Frugal Traveling – Top Ways to Save Money Abroad

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Saving money abroad is something that every traveler can aspire to – no matter what your budget. Thankfully, there are lots of smart ways to save money abroad – all of which can be done without surrendering safety, enjoyment and comfort.


When you’re on the road, almost all goods and services are fair-game for haggling (depending on which country you’re in, of course). In street markets all around the world haggling is accepted, and there are a few ways in which you can get ahead here.

Firstly, stay patient at all times and act slightly aloof. In the art of all negotiations, the person who ‘wants it’ the least (or at least appears to ‘want it the least’) has more power than the other person, so act like you’re prepared to walk away at anytime.

Remember also, however, that when haggling with street vendors the aim isn’t to punish them into submission to prove your superiority – it’s to come to a deal that you’re both happy with.

The Haggling Scene from Monty PythonThis is one of the cornerstones of frugal traveling, and is something that should be embraced. Check out this article for more tips on haggling.

In addition to haggling for items in the market, if you’re staying in the same accommodation for longer than a few days you could try negotiating a discounted rate when you arrive. When you’re checking, let them know that you’re going to be staying there for a few weeks (or however long you plan on staying) as they’re more likely to give you a cheaper rate if you’re staying there for a considerable length of time.

This is a great way to save money while traveling (that most people don’t ever think of) as accommodation is usually one of the biggest (if not the biggest) expenses for travelers.

In addition to this, if (upon arriving) you see that the accommodation you’re checking into appears to be reasonably empty (or if you know that you’re there during the ‘off’ season) than it’s worth asking for a discount anyway (no-matter how long you’re staying), as it’s likely they’ll be more than glad just to fill the rooms.

Buying Souvenirs

Fake Designer BagsSomething you’ll notice if you travel around a lot is that each country seems to have their own set of unique souvenirs. Souvenirs are a nice thing to buy – either for yourself as a memento or for others as presents – but before doing so allow yourself as long as possible to become accustomed to the various prices, so that you can find out where the cheapest items are sold and how much something ‘should’ cost.

Too often I’ve seen people coming into a new country and buying souvenirs straight away (and getting ripped off as a result). Don’t let it happen to you! The frugal traveler bides his time and waits for the right opportunity.

Exchanging Money

One of the simplest ways to save money when traveling is to get your money changed over at the places that give you the best exchange rate (and charge the lowest commission). Typically, banks are the best places for withdrawing money abroad, with hotels being the second best (but some way behind banks). Avoid changing money over at border posts, airports and tourist traps if at all possible.

Additionally, when withdrawing money abroad, don’t change too much money over if you’re going to be leaving the country in just a few days. Work out how much you’re going to be spending in that time (based on your previous daily spend and what you plan to do) and then add on a small amount for contingencies (and other items such as airport tax).

ATM MachineAlthough you can always change this money back when you get home, you’ll never get back as much as you changed over. Because of this, it’s best to get your traveler’s checks (if indeed you are using traveler’s checks) made up into smaller amounts.

Lastly, make sure to keep your receipts when changing money over, as most travel agents (particularly at home) will allow you to change any un-spent money back over for zero commission if you have the original receipt.

Going Out For a Drink

Frugal traveling is often about location and timing. By this I mean that certain places will naturally be more expensive than others because of where they’re located, and the time of day/week/year that you go there will also affect the prices (with peak times naturally being the most expensive).

When going out for a drink in the evening, the bars that will charge the most for drinks are the ones directly on the beach or the ones that are in the prime locations. Bars that are down side-street and away from the beach are your best bet if you’re looking for a cheap drink.

While this might not be one of the more creative ways to save money, it is certainly one of the most effective.

Keeping in Touch with Home

If you need to phone your family or friends back home, it’s far cheaper to do so from a local pay phone or from a the local post office (if they have a phone) than to call from your hotel, as they often charge extortionate rates.

This tip essentially sums up frugal traveling – as by going slightly out of your way (and forgoing immediate convenience) you can save a lot of money.

Airport Taxes

Whenever you’re flying out of a foreign country, always remember to find out whether you’ll have to pay any airport (and how much it’ll cost you).

You’ll need the correct amount of local currency; otherwise you’ll risk missing your flight (as you struggle to find an ATM to withdraw money out).

Cash machines at airports seem to conveniently only let you withdraw much larger amounts than you’d need to pay the airport tax, so if you rely on them you’ll often be left with (wasted) money left over.

Overbooked Flights

It is well known that airlines often oversell flights (meaning they sell plane tickets to more people than they have space for). The idea here is that a few people won’t turn up/will miss their flight, so the airline earns more money.

Occasionally, as you would expect, everyone does turn up and the a few people can’t travel on that particular flight. In this case, the airline will often ask people whether they want to forfeit their place and wait until the next flight (which might be the next day). As a reward for doing this, they’ll typically offer you free accommodation for the night and travel vouchers for your troubles.

“How much are the travel vouchers worth?” I hear you ask… I’ve been offered $800 before.

For the frugal traveler this can be a great way to extend your travels.

Although this isn’t something that you can plan for, it certainly is something that you should be aware of, and something that can help to fund your trip massively (providing you’re flexible enough to adjust).

Related posts:

  1. How to Save Money for Your Round the World Trip
  2. Cash, Credit Cards or Traveler’s Checks – A Guide to Handling Money Abroad
  3. How Much Money Should I Take On My Trip?
  4. How to Haggle Like a Local (and Other Money Tips)

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