I’ve hit on modes of transport and food so far but, how else can you keep your trips abroad as cheap as possible?
The good news, if you’re enjoying the Thrifty Travel thread, is that I have plenty more tips to hit you with. Here is my next one; do the free stuff!
Most of this post is going to stick to European tourist destinations because it’s what I know best. There are plenty of attractions and experiences that you can see and do for free in Europe. Here are a few ideas to get you going and keep thrifty on holiday:
I’ll admit that museums aren’t always free; however, a lot of them are and you can get an awesome day out without opening your wallet!
I love a great museum and in London, my favourite city of all, the great museums are all free! You can visit the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, or even the British Museum, without spending a dime!
Dinosaur skeletons, a scale model of the blue whale, interactive experimental exhibits, the Rosetta Stone, the Lewis Chessmen, and a whole host of other iconic attractions are all… Wait for it… completely free.
Millenia of history, exhibits that can keep you entertained for hours, or even days… What more could you possibly want? Whether you have children or not, this is a brilliant way for you, and potentially your family, to learn about a whole host of subjects and make the most of whichever place you visit!
- Tour the city and checkout the architecture
This is actually one of my favourite things to do in any city I travel to. No, I’m not talking about booking some kind of walking tour with a guide. Instead, I’m advocating getting out there and perusing the city all by yourself!
It might sound a little strange to some people who have never tried it, but please hear me out!
Buildings are the foundations of any city, whilst people are the lifeblood. Grabbing a map, or your phone, and navigating your way around to look at the unique architectural signature of any city can be a special experience.
You get amongst the people who call the city home and get a real feel for it! Focus on the people, as well as the buildings, and I promise that you will get more out of your spontaneous adventure than doing a run of the mill tour.
Anyway, back to the buildings. Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila, London’s Globe Theatre and the Shard, Rome’s Pantheon and Colosseum, and New York’s Chrysler Building and Guggenheim Museum. All are great reasons to get on your bike, or on foot, and just get out amongst the local people and absorb the vibe of the city!
Not one country in the world will charge you for just walking around and checking out the outside of their fabulous buildings. Give it a go, you’ll definitely come away with fabulous photos!
- Check your credentials
I made a terrible mistake last summer. In my visit to Paris, with my then girlfriend, I had presumed that many of the major tourist attractions would be booked up if I didn’t book them ahead!
I paid entry for both of us to the Palace of Versailles. It was not particularly expensive, especially considering we spent most of the day there, but I didn’t realise one crucial thing. As I handed over my pre-booked ticket for entry I read, with my rudimentary ability to understand written French, that all individuals between 18-25 and from the European Economic Area were entitled to free entry…
In fact, in Paris, being in this age group will get you into a lot of places for free! Plenty of other cities and countries will offer similar deals to children, students, and people in particular social categories. Do your research and see if you can get anything for free based on who you are. Please, I’m begging you, don’t make the stupid mistake that I did!
- Natural attractions
I love a stunning natural landscape or attraction!
I’ve swum in Verdon Gorge, lounged in the sun at Novisad’s beach on the Danube, and hiked the Scottish Highlands. In fact, I managed to afford to do all three of these in just one summer because they didn’t break the bank. They didn’t even get me to dip into the bank because they were completely free!
Admittedly, some national parks and areas of natural beauty will cost an entry fee, so please do be aware of that but, such costs rarely set you back a pretty penny. Where they do, for places like Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, you’re generally paying for the upkeep on a national treasure that deserves to be protected.
Whether paying that little fee, or seeing somewhere beautiful for free, I’d highly recommend getting out and seeing nature wherever you’re going!
- Free accommodation
It’s back! I’m revisiting the merits of thrifty accommodation from wild camping to Couchsurfing! I know what you’re thinking… Two Thrifty Travel articles in a row, are Couchsurfing paying this guy?
I don’t have any affiliations with Couchsurfing but I think it’s a great idea. You can check out Thrifty Travel 5 to get my full rundown on the service, but I think it’s important to revisit their unique selling point quickly.
Couchsurfing offers you the opportunity to stay, fee free, in other people’s homes around the world! Moreover, wild camping, provided its legal where you visit, will also offer you free accommodation!
Of course, most of my ideas on this list are experiences you can have for free but, if you can keep accommodation costs down to zero, that will free up some capital to spend elsewhere.
Whatever your choice, taking into account that you ensure your own personal safety as best you can, free accommodation is a great way to save money!
Of course, the same things aren’t free in every country. Do your research before you go. This will help you to work out what you can do for free when you arrive at your destination.
The secret to any successful thrifty travel abroad is good planning. With the most accurate and up to date information, you can minimise your costs almost wherever you go, within reason (I’m not sure you can get a cheap trip with SpaceX no matter how much planning you do).
If anybody has some other great ideas/tips for ways to do things for free on holiday, I’d love to hear them and build on this list in a future post! Perhaps drop me some suggestions down below. I hope everybody is safe and well out there!