By Laura Glenister
Summer is just around the corner, and holiday planning makes for a great form of exam-time procrastination. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of top tips to help you get around the globe, without breaking the bank.
Firstly, pick the right destination. Whilst flights to some places are more expensive, they are often dirt cheap once you arrive – as clichéd as it is, the prime examples are places like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. European destinations such as Prague and Budapest are also relatively cheap and easy to access, although it gets more expensive as you venture to cities further West such as Amsterdam and Berlin. These are quite obvious examples, but don’t be afraid to search for destinations that seem a little more rogue – less touristy places will inevitably be cheaper than the most popular destinations.
The number one rule for any student traveller is to avoid expensive hotels in favour of hostels. They don’t have to be grimy, either – you can find cheap hostels that are just as nice, if not nicer, than a hotel. Hostelworld is the best place for booking hostels, and you can usually book until a couple of days in advance, unless you’re going somewhere at peak time. If you’re looking to make a little bit of cash whilst travelling, some hostels will also let you work behind their bar or at reception. Usually this only pays enough to make you break even, but it does usually mean you get your accommodation, meals, and drinks for free!
Always check out public transport options before getting sucked into a tourist transport offer – buses and trains can be caught for a fraction of the price of a taxi or private driver. For backpackers visiting multiple destinations in one country or area, it is worth booking your tickets to leave a destination as you arrive there, as advance tickets are usually cheaper.
Even aside of the fact it is much cheaper than eating in restaurants for every meal of the day, I would still recommend picking up street food wherever you can. It is usually just as delicious as restaurant food, and is a great way to really explore the culture of the place you’re visiting. Food markets are a great place to try lots of different authentic dishes, will usually fill you up for literally pennies, and make for a great afternoon or evening trip. (The featured image of this article was taken at a great food market in Marrakesh).
In a lot of destinations, the locals will expect you to haggle for anything and everything you buy (although this is not true of everywhere so make sure you check beforehand!). Haggling is an art that takes some mastering, but if you can work out a strategy, you’ll be able to pick up all your souvenirs for a fraction of the original asking price. It doesn’t stop there: always try to haggle when buying tickets from tourist travel agents, including bus tickets! When my friend and I did our tour of Halong Bay, we managed to secure tickets that were on average half of what everyone else on our boat had paid. The best strategy that worked for us was pretending to leave if they didn’t agree to a lower price, but everyone has their own method – you can find lots of tips online.
Be sure to pack your student card! Lots of places, especially in Europe, offer great student discounts and cheaper entry to popular tourist attractions.
Photograph: Laura Glenister