You dream of seeing the world: taking in the view of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, riding an elephant through the jungles of Thailand, enjoying the festivities of Carnival in Rio. There’s just one problem: Your budget simply doesn’t allow for much wanderlust.
While a lack of funds may prevent you from booking the penthouse suite at the swankiest hotel in the city, with some research and a willingness to be flexible, you can travel almost anywhere for about $25 per day. That doesn’t include the cost for your lodging (in most cases) and transportation to your destination and back, but you should be able to have a great time in just about any city on less than $30 a day for food and entertainment.
Not convinced? Try some of these experienced traveler tips.
Choose Your Destination Wisely
First things first: There are some places where you will be hard-pressed to spend less than $25 per day. Theme parks, for example, will blow your budget quickly, even if you bring in your food and refuse to buy souvenirs. Some destinations, though, are perfect for the budget traveler. Countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Peru offer the ideal combination of affordable lodging and food with an array of activities that won’t drain your savings. Spending the day on the beach, hiking or exploring the outdoor marketplaces can keep you busy and give you a true taste of the culture.
Avoid the Tourist Centers
If you’re trying to save cash, stay away from tourist traps. That may mean walking a few blocks away from a popular attraction to eat at a café that doesn’t overcharge or staying in a hotel on the outskirts of the city and using public transportation to score a lower rate on your hotel stay.
Use Smart Transportation
Sure, you can find great deals on rental cars, but when you account for fuel and toll charges, the cost of having your own set of wheels goes up exponentially. To save cash and stay under $25 a day, use public transportation or walk. Look into visitor passes for the bus or subway; in some cities, purchasing a multi-day pass for unlimited rides on public transportation can save you a lot of money. Or consider using a public bicycle. Some cities have developed shared bicycle schemes in which you can borrow a bicycle from a central location to use for a specified amount of time. Not only will you get where you need to be, you can explore the city from a new point of view for not very much money.
Food is often the culprit when it comes to bursting your vacation budget. A splurge on room service here, a $3 bottle of water there, followed by a decadent dinner in a hot restaurant — it all adds up. If you’re on a strict budget, you have to watch how much money you eat. Try to stay in a hotel that offers free breakfast; you can fuel up for a day of sightseeing without spending a fortune. Stop at a store and pick up some snacks to carry with you, so you don’t overspend on a snack when you’re starving.
And make lunch your biggest meal of the day. Many restaurants offer similar menus at lunch and dinner, but the prices at lunch are lower. If that’s still too much money, don’t be afraid to try street food. Purchasing your meals from street vendors not only saves money, it lets you experience authentic flavors and even try things you may not have otherwise if you stuck to your hotel restaurant.
So your trip won’t be complete unless you visit a certain attraction — but the admission cost will put a dent in your budget. All is not lost, if you can be creative. Most museums offer free or discounted admission on certain days; for example, the Louvre in Paris does not charge admission on the first Sunday of each month. If you can plan your itinerary around these times, you’ll get your “must-see” attractions in without overspending. If free admission isn’t possible, look for discounts. You may qualify based on your profession or your membership in a particular organization, or you may get a better rate by purchasing a ticket in advance. By taking advantage of deals and specials, you can still have the experience you’ve dreamed of without the high cost.
When you’re traveling on a strict budget, you want to pinch every penny you can. However, allow for the occasional splurge — save money where you can, so when there’s an experience you simply can’t pass up, you’ll have the money to pay for it.