13 Great Tips from the World Expert on Budget Travel
I don’t think it’s necessary to tell you who Nomadic Matt is. When we speak about budget travel, he is the worldwide expert on the subject. His pieces of advice have helped hundreds of thousands of people to travel more and get rid of the delusion that travel is only for the rich.
His travel story started in 2004. His first trip was to Costa Rica and as he says, this gave him the travel bug. Since then he has travelled to over 80 countries and territories and gained knowledge on budget travel that no one had before.
In 2013 he published his book “Travel the World On $50 A Day” that became a New York Times best-selling book. Recently I bought this book. And I found that I was doing almost everything wrong. Well, I’m not a budget traveller, but if there is an accessible way to reduce my travel expenses, I’m for it! I guess you are like me.
Although affordable luxury is my thing, Matt’s tips on budget travel and more importantly his detailed explanations, have helped me to create a strategy for optimizing the use of my money in the future.
Below are listed some (very few in fact) tips shared in Nomadic Matt’s book. With his permission, I could share them with you.
1 – ‘Travel is too expensive’ myth
Matt begins his book discussing the fear many people have that they can not afford to travel in a long run. As he points out, and we absolutely agree with him, the tourism industry blinds us with 5-star safaris, yachts tours, boutique hotels, and whatnot. Naturally, you sitting at home and watching TV and looking these advertisements, think that this is not for you; that you can not pay to travel this way.
Well, certainly you will not have the luxury travel that you see on the screen delivered to you by the marketing agencies. At least not all the time. But you can travel, often or long-term, if you make a good budget, use the tips in this book and especially if you get rid of the delusion that travel is only for people with a lot of money (and I would add, and younger people).
2 – The difficult part of the trip
The most difficult part of a trip is not the logistics but finding motivation to take the road. Matt cites the famous saying: “People go with the devil they know over the devil they don’t.” People who do not travel refuse to admit that they are afraid to go beyond the familiar. But I met a lot of people who after overcoming their fear, became great, curious and happy travelers. Because let’s face it – travel gives us a sense of freedom, and who doesn’t want to feel free?
3 – Get the right credit card
“Travel the World on $50 a Day” is aimed at the Americans. And still, this advice is true for rest of the world. Having the right credit card can save and even make you money. Do research at your home country. Check which banks offer the best international credit cards and aim to the ones that:
– Doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees
– Offer bonuses on signing-up (like reward points that you can exchange for hotel accommodations, etc.
4 – How to save money on air travel
Matt shares plentiful of practical advice how one can save money on travel. I will summarize some of them here:
– Register for Frequent Flyer Programs
One good clarification here is that there are three major airline alliances named: Star Alliance, One World, and Skyteam. All these alliances group the major air flight companies in the world. Before reading his book I didn’t know I was already a member of these three alliances and how I could take a benefit from my membership. So, good I bought his book!
– Be flexible with your destinations
Instead of fixing your travel plans to one or two places you want to visit next, have a list of all destinations you want to go and do your research using one feature that some of the online booking sites offer. Skyscanner.com has “Everywhere” option. You have just input your dates and place of departure and the site will show you the lowest airfares in a list of destinations. Kayak.com and Google.com/flights have similar features.
5 – Get travel discount card
There are travel discount cards offering thousands of discounts worldwide. You just have to check which one is appropriate for you. For students – check the ISIC (International Student Identity Card). It offers discounts on tours, hostels, and transportation. If I knew this few years ago! You have the hostel based cards like YHA (Youth Hostel Association) and BBH (Budget Backpackers Hostels) that is mainly for New Zealand. And the general use discount cards VIP (General Purpose Discount Card) and Nomad Card that are both common in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.
6 – Name your own hotel price
In addition to the well-known advice that points out sites like Couchsurfing. com as the best way to save money on accommodation, Matt shares his tip for using last-minute deals on rooms. The websites that he recommends are laterooms.com, lastminute.com, hoteltonight.com, priceline.com, and hotwire.com.
These sites work as auctions and let you bid on hotel rooms. You can choose the city, the location within the city, the class of the service and the price you want.
7 – Cook your meals
“Cook your meals” is the ultimate budget travel tip when speaking about food. In many locations around the world (especially West Europe) restaurants are extremely expensive. This is one of the reasons accommodation sites like AirBnb became so popular – not only you get this ‘local’ feeling but also can use kitchenette (in the worst scenario) and reduce your food expenses.
He also mentions the Lunch Specials as a much cheaper option for having restaurant meals. I can say from experience that this the most popular way for Europeans to have a good meal during their lunch breaks. In France, French people always order “Plateau de jour” that usually comprises a three-course menu.
8 – Get Tourism cards
It’s true. Many of us are not aware of the possibilities these cards give us and the financial benefits we can have using them. Local tourism offices, says Matt, issue cards for all their attractions, tours, and restaurants. You have to pay for these cards a one-time fee and they give you free entrance to some attractions, substantial discounts on others and free local transportation. In addition, you can get discounts on selected local restaurants and shopping places.
Well, Matt, next time I’m in London I will get this Tourism card! Thank you for the tip!
9 – Budget travel in Europe
In the last chapter of his book, Nomadic Matt shares more detailed tips on how to travel frugally in the different regions of the world. He starts with Europe by saying that the continent is not a monolithic place and breaks it down to sub-regions: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia.
His best recommendation on finding better hotel prices in Western Europe is eurocheapo.com. It is a site dedicated to finding small budget hotels in the most popular European cities.
For Eastern Europe, he says that the region offers one of the best value travels in Europe (and we totally agree with him!). As a Bulgarian, I will add that not only the price are very affordable thanks to the low standard of life but also the lifestyle is laid back and much more social than you will experience in the Western Europe.
Scandinavia is the most expensive of all European destinations. And, as I could experience this summer myself, it is almost impossible to do budget travel there. Matt’s tips validate my observations: trains are the best option for travel in the country; hostels although ‘sterile’ are an acceptable budget option while campgrounds are probably the cheapest option if you can use one.
10 – Budget travel in Central America
“Central America is an incredible bargain.” Hostels are abundant and travel around is cheap. Roadside restaurants are a small family owned establishments and I guess they provide not only affordable but also delicious local food.
11 – Budget travel in South America
Hostels in this region provide a lot of amenities – free breakfast, Internet access, large kitchens and tour organization. Markets and street stall are your best food choices. Eating at local food stalls will cost you $1 for nutritious meat and rice meal. Local buses are the most effective way to travel around.
12 – Budget travel in Southeast Asia
As in Europe, says Matt, the costs in Southeast Asia aren’t monolithic. Singapore is expensive while the rural Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos are much cheaper for a visit.
13 – Budget travel in Australia and New Zealand
For New Zealand Matt advises that the best budget option for accommodations is camping. As NZ is such an outdoor-friendly country, there are many campgrounds and camper van parks to choose from.
When travelling around Australia, Matt’s tip is to use hostels that although a bit expensive, offer great community atmosphere and a lot of amenities. If you need privacy – go for apartment rentals. AirBnb is very popular in Australia, he says.
These are only some of the many budget travel tips in this book. If you WANT to be a frugal traveller, go and get his book!
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