10 tips for travelling on a budget

I used to be under the assumption that travelling was something I could not afford. Fulfilling my dreams of visiting every continent in the world could not be possible on a student budget. I’ll just have to wait until I’m 67 years old and dip into my retirement fund to be able to afford plane tickets.

WRONG.

Over my few short years of galavanting around the globe, I’ve learnt a lot from travelling, especially when it comes to travelling on a budget.

1. Be flexible with flight dates

Being flexible with your flight dates can save you a tonne of money. A number of flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner and Google Flights have an option where you can select an entire month, rather than two particular departure and return dates. This shows you the individual prices for flights each day. And yes, some are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than others. This tip could literally save you hundreds on flight prices!

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2. Buy your own travel insurance

This is a mistake I have made many times. I’ve opted to book my holidays through a travel agent and agreed to use their travel insurance company, not realising it would cost me around $200-$300. BIG NO NO. Travel insurance can be as little as $40 for an overseas trip depending on the type of cover you need. By using a site such as Compare the Market, you can find travel insurance to suit your requirements and save your coins.

3. Don’t be afraid to stay in a hostel

I must admit, I was one of those people who were apprehensive about staying in a hostel. After all, dormitory style accommodation just isn’t my thing. But seriously, they are So. Damn. Cheap. For as little as $20 a night (depending on the country of course), you have a bed to sleep on, free wifi and sometimes the inclusion of 3 meals per day. Plus, hostels are the number one place to meet travel companions if you’re backpacking solo.

If dorms still aren’t your top accommodation choice, opt to stay in a private room at a hostel. You’ll have your own bedroom and bathroom, and will still save money on accommodation costs.

HostelWorld is a fantastic website for finding cheap accommodation. The site allows you to pick and compare hostels and provides thousands of reviews from other travellers, ensuring you find accommodation to suit your needs.

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4. Save on snacks

Rather than eating out at expensive restaurants everytime you get peckish on your day trips, grab some snacks from a local supermarket. Stock up on nuts, fruit or biscuits that you can easily throw in your day bag or backpack and save your coins.

5. Don’t forget the tourist tax refunds

Some countries have tourist tax refund schemes for purchases you make whilst abroad. You can claim a refund on some (or even all) of the tax you pay on retail goods. Make sure you hold onto your receipts as proof of purchase is generally a requirement. You may also need to fill out some paperwork, but that’s not so bad considering the refunds you gain from your purchases.

6. Have fun for free

Numerous cities around the world offer free walking tours where you can see some of the best tourist sites and learn the history behind them. Sightseeing and hiking are also fun options that won’t cost you a dime. As tourist areas have a tendency to be far more expensive, chat to some locals about areas you should check out. Not only will you save money, but you also get the chance to see some hidden places you had no idea existed.

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7. Reward programs

Numerous airlines have reward programs for frequent flyers where you can work your way up to a free plane ticket. Even if you don’t fly often, these reward programs are free so you have nothing to lose by signing up. If one day you happen to earn enough points, you may just get a flight for free.

8. Do as the locals do

I recently received this advice whilst travelling in Fiji. Upon asking the hostel owner how to get into Nandi Town he told me, “do as the locals do.” Next thing I know I was out on the side of the road waving down buses. Rather than spending all your money on a taxis, opt for a bus. This simple tip saved me So. Much. Money. I’d rather pay 70 cents for a bus fare than $15 for a taxi any day.

9. Beware of pricey exchange rates

Comparing exchange rates before trading your dollars can save you a lot of money. Check out rates at banks, currency exchange services and airports before you exchange. Remember, exchange rates fluctuate every day so make sure to keep a close eye on it before your trip abroad. Exchanging at the right time ensures you don’t lose too much of those precious dollars.

The site Currency Shop allows you to search and compare exchange rates across numerous currency exchange services across Australia. It is free to use and is super helpful in choosing the perfect place to buy foreign currency.

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10. Pack less

Avoid the additional luggage costs by staying well under the baggage weight restrictions. By packing less on the way over, you’ll have extra weight to play with on the way home. If you are only heading overseas for a short time, ditch the checked bag completely. Flying with just carry on means you don’t pay for luggage at all (just make sure it’s not over 7kgs to avoid those fees).

I hope these 10 tips help you save money on your next trip overseas. If you have any tips for budget travel that you’d like to share let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,
Jetsetter Soph

5 Things I Learnt After Travelling to the Philippines

I’ve been to my fair share of tropical islands in my travels. Hawaii, New Caledonia, Vanuatu… But I had never been to a south-east Asian country, let alone to a place that spoke a language other than English. Travelling to the Philippines was a real eye-opener to me and a cultural experience that I will never forget.

I learnt a few things during my travels that I believe are extremely beneficial to anyone wanting to take a trip into Filipino territory.

  1. Everything in the Philippines is cheap as chips

Considering the Philippines is a third-world country, it makes sense that everything is dirt cheap. When travelling over to Manila I greatly over-estimated how much spending money I would need. I literally came back to Australia with more than half of the money I took with me. Everything is So. Damn. Cheap.

If a 3-course meal for less than $20 sounds like your kind of thing, then you need to visit the Philippines. You can get a feast for as little as 150 Pesos, the equivalent of $4 AUD. Generally meals at restaurants will set you back a maximum of $15 but if fast food is more your thing, be prepared to find the smallest coins in your wallet.

In terms of public transport, I probably wouldn’t recommend using anything except for Uber due to the fact that safety just isn’t a thing in the Philippines. However the cheapest form of transport is the infamous and eye-catching Jeepneys. A Jeepney is a small bus shaped vehicle with open windows and doors. A ride on one of these things will literally set you back 7 Australian cents.

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2. You will develop a deep hatred for rice

Every meal in the Philippines comes with rice. And if you’re not originally from an Asian country, this is totally out of the ordinary. Everything you eat will come with rice without the need to ask for it. I mean every single meal. If you order fried chicken at a restaurant it is guaranteed to come with rice. Fish, with a side of rice. Pork, with a side of rice. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will all come with rice. Even a Big Mac at a Filipino McDonald’s comes with rice. You will, without a doubt, not want to see rice ever again when you return home.

3. Spend as little time as possible in Manila

Manila is a great place to see if you want to experience the over-populated, fast-paced city it is. It is a great place to go if you want to explore the Spanish architecture, some of the greatest shopping malls, and amazing food markets. But if you are after relaxation, Manila is not the place for you. The heart of Manila is absolutely packed. It is literally the most densely populated city in the world.

You do not know the definition of traffic until you’ve visited Manila. A 5km drive can take up to 3 hours in peak traffic, and that is normal for Filipino locals. Road rules also aren’t obeyed. Drivers do not pay attention to stop signs, traffic lights or lines on the road. Blinkers are not used. Instead furiously beeping the horn of your car indicates that you would like to merge lanes or turn at an intersection.

Alternatively, I suggest travelling to one of the smaller islands surrounding the Philippines. They will be less populated, slow-paced and guaranteed to provide you with the opportunity for a relaxing holiday. Boracay, Cebu, and Palawan are absolutely gorgeous. These islands are most suitable for tourists with lots of activities and site seeing locations. If picturesque, tropical islands are more your style, definitely check out these popular destinations.

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4. Don’t travel to the Philippines in July

July is literally the hottest month of the year for the Philippines. The minimum temperature each day is 30 degrees coupled with a guaranteed 100% humidity. Being the wet season, most days involve pouring rain and thunderstorms. However this does not mean the heat drops. If you do happen to visit the Philippines in July, be prepared to be dripping in sweat each and every day. Changing your shirt a few times a day is necessary if you happen to spend a lot of time outdoors, because it will end up soaked with perspiration. The sun is also guaranteed to give you a mighty fine burn if you do forget to apply sunscreen. Coming home as a lobster rather than having a slight tan isn’t exactly the best look.

5. You MUST try a traditional Filipino feast

If you have visited the Philippines and haven’t had a feast where you are required to eat with your hands, you are doing it wrong. I’m taking about a huge table covered with banana leaves with an entire roasted pig as the centerpiece. Of course it is customary to have rice with your meal but crab, fish, prawns, clams and sticky pork bites are also part of the banquet. Lechon (basically a giant roast pig), also known as suckling pig, is a national dish of the Philippines. It is generally prepared for special occasions and festivals and is a must-have if you travel to the Philippines.

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So there you have it, 5 things I learnt during my travels to the Philippines. Was travelling to the Philippines worth the money? Definitely. Would I go back there? 100%. Would I recommend it to a friend? Hell yes. It is definitely a travel experience I will never forget.

Have you travelled to the Philippines too? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear of your south-east Asian experiences.

Until next time,
Jetsetter Soph.