Everyone likes saving money. I, for example, like saving money so much that if I want to buy something that costs over $100, I have to write a 500-word essay to myself explaining why I need to buy it, with a bibliography citing at least one French cultural theorist.
Here are five ways I save money while traveling:
1. Skip as many meals as possible.
No, actually don’t do this. Always try and keep a steady diet wherever you are. You can make use of hostel kitchens, which might not sound fun when there are tons of great restaurants outside, but hostel kitchens are great places to meet people, like hot Scandinavian blonds or hunky Australian surfer dudes. You can get talking to them and they might say they want to share your meat, as it were. Or eat street food with the locals — unless you’re in India, in which case street food is likely to give you dysentery. That’s not a joke. Or go online and find recommendations for cheap eats that you won’t keep you in the bathroom for the next 48 hours.
2. Avoid paying for flights by stowing away.
No, actually don’t do this. Seriously, don’t. You could get in trouble and be put on a no-fly list and then you’ll have to use the bus. The cheap overnight bus which lets you experience the country you’re in from the ground — all the scenery, all the crazy traffic, all the locals who bring sacks of potatoes with them as hand luggage. On second thoughts, maybe compromise and take the train. It’s often inexpensive and surprisingly comfortable. And who knows, maybe your bunk mate will be a seasoned traveller who can tell you about the time he tricked the Dalai Lama into buying a patch of desert in Arizona. Or ignore this advice and buy a plane ticket and sit behind an old lady who reclines her seat and next to a fat guy who sweats cheese.
3. Steal stuff.
No, actually don’t do this. Stealing is wrong. And although most places have markets and most markets are crowded, stealing a peach is no bueno. Immerse yourself in the culture and haggle. Don’t pay whatever extravagant price other tourists are paying. If he tells you that teapot is worth $50, laugh in his face! Say you’ll give him $5. He says he’ll go to $40 but no lower because it’s real silver. You say $15 but no higher because you’re not really sure you want a teapot anyway. He says $30 because he likes you, he can see you know how to play the game. Eventually you agree on $22.50 and you walk away proud of yourself… for about 30 seconds and then you realize you spent $20 on a teapot and you’ve got at least another two months hardcore backpacking in which to carry it around.
4. Never talk to locals because they probably only want to sell you crap.
No, actually don’t do this. Locals are part of what makes a place what it is. Say hi or smile, or smile and say hi, and then if they want to take you somewhere to “see their shop” or “meet their brother”, politely decline and go about your day. Or, if they’re children, accept the short city tour they want take you on, ask lots of questions and learn a lot about the city, then give them a small amount of coins adding up to about 50 cents and run away before they finish counting it.
5. Don’t shave.
No, actually don’t do this. If you’re on the road for six months and you don’t shave, you might feel like a vagabond badass, but you’ll look like you’ve just climbed out of a dumpster. If you’re prepared, you’ll probably have one nice razor with you as a home comfort, so it’s not really an expense. You’ll use it at the chipped basin in the hostel and feel great, then you go outside into the 40C humid heat and you start sweating and you wonder why you bothered having a nice shave in the first place. You might as well have just dragged that razor you found behind the toilet across your face.
Later, your adventure of a lifetime is over. You’re at home and despite all the money you saved while traveling, you’re broke because you can’t find a job (curse that fine arts degree). But you realize that the tricks you learned abroad still apply at home. Eating well doesn’t have to be expensive. Public transport is cheap and usually reliable (unless you live in L.A.). You can’t exactly haggle with prices, but you can find out where the best deals are (hint, it’s usually online). Talking to locals – your neighbors – can help in the long run, especially if they have a truck or can babysit your pet dog without enrolling him in any kind of blood sport. And razors don’t have to cost $100 a month, have ten blades, be crafted out of titanium alloy, and be coated with the tears of a thousand virgins, you can just get them at Dollar Shave Club for a buck a month and have them delivered to your door. Easy.