How to travel on a budget: The 15 rolled-gold money-saving tips for any holiday

It doesn't matter how much money you have – you always want to make the most of it. You always want to save it where you can. You want to have more to spend on another holiday; more to splash out on something amazing; more to squirrel away in case you decide to do something crazy like enter the property market.

And for travellers, this is how you do it. This is how you save money, no matter what sort of holiday you're planning. Whether you're travelling solo or in a group, if you're going to Asia or South America, if you're going skiing or hiking – the following tips will make your next holiday cheaper.

Shop around

I was going to talk, here, about booking all your own travel and cutting out the middle man of a travel agent. However, sometimes agents have access to deals that you won't be able to find online. When it comes to flights and accommodation packages, the only way to ensure you get the best deal is to shop around. Find the best price you can online, then talk to a few travel agents and see if they can better it.

Travel off-peak

The cheapest time to visit a place is when no one else wants to go. For some destinations, visiting in low season is not only more affordable, but far more pleasant given the lack of crowds. For other places, it might not be feasible: maybe the weather will be prohibitive, or the key attractions will be closed. If that's the case, opt for the shoulder seasons. Either way, you'll save.

Be flexible with your destinations

Keep your holiday options open, in terms of both destination and timing. Watch for flight sales and accommodation discounts. Keep an eye out for great deals. Eventually, you'll be able to nab a trip to… somewhere, for a great price.

Pack light



This is a simple but effective measure to save money every time you fly. Travel only with carry-on luggage, meaning you can fly with budget airlines on their most basic fares. Just ensure you know each airline's carry-on rules, and that you adhere to them.

Manage your money

There are all sorts of hidden costs involved with accessing your money while you're overseas. The trick is to find a bank card that doesn't charge for foreign transactions or accessing foreign ATMs. It's also worth looking into cards that allow you to load up in a foreign currency, to take advantage of a strong exchange rate.

Use discount cards

A lot of cities offer discount public transport and attraction-entry cards for tourists. Barcelona has one, for example, called Hola BCN, which offers unlimited journeys on the city's public transport network for a set period of time. A quick google search will reveal whether your destination offers something similar.


Fill up on bread

This goes against the classic buffet mantra, but for travellers looking to save money it's an excellent suggestion. If you're staying in accommodation that offers a free breakfast, make sure you fill up. Eat as much as you can. Then, grab a few bread rolls, a few slices of ham and some cheese, and you have your lunch sorted as well.

Share accommodation, share transport

Travellers have long known about the sharing economy, ever since we started bunking down in dorms with 10 other people instead of booking hotel rooms. To save money when you're on the road, share as much as you can. Stay in dorms, or even private rooms in hostels. Share taxis. Use UberPool where it's available. Couch-surf. Share apartments through Airbnb. There are plenty of options.

Eat lunches out, dinners in

If you want to sample the local cuisine but save money as well, eat lunch at restaurants, and cook your own dinners in your hostel or shared apartment. In many cities, lunch menus are cheaper than dinner, and cooking one meal a day (after shopping at a market) will save you a huge amount, while still utilising local ingredients.

Join free tours

In most major cities these days you'll find multiple options for free tours. These are usually government-funded walking tours that could be general introductions to a city, or quite focused special-interest tours, all hosted by passionate locals keen to share their city.

Use public transport…

Forget taxis and hire cars. To get around on the cheap, travel as the locals do. Catch public buses, or use the subway. Ride in shared taxis or mini-vans. Jump in tuk-tuks. Cling on to motorbike taxis.

…Or walk

Or, of course, you could save even more money and walk. You'll see far more of a city if you do this, plus work off a few of those buffet breakfasts.

Go to free attractions

<i>Istanbul's Grad Bazaar: Free!</i>

Istanbul's Grad Bazaar: Free! Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Some of the world's most famous tourist attractions cost nothing to visit. Think Central Park in New York; pretty much all of the museums and galleries in London; the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Look for food and drink specials

Happy hour is your friend. Go to bars when they're doing two-for-one deals or other discounts. Keep an eye out for backpacker pubs that have specials going all day. Some restaurants, too, will offer deals at certain times – that's when you want to be eating.

Do your research

No matter where you're going or what you're hoping to do when you get there, knowledge is power. You should know how much to pay for transport. You should know where the cheapest accommodation is, where the budget-friendly restaurants are. You should know how to get travellers' discounts. You should know the scams to look out for. All of this can be done before you leave.

See also: Don't go alone: The five worst destinations for solo travellers

See also: The countries with the worst coffee in the world

What are your best money-saving tips? How do you ensure you don't spend too much when you travel?



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