I'm a student and, like many people, I don't really have a lot of money sitting around for travel. So, when I'm graced with the opportunity to visit somewhere really unique or exotic, I often have to find ways to get around and things to do that are low-cost.
Before, I always had trouble keeping my spending down and making sure I didn't spend over my limit. Nowadays, traveling on a budget is rarely a problem for me. How? By using these five simple steps!
1. Plan ahead.
Make sure you know at least a general schedule of what you plan to accomplish while there. Know your priorities and stick to them. This way, you'll save money on transportation and you'll save time because you will know what you're doing on a day-to-day basis. If you plan ahead, you have more leeway in terms of time, giving you flexibility to do other things you see or take detours, which are two really critical aspects of exploring a new place. Come prepared with a map, GPS, or directions to make sure you know ahead of time where you're going!
2. Travel during the off-season.
Often, the off-season costs only a fraction of what traveling costs when it's extremely in-demand. Find out when most people travel to your destination and, if you can, choose a time to travel when there won't be a lot of tourists. Chances are prices will be less inflated during these times. Usually the fall months (September-October) and the early spring (February-March) are times when travel is generally cheaper.
3. Bring home souvenirs that aren't sold in stores.
At first glance, this may seem puzzling or even counterintuitive, but finding souvenirs that are free is often the best and most meaningful way to remember your travels. For example, that seashell you picked up at the beach or that concert ticket you have left over from an amazing show you attended -- those can be just as good or even better than a t-shirt that can easily cost $10-$15. I usually collect my airplane tickets -- a small but meaningful souvenir that's included in my airfare.
4. Eat at dives and locally-owned restaurants.
Sometimes restaurants can be way too expensive, but eating food from fast food restaurants makes you queasy. Well, you've got another option, and that's eating at locally-owned and operated places. Usually, these places are cheaper that fancy tourist-infested restaurants, but have food options that are unique to that location. In many places, street food is a delicious and inexpensive way to taste the local cuisine. For example, when I was in Guatemala, my group often frequented a sandwich cart, owned by some locals, that made sandwiches and condiments from locally-grown ingredients. This was our favorite place to eat and we went almost every day, but it cost us less than $1.50 for an entire sandwich. Now that's a deal!
This might seem simple, but it's probably the most valuable and inexpensive way to learn about an area. Walking places is free and you'll see a lot more of the place's unique culture than if you took a cab, a subway, or a bus. If you've got time to kill and nowhere to go, walking is the easiest way to get a good feel for a place, especially if you've never been there before. Plus, you might get a good opportunity to window shop, visit a local market, or hear some really fantastic street music. You never know what amazing things a city holds, but by walking, you're more likely to find it.