Money saving tips to make your trip last longer
One thing I say to anyone who is thinking about doing a round the world trip is just do it. Book it, commit to it, pick a date, and make the dream a reality. Worry about the details later. But often the biggest detail is money- just how do you afford to be on the road for so long?
Below is the first five of ten money saving trips to make your trip last longer. Some you need to work out before you go, some you can use on the road, and some might not apply to your situation, but keep in mind that you can always find ways to stretch out your trip without necessarily having more money.
1. Cheaper Countries, Smaller Towns
If you travel to cheaper countries, your cash will go further. It’s fairly simple right? Well, no. Countries where it is cheaper to travel aren’t always cheap- just ask anyone who’s burned through their cash in Rio or Buenos Aires quicker than they thought.
What to do: A nice little trick is to stay off the beaten path. Head outside of the city centers to smaller, less touristy towns and watch the prices of beds, booze and eats go down.
2. Currency Conversion 101
Currencies fluctuate up and down each month, and while sometimes this can be in your favor, meaning you’ll get more dollars for your pounds, it can also mean the opposite- that you won’t get as much bang from your buck. A year ago, that naughty Aussie dollar bought you 1.80- nowadays it will get you a 1.65.
Best to: Keep an eye on fluctuations and change up your cash when the pound is strong
3. Getting Cash
How you change your money is just as important as when you change it. Change it at the airports and most of the time you’ll get a crap exchange rate, a pay a hefty fee or a nasty commission. Change it on the street and you'll be ripped off. Pull it out of the ATM and you might get a fat ATM charge. One guy I met got charged £10 each time he used an overseas ATM- a greedy bite out of his funds
Solution: Do some research at home and try to find a bank that has an ATM card that doesn’t charge big fees for overseas withdrawals OR has an agreement with banks based overseas.
4. Pre-Pay your Holiday... if you can
On my first RTW I arrived in Africa broke after six months. Luckily, one of the best things I did before I left was booked and paid for a 9 week overlanding safari from Cape Town to Kenya before I left. There was a local payment I had to make in cash to the guide, but I had bought antiquated travellers cheques for this amount before I left that stayed down the bottom of my backpack for the first part of my trip. This kept my trip going another three months- without it I would have drunk my way through the money instead.
The warning: Expensive volunteer work is the one thing I wouldn’t prepay for. Some volunteer projects are overpriced and you can easily find smaller grassroots projects to work on while on the road with ease in Africa, South America and Asia.
5. Slave Labour
Volunteer work is a cheap and cheerful way to make your budget go further. A lot of the bigger hostels throughout the world have deals where you work at the hostel in return for accommodation, maybe one meal and occasionally booze. It's not great money, in fact it isn't money at all, but it’s a great way to meet people, save pennies and stretch your trip out.
But: prepare thy liver. Working in a hostel can mean partying VERY hard- and often what you think you’ll save on accommodation you’ll end up spending on booze
6: Write it Down
For one week on the road, try to keep a list of what you spend each day, from that random bottle of water to what you shouted your new friends on booze. Keeping a diary of expenses lets you look at where your cash is going, where your weaknesses are, and where you can cut back.
Only for the brave: if you really want to spook yourself, you can work an average of how much you are spending each day, and divide that what’s left of your travel funds by that number.
7. Use your Skills
Some of the most intrepid people I’ve met travelling used their skills on the road. I once saw a hairdresser make a few hundred pounds cutting hair after putting up a sign at my hostel in Jeffrey’s Bay. She was so popular, she ended up taking appointments. But there are other ways I’ve seen people do it- selling jewellery, drawing portraits, even one guy helping people do their tax online!
A word of warning: Try to avoid anything that might be illegal, and keep in mind there may not be a market for your kind of special skill.
8. Get Dirty, Get Clean
One of the biggest unexpected money drainers for travellers on an extended RTW is laundry. Don’t be surprised if you get a whopping £10 bill for each backpack load of smelly clothes. Over a year, that’s the equivalent of a month’s accommodation- and a lot of left over beer money- while you’re on the road. Instead, wash your own. Before you go, head to Tesco’s and grab a bar of laundry soap, pick up a travel washing line from a specialist travel shop, and scrub your shirts in the sink.
However: some stains and smells still need a proper machine wash. Be prepared every few months to do a load to give your clothes that fresh feeling.
9. Grab yourself an egg and beat it
Forget eating out- eat standing up. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll find an ample supply of tasty and cheap street food from samosas in India to hot dogs in New York. I’ve stood on the Ko San Road and watched a restaurant sneakily buy pad Thai off a street vendor, before sticking it on a plate and feeding it to tourists for five times the price, so keep in mind it’s almost always cheaper to eat standing up. The other way to slash what you spend on food is to stay in a hostel with a kitchen and cook your own. Most hostels have a shared food shelf where people leave leftover ingredients, which can also halve your grocery bill. And if your hostel offers you a free breakfast: make sure you’re out of bed in time to eat it.
The Caveat: Know thy own stomach capabilities and be picky about where you eat and who you buy your food from. Watch the food being cooked, eat where the locals are eating and if you know something is going to make you sick, don’t eat it.
10. Ground Force
Your RTW ticket is expertly planned and all paid for, but another unexpected money drainer is how much money you’re going to blow getting around on the ground from It-town A to Must-See B. You might want to see everything, but those three and four hour bus rides between towns drain time and funds. The simple solution is to spend longer in few places. You’ll get to know a place better, meet more people, and save money and time.
Take heart: you won’t be missing out; you’ll just have a more in-depth experience.