When you’re having fun on holiday it’s easy to let all that sun and sangria go to your head and watch your budget fly out the window. It’s nice to splurge on special experiences and the odd nice meal, but there are some costs that can be avoided. So here’s some nifty little tips for saving money on the road…
Eat locally- It can be tempting to plump for tourist restaurants close to the major sights, but in reality some of the best food can be found in the local restaurants. If you have dinner on the Champs Elysees in Paris or lunch on Piazza San Marco in Venice, expect to pay top dollar for your meal. The best way to find some decent local cuisine is to simply ask for a recommendation from a local. Alternatively, if you walk past a restaurant that is full with locals, you know you’re probably onto a good thing. Street food and snack stalls usually offer inexpensive but tasty food, or you could pack a picnic and enjoy it somewhere with a spectacular view. Who says dinner with a view has to come with a price tag? If you have cooking facilities, you could do a supermarket shop and cook a homemade meal for you and your friends. Drinks in bars and clubs can be a big drain on your holiday spends, so have a few drinks before you go out to get you in the mood.
Avoid Airport Taxis- When you arrive at the airport in a new country, it can be tempting to go for the most convenient mode of transport and hop in a taxi. But airport taxis can be costly, especially if your hotel is a long way from the airport. Before you go, browse the airport’s website for information on how to get to and from the airport. Airports often have public bus services and even trains offering connections into the city. Sometimes you can pre-book a shared shuttle service to your hotel/hostel before you go.
Take local transport- Instead of using taxis, try to figure out the public transport system. Pick up maps and timetables from a tourist information point or the reception desk at your accommodation. Even better, walk!
Get the right credit card- When changing money, whatever you do, don’t use the currency exchange desks in the airport! They offer poor exchange rates and higher commission because they’ve got you trapped when you get past those security gates. Change your money in advance and use online comparison sites to find the best rates. Using your bank card abroad is generally the best way to get a good exchange rate, but beware of cards that charge fees for cash withdrawals and shop purchases. Always try to withdraw cash in larger amounts to cut down on repeat ATM charges. If you’re buying something and the shop owner offers you the chance to pay in your home currency, don’t! This is called ‘dynamic conversion’ and will usually end up costing you more.
Haggle- Wanting to buy some souvenirs for your friends and family back home? Visit the local markets and test your bargaining skills. Don’t accept the first price they offer you; start low and you can always work your way towards a middle ground. Faking disinterest and walking away can sometimes work, but don’t be rude. If you engage in a bit of banter with the seller or even say a few words in the local language, this can go a long way to helping you get that souvenir!
Avoid mobile phone roaming charges- If you’re in a country for a while and plan on making calls or sending texts, it’s best to purchase a local Sim card to avoid those expensive roaming costs. If you want to use your Sim from home, stick to sending texts and avoid phone calls altogether. You can also purchase a special bundle from your network provider that offers you cheaper international calls and texts. If you have a laptop with you, you can use Skype to make free calls to home. If you have a smart phone, switch your data roaming off and make sure you only use your phone’s internet when you find a free Wi-Fi hotspot.
Go in the off-season- During a country’s off-season, hotel prices are usually lower. Although the weather may not be unpredictable out of season, sometimes you’ll be lucky and catch excellent weather. Less tourists means fewer queues, allowing you to see the sights without fighting your way through crowds!
photo credits: Eduardo Deboni on flickr