10 unconventional money saving tips
Every article I read about how to save money when traveling gives pretty much the same advice: Stay in hostels, eat local food, take local transport. These are the big 3 backpacker hacks that everyone will tell you. But the fact that a bus will cost less than a taxi, or that a bowl of curry will cost less than a double bacon cheeseburger, isn’t exactly rocket science. I think any backpacker who travels long enough naturally abides by these money saving mantras. In order to stretch your dollar even farther, you need to resort to more creative methods. Here are 10 less conventional travel hacks that we use to get more bang for our buck. Some of these only work some of the time, but when used situationally, and in conjunction with one another, the savings can really add up over months of travel.
1. Travel in Low Season
Discounts with a view
This one is easily the biggest money saver, and also requires the most planning. If you can manage it, try to travel during the low season. For example, if you’re planning a trip to the Philippines go in August-November instead of during the peak season of December-May. On the flip side, travel to Indonesia during their rainy season of November-March; instead of the dry season (May-August) when hotspots like Bali will be packed to the gills with tourists. Sure, you might get a few more rainy days, but in return you’ll get discounts on lodging, food, and tours, and will have more leverage when bargaining due to the reduced number of tourists.
2. Do a work-and-stay
We loved our Workaway experience in The Philippines
Another powerful strategy for saving money is through work-and-stay programs like Workaway. Through these programs, businesses and individuals offer free, or dramatically discounted meals and accommodation, in exchange for a few hours of work each day.
You won’t be sleeping in a 5-star resort, but you’ll save a ton of money, make new friends, learn skills and have unforgettable experiences. We did a Workaway for a week on the island of Negros in The Philippines, and basically the only thing we spent money on was beer. I slept in my hammock and was totally comfortable. We got to eat amazing local meals every night and it was a really special opportunity to get to know some of the locals on a more personal level.
What’s cheaper than free?
Though frowned upon in The United States, hitchhiking is much more socially accepted in other parts of the world. It’s often more convenient to just stick out your thumb and hitch a ride, rather than wait around for the next bus to arrive (if it ever does). On BohoI, we hitched a ride from our guesthouse to the bus terminal and saved at least $10USD each on a tuk-tuk. I overwhelmingly find that the locals in SE Asia are kind, giving people. They will often decline payment, but it’s nice to at least offer a small tip. If you use your common sense, hitchhiking is totally safe. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, politely decline the ride.
4. Ridesharing (with friends or strangers)
Traveling with friends or even a group of complete strangers is a great way to spread the cost of transportation. Especially in Asia, local transport is often a fixed price, regardless the number of passengers. When traveling by yourself or as a couple, it’s hard not to feel ripped off when you’re paying for the full price of a taxi or tuk-tuk. When you’re leaving your hostel, coordinate with other people and try to share transportation. If you are travelling to/from popular areas like airports, bus stations, or tourist areas; try to share a ride with people going the same direction as you. Even if it doesn’t get you all the way to where you’re going, its much cheaper to share a ride some of the way than it is to pay for an entire van or taxi on your own.
5. Don't book lodging ahead of time
You won’t find places like this on Agoda.
6. Be patient and shop around
You have to do some digging to find gems like this.
The first option is often the most expensive. This is the case with food, lodging, transportation, and shopping at markets. If you’re willing to walk around and see what’s out there, you have a much better chance at finding a good deal. I’ll be honest, this requires patience. Instant gratification is a real thing, especially when you’ve been traveling all day and just want a place to sleep. It can be really easy just to say yes to that $15 dorm bed with fan because you’re there and just want to be done with it. If you can remain diligent and look a little harder, you’ll be able to find more value for your money.
7. Haggle haggle haggle
Haggling can save you big money on things activities like boat trips.
8. Ask to sleep in the lobby when arriving late
When set up properly hammocks are surprisingly comfortable to sleep in!
9. Move slowly
Slow and uncomfortable, but super cheap!
10. Talk to locals
This is what they mean by “it takes a village”.
You could always try camping?
Stretching your dollar to the max requires creativity. It not always easy, and sometimes the individual savings seems inconsequential. It sounds cliché, but it really does add up. Saving a dollar here, 50 cents there, paired with shopping around for the cheapest hostel, combined with taking local buses, throw in haggling your way to discounted activities and you’re talking savings to the tune of hundreds of dollars over the course of your travels.
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