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Couch-surf, hitch-hike and busk... what you ought to do when travelling on a budget


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There are many different forms of travelling and each entail a different budget.  Some people stay in luxurious hotels, some people take a train from city to city and hostel to hostel, and some people hit the road with no money at all, hoping to hear some interesting stories.    

Whichever stereotype you will undoubtedly assign yourself, read on and pick up some tips from a traveller who never begins her travels outside her overdraft.

1. Cheap flight deals

When you’re booking your holidays you don’t want to limit your search time to a day and miss all the deals that are released the day after.  Ryanair is known for releasing flights as cheap as £5 on dates like New Year or Boxing Day.  Have a good browse for your ideal travel a few months before you departure date and catch the best deal!  Also, remember not to bind yourself to your nearest airport, MegaBus can get you around the country for as little as a £1 so you aren’t limited to your local airports finite list of destinations. 

2. Hitchhiking: Make an adventure out of the travel

Transportation is one of the most expensive parts of travel, first you pay to arrive at your destination, then you pay to explore your destination, then you pay to travel to your next destination.  Why not make your travel an adventure as well?  Hitchhiking is the perfect way to do this!  You will meet exciting new people, exchange stories and travel for free.  There are some key points to remember when hitchhiking. Use your common sense, use roads out of the cities, be patient, be happy (no one is going to pick up a miserable traveller), enjoy it and don’t forget your thumb. 

3. Couch-surfing

Now, accommodation is the other real money burner.  Most people travelling on a budget would presume I am about to suggest staying in hostels.  Fair, that is sometimes cheap but in some cities it is actually just as expensive as hotels, especially when you are booking a few nights before arrival. 

Couchsurfing is a website that allows you to create a profile, organise to host people in your home and request to be hosted by others whilst you are on your travels.  I have couch-surfed four times and would recommend. The hosts are always enthusiastic to show you around their hometown, suggest all the best local places to eat and visit and will give you a more authentic and genuine experience of the place than a hotel tour would.  

4. Water bottle freak and park hooligan

Whether you are hiking through a desert or a city you will always need a water bottle. Take it everywhere and never waste money on £3 coffees or teas! Alcoholic beverages really gnaw a hole in your purse. 

Stay away from pubs and bars, buy some drinks from the local shop and drink in a park or at the beach. This way you will see more of the city and spend much less.  Don’t get me wrong, check out the old pub here and there, just don’t make it a frequent visit. 


5. Pack or buy local food and cook it yourself

Don’t eat out every night!  A huge mistake a lot of travellers make is presuming that you don’t cook when you travel. Pack some dry food or buy some from the local shop!  Use the hostel or offer to cook your couch-surfer host some dinner.  You’ll have some bonding time this way and you’ll understand the local food much more if you have a go at cooking it yourself!

6. A few extra sachets here and there

Packing food is all very well but you probably won’t pack a butter dish, ketchup, hot sauce, a salt shaker, a pepper grinder or some sugar cubes.  A way to make your homemade food more interesting is by taking a few extra condiments and sachets whilst you are dining out.


 7. Research research research

Research is key.  You don’t want to discover when you have made all of these adjustments that none of it makes any difference because you are in the only hostel, or couchsurfer’s home, 25km from the city centre.  Make sure you take location within your location into account.  If there are specific museums, galleries, monuments that you would like to visit then try to find accommodation nearby or be prepared to walk very far every day as public transport is not always so cheap.  If you do plan on treating yourself and eating out then google the local places, read the reviews and attempt to find the non-tourist traps so you can have a memorable, locally sourced, interesting meal for a non-extortionate price.

 8. Plan ahead

If you are one of those travellers with a list of all the sights you must hit in your three days in each city then you need to have your deal-hunting hat on at all times!  Landmarks, galleries, museums etc. can be extortionate and fully booked when you arrive.  Check out the websites so you know if you have to book something in advance or what day to turn up on to catch the student deal.

 9. Busking

Many of you will scoff at this suggestion.  I know not everyone is musically talented but that’s the sweet thing about busking, people are always walking past!  They will never discover that you only know four songs and four chords.  Take a guitar or a ukulele and belt out some tunes.  Remember to put up a sign in the local language explaining your story, it provides a personal touch, and you’re good to go.  Don’t expect busking to bring in much money but it will provide you with a few pennies to get you through the day or some extra spending money for the night.  

 10. Free events

There are always free events to find and most often they turn out to be the most enjoyable.  Everyone wants their art to be seen or heard, look for the ones that aren’t paid yet.  One of my most enjoyable nights whilst travelling in New York was seeing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra perform in Central Park for free.  Talk to the locals, actually read the posters and flyers, they could be freebies. 

Use your common sense, make friends with strangers, enjoy yourself and you will be a seasoned budget traveller in no time!

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