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.
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
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.