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10 Money Saving Tips When Backpacking

As a backpacker you probably know some tips and tricks to save money on your trips. And more of these are always useful. Here are ten of our best practices that we use when backpacking abroad. By using them, we’ve been able to stay super budget even in expensive places like London, Dublin or Reykjavik.

1. Buy food from the grocery stores

It’s a great way to save a lot in expensive destinations. There are ready sandwiches in most supermarket or other pre-cooked food that’s good enough. And it’s much cheaper than eating at a restaurant.

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Still expensive? No problem, don’t buy ready food. If you have a place to cook, buy ingredients like pasta, rice, vegetables, meat, or flour and cook yourself. If you don’t have a place to cook, bread and cheese are always good and affordable option.

Note that in countries with lower cost of living like India this tip may be wrong. In India it’s cheaper to eat street food than to buy food from the supermarket. Street food is not always safe however.

2. Drink tap water and use a bottle to bring water with you

tap water is cool

Being thirsty in the big city can lead to a lot of expenses. Not if you bring a bottle of water with you. This can save you quite a few purchases forced by your thirst.

In many places of the world, tap water is good enough for drinking. Learn in advance how is it in your destination, and if it’s safe, drink it. If tap water is not safe you can buy big bottles from the grocery store and keep them in your room. And then fill into a small bottle when you go out. Mineral water is much cheaper in big bottles.

3. Choose good hostel location

Sometimes we as backpackers tend to pick the cheapest hostel with the idea to save money. And sometimes this is stupid decision. If the hostel is located far away from the city or town center you may have to use the public transportation every day and even a taxi late in the evening. Think twice whether the low hostel price is good reason to choose the hostel. Location is usually more important – especially in countries where transport is expensive.

4. Carefully choose the flight

Similar to the above, backpackers often pick the cheapest flight without checking arrival and departure times. Transportation to and from most airports is expensive and several times more expensive at night.

So if the difference in the price of two flights is just few dollars, choose the one that arrives in the day hours.

5. Eat in the parks

When we were in London, everyone was eating in the park. This was a great way to save some money by buying take away food and eating it there instead of sitting in the restaurant.

If you see people eating in the parks it’s probably allowed. Join them.

6. Learn in advance about discounts

There are many ways to save money in a given city but you should know them to use them. For example when we were in Iceland we didn’t know we could buy much cheaper bus tickets in bulk and ended up paying quite a price for each ride.

So make an effort to learn in advance what kind of discounts are available for public transportation, other public services and just any purchases in bulk. This can save you a lot of cash.

7. Buy fruits and vegetables from the farmer markets

Or other open markets as well. Usually these are of better quality and sometimes cheaper than in the supermarket. Often they can make a great cheap dinner with a piece of bread and cheese. We did this in Georgia and didn’t regret regardless of the cheap restaurants there.

8. Learn about the public toilets in advance

It may sound funny at first, but think how often you had to go a bar or cafe and consume somthing only because you needed a toilet. Of course you can ask somewhere and they’ll probably let you in but not everyone is comfortable doing this.

Knowing where public WC is available can save you plenty of related expenses. And sometimes trying to save out of a WC visit can cause a lot of discomfort.

9. Eat before flight

When you fly low-cost in-flight food is not included and is rather expensive and poor. It’s often better to buy a sandwich from the airport (after the security check) rather than buying inside the plane.

And if you have a chance to eat really well before reaching the airport, or have a burger bought outside and eaten just before the security check, you can do this as well.

10. Shop where locals do it

This is a general rule of thumb and it was partially mentioned in few of the tips above. Places where tourists gather are expensive. Instead of buying from the tourist stores buy from a regular supermarket or grocery store where the locals are shopping.

In similar fashion, instead of eating at restaurants made for tourists, turn left or right and look for a less shiny place where locals eat. These are easy to discover in non-English speaking countries because they don’t have menu in English. And you’ll always manage to order food somehow even if you don’t know the language.

Backpacking Around Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is not the first place you would think about backpacking in Europe. But it’s one of the most interesting. The country with population of only ~300,000 on large territory offers northern experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.

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One of the problems of budged backpacking in Iceland is that the country is scarily expensive. At least for people on budget of course đŸ™‚ So to go around the whole country and visit glaciers and wild nature you’ll need to be the guy with piles of cash.

If that’s not you, let me offer you a small region near the capital Reykjavik that’s interesting enough to experience.

Reykjavik

The chirch in Reykjavik

The chirch in Reykjavik

Reykjavik itself, in my opinion, isn’t at all the most interesting place in Iceland. Sure, it’s nice to see a capital with so few people and there are few interesting buildings and parks to check. That’s almost all you could do there however so don’t plan for more than a couple of days.

Do: walk around the sea, view the Opera, check some museums. Eat some hot-dogs, it’s the cheapest food you can find outside.

Don’t do the mistake to spend your whole time in Iceland only in Reykjavik. Even if you are on a thin budget, there are few nice places around to visit.

Here I want to give you some advice about the bus system in this part of Iceland. The buses are divided by zones, and Zone 1 covers the whole city plus Kopavogur and (I think) going to Hafnarfjordur. The ticket is a bit expensive (euro 2) but it’s valid for given time. During this time you can catch more buses with the same ticket. You can buy tickets from the driver but only if you have the exact amount, as they have no change.

If you buy tickets for Zone 2 or Zone 3 (like the case with going to Hveragerdi), have in mind that you can also use these tickets for Zone 1. They are usually valid for at least 2 hours, so that’s a good way to save some cash. Tickets for zone 3 are around euro 6.

Hafnarfjordur

Hafnarfjordur port

Hafnarfjordur port

Hafnarfjordur is a very nice small town 10km away of Reykjavik. I highly recommend you to visit it. You will see real Nordic houses, nice empty streets, and the nature much closely than in the capital.

Do visit the museum, it’s free and very nice. Get a city guide from your hotel or hostel, there are surprisingly many interesting landmarks in the city.

Speaking about hostels, I recommend you to stay in the town instead of Reykjavik. We did so and saved quite a lot of money. We used this hostel, I recommend it fully.

There are not many supermarkets in Hafnarfjordur – one small is in the mall, and a bigger one is at North on the way to Reykjavik.

Hveragerdi

Geysirs in Hveragerdi

Geysirs in Hveragerdi

Hveragerdi is a little town 40km away of Reykjavik. While in the capital you should go to Mjodd bus station and get the bus from there. You need tickets for Zone 3. There are buses each 1-2 hours going to Hveragerdi.

Do visit the geysir park and try the bread made on geysir heat there. It tastes great. Later you can buy almost the same bread from supermarkets in Reykjavik.

The town is really small and you can easily go out in the wild to see some more geisyrs, horse farms, abandoned barns, camping site and more.

Keflavik

Abandoned ship in Keflavik

Abandoned ship in Keflavik

This is actually the town where the Iceland international airport is – it’s not in Reykjavik. As there are no buses who go to Keflavik from the airport, most visitors miss to visit this nice port town. I recommend you not to skip it. You can get a bus from Reykjavik BSI bus station and go to Keflavik.

What we did was to spend the last night in Kevlaink, in the B&B Guesthouse and they offer free airport transfer, so it was perfect. It’s not as cheap as the Hafnarfjordur hostel, but its location is great and they offer bread, butter, milk, tea, etc all the time for free.

Do: enjoy walking on the path near the sea, see the old abandoned ships, drink some polar beer.

So here you go, four towns, each with its own character, and all that on really low budget. It’s hard to beat this experience in Iceland.