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Travelling abroad can be a huge drain on our finances. Some travel advice to have fun while saving money!
By Meena Venkataraman
We are standing outside the British museum. As we walk in realization hits. This huge space with the history of mankind documented in intricate detail is actually FREE! We had just stumbled upon the manna for frugal travel. The best things in life are free.
Someone once said, “Frugality without creativity is deprivation” and it can’t be more relevant than in the context of travel. To travel to foreign lands is to experience lives that we were not born into, to meet people and experience different cultures; it is to experience humanity in all its diverse glory. I have often found myself in a foreign locale wanting to take in every bit, do every little thing – touristy and otherwise. And then I often have to confront the question, do I have the money to do it all? How can I spend less, but at the same time not cut back on the experience of travel itself.
The trick to solving this conundrum is that there are ways to augment the travel experience by actually spending less. Give me the cosy warmth of a home stay any day over the empty gloss of a five star hotel. We are in hard economic times. It is now more than ever that a budget holiday or two would fit in nicely to soothe those frazzled nerves. Wouldn’t you agree? Though it all seems counter intuitive, it is not only possible to plan a budget trip, but also to have a good time of it. With backpacking catching on, shoestring travel has never been more fashionable.
Is there some such thing as a frugal travel guide? It may just be!
Stack up on the freebies to save money!
There is plenty to experience for free, if you only care to research the place you are visiting. London is playing host to the 2012 Olympic Games and with it there are a range of free talks about the city on offer as part of the City of London festival. What’s more, keeping with the vision of Art being available to everyone a number of galleries like the National Art Gallery, The Tate Modern and the Tate Britain are free! Throw in the National History Museum and the British Museum and you have a formula for high quality entertainment that doesn’t cost anything at all! Read about a place before you leave. It is amazing how many things can be seen for free.
Read about a place before you leave. It is amazing how many things can be seen for free.
Travel off peak for budget holidays
The budget travel guide has the following words embossed on its front pages: Travelling off peak has its benefits. Cheap flights and reduction of crowds make for a fantastic combination. A colleague once told me of a chance visit to Udaipur during what was not considered the season, only to be treated like royalty and welcomed with open arms in the hotel they were staying in. What more can someone ask for? We deal in binaries. We assume that off peak means not good, an assumption that’s most often wrong. While certain aspects like the weather might not be ideal to see a place, there might be other things that lend it a strong sense of character. Visiting the Cotswold in the cold British winter, we were blown away by the beauty of the first snow.
So go ahead, surprise yourself!
Hunt for good travel deals
Public transport is the perfect way of discovering a city and is in all probability the cheapest. If you find the need to travel frequently look for travel cards which offer cheaper options for weekly or monthly travel. Most places also have group/ family discounts on offer. So a family of four can easily travel for the cost of two. This is the stuff that holidays are made of.
Stay cheap and cut costs
Some years ago while backpacking in Bolivia we checked into a hostel. To our delight we found that the dormitory could be upgraded to a room for a nominal fee and voila! We had discovered the perfect secret to saving money. Accommodation is the biggest chunk of a holiday budget. So budget hotels, hostels and home stays are perfect for bringing down costs.
Accommodation is the biggest chunk of a holiday budget. So budget hotels, hostels and home stays are perfect for bringing down costs.
Every little helps
Food is a big part of travel. For the frugal traveller food on the go is a great option. We discovered visiting Venice that most places charge extra for dining in. So we always had our sandwiches to go. Considering that we stayed there a good 5 days the saving added up to a nice little sum we could spend elsewhere. Staying in a B&B is a great option because it affords the luxury of a free breakfast. For those who are hostel bound like me, the local supermarket would give you a range of options to pick from to put together your own meal.
So the next time you think a holiday entails huge costs think again. The frugal traveller is never confronted with the challenge of costs. Rather, money itself is just another rung that needs to be scaled in getting to your destination. So go ahead and take that step and you open the doors to a whole new world of budget travel.
*Photo credit: Mr.T in DC (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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