How to travel cheaper and more local

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Last updated: April 10, 2018

There are many who believe it has to cost a lot of money to travel. This is not necessarily true, as long as you are smart with all the choices you make in connection with the trip. Sometimes I almost get a shock when I hear what some people pay for their trips, and there are so many people anywhere who does not even have a single thought about how they spend their money, both while booking the trip and during the trip.

I am often asked how I can afford to travel as much as I do; and the answer to that question is partly that I work while I am traveling, but also that I do not live unnecessarily expensive or wasting my money on things I do not need.

In this article, I will share the art of travel cheaper and like a local.

Accommodation

Staying in a hotel may be convenient, but it is also expensive and may not always be worth the money, especially if you want to travel cheaply and locally. I, like many others only spend a few hours a day in the room during my travels, so for me, it is rarely worth the cost of an expensive hotel room.

Nowadays there are many simple ways to save money when choosing accommodation, and there is something for all tastes. Airbnb is an option that is becoming more and more popular. On Airbnb, it’s possible to rent an apartment or room where you usually have access to the kitchen, wi-fi, etc. for a lower price than hotels. Airbnb is great and is perfect if you need to work while traveling or if you’ll be away a little longer.

You can also stay in hostels or use websites like Homestay.com, where you live with a host family. This type of accommodation is usually cheaper and more fun as you also get a chance to socialize with the locals and learn more about the country’s culture.

Another tip for finding cheap and local accommodations – Seek outside the tourist areas and stay where the locals themselves live. In these areas, you will also be guaranteed access to public transport.

However, it is not always that this will be cheaper. Sometimes the sights are far away from local neighborhoods and then it can end up costing more due to transport if it is long distance. One must also count the time and money because of the time one has at a destination is often limited.

homestay in toscana

Me and Christine at a Homestay in Tuscany, Italy.

Be flexible

First and foremost, you’ll have the greatest chance to travel cheaper if you can be flexible with dates and itineraries. This way you can choose the one that is the cheapest and most affordable. The cheapest ticket could, for example, include a stopover, or to fly early morning or late evening.

But it is not just dates and time of the flight where you can be flexible. We can be flexible with virtually everything that has to do with the trip.

I mean, Do you really need that four-star hotel, or can you settle for three and save 100 Euros? Can you imagine to ride the local bus instead of a taxi?

Do you need to eat at that touristy restaurant with crappy and overpriced food? Or could you imagine to go around the corner and eat where the locals eat, for at least half the price?

Live like a local

The cheapest way to travel is to live like a local as much as possible. When you think about it, this is pretty obvious, since the locals don’t want to pay more than necessary, to be able to save money and so on, just as we ourselves do back at home.

For those who want to travel cheaper, this is undoubtedly the best advice you can get, especially in countries that have a higher cost of living.

So, how do you live like a local?

The answer is, of course, different from country to country, and sometimes even city to city. But the principle is the same. Shop where the locals shop, go to the same restaurants, use public transportation, book an accommodation with kitchen and cook your own food. Take advantage of various discounts available for sightseeing and other entertainment.

Check local conditions. As an example; I can tell you that it’s more than half as cheap to eat lunch in Japan than eating out in the evening, even though there may even be more food served during lunch.

Other tips to live like the locals

  • Write on various forums and connect with people who live in the city or country you are visiting. These people can help you with valuable tips.
  • Get a haircut. The hairdresser is not shy to talk and is almost guaranteed to have a lot of tips about his/her city.
  • Learn the language, or at least a few phrases
  • Talk to people and do not be afraid to make a fool
  • Food

To sample local dishes and drinks is something that belongs to when traveling. For me, this is one of the highlights, and the best food can be found almost always in local restaurants.

For those of you who want to travel cheaply and locally, you have to opt out from classic tourist areas and walk a few blocks away or into a back alley. There you can find the local restaurants where all the locals hang. Many times there are local specialties or fast food that is cheaper and in many countries, fast food is not particularly unhealthy.

Having access to a kitchen will often be the cheapest, at least if you go to a major grocery store and buy something that is easy to cook, i.e. dishes that require few ingredients. If you have no kitchen, you can still save money by going to the grocery store. Larger grocery stores often have ready-made food or a bakery with pastries and food so self-made pan pizzas etc. This is both cheap and good and perfect as lunch.

The best tip for food is probably only to eat twice a day. Two major meals, a hearty breakfast and one for dinner. Besides being cheaper, you can also take advantage of a variety of health aspects. According to new research, people that are eating fewer meals and have more time between dinner and breakfast the following day can enjoy a longer life, less obesity and avoid brain diseases.

The concept is also known as intermittent fasting.

Transportation

As for the choice of transport, there is much you can do to get around cheaper. However, most people choose to take a taxi because it is convenient, which is fine if you think it is worth the money. However, taxis are not for the budget conscious or those who want to travel locally.

If you want to travel cheaply and locally, it should be done just like the locals. Mostly by some form of bus or shared minibus, or metro in bigger cities. This way is cheaper and usually doesn’t take much longer than a taxi.

My own favorite way to get around when I travel is undoubtedly by foot. Is it possible to walk I will walk, otherwise I will go with the bus or metro. Walking has many advantages, it is free, and you get to see much more while also getting exercise. If it’s difficult to find, one could use the built-in GPS on your smartphone, which is super smooth!

tuk tuk

Activities and excursions

Many tourists are accustomed to booking activities and tours through a travel agent. This is usually the worst thing to do if you want value for your money. While it is convenient, but also more expensive while losing their freedom to choose when you want to go from one place, and how much time you have in each location.

If you travel on your own then arranged tours instead be the most affordable option. But if you live in the hostel or meet others, so you can make the trip together and thus share the cost of doing it on their own.

Go instead locally, or rent a car or scooter. In this way, you save both money and time while having the freedom to choose how and when you want to go to different places.

Avoid the tourist traps

In most tourist resorts there are in one or another way, plenty of tourist traps. There can be taxi drivers who take a higher price or travel agents who charge a lot more than others. But it can also be a seller in a market that try to charge more than what the product really costs. As a tourist, you are an easy target because they do not know how everything works, so far not been there before. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to avoid these tourist traps.

Here are three tips to avoid tourist traps:

Avoid taxis standing outside the hotel, attractions, and beaches. These are often waiting for tourists they can charge more of.

Always compare various travel agencies, or better yet make the excursion on their own. Sometimes it is cheaper and better to go through a travel agent, but usually, it is more affordable and more fun to go on excursions and activities on their own.
Haggling always on the markets, no matter what you buy so you can haggle.

Sellers almost always try to charge more by tourists than locals, sometimes prices are even set on the high side for the seller expects to people haggle. You should not have a bad conscience, a seller would never sell anything in case they get less of it.

Moreover, this part of the trip responsibly to avoid price increases in the country without local people’s wages keep up the same pace.
Then there are of course also people and agencies who promise things that they then do not keep. It can not really do much about beforehand, but you can improve the chances of not getting ripped off by always:

  • Ask for a receipt with a written description of what you paid for
  • Searching the company and check for reviews
  • Double-check that the taxis, travel agencies and others have valid licenses

Unnecessary expenses

What qualifies as unnecessary is of course always individually, but what most of us probably can agree on is that you are more inclined to “treat” anything when you are on vacation. This can be anything from chips, candy, alcohol, cigarettes, taxi fares, soft drinks, etc.

These additional costs, even those that are small are quickly becoming large when you plus them all together. If you are away on a trip, it’s super important to keep track of these expenses if one wants the budget to keep the whole trip. Personally, I think you certainly can treat themselves to something, but in moderation. Many lose completely their respect for money when they travel. It is in the expensive shop on the corner just because you do not “handle” to go. Much is made on impulse, picking on extra of everything and you see something that makes you crave so it takes it too.

This is okay to do, but if you want to travel cheaply so it is important to maintain respect for money even when traveling. This means that you have to care about a few bucks here and there, because a few bucks here and there every day eventually turn into tens and hundreds of dollars, especially if you are traveling with family.

To avoid unnecessary expenses should furthermore always be prepared. Shop for everything needed for the excursions and trips in cheap business and not when you arrive at the beach, attraction, or at the airport. Goods and food that is otherwise relatively cheap quickly become expensive when you shop at expensive places.

Money and ATM cards

Money exchange and fees to withdraw money is another unnecessary fee that many do not realize. Luckily there is a simple solution to this problem. Get an ATM card that is designed for travel. This helps avoid withdrawal fees and can withdraw money on the spot without having to change money in advance.

In the end, it is of course up to each one how to travel, and as long as you do not hurt anyone other than its own economy, so it is perfectly okay how much or how little money it spends.

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