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Budget Travel

Cost-cutting ideas to fit a fixed travel budget

There are quite literally dozens of small ways to trim prices off your big, intimidating travel budget. Flight costs, hostels, food and tours can all be modified and pared down using a few techniques if you’re willing to sacrifice some luxuries. Here are some of the techniques I’ve found successful.

1. Work your exchange Rate

Pick countries that favor your exchange rate so you can stretch your dollar. For example, $1 USD is only equal to 0.80 British Pounds, but 14,500 Indonesian Rupiah. 

*Great regions for this are Southeast Asia, and South & Central America

2. Keep daily costs to $40 USD

Think through costs of accommodation, food, taxis and tours, and try to bring each element down until the total is at the $40 sweet spot. Countries with good exchange rates will make this process easier.

3. Keep Hostel costs between $5-20 a night

Depending on where you go, you should have no problem finding amazing and clean hostels within this price range. It’ll significantly cut the cost of accommodation in comparison to hotels and airbnb’s.

4. Use budget airlines

Your flight is the means to an end, not the attraction. Don’t be afraid to sacrifice some luxuries or layover time if it’ll save you a pretty penny. Comparison sites like Cheapair & Orbitz make this easy.

5. Do things the local way

Doing things the way locals do it is not only more fun and immersive, but it’s far cheaper. Western food and tourist buses have inflated prices built into them. Opt for far tastier street food, and more authentic local buses.

It is why you're there, after all! 

6. Haggle

Many countries you’ll visit will have room for negotiation built into the price. This is particularly true for street vendors and taxi cabs, as they’ll try to charge you more than the service is worth because they think you don't know better. 

Remember: in many places, this the norm, so no need to feel rude.

Exception: Food vendors generally do not participate in haggling.

7. Book tours last minute

Okay, hear me out. Booking tours a day in advance and in-person can save you a lot of money. Online rates are generally more expensive and inflated because they give you the convenience of knowing you're booked. However, I booked my 5 day Machu Picchu trek a day in advance and saved $150 compared to the online price.

Exception: High Season. During high season, tours and hostels will be in far more demand, so booking last minute could result in getting locked out of fully booked services. Check online to see the tourism status of your trip.

8. Shop Around

“Shop around,” or look at several options, when booking tours. Even hostels and tourist centers will occasionally hike prices up for tourists, while other, more budget-friendly ones, will provide you with the same exact experience for a far cheaper price.

9. Use a travel-friendly Bank

Many banks will charge you high fees for using foreign ATMs or for currency conversion costs. Make sure your bank has lenient rules when it comes to travel. I use Charles Schwab because the account is free and there are no foreign transaction or ATM fees anywhere in the world.

10. Pause at-home costs you're while away

This is the one people always forget to do.

Do your best to pause all at-home costs, including gym memberships, phone plans, and anything else you can think of. If possible, sublet your apartment for the duration of your trip to reduce/eliminate the cost of rent. Why pay for services you’re not using?

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