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Most people’s idea of saving money while travelling is to book a budget flight half a year in advance or slum it in hostel dorm rooms with 10 other sweaty people. Then they spend a fortune anyway by taking taxis everywhere and eating in restaurants for every single meal. Whether you’re flying first class or hiding in a cardboard box in the cargo area of the plane, if you’re at all cost-conscious, here are four tips that can help you get the best value out of your trip.
1. Don’t eat out at every meal
One reason people get sick so easily when they travel is the fact that they eat out at every single meal. As much as you might love pad thai / Korean barbecue / fish and chips / dim sum, try eating it twice a day every day for a week and you’ll soon be wishing you were back home. Even if you’re a huge foodie and your sole reason (other than shopping, I’ll bet) for going on holiday is to eat, try to exercise some restraint and visit a local market or supermarket and prepare some meals on your own.
That doesn’t mean you need to eat the same old stuff you eat at home, either. You’ll be able to find some local specialties you never might have discovered otherwise, whether it’s taramasalata in Greece, paté in France or oven-dried tomatoes in Italy.
2. Don’t force yourself to see every single tourist attraction
Honestly, sometimes it’s not the destination that makes things expensive for you when you travel. It’s the attitude that you need to see and do a million things in order to get the most “value” out of your trip. Imagine if you tried to cram in all of Singapore’s tourist attractions into as short a space as possible. You might decide to visit the zoo and the Gardens by the Bay Flower Dome and Cloud Forest all in one day, followed by a cocktail at Ku De Ta. That alone would set you back $80.
Perhaps you’ve never really cared about seeing the wax figures at Madame Tussauds, and ferris wheels like the London Eye strike you as a waste of money. Give those tourist attractions a miss and you’ve instantly saved 50 pounds, or over 100 SGD.
3. Get a map and familiarise yourself with public transport
The locals aren’t taking taxis everywhere they go, and neither should you if you want to save money. Many tourists refuse to familiarise themselves with the lay of the land and instead rely on drivers or taxis to get everywhere, even if their destination is just a ten minute walk away. Get hold of a map of the area (there are often free ones at the airport, otherwise hotel reception desks are always happy to give them out) and figure out how to use public transport in the area you’re visiting.
In Bangkok, solo travellers can save a bit of money by riding the BTS Skytrain instead of taking tuk tuks everywhere. The Japanese subway system is super efficient and costs a lot less than taking expensive taxis. And if you’re in the Netherlands, renting a bicycle will get you everywhere you need to go.
4. Research prices before you go shopping
If you see a bunch of tourists elbowing shoppers out of the way, before you point an accusing finger and accuse them of being Chinese tourists, check first that they aren’t Singaporean. While most Singaporeans may not have the spending power of Chinese tycoons, that doesn’t stop them from coming back with suitcases bulging with shopping. In fact, many of my friends spend thousands of dollars on shopping alone during the holidays.
If you’re going to buy a hundred boxes of Belgian chocolate, a DSLR from Japan or designer goods from France, at least compare the prices back home before you fork out the cash. Don’t assume products are necessarily cheaper in their country of origin. For instance, Chanel (if that’s how you roll) has standardised their prices all over the world. Also convert currencies with some exactness instead of doing rough mental sums in your head. There’s nothing worse than returning to Singapore only to realise the exchange rate was twice of what you thought it was.
Most importantly, getting an accurate picture of how much something will really cost can keep you more disciplined about not exceeding your budget and prevent you from swiping your credit card with abandon.
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