Photo credit frank mckenna and Sten Ritterfeld

15 ultimate tips for travelling on a budget

You saved your pennies, you packed your bags and now you're are ready to hit the road. Your budget is set. You figured out how much money you will need and determined the length of your trip and the route. Being on the road you realize that travelling can be a lot more expensive than expected. Suddenly the taxi is twice the price than expected and you can’t seem to find the best market so fruits cost you a fortune.

But there is good news! With just a few simple tips you can cut your expenses in half! Check our 14 ultimate tips for travelling on a budget and never worry about a missing pound ever again!

Planning beforehand and researching is king and we will tell you why.

1. Don't use currency exchange offices at the airport

A lot of European airports have offices for currency exchange that are operated by “currency exchange specialists”. They do not charge a commission which sounds great, however, the exchange rates could cost you as much as 11% extra on your transaction. Try to use bank ATMs for fair exchange rates on foreign currency.

2. Inform your mobile provider that you're travelling

Some providers offer special deals if you tell them that you are leaving the country. If you are not asking, you will never know. Show initiative and get the best deal for international phone calls and mobile data. Travelling is twice as fun if you can show it to your friends on Instagram.

3. Deactivate data roaming on your phone

Unless you have a roaming phone contract, make sure you deactivate roaming before you touch-down. That way you will keep within your data allowance. Turning off data roaming stops your phone from looking for mobile connections to update apps. Choose local Wi-Fi’s to update your apps. You will be surprised where you will be able to find good Wi-Fi. Even a small local restaurant in the backstreet of Chiang Mai, Thailand, that does not even have running water may still be able to provide Wi-Fi.

4. Get good travel insurance

This one is very important and should be taken seriously. Better be safe than sorry. This is an investment in your health and your future. It is well worth paying insurance upfront. In case of emergency, you will be extremely thankful. Get yourself good International Health Insurance and always pay attention to the terms of service and contact the support if you have any questions. Good insurance doesn't have to cost the Earth, just follow our tips for cheaper travel insurance.

5. Get familiar with your airline's rules

Companies like Ryanair are extremely rigid about rules and if you break them it can cost a fortune. Don’t sign-up for extras if you don’t need them. And double-check your booking before you finalise it. Remember to measure your cabin bags and weigh your hand luggage if you don’t want to pay more than what you expected.

6. Travel as light as possible

Think about it, If something happens all you really need are your passport, travel documents and bank cards. Forget the “just in case” extra pair of pants or anything that you don’t need. If you’re away for two weeks, pack for one. You will be thanking yourself once you hit the road.

7. Instead of booking a hotel, rent a villa or an apartment

It will save you loads of money and give you more space, freedom and privacy than a hotel. I would recommend Airbnb, but there are plenty of other websites you can search. You can have your own pool and garden and choose your views and location. It’s a great option if you take your family with you or if you’re travelling in a group. If you're nervous about taking the Airbnb plunge, read my beginner's guide.

8. Avoid accommodation in the middle of tourist-heavy city centres

Always book your accommodation outside the city centre. You’ll see that it’s less expensive. Bonus; It is a good way to discover other interesting districts whilst avoiding crowds as well as living at local prices. Check public transportation, in most big cities you should be able to reach the touristic attraction within 30 minutes on bus, train or subway.

9. Register online for attractions, museums and galleries

If you already know where you’re heading, register with the places you want to see beforehand. Add them on social media and sign up for email bulletins and you’ll end up knowing all the special offers. Bonus, booking beforehand will let you skip the lines.

10. Register with official city websites

Register on the official visitor’s website of the city and you’ll have plenty of useful information, up-to-date news about events as well as free things to do and see. Almost every major city has an official website and it’s definitely worth registering. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, too.

11. A lot of theme parks are cheaper at specific times

You are looking for a few hours of fun in a theme park or in a water park? The entrance fee is often less if you go after lunch or in the late afternoon.

12. Use major supermarkets for day-to-day shopping

Even though cutesy morning markets in little towns are lovely to wander around and buy what you cannot find anywhere else, they’re often surprisingly expensive. For essential day-to-day shopping, use larger supermarkets. Avoid town mini-marts, they can charge up to twice as much. If you are in a resort never use resort supermarkets.

13. Don't go to restaurants near major attractions

It’s never a good idea to eat in restaurants near major tourist attractions. However, you don’t need to avoid restaurants in historic city centres altogether, just walk a couple of streets away from the major attractions in the city centre, like famous plazas, and the prices fall by almost half. 

14. Compare prices for public transport tickets and city passes

Some city passes are awesome! Some city passes include transport and free entry to the city’s biggest attractions. Do a little research and you’ll able to find great deals. However, some passes are just overpriced “Transport Cards”. You really need to do your homework. Look at the cost of local transport, think about what you’d really use and compare that to the cost of a City Card.

15. Avoid travelling during the school holidays

If you’re are not tied to public holidays, avoid them. Accommodation and flight prices are lower for late-season skiing, spring beach holidays and autumn city breaks. If you have kids take your holiday in October instead of August. Technically, it’s off-season in Europe but the weather can still be great in many Southern countries. Everything will cost less and you’ll save a lot of money.

Picture of Andy

Posted by Andy
on 21st February 2020 and
updated on 26th February 2021

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