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8 Travel Tips for the Budget Traveler

1.    Beware of travel visas and reciprocity fees

travel tips to save moneytravel tips to save moneyBefore you travel abroad, check the entry/exit requirements for the countries you're visiting. These little fees can blow your budget big time, because sometimes they're not so small. Many times exit fees are rolled into your airline ticket, but entry fees are not. You've got to know when and where you'll be charged.

For example, Argentina charges a $160 fee if you fly into Buenos Aires, but nothing if you cross over the border in Chile. Brazil will turn you away if you haven't gotten a visa (not cheap) prior to arrival. Most countries let you stay 90 days, but for some it's only 30 and if you overstay, it'll cost you. Before you go, check it out.

2.    Withdraw the maximum funds from the ATM

Some of you may be saying, I don't want to carry around that much money. It's not that much. Most US ATMs have a limit of $200-300 per day, in other countries it can be much less.

Taking out the maximum amount will save you from getting tagged with multiple ATM fees, your bank fees, and international transaction fees. Plus the exchange rate is better than any you'll find on the street. As a budget traveler, I'd figure out about how much I would need for a week, withdraw that and keep the majority stashed in a money belt.

3.    Stay in hostels 

sharing facilitiessharing facilitiesI hear this all the time, Ewww ick - hostels are for hippies and college kids. But it's just not true (mostly). The majority of hostels have private rooms. They're more expensive than dorm style, but far cheaper than a hotel. However, the real magic of staying in a hostel lies in the people you'll meet and the tips you'll get about where to go and what to see, most of which will be budget minded. Trust me, these insider treats aren't going to find you at the Four Seasons.

4.    Couch Surf (No, it's not an aquatic endeavor)

If you're adventurous and want to see a place from the perspective of a local, check into CouchSurfing.org. It's an amazing program that pairs travelers with locals who open their homes to fellow sojourners. There's no nightly fee, but payment in the form of cooking, doing the dishes or sharing your talents (whatever they may be) is encouraged. It's safe. It's fun. And it's cheap!

5.    Make friends with the grocery store

frugal living while on vacationfrugal living while on vacationEating out is expensive, no matter what country you're in. But you can save a chunk of change if you buy food from the grocery store. Not only will this save you money, but it can also be an absolute adventure into unknown culinary territory. Grocery shopping in Tokyo is the safest game of roulette you'll ever play. Have fun with it!

6.    Wheels, wings or rails?

With so many transportation options, which do you pick? First, I'll never buy a ticket (besides my arrival/departure ticket) in advance. Plans change. It's the best part of travel and if you're cemented into a ticket you'll either pay to change it or regret that you have to keep it. Both options make for a less than awesome experience.

Stop thinking you have to fly everywhere. The bus system in South America is part of the culture and it's not uncommon to take an 18-27 hour bus ride in a coach that's outfitted like a first class cabin. I've done it and it's rather pleasant. However, flying in Europe can be cheaper than taking multiple rails. Don't trap yourself into one mode of transport. They've all got their attributes.

7.    Pack a full suitcase

hidden costs on travel dealshidden costs on travel dealsThis may not work for everyone (some of you will just buy another bag, tsk). But if your suitcase is full, you can't put anything else in it, which means you can't buy unnecessary baubles along your journey.

If you've budgeted baubles then only leave some room. Not a ton. I can honestly say the travel trinkets I've collected over the years can be counted on two hands. Bottom line is, while a choice item or two that sings to you is well worth having, you don't need to buy a lot and the items you do buy will be all the more memorable.

8.    Turn your data off

There are international phone plans, yes. They are also pre-unlimited-calling-get-off-the-land-line-you're-costing-me-$1.25-a-minute expensive. Plus they don't work in every country.

Smartphone Travel tipsSmartphone Travel tipsSo how do we keep in touch with home without blowing the budget? Most of us have smart phones, and almost everywhere has Wi-Fi. My personal favorite is Skype. If you have the app installed on your phone you can call another Skype user for free or a phone number for a few cents a minute.

Another free calling app is Viber. It sends texts, pictures, and calls anywhere for free between fellow Viber users. There's about a 10-minute call limit before it cuts you off and you'll have to call back. Tricky, Viber, very tricky.

If you have clients that need to stay in touch. Forward your phone to a Google Voice number. There you'll receive transcripted voice messages.

Part of travel is removing yourself from normal life, so you don't really need instantaneous access to everyone via telephone. With these options you can stay in touch with those who matter without breaking the bank.

Happy Travels!

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If traveling in a group (i.e. More than one) in a higher priced city, you can sometimes save money by splitting a hotel bill. You do miss out on the ready made connections that a hostel may provide, however. There are always bars and coffeeshops, I suppose.

Great post! Also, if you book with a travel agent part of their job is ensuring you have all the information you need for the visa requirements & in most cases can provide you with the appropriate applications & fee structures.

As an experienced traveler (Six Continents under my belt) who has done hostels to first class I second all these great suggestions. Only one thing I would add, the outlook that you're not lost, merely exploring. It will keep your stress down.

Great tips. I agree about skype, it's the greatest thing around. I would like to add one more general travel tip that saved my last trip to Rome from total disaster. I lost my passport during the day but had no idea it was missing. Fortunately, I had an Okoban tracer tag on it. A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on their website and I was sent a text message (and an email) before I ever even knew my passport was missing. Lucky for me because I was leaving in the morning for Germany and getting a new passport would have been impossible. I found these tags at mystufflostandfound.com. It saved my trip and I now have tags on almost everything that goes with me on a trip.

Good tips - but just by getting out there and travelling, you work out what works best for you! Practice makes perfect!

Thanks for commenting Darleen. Sometimes I do prefer a backpack, especially on extended trips. On shorter stints, I like a small rolling pull-suitcase. That's cool you daughter is into the couchsurfing world. It's fantastic! I'll definitely check out the homebase-hols.com. Happy travels!

Great advise. Additionally you can work at the hostels and get free rent. A good backpack is better than a suitcase. And another way one daughter has seen the world is couch surfing with friends that have contracts in other countries. She has been to Korea, Spain and Japan this way. There is a service for us older ones - that you can swap houses or home exchanges - one is homebase-hols.com

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