With travel restrictions opening up and it being easier to travel, you might be overwhelmed with how to kickstart your travel bug again! You may be worried that travel is now incredibly expensive post pandemic, but fear not! I have some travel tips for you so that you can successfully travel on a shoestring.
Of course, all travel planning starts with buying the ticket. You may think this is the most expensive part of the trip, so here are some ways you can save on ticket prices.
First of all, always check the flights in Incognito mode. Those cookies are going to track all your searches for flights otherwise and jack up the prices. I often find that using price comparison sites such as Sky Scanner, means that I get the cheapest flight possible, even cheaper than booking directly through the airline! One thing I really like about these travel comparison websites, and it’s even possible to do through Google is a price alert. Here, you input your email address, and the website will alert you any time the price goes up or down. This way you can try and get an even cheaper price. Some days of the week tend to be cheaper than others, monitor your alerts and see what works best.
Flying direct can often work out quite a fair bit more expensive than if you have any connecting flights. Whilst connecting flight might be a bit of a pain, they could save you hundreds of dollars off your tickets. If you don’t mind, and are travelling through countries with multiple cities and airports, consider connecting flights to save a bit of cash.
Here’s an idea, if you’re not sure where you want to travel to, but you still want to travel on a budget you can use comparison websites or Google to search for flights, and choose the starting location of Singapore. In the destination you can choose anywhere, and search for price lowest to highest. That way, if you’d like to try something new and exciting, you can make sure that it’s within your budget!
Do take note of travel restrictions, some countries have completely dropped all of their Covid restrictions, such as the UK. Whereas some countries, like Hong Kong or Macau, have still got very strict rules implemented. This may mean further costs for you. If you want to save on swab tests, you can choose a country that has a little bit more lenient restrictions.
Next, I want to talk about preparation. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! There are some things that you can do that will minimise your spending costs whilst you are on holiday. Of course, the most important thing is to make sure that your passport is still valid. Generally, you can only travel if you have at least six months validity left on your passport. At the moment, after the pandemic, there is quite a backlog on renewing your passport, so make sure to get this sorted quickly!
When it comes to currency, there are a couple of great hacks that I frequently use whilst travelling, to make sure that I don’t get ripped off with exchange rates. First of all, change your currency in Singapore before you leave on your travels, avoid changing your Singapore dollars in your travel destination country, as this exchange rate will not be favourable to you. Lots of currency exchanges overseas choose their own rights of exchange, and can often take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.
You may have heard people say that if you travel to anywhere in Southeast Asia or South America, you can use US dollars as your spending money. Respectively, you can use euros in any non-EU country in Europe. I would strongly discourage listening to this advice. Yes, it is easier for you to carry one currency, and you can definitely use those currencies abroad, but unless you are going to America or somewhere in the EU, other countries that use these currencies can massively rip you off. Because it is inconvenient for them to hold onto this foreign currency, the exchange rate is normally very much at a disadvantage to you, meaning that you are paying a premium just for the convenience of having one type of currency with you. In my opinion, this is not worth it. For example, when I was in Laos, I only had Thai Baht with me. It was accepted in all shops and restaurants, but when I converted back into dollars, I realised that it was a lot more economical for me if I just changed into Laos Kip instead, I saved a lot more money this way.
If you ever get stuck and have run out of cash whilst in a foreign country, it’s always a good idea to have an international bankcard to hand. Most ATMs abroad will charge you for withdrawing using a foreign bank card, so if you use your DBS card overseas, you could be charged a fortune! I use a Monzo international bankcard, it is linked to my UK bank account, but I can withdraw from any ATM overseas and will not be charged. There are similar companies that you can get a bank card from in Singapore like Revolut or Wise, these cards are so handy to have a new, and work by topping up from your main bank account. I think this is great because if you keep your bank account on these cards quite low, it’s not so risky if you lose them overseas. They also come with very useful apps that you can access with ease, meaning if you lose your card whilst on holiday, you can freeze it without having to visit a bank branch or calling an international hotline.
Speaking of hot lines, a lot of people will often buy a Sim card in the country that they are visiting, and use that for the duration of their holiday. Instead of doing this, I recommend renting a Wi-Fi box. This little portable device comes with you during your whole trip, and works almost like a little router. You can connect multiple devices to it, so if you are travelling in a group you don’t need to rent more than one! This works out to be a lot more cost-effective than everyone buying their own Sim card. And I don’t know about you, but I feel a nervy taking out my Sim card whilst I’m abroad, it would be just my luck that I would lose it!
Of course, nowadays, we need a lot more extra paperwork then we previously did when travelling. So, from my experience, I would say it’s best to have all these documents, such as your vaccine certificate to be notarised and printed out when you travel. Most airlines will except soft copies on your phone, but I always think it’s best to carry a hard copy in case your phone battery runs out or you have no signal. Generally, you will need your vaccine certificate, boarding passes, proof of travel insurance with Covid coverage, and a passenger locator form for the country you are travelling to. You may also need to print out your proof of swab tests.
My final tip for preparation is a small one, but it can actually save you some money every time you travel. I would recommend bringing with you your own travel blanket, travel towel, and travel pillow. Reason being is that you can find these things very cheap in stores such as Mustafa‘s or even value stores across Singapore. A lot of airlines will charge you for using a blanket or a pillow, especially if you’re travelling on a budget airline like I often do to save money! Some hostels that you stay at might not even provide towels and things like this, so it’s always best to have your own. This means that you don’t have to keep re-purchasing every time you go abroad.
I want to tell you ways where you can save money during the itinerary of your trip.
Instead of hotels, hostels are of course a much cheaper option, and come with the added perks of meeting new people whilst you are travelling. If you don’t like the idea of sharing a room with strangers, most hostels will have private rooms available, that are still a lot cheaper than if you were to book a hotel. Something I love about hostels is that you can generally book a lot of trips and excursions through the front desk staff. They often have tie-ups with a lot of travel companies, meaning that your trips out and about maybe a lot cheaper than if you were to go and source for these things yourself. A lot of hostels I have travelled to also put on free events for the people staying there, like parties, quizzes, free drinks at the bar and different kinds of meet up activities. Not only is this a great way to meet like-minded people, but it also means that you can have very fun cheap night out or nights in at the hostel itself! Not only that, you may also meet people at the hostel that you decide to go travelling with further, enhancing your backpacking experience and meaning that you get to meet people from all walks of life.
Hostels may also be able to organise drivers and transportation for you, but if they don’t, try and find the local version of Grab or Uber and download these apps. This generally works out to be cheaper than hailing a cab, and in some countries is a lot safer as well. For example, when I lived in Vietnam, you could hire a Xe Om, or motorbike taxi from pretty much any corner. However, as soon as they noticed you were a foreigner, they would charge you triple the price of a local, and you may not feel 100% safe. At least with Uber and Grab, the motorbike fares were at a fixed rate and you were certain of your safety.
If you’re going to be travelling to multiple locations in the same country, or even cross country, like Europe, instead of booking flights in between each location, consider getting coaches or trains. These work out to be a lot cheaper and definitely an enriching backpacking experience. I would definitely recommend if you ever get the opportunity to do so, to take an overnight train to your next location. It’s definitely a memorable experience, with beautiful views and the chance to meet and mingle with locals. When I travelled around Myanmar, I got overnight coaches to most of my destinations. Even though the journeys were sometimes 16 hours, it was incredibly cheap, the locals travelling with you were super friendly, and included food. At the time I also thought it was great value for money because it saved me booking a hostel for that night.
Now that things are starting to feel like they used to, I hope this post can inspire you on your next trip. Enjoy travelling on a shoestring! Remember, it’s about the journey, not the final destination.