For many travelers there is a certain Mystique that Cuba and in particular Havana holds. The largest Island in the Caribbean is a treasure of Spanish Colonial architecture, breath taking beaches, classic American Cars and being one of the final bastions of communism. Frozen in time is one of the descriptions I use to convey the feeling and emotion of being in Havana. Every where you cast your eyes you cannot be but reminded of being in a place that has changed little since the late fifties.
Saving money is an important thing to consider when traveling. I think of myself as a budget traveler, but I try to balance my spending. I’m not extremely cheap about everything, but I do my best to not waste money when it doesn’t need to be wasted. Do that, and you can have extra money to splurge on other things.
Here are 18 ways you can save money while traveling. I don’t recommend doing every one of them, but practicing a few can greatly decrease your spending and help make your trip more affordable.
1. Stay in a hostel
This is a no brainer. Hostels are usually only a fraction of price of a hotel room. If you don’t mind sharing dorm style accommodation, you can save a bunch of money every night and also meet other like-minded travelers.
2. Share hotel rooms
Traveling with a group? Squeeze as many people as you can in a hotel room. Some smaller hotels will charge you per person though so you’ll have to decide what the best deal is for your situation.
3. Use public transport
Do your best to steer clear of car rentals. They’re usually pretty expensive and driving in a foreign country can be a nightmare. Best to leave it to the professionals and help the environment by taking trains and buses.
4. Share rides
Trying to hail a taxi in front of your hostel or hotel? Ask other travelers where they are going and maybe you’ll be heading in the same direction. If so, split the fare!
Burn some calories and walk around town. Enjoy the area and do some sightseeing.
If you enjoy the great outdoors why not pack your tent and sleeping bag and make camp somewhere. Campsites are cheap and common all over the world if you aren’t able to make camp somewhere in nature itself.
7. Enjoy outdoor activities
Not everything you do has to cost money. Go hiking, lay on the beach, go for a swim, or just spend an evening looking up at the stars.
8. Cook your own meals
This is one tip that you won’t find me practicing very often. I love to eat out and enjoy the local cuisine. But if spending money on food isn’t on your agenda, most hostels have a kitchen and everything you need to make your own dinner. Just head out to the grocery store or local market and pick up something to cook up. Cooking is even better if you have a group of people that can chip in to buy more food and split everything.
9. Eat on the street
Street vendors and small food stalls have some of the tastiest food as well as the most authentic. It’s usually pretty cheap too! No comment on how healthy it may be though.
Getting out and exploring the area can not only be a fun way to spend an afternoon, it can also lead to bargains. You’ll likely find plenty of restaurants and shops that the locals use and are out of the touristy areas.
CouchSurfing is not only about saving money but also about making friends and experiencing the area from a different point of view. I highly recommend it, as I’ve written before, but for the sake of the community, do not use it solely as a way to sleep for free.
11. People watch
Another great, and free, way to spend some time is to just sit and watch the people go by. This is a favorite past time of Moroccan men by the way.
12. Share tours
I’m not a huge fan of taking organized tours but sometimes it is the best way to explore an area that you otherwise might not be able to navigate on your own. In that case, check with others who are staying at your hostel and consider splitting the tour among multiple people. The tour guide might charge a bit more, but it should still be cheaper than doing it solo.
13. Bring a guidebook
I don’t always recommend following every word the guidebook says, but they will often warn of possible tourist traps and will recommend cheaper places to eat, sleep, and shop. The only problem is that once a place is listed in a guidebook, they tend to raise their prices in response to their new popularity. So be sure to continue to shop around.
14. Bring a water bottle, refill it
Bring a BPA-free water bottle with you and refill it with tap water if it is safe to drink. Not only will you save money over buying bottled water, you’re helping the environment and probably encouraging yourself to drink more water as well.
15. Pack common medications
It’s a wise idea to pack some common medications with you if there is a chance you might need them. I always bring ibuprofen for headaches or other aches, and loperamide in case you get a little bout of food sickness. Sure, you can find these everywhere, but they’ll likely cost a lot more.
16. Bring enough batteries and film
I know, who still uses regular batteries or film? I certainly don’t. But if you do, pack extras because they’ll cost a lot more when traveling.
Shopping in bazaars or other open air markets? Bartering is a common practice in many places around the world. Don’t be insulting though and understand that (depending on where you are) you might make more money in a week than the person on the other end of the transaction makes in a year.
18. Just bring a backpack
Don’t over pack! Figure out a way to stuff your things in a backpack and avoid the checked bag fees that nearly every airline is charging now. I’m convinced that everybody can fit their life into a Kelty Redwing 3100 or similar backpack.
If you have any other tips on saving money while traveling please feel free to share them in the comments below.
I’ve already touched on ways to stay healthy and combat sickness while traveling, but how about if you want to keep in shape?
For those who keep up on eating healthy, working out, and generally staying in shape, taking a week or longer off can really put a damper on your physical goals. Here are a few ideas to help keep up your fitness while traveling.
1. Go for a run
Why not start your day off with a nice run? Head out in the morning for a run down the beach or wherever you may be. Scenic outdoor destinations will probably be more encouraging than others.
2. Find a local gym
If you have a gym pass at home check and see if your gym has locations where you’ll be traveling. Some cities will have local gyms that will allow you to work out for a small fee. I found a tiny gym in Quepos, Costa Rica that only charged $2 per workout. Many larger hotels also have their own gym facilities.
If you’re considering hopping on the subway for a few stops, driving or even taking a taxi, why not just walk? Some cities are best experienced by foot anyway.
4. Outdoor Activities
Are there any hiking trails where you’ll be going? What about other activities like rock climbing or rafting? If you’re staying at a beach, go for a swim or rent a surfboard. Do anything you can to enjoy the outdoors and be physically active at the same time.
5. Eat healthy
I’m not one to pass up the local cuisine, but you might want to do so in moderation. Skip candy bars and chips for snacks and look for fresh fruit stands when you’re between meals.
6. Drink plenty of water
Most people don’t drink enough water during the day when at home, let alone while traveling. This is especially important if you’re doing a lot of physical activity and sweating. If you are somewhere warm and not used to warmer climates, realize that you’ll need a lot more water than you are used to. Carry a bottle or two with you all the time.
7. Exercise in your room
Can’t make it to the gym? If your workout usually consists of weight lifting, do some push ups and sit ups in your room. You can also use your bed or a chair for dips and other body weight exercises.
8. Carry your own luggage
Carry your own backpack or luggage if possible. Don’t bother paying porters at the airport or your hotel when you could be doing it yourself and getting a quick and easy workout at the same time.
9. Try a martial art
Whether you are already into martial arts or not, consider trying a local gym. Many will give you a free guest pass just to check them out while others will charge a small fee for your participation in their program. Boxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu are two things I train in and it’s common for students to travel to other gyms and take classes with various well-known teachers. You can even schedule a private lesson with some coaches to get a taste of their training. You’ll almost always learn something new and different than your current regimen.
10. Rent a bike
Whether you want to go on a nice long bike ride or just use one as an alternative means of transportation, bicycles are typically pretty cheap and readily available in most places. Cities like Paris even have bike rental kiosks around the city that are available 24 hours a day with your credit card AND you don’t have to return it to the same place. It’s a great system.
If you have any other tips on staying, or getting in shape while traveling please feel free to share them in the comments below.
This is the first in a series of posts about what to pack for specific destinations. I noticed an unbelievable amount of Google traffic searching for information on what to pack for Morocco, one of my favorite previous trips. Since I never touched on what I packed for Morocco, I decided to write a post about it. Occasionally I’ll revisit this topic for other destinations that require certain types of clothing or gear.
Morocco is a very unique destination. Located in North Africa but still carrying the vibe of the Middle East. Morocco is full of culture, languages, sights, great food, amazing landscapes, and best of all, relatively safe. This makes it a popular destination for independent travelers and backpackers flock to the various areas around the country.
Morocco is not your every day tourist destination though. Being a conservative Islamic republic, you should be mindful of Moroccan’s customs and be respectful in your dress. This means that, despite the often warm temperatures, you should not plan on walking around in shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts. This goes for both men and women.
For men, jeans, khaki’s and cargo pants are acceptable and long sleeved t-shirts, thin jackets, or lightweight casual button-down shirts are recommended.
Women can generally follow the above recommendations but just be mindful to not wear tops that expose cleavage or have short sleeves. It may not be considered risque in western culture, but these items are generally unacceptable in Moroccan culture.
Recommended Packing List:
- 4-5 shirts (or blouses) – preferably long sleeved
- 1 jacket or sweater
- 2 pairs of comfortable pants
- swim suit – if you’re visiting the beach
- hat – especially if you’re visiting the desert
- enough socks and underwear
- comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes
- toiletries – don’t go overboard, but shopping for your typical toiletries in Morocco might be difficult
- digital camera – smaller is better
Morocco isn’t particularly dangerous, but places like Tangiers do suffer from slightly more than normal amounts of petty theft. If you are spending time in any medina areas and want to take photographs, a small camera is a better idea. Remember, this is where Moroccan’s live and work and aren’t necessarily tourist areas, despite the popularity of them.
Most of my friends do not travel often but the handful that do always share stories about the nightmares they experienced with their travel partners.
Just the other day a friend was telling me how the two people she was traveling through Asia expected to be able to use their credit cards everywhere and refused to get any cash. That backfired when they were unable to buy anything to eat for a couple of days unless it was in a hotel or a tourist trap.
Another friend told me about how they are no longer friends with the people they traveled through Europe for a few weeks with. By the end of the trip they were at each other’s throats for various reasons, but mostly because they just spent too much time together and didn’t get enough space.
A recent trip of mine didn’t go a smoothly as planned with my travel partner and I realized we had quite different tastes and plans for our trip. We were able to solve these issues fairly easily though and I will give you some tips on how we did it.
Plan ahead of time
You don’t need to set dates or times, but discuss what you would like to see, activities you would like to do, and what you would like to eat. Don’t forget to take budget into consideration. Make sure that you understand each other’s desires and what they are financially capable of doing.
Notice when an issue arises
Do not ignore problems. When you see that something is beginning to become an issue, address it immediately. Talk about it. Explain your feelings, listen to their concerns and wishes, and try to find a compromise. Never force somebody into doing or going somewhere they don’t want to. They will inevitably have a terrible time because they had a poor attitude about it to begin with.
Sometimes there is no easy resolve and the best thing to do is simply go your own way. Maybe you just need to explore the area on your own or hang out with some people from your hostel. There is nothing wrong with this. Just be an adult and explain that it has become obvious you guys need some time apart.
This doesn’t mean you have to sever all ties from this person foe your entire trip. Maybe a day or two apart is all you need.
This is what we did in my situation that I mentioned earlier. I don’t think either of us minded. We were both mature enough to realize the issue and we enjoyed some activities together, and also had fun meeting other people to spend time with.
If you haven’t realized by now, the key is communication, understanding, and respect. Your travel partner has spent just as much money and sacrificed just as much time to be there. You both deserve to have fun and with these tips hopefully you can.
[tip]Have any tips or horror stories? Please share in the comments below![/tip]
Whether you are traveling for a week or for a year, your health is always a concern you should have.
Traveling in a foreign country usually is an experience to remember, unless you get sick. If you’ve been under the weather while traveling you know first hand what I am talking about.
I’m going to go over a few of the ways I combat sickness and attempt to stay healthy while traveling.
You must remember to stay hydrated. Keep in mind that even if you’re just walking around the city with your pack back at your hostel, you’re probably still doing more physical activity than you are used to back home.
Make sure you know if the water in your area is safe to drink though. If not, buy bottled water or if you’re hiking and using stream water, you’ll want.to be sure you can purify your water. There are iodine tablets, filters, and probably the most impressive, the SteriPEN which you can use if you bottle your own water and want to be sure it is safe for drinking. Be sure any reusable bottles you purchase are BPA-free.
A good multi-vitamin can go a long way in keeping your immune system up and fighting the multitudes of germs and bacteria. Some people use fancy multi-vitamin packs with a handful of various pills and others prefer a simple one-a-day vitamin.
3. Hand Sanitizer
Be sure to wash your hands but if you can’t, a small bottle of hand sanitizer can come in handy. No pun intended.
4. Anti-Diarrheal medicines
I’ve saved the best for last. There is absolutely nothing worse than being so sick that you can’t leave your room. Loperamide (Imodium) works very well if you’ve eaten something bad and are having diarrhea. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids as you can easily become dehydrated.
5. First-aid kit
Finally, a small first aid kit with basics such as bandages (useful for blisters, not just cuts and scrapes!), antibiotic ointment, and even burn cream if you might be around campfires. There are a plethora of small first-aid kits available everywhere that will take up hardly any room in your backpack.
Have any other suggestions or tips that you use when traveling? Please share them in comments below.