So you’re staring at your watch gleefully eyeing the giant ‘X’ that you’ve erratically scribbled on your calendar. Everything is looking great. You’re looking around your room ‘umming and ‘ahhing about what you need and don’t need.
You’re thinking, “traveling? Pffft, Bear Grylls survived in the desert with nothing but a toothpick, a funny hat and an ounce of sun cream. I’ll be fine.”
The reality of this idea is that you are in denial. Take it from someone who has traveled around the world twice and seen it all, yet still, makes the odd mistake.
Obviously traveling is a broad area, and money-saving tips vary on where you travel. However, what this guide hopes to highlight are the basic, yet essential must do’s before you set off on your big adventure.
1. Exchange your Currency Wisely
AVOID AIRPORT CURRENCY SERVICES. Seriously, it’s better to barter with sterling in Nigeria than risk the exchange rate at airports. The most important thing is to not leave this until the last minute. Yes, it’s obvious, and yes it’s cliché, but I guarantee you will end up saving so much money. Your best solutions are:
- Post Offices
- Travel Shops (research online, depending on if you booked with an agency, they may offer more generous exchange rates)
- Compare rates online
It also might be an idea to purchase a travel money card. These things are great if you don’t like carrying cash on you.
2. Plan, Plan, Meticulously Plan
Depending on how long you’re traveling for, and where you’re going, prices will vary. As a general rule, it’s good to come up with a broad figure and rough budget per week or month.
To give you an insight, when I went traveling in South America for 8 months I brought with me £10,000 spending money. I budgeted £1,000 a month with cash left over when I returned home. I lived comfortably on this. My days consisted of eating out almost every day, living between hostels (stayed in a few hotels occasionally) and a fair bit of fun spending.
ALSO! Book your flights home in good time. It’s a good idea to set a rough date for your return, flights aren’t cheap!
3. Air Freight and Couriers – Use Them!
There may come a time in your travels where you find yourself lugging around a huge suitcase that you simply don’t need. This can seriously hamper your travel experience, especially if you’re frequently moving around. If I had known or had the wisdom to use air freights earlier, I would have.
You’d think completing my first 8 month traveling stint I’d have a great idea on what to pack for the second. Nope, overpacked quite badly in fact. So, instead of lugging the case around, I sent the case back via Simply Removals and voilà, it arrived back home in Camden safe and sound. This genuinely saved me (and my spine) so much effort. I’d 100% recommend doing this if you find yourself in a similar situation.
4. Pack Your Bags in Advance
I’m not sure about you, but knowing I’m going traveling coerced me to pack my bags about a month before I left. I’m not saying you should do this, just make sure you’re prepared. Many people arrive at their destination only to realise they’ve forgotten some essentials. Phone chargers, sun-cream, flip-flops (I can’t live without them), toothbrushes, the list goes on. Not only is it annoying, but it subtly eats into your budget.
I personally made a list on Microsoft Excel of what I needed. I gathered some information from my friends that had traveled previously and went from there. Once you’ve arrived and become acquainted with the ‘lifestyle’ – so to speak – you’ll learn what is, and isn’t essential.
5. Buy Travel Insurance
There is nothing worse than falling off a moped and having to get a few stitches sewn into your hand. “No worries, I’ll just pop to the hospital. Oh, wait, no insurance… that’ll be £500. Brilliant!”
Do not be that person. You are not invulnerable. You’re in a new place, with new people and possibly an entirely different culture. It is worth the initial cost, and you won’t be as worried to bungee-jump off that incredibly high bridge.
6. Take Public Transport
This is far cheaper than getting a taxi everywhere. This rule essentially applies to everywhere but it’s an important point nonetheless. I personally saved so much money avoiding taxis, though as I became more comfortable with the areas I was living in, I bought a small van.
I’d only advise this if you’re a confident driver and know the area well. For first-time travelers, stick to public transport. Also get lost! Seriously, the amount of times I went off the beaten track and found quirky little side roads and local areas was amazing. You may even stumble across that weird tiki paradise you were searching for.
7. Volunteer Occasionally
What better way to save money than to work and connect with locals? You may find many places offering free accommodation in exchange for work. I was lucky enough to be given a part-time receptionist job at a hostel in Fiji, and in return they allowed me to stay in the hostel free of charge. Even if they don’t offer payment as such, it will keep you away from splashing cash elsewhere, and you could create some incredible memories and make lifelong friends.
Confidence is key in these situations. Be nice, be understanding and be brave! This in itself will open so many doors for you when traveling!
If you enjoyed reading this post, check out 10 money saving tips for international students in London.