I’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively — but not always cheaply. So follow my tips for ways to save money, so you avoid making the same mistakes I did!
I remember before jetting off for a six-month gap year in South America foolishly following my mother’s advice to buy the biggest backpack I could. I ended up splurging on a 90-litre monster that was taller than I was.
Big mistake. I had loads of mates who could have loaned me their broken-in bags for free. And this bag was so enormous, I had to catch taxis everywhere. I won’t even tell you what the overweight baggage surcharges amounted to.
Lesson learned: pack light.
Swap and Scavenge, Don’t Buy
We all love a good read on a long holiday, but a couple of visits to the local equivalent of Kinokuniya will quickly eat into your wallet. Instead, seek out second-hand bookstores, pick up books from hostel lending libraries, and swap great reads with fellow travellers.
Weird Local Discounts are Your Friend
Did you know you can get into Paris’ national museums for free every Sunday? Oui! Or that last summer, a Romanian city offered free bus fares to any passenger reading a book?
The point being that every city has its own unique discounts and deals, whether it be the local version of Ladies’ Night, or generous discounts for students. Keep your eyes peeled.
The Power of Your Blog
Finally, being a digital addict pays off! More and more travellers are finding that they already own a platform that opens doors to freebies: their blog or Instagram account. If you boast a healthy number of followers and a handy camera habit, nothing is stopping you from sending a link to the hotel you’re thinking of staying at, and asking if they do media or blogger discounts — in return for an article or shoutout. #Winning
Pick Up Some Culture — Sneakily
As I wound my way through Florence this summer, I cursed the fact I’d booked a stay in high season. But the heaving crowds of tour groups offered me a blessing: I could stand near the groups and soak up information about the city’s historic spots for free.
Ask, Ask, Ask!
The most effective way to save money is also the easiest. Make friends wherever you go, because every conversation with a stranger might lead to them saying, “You heading to the beach tomorrow too? Hitch a free ride with my pals!” That’s why hostels have a double benefit: they’re cheaper than hotels, but more importantly, are more social, thanks to their communal cooking and eating areas. And don’t just ask in person — whenever you head to a new city, broadcast it on your social platform and pester your friends for contacts offering advice.
Travel Like Batman
By which I mean, travel at night. Got a long train journey ahead? Do it in the evening and you sleep on the rails. Hey presto, you’ve saved a night’s worth of accommodation cost. Equally, it’s well-known that the so-called ‘red-eye’ flight, the first of the day, is often the cheapest. So travel early — and sleep later!
“Have you ever been to Santiago before?” asked my cheery Chilean taxi driver. “Nope!” I trilled, innocently — thereby broadcasting that I didn’t really know what a ten-block ride should cost. So he tripled the price. So yeah, if cabbies ask: tell them it’s your third visit this year.
About Keith Lim
Keith is on the FRANK team at OCBC. He enjoys taking long walks, watching movies in bed, and instagramming every now and then. You can find him @fivefreeminutes.