Saturday, August 29, 2009

Guest Post: How to Save Money While Traveling Abroad

Ireland: CoastImage by gato-gato-gato via Flickr

Traveling’s great, right? Of course. Most of us think so, but the problem with many things that we consider great, like front-row tickets to our favorite band, a Ferrari, or a great meal from a luxury restaurant, tend to be expensive. However, as it is with the last three things I mentioned, there are little ways to cut corners to turn expensive luxuries into affordable options.
I’m no expert on how to do that with a Ferrari, but with years of travel experience and as a travel professional myself, I know a few things about how to shave dollars off a potentially very expensive trip.

For most, buying a cheap ticket is the easy part. Travel consolidators everywhere have made that easy for us. What most of us don’t know, however, is how to save cash once we set two feet into a new country we’re unfamiliar with. Expensive exchange rates and locals ready to take advantage of our touristy ways try to make it as difficult as possible for us to leave without crying at the status of our bank accounts. There are ways, though, to have a great time and still save a few bucks.

  1. First, go in expecting to get taken advantage of. The first time I took a culturally shocking trip into China, I took two steps off the plane and promptly ended up paying five times the normal fare for a cab ride. I didn’t see it as being ripped off since the cost was equivalent or even a little less than a normal U.S. cab ride, but it ended up being a huge rip-off when directly compared to Chinese standards. When you visit underdeveloped countries such as China or India, your biggest cost will be the flight there. However, you will encounter many poor citizens ready to swindle you out of every dollar they can manage. Plan for this, research what typical costs are in different situations, and don’t let the locals swindle you out of five to fifteen bucks. If this occurs over and over again, it will severely up the cost of a trip that would normally be extremely affordable.

  2. Barter with every street vendor. This depends on the country, but where bartering is standard practice it's important not to accept the first price from a street vendor. Low-ball and walk away; you’ll be surprised how cheap you can get a good meal or nice trinket to bring back home.

  3. Travel off the beaten path. The most rewarding travel experiences don’t happen when you visit the normal tourist destinations that are laundered with more foreigners than locals; they come when you visit the real, random cities that are a bit more difficult to access. Prices won’t be inflated to take advantage of tourists, and you’ll be more likely to meet people who are excited and willing to talk to you, share their experiences, and give their own recommendations about the place they call home. Depending on the country, don’t be surprised if a foreigner invites you to stay at their home or come in for a free dinner.

  4. Cut corners. If you’re traveling to England, account for the super-high prices and bad exchange rate. Stay in hostels, use public transportation as much as possible, and avoid eating at nice restaurants whenever you can. Of course, food is often a huge part of the travel experience, so don’t exclude it, but try and avoid eating at a sit-in restaurant three times a day.

  5. Bring home with you. Take few clothes and do your best to bring as much stuff from home that will cut your costs. These include snack foods, first aid, and excess toiletries. If you are planning a “rough” expedition, it’s good to expect something to go wrong. Someone gets hurt, you lose one thing, whatever. Having as much backup as possible, while staying mobile, will keep you safe and make sure you don’t have to purchase “emergency” supplies, which end up being costly and, more importantly, inconvenient.
A lot of great things, like traveling, don’t come cheap. However, planning well does. Put the two together and you’ll do just fine, and so will your pocketbook.

Ross Garnaut is a travel writer for Ross has been to over thirty countries and has over ten years of travel industry experience. More of his writing can be found at Lowfares, where you can find cheap flights and discount airfare.

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