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Ultimate guide on how to travel on a budget in 2024

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Welcome to the ultimate guide on how to travel the world on a budget in 2024. In this comprehensive article, we unlock the secrets of experiencing global wonders without a hefty price tag. From mastering the use of price trackers to choosing fee-free cards and local cuisines, prepare to embark on a journey where adventure meets affordability.

We cover budget saving tricks across 5 areas of travel:

  • Money and cash related tricks
  • Food & drinks
  • Stay related tips
  • Activities on budget
  • Finding the right travel company
  • Transport related tips

Also read: Ultimate guide on how to save money for travelling in 2024.

1. Money related tricks when travelling on a budget

1.1 Use price trackers

Let technology be your best friend in your quest of travel on a budget. There are price trackers online for everything today – flights, hotels, and tours. These tracking services will alert you to price drops, better times to make bookings and potentially saving you money. It’s really like having a savings superhero in your pocket.

1.2 Get fee free cards

When you travel abroad and plan to use your debit and credit cards, remember that your card company or bank will have charges to use your card abroad. This is called the foreign transaction fee. This fee applies to you whether you swipe your card or use it at an ATM abroad. For e.g., X bank in the US charges XX fee everytime you use the card abroad at an ATM.

To your luck, there are many banks that offer cards that do not charge any fees when you use it abroad! Companies like Wise, Revolut, Starling, Monzo, Fi Money, Niyo, Scapia, Charles Schwab, Capital One are some of them. So when you’re travelling on a budget, get your hands on some of them and save up on unnecessary bank fees abroad.

Pro-tip: Each card can have spending limits abroad so its good to have 2-3 such cards on your foreign trip so you can use all their limits if necessary.

1.3 Don't pay in foreign currency when travelling on a budget

It is common to carry US Dollars, Euros or Pounds when we travel abroad because these are the most popular currencies in the world. However, many countries have their own currencies. So, if you flash your dollars, euros or pounds, you will become a target for being overcharged by tour operators, hostels and hotels. Also, the exchange rate that you will get for your dollar will be lower. So if you travel on a budget, choose to pay in local currency wherever possible to get the best bang for your buck.

1.4 Save up on foreign ATM fees

ATMs are often considered to be the better way to get local currency when you are in another country. But every time you withdraw money from an ATM abroad, the ATM may charge you an “ATM Access Fee” or “ATM Usage Fee”. This is simply a fee to use the ATM’s services. Worry not, in most countries there is often a choice of many ATMs – some with high fees, some with low fees and some with ZERO fees. Yes! So when you travel on a budget, use such fee-free and low-fee ATMs to save up on unnecessary expenses to withdraw cash abroad.

Download ATM Fee Saver now or login online.

1.5 Withdraw cash via friends who have no-fee cards

If you haven’t been lucky enough or in time to get a fee-free debit or credit card for your foreign travel, you still have some options. Use the fee-free card of one of a friend, family member or a travel buddy to withdraw cash abroad or make some expenses and transfer money to them for this. This way, your travel budget remains in control.

Also read: Why your card doesn’t work abroad at ATMs & what to do?

1.6 Decline conversion at ATMs to travel on a budget

When you withdraw cash from an ATM abroad, it will often ask you “Accept Conversion” or “Decline Conversion”. What this means is:

  • Accept Conversion – Do you want to Accept Conversion of the ATM’s exchange rate or
  • Decline conversion – Do you want to exchange at the rate set by your bank/card’s logo company (Visa, Master, etc.).

In most cases, Decline Conversion is the better option as the ATM’s conversion rates are high and come with high fees. So, when you travel on a budget, Decline Conversion to save on additional unnecessary fees.

Also read: Withdrawing cash abroad? 9 best ways to save foreign ATM fees.

1.7 Don't exchange currency at airports when travelling on a budget

This one is the most common mistake made by tourists. Since airports are the gateway to a foreign country, airport currency exchange places are known to give poor exchange rates. Wait till you get to the city and then exchange your cash. Withdraw money from an ATM at the airport if you need money right away.

1.8 Track your spends to keep budget travel “on track”

It sounds boring. But this small trick will take your money a long way. Tracking your expenses at the end of everyday will tell you exactly where you are spending, where you shouldn’t be spending and unnecessary expenses you are incurring on your travels. Use apps like TravelSpend that make tracking expenses in many currencies a breeze!

Pro-tip: Set a budget on a travel app and track every minor expense – even things like bank fees.

2. Food & drinks when travelling on a budget

2.1 Drink tap water and refill bottles

In many countries, tap water is drinkable. If so, use it! Many hostels and hotels also offer refillable water coolers. All you need to do is a carry a refillable water bottle. You’ll save the environment and your pennies by doing so!

2.2 Cook when you can

It is no surprise that cooking-in is cheaper than eating out. Now we’re not saying spend all your time on a holiday cooking food. But if you cook at least 1-2 meals a day or even a few times a week, you’ll quickly see just how much money you have saved up when travelling on a budget and you have left for many other experiences!

2.3 Eat at local places compared to touristy spots

If you’re roaming around the main town square and tempted to eat at that pretty looking restaurant, stop. Given it’s a tourist hotspot, prices at such restaurants will likely not be pretty and jacked up! Just step away a few streets down and you’ll see that prices are lesser for the same food.

2.4 Share meals like pizzas

If you’ve found yourself a travel buddy or two, then a good way to save money while travelling on a budget is to order in larger meals like pizzas and share them. Remember, the price of food doesn’t necessarily increase in the same proportion as the size of the food so sharing large items will put a smaller dent in your pocket when you travel on a budget!

2.5 Pre-drink at your hostel or during happy hours

Drinks are also usually expensive at bars compared to the good old concept of BYOB. So if you’re planning a night out, buy your own booze and enjoy some at your hostel or hotel first and then have a few at a bar. That way, your travel budget is in check and you get to enjoy your evening out with friends too. Even better, make use of the happy hours at hostels and bars to get cheaper drinks.

Also read: Top 10 things to bring when travelling abroad.

3. Stay related tips when travelling on a budget

3.1 Stay in hostels or private rooms of hostels

Hostels earn a name of being unclean, without facilities and for “poor” travellers. If you think this way, then you haven’t seen hostels! Hostels around the world now come in a variety of classes – from super cheap to expensive (but not as expensive as hotels). Which means that they also come with fancy comfortable beds, bars and restaurants, many come with swimming pools and so much more. Majority of the hostels also come with private rooms if you don’t fancy sharing a room with other dormmates. So when you travel on a budget, you get the best of both worlds – be cost effective and be social because you can meet many other travellers.

3.2 Share private rooms - double rooms/twin rooms

If you have a travel buddy, are comfortable with the person and are wanting a hotel kind of an experience, consider sharing rooms in hotels. While you may not be able to afford a hotel room on your own, this way, you can divide costs, get a great experience at an affordable price.

4. Activities when travelling on a budget

4.1 Take group tours

Private tours are always more expensive than group tours. So if you don’t mind sharing transport and the tour experience, this trick will help you save up quite a bit of money when you are travelling on a budget.

4.2 Look for free walking tours to travel on a budget

In most tourist destinations, public and private tour operators offer free walking tours. They are a great way to cover the main sights of the city, support local tourism and also burn some of those holiday calories. The best part is to get all of this for free! (You may choose to tip the tour guide out of the goodness of your heart, of course!)

4.3 Cut out the souvenirs

We get it. It is tempting to pick up every one of those fridge magnets, those little hats, caricatures, soft toys, tiny wallets and what not. But hold your urges. If you are travelling on a budget, these will only add to your luggage and dent your wallet. You may also realise that what looked cute on a holiday is of no value at home and you throw half of these things away when you get back from your travel.

5. Travel company when travelling on a budget

5.1 Travel with groups that are on a similar budget as yours

This is particularly relevant for travellers staying in hostels. You’re bound to meet travellers from various financial backgrounds. And even though you may want to travel with them, first find out if their travelling budget is similar to yours. If not, then you will land up spending a lot more money during your travels with such newly made friends, as they have more capability to spend than you do. Don’t be sad if you miss the bus on a particular set of new travel buddies, many others will come along that will fit your style and budget of travelling.

5.2 Find a travel buddy and share costs

You may be a traveller of various kinds. You may be the kind who likes to start a trip alone but find one travel buddy along to share the journey. Or have managed to get a friend along from home. If so, you’ve taken the first great step towards travelling on a budget. Having a travel buddy means you share costs of everything – tours, transport, food. You also share fun and sorrows of the travel together. This will be a great way to enjoy experiences with friends and ensure you don’t put a hole in your travel pocket.

Also read: Debit or credit card abroad? Which is better for withdrawing cash.

5.3 Learn to say “No”

This is easier said than done. But this one tip will be crucial in helping you keep your travel finances in check. Say “no” if the restaurant your travel friends are going to is outside your budget. Meet them after they’re done eating there. Say “no” if your travel friends want to go to that fancy rooftop bar where each drink will cost you $20. If you can’t afford it, own it, accept it, and find other people to hang out with. Don’t get pressured to do expensive things just because others are doing it.

6. Transport related tips when travelling on a budget

6.1 Split taxi fares with fellow travelers

Are you going to that restaurant in town? Ask around in your hostel if somebody is going the same that route, split the taxi and the cost. Similarly, if you are taking an inter-city bus, ask around if there are 3-4 travellers going to the same destination as getting a private car transfer might be cheaper. You get the comfort of being in a car rather than a bus and at the same time, you kept your budget in control.

6.2 Use cheaper taxi and bike apps

We are so used to taking Ubers in every country. Probably so, for convenience, familiarity, safety. However, in many countries, there are various other similar ride sharing apps available and in many cases, cheaper than Uber but just as safe. For e.g. In India, Ola is another similar service. In Colombia, there’s Cabify, InDriver, Didi and Picap. In South East Asia, there’s Grab. So ask your hotel on the safe ride sharing apps available in that country and make your transport cheaper when you travel on a budget.

6.3 Hitch bikes rides to travel on a budget

If you enjoy adventures on a bike, then you can use bike rides within a city instead of taxis. Firstly, bike rides are cheaper as it’s a 1 person drive. Secondly, its faster as it can manoeuvre through traffic better. And given it’s a smaller vehicle, the cost is likely to be cheaper as well. So after considering safety factors, you may want to use bike rides instead of taxis to keep your travel budget in control.

Armed with these money-saving strategies, you’re now ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure that’s as kind to your wallet as it is enriching for your soul. Happy budget-friendly travels!

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