It is just as important to save money while traveling as it is to save before you leave. Every dollar you save while you travel is another dollar you’ll have at the end of your trip. There is always more to see and do!
Our Top 6 Tips to Save Money While Traveling!
1. Keep Track of Everything you Buy
We write down a list of everything we buy on our trip. Everything. I also mention this in the Managing Money article because it is so important to us. We won’t know where our money is going unless we keep track of it.
Don’t laugh, I read this same exact tip before we left and thought we’d never need to do that because we were pretty frugal people, tacaño in Spanish.
We have the tendency to buy what we’re used to, but traveling on a budget requires us to be much more careful with our money because we don’t have a steady paycheck every month. Sometimes it is really surprising to find out where our money is going!
2. Don’t Drink Your Money!
A big tip that helps us is to not spend money on drinks! It’s kind of like calories, it adds up before you know it! Try drinking water, it’s good for you and very inexpensive. Most places we visited in South America even had drinkable tap water!
My wife and I don’t drink alcohol and when we mention this to other travelers, they admit that’s where they would save a lot of money. Even just buying a soda is expensive, especially if it’s a 2-3 times a day splurge! If you’re treating yourself once a week or month watch our for the inflated restaurant prices!
3. Share a Meal
Anytime we eat at a restaurant that serves big plates we either share one or take the leftovers in a doggie bag for lunch the next day. Food is a big expense when traveling, so if we can pay half price at restaurants it really helps our budget.
It’s amazing how much food some restaurants serve, and all the time we see people leaving food on their plate as they walk away. Granted some people eat more than others and some restaurants serve smaller portions. Get an idea of the plate sizes from others in the restaurant. And hey, if you’re still hungry, just order another dish!
4. Get Some Exercise
One groundbreaking trick we use all the time is to walk instead of taking a taxi. It may sound silly but little things like this add up, especially if you’re keeping track of every penny you spend.
Obviously it doesn’t make sense to walk sometimes – if you have to go through a sketchy neighborhood at night, there’s no bus route where you’re headed, or you’re in a big hurry, etc. We try to keep taxis to a minimum and have saved quite a bit of money.
5. Take the Bus
Bus vs. Taxi in a City
Spend a little more effort to take the bus. Most often the decision is between finding a bus (or subway or train) to get around a city or taking a taxi. Buses are super cheap compared to a taxi – up to 20 times cheaper. The locals are always super helpful to show you which bus to get on, and they all know the bus routes. Before you get off, remember to ask which bus will take you back to where you got on.
Bus vs. Airplane
For some huge countries, like Chile and Argentina, the decision is between taking a bus or an airplane. These countries have tourist attractions that are really spread out and there’s sometimes thousands of miles to cover between your stops. Our advice – take the bus unless you’re in a big rush. You won’t regret it.
The scenery is beautiful, and you get a tour of the entire country, making you feel like you’ve really experienced the country. You’ll get to see the markets in little towns, llamas roaming in the fields, oxen-drawn carts, mountains and lakes galore.
We took a few long (30 hour) buses in Chile and Argentina and had a great time. First, the buses are huge double-decker Mercedes buses with comfortable reclining seats and a bathroom. Some seats even lay fully flat! The bus usually has meals included or they stop at a restaurant on the route. Some buses in Peru even had wifi!
An added bonus for buses longer than 18 hours is you don’t have to pay for a hostel since you will spend it sleeping on the bus. That really makes it a great value!
6. Find the Local Grocery Store
Of course you don’t want to cheat yourself out of experiencing the local cuisine and restaurant atmospheres, but don’t go out to eat for every meal. Cook a few meals if your hostel has a kitchen area and have snacks so you are not starving. We try to only splurge on a nice meal once a day or every other day. Often breakfast is included in the price of a hostel, so be sure to ask when comparing different ones!
There are so many different ways to save money, these are just a few of our favorites. Don’t miss the list of 8 saving tips before your big trip. We would love to hear some of your tips to save money while traveling – leave a comment below!