City could be $100 USD and provides transportation to and from the hotel. Admission would be included as well. Well, what’s the at cost if you went by yourself? A metro ride is 5 pesos ($0.38 USD) to the central bus station. You can buy a round-trip bus ride to Teotihuacan for 80 pesos ($6.16 USD) and admission to the park is 57 pesos ($4.36 USD). Doing it yourself is so much better because it’s way cheaper and you’re on your own time, not the tour’s time. You can stay as long as you want or leave as fast as you want on your own time.
Avoid worldwide chain restaurants – There’s no point in having food at Applebees, TGI Fridays, or Subway when you have those options in the USA. However there are exceptions if you want to try something that the US doesn’t have. For example, they serve porridge (jook) at KFC’s in China which I found interesting. Also, McDonalds serves macarons in France. Try going to local family owned restaurants, particularly hole in the walls where you will get authentic food at a local’s price. In Italy, I would visit Trattorias which were family owned and they usually have larger portions.
Cook your own food – This option is best if you have a kitchen readily accessible. I must warn you that I am not very good at buying food and cooking it myself. I usually end up winding spending more money than if I had eaten out at a local restaurant. I tried buying all the ingredients for making my own lasagna and with supplies it ended up costing $50. If you don’t have a kitchen, try buying food that’s ready to eat in the grocery store. I bought sandwiches at a local grocery store in Finland to save money on dinner.
Don’t use Roaming on your USA phone – Disable roaming when travelling because data is expensive overseas. I always disable my roaming data and use Wi-Fi whenever possible. Free Wi-Fi is readily available at hotels, cafes, shopping malls, airports, bars, and restaurants. Some public parks even have WiFi! If you do need to be connected at all times, buy a local SIM card and use it with an unlocked phone.
You might disagree on some of the tips that I have provided. For example, it won’t make sense taking public transportation from the airport to the hotel if you have four people in your party. It can be cheaper to take a cab and split the fare. Even in cases where you brought too much luggage and it would be a pain to lug it up and down the stairs within the metro. Basically to save money, try to picture yourself living in that country and figure out what you would do as a native local there.