My first featured guest post comes from my friend Pablo who recently spent some time backpacking in southern Mexico.This post is full of great tips for saving money while on the road, something that’s just as important as saving money before your trip. Check it out and don’t forget to visit his blog at Where’s Pablo?
“There’s no covering up the fact that money can go fast while traveling. As we travel through different cities, countries and continents it’s easy to quickly make a reason as to why we need certain things. Even if it isn’t souvenirs that we’re looking to buy, spending money on drinks and food is just as easy. “We’re traveling, live it up while we’re here!”
San Blas, Mexico
As much as we want to embrace this idea, it’s the quickest way to having no spending money or forcing a long-term trip to come to an end too soon. Having been there myself and forced to slow down, I’ve been able to come up with some ways to have an amazing time while cutting back on the expenses.
1. Allocate money per day – Now this might be a no-brainer, but there are ways to take this more serious. First, don’t keep your credit cards with you. This makes it incredibly easy to pay for something then say, “I just won’t spend as much tomorrow.”
Instead, every week or few days withdraw a specified amount from the ATM. Once you do this, split that amount you withdrew into a daily allowance. At the beginning of each day, leave the card behind and only take the cash with you. This way even if you want to spend more, you can’t.
Side note – For safety and to avoid having all of your cash stolen, separate your money. When I travel I’ll usually have the money split between a couple of different pockets, my shoe/sock and an empty tube of chap stick.
2. Stop eating food from back home – After being on the road for some time we begin craving common foods from back home. For me, it’s cheeseburgers and pizza. The majority of the time, buying these foods on the road means spending more money. Try to hold off and wait until you get back. It’ll be that much better, I promise.
Instead, keep things local. Find out what the people in the area eat. Most likely, people who live where you are traveling are eating at inexpensive and delicious spots. Eat where the locals eat, keep it cheap, and be surprised. Last summer, I came across a local dish to a town in Nicaragua. I had a meal and drink for $1.75. I arrived back at the hostel to find out that some guys that I backpacked with spent around $10 for their meal. What did they have? Pizza and imported beer!
Street tacos from Merida, Mexico. They’re as tasty as they look!
Side note – If it’s a long trip, sometimes paying extra for a taste of home is worth it, just keep it under control.
3. Travel as the locals travel – Take the subway. Go on the bus. Walk. Depending on where you are this can be fairly easy or rather difficult. In major cities I tend to have an easy time. So many people use the bus or subway system that it’s no problem. Follow the crowd, read the routes and avoid taxis.
It tends to be in 3rd world countries where I struggle with this. Recently when I was in Mexico, I spent $20 on a nice bus to go to a different city that was about 5 hours away. It sounded cheap, I could afford it and didn’t think much of it. Later I found out that had I looked into it more I could have spent $12 to ride on a less comfy and more budget friendly bus. It would take longer, but was extremely rare for even backpackers to ride along. It would have been a more unique experience and I would have saved $16 round-trip. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but over time, the little things add up.
4. Volunteer and learn something new – This one is huge and something I did the entire time on my recent trip. Volunteer at the cities you wish to explore. Check out WWOOFing or Workaway for various opportunities. At the very least you should be able to find a bed to sleep in as you volunteer for 4-8 hours a day. Depending on where you are, sometimes you’ll find a place that offers a bed, 3 meals and a daily allowance.
Sure you may have to work, but that will be a new experience in and of itself. Volunteering cuts out the expense of paying for a place to stay and often for food throughout the day. This will let you extend your trip, save money, and have a more intimate experience with a new place.
Workaway site. Lorient, France
5. Ask questions and look for deals – Always be curious and ask around. If I’m eating breakfast somewhere I ask the waiter where they would personally go out to dinner and why. When I go out for dinner I’ll ask where to go for the next day’s breakfast or lunch.
This applies to everything. I’m always asking about things that I’m looking to do in the future. I’ve found local companies to take me on a guided hike for less than the more touristy companies. I’ve found hostels that offer a bed, breakfast and multiple drinks for less than the other local hostels by interacting with other travelers and workers at hostels.
Always be curious and be willing to engage with the travelers you encounter. You never know what they can help you with or what it might lead to.
What it all comes down to
We travel to have new experiences. It can be going to a resort for a week or backpacking for months on end. Either way, we’re looking to get away from the usual routine of things. Be open to experiencing new customs and ways of life. Sticking with what we’re accustomed can be our greatest expense.”
Taking in the beautiful view of Tulum, Mexico
About the Author
Pablo Guzman is an avid adventure travel blogger and photographer from Colorado.
Talk to him on twitter and follow his adventures at wherespablo.com as he keeps himself busy by drinking beer and saying yes to anything that would make for a good story.