So, you’ve got your ticket booked, your bags are packed and you’ve said your goodbyes. You’re finally off! However, you’re hardly Richie Rich; there’s going to have to be some serious economising while you’re abroad. Can it be done without looking cheap? Absolutely; here’s how it’s done.
Make lunch the new dinner: You must be aware that restaurants jack up their dinner prices, and you can save loads if you make lunch your main meal of the day? The prix fixe menu (that’s fixed price menu, naturellement) is a fraction of the price of dinner menus. For dinner, just get a wrap or some soup, and fill your boots at breakfast the following morning.
Learn the language: Trust us - nothing looks classier than arriving in a place knowing a bit of the local lingo. Not only will you endear yourself to people, but you’ll also be able to find accommodation online or in newspaper advertisements that are not catered to rich tourists, and you can avoid the ‘English-speaking tax’; that’s when prices get pushed up when people (rightly) assume you’re a tourist.
Swap hotels for hostels: Obviously you can splurge on a hotel once in a while, but if you’re doing a lot of sightseeing/partying, it’s not worth booking a hotel room - you won’t see it enough to reap the benefit.
Seek out alternative neighbourhoods: Cheaper accommodation and food can be found in ‘ethnic’ neighbourhoods in the US, Canada and Europe. You may have a longer journey to get to the city centre but you’ll save loads. Groceries are much cheaper at multicultural neighbourhoods; for example, a Turkish market in Germany will sell the same food for much less than a regular German store will.
Be smart with your money: Making your dollars work for you shouldn’t be hard; it just needs a bit of research. First, get an international debit/credit card that doesn’t charge (or pays you back) for all ATM fees, like Charles Schwab. From there, try to only use ATM machines that offer withdrawals in your account’s local currency and then, go to a bank or exchange place (in your current location) to convert money to local currency to get a much better exchange rate.
Shop at supermarkets: From underwear and flip flops to medicine and sunglasses, you’re unlikely to bag a better bargain at a local supermarket. They’re also a ridiculously cheap way to eat; if it’s really sunny outside, you don’t want to be stuck in a stuffy restaurant! You want to be in the open air with your mates, chomping on a baguette with some cheese. Don’t forget to stock up on snacks like bread rolls and fruit for breakfast.
Find free attractions and ignore most of the ‘must sees’: There are almost certainly likely to be thousands of these in every place you visit. Find them by walking around - you’ll almost certainly discover some hidden gems - and do your research before you arrive so you know which attractions to focus on. Obviously there are some tourist spots that you can’t miss, but as a rule, give the big crowd-pleasers a miss. There'll be thousands of people getting in your way, you’ll pay through the nose for the privilege and you’ll get suckered into buying rubbish in the gift shop.
Slash your boozing: Not only is drinking a fine way to forget all of the experiences you’ll be having, it’s also pretty dangerous in a place you don’t know very well - and it’s expensive, too. Plus, a day’s sightseeing can be ruined if you’ve got a killer hangover. Our advice? If you can be disciplined, stick to soda water and try to enjoy the evening without inebriation.
Find public transport deals: Rather than buying a new travelcard every day, speak to station staff about getting a three-day, five-day or week-long travelcard. It’s much cheaper and it saves you having to worry about getting a new ticket every day. It’s also worth chatting to people in your hostel or you meet out and out; they may have some local knowledge you’ll be able to use.