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Most of us set out on a backpacking adventure to see the hidden gems of a location but we also backpack it because we love roughin’ it! Leaving your friends at the hostel in the morning with everything you need on your back, and a loose agenda in mind is an energizing feeling of exploration! Other than the obvious freedom, the ability to save money while backpacking is a perk! Here are some tips so you can stretch your money so you can venture further.
Airfare – The cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you can make your travel days either of those, then you will save some cash. Also, book your plane tickets 21 days out because that is when the fares are typically the lowest. You can also score betters seats 21 days out. After 21 days, the prices tend to creep up.
Book ahead… sometimes – Let’s say you want to go bungee jumping in London. If you do some homework before you go, you may be able to find discounts online or see if they have discounts for early booking. It might seem a little presumptuous to ask for a discount for early booking, just ask super politely and know that the worst they can say is no. Discounts online and early booking discounts are more comm0n in well developed countries. If you want to go on a yak racing excursion in Mongolia, you may want to wait until you arrive to get the best price. Many museums have free days and also have museum passes, so you can plan a little bit around the free days and all of the fun things included on a pass. Always be sure to ask for student discounts, too!
Hostels – Spend $150 a night by yourself in a hotel and never meet anyone or spend $5-50 a night in a community of travelers and make friends with people familiar with the area? That’s why most backpackers prefer a hostel. Of course, we all deserve a getaway to a hotel (I always treat myself to a room with a hot tub) but grabbing a bunk bed at a hostel is a great way to save cash. Some hostels include free wifi, cyber cafes, stocked bars, free food exchanges, kitchens and living rooms. You can reserve your hostel ahead of time or you can just show up. It’s highly suggested that you get reservations in very hot cities like Rome and Brussels, but that’s just personal experience talking. Also be sure to know the cancellation rules! There are some different styles of accommodations at hostels that you should expect.
Eat Local – If you skip the well known American chains and eat local food, not only will you get to taste the delicacies of the area, but also it’s a lot less expensive! You can save money by cooking for yourself with your hostel-mates with local ingredients. There may be a food exchange pantry, where you can leave non-perishable food that you don’t want to bring along your journey and try foods that were left by others. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt! Enjoy a large lunch as your one large meal of the day and then “graze” the rest of the day to feel full and taste new things. This will keep your costs down. Soda is really expensive too! In Rome, it was $7 for a 12oz bottle of Coca Cola but only $3 for a jug of red wine. Guess what I drank the rest of the time in Rome?
Couch Surfing – Have you heard of this? Basically, it’s a “Pay it Forward” kind of thing where you allow perfect strangers to sleep on your couch in return for being welcomed into other peoples homes to sleep on their couch. Check out Couchsurfing.com to learn more and start surfing!
Public Transportation Passes – Skip that Taxi if you really want to save money! Unless it’s a tuk tuk… You HAVE to ride in a tuk tuk at least once! If you’re exploring a city, a few coins towards a day or week pass can save you a lot of time while exploring and your feet too!
Leave the Tourist Areas – It’s amazing how much more everything costs once you’re in the tourist traps. The restaurants are more expensive, the souvenirs, the basics, everything. Try to get outside of the main tourist hub and you can find cheaper lodging and just about everything else.
What suggestions can you give for fellow backpackers on how to save money so they can adventure on?
Written by Rebecca Huber, Group Tour Director and Digital Marketing for Joy Tour & Travel. Rebecca has traveled around the world as a backpacker, traveler and student ambassador.