5 mins

17 money-saving secrets from the travel experts

Wanderlust knows how costs can build up when planning your trip abroad, so we've brought you the top money-saving secrets straight from the experts

You won't break the bank with expert money-saving secrets (Images_of_money)

1. Packing kit

Rent outdoor gear instead of buying it. At Trek Hire UK, a four-season sleeping back worth £180 can be had for four weeks for only £30. Or beg and borrow –people buy far too much kit for a two-week trip: you can usually borrow scarcely used stuff from friends who are delighted to see their stuff used more than once.

Polly Evan's latest book is Mad Dogs & an Englishwoman (Bantam, 2008)

2. Cards and conversion

Anyone who leaves it till the departure airport to change money is throwing cash away – the rates offered by airport bureaux de change are appallingly bad. Far better to shop around in the UK for popular, strong currencies such as the euro, US dollar, Swiss franc and Japanese yen. For other destinations from Turkey to Thailand, wait until you get to the other end. Best rates of all are to be found in eastern Europe.

Dodge the £5 per person, per flight charge for Ryanair bookings when paying with a debit or credit card – use a pre-paid MasterCard. The Phones4U card I use levies no fees for loading by cash. You’ll save almost enough to be able to afford a beer on board

Simon Calder is senior travel editor of The Independent

3. Booking flights & transport

Book hotels, car hire and tours at the same time as your flights. Operators such as Trailfinders have access to Inclusive Tour rates –airfares discounted when booked in conjunction with other products. Don’t fly on a weekend. Flights to North America Friday-Sunday generally incur a weekend supplement of around £20 per person. Elsewhere, availability tends to be lower at weekends; you’re more likely to be able to book an offer if you can be flexible and travel Tuesday-Thursday.

Nikki Davies is a Trailfinders travel expert

4. Taxis and tuk-tuks

Don’t take taxis from outside upmarket hotels – you’ll always pay more. If you’re planning city sightseeing, ask how much that tuk-tuk or Ambassador driver charges for half a day (then haggle of course); chances are it won’t cost much more than a single journey, and will almost certainly be nicer than schlepping through 40°C heat just to save 20 rupees.

Don’t take an Alaskan cruise. Seattle has the largest commuter-ferry network in the world – you can ride those ferries all the way up to Alaska. Some even let you pitch a tent on deck!

Jennifer Cox is a travel writer and broadcaster

5. Money matters

Almost every credit or debit card adds a 3% ‘load’ to the exchange rate when you spend abroad, so spend £100 worth of baht and it costs £103. Certain specialist credit cards don’t add this ‘load’, giving you near-perfect exchange rates; but do ensure you repay it in full to reduce interest. In top place is Halifax Clarity (load-free worldwide). Runners up are the Post Office, Saga (over-50s) and Nationwide, though the latter charges 1% load outside Europe.

Jenny Keefe is a writer for moneysavingexpert.com

6. US transport

For low-cost US coach travel look beyond Greyhound. Alternatives are Megabus, especially in the Midwest and up into Canada, and BoltBus along the East Coast. Both offer a higher standard of travel and very low fares when booked in advance, and WiFi is available on most coaches. It’s an ideal way to travel cheaply, stay in touch and take in backwater USA.

Paul Smith travelled from the UK to New Zealand using Twitter (Twitchhiker.com)

7. Toiletries and churches

The temptation is always to pack too many gadgets, gizmos and hair products. Save your money – they will invariably be cheaper abroad; for example, many shops in Asia sell branded, travel-sized health and beauty products, so you don’t have to lug huge bottles around.

Check the web for free museums and art galleries. Churches are usually free (although they might ask for a donation), and often combine amazing art and architecture in one visit.

Becci Coombes is founder of Girls’ Travel Club

8. Water

Bring a water bottle and water-purifying tablets rather than buying expensive bottled water, especially where there is also an environmental problem in disposing of the plastic bottle. Most water in capital cities is treated and safe to drink, but in other areas treat the water and flavour it with a herbal tea bag or powdered soft drink to disguise the taste. Add value to your trip – donate unwanted clothing to a charity that works with street kids.

Hilary Bradt is the founder of Bradt Travel Guides

9. Airport transfers

Avoid the ‘Airport Taxi Mafia’ – head to Departures and flag down a city taxi that’s just dropped off a departing passenger, rather than taking an airport cab from Arrivals. This only works at airports with separate Arrivals and Departures pickup/setdown points, but will usually mean you can get into town on the meter without haggling.

Steve Davey is a professional travel photographer and writer

10. Tourist board discounts

Visit the tourist board website of your destination city – some offer discounts (for example, five attractions for the price of three, or half-price bus from the airport. In Spain, consider the Madrid Tourist Card, giving entry to over 40 museums (including the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia) and use of the tourist bus. Cards are available in the tourist office on Plaza Mayor or buy online (www.madridcard.com/en/Inicio.aspx)

Michael Cullen is editor at i-escape.com – sign up for the monthly e-newsletter for special hotel deals

11. Local savings

If you take a laptop, march into a five-star hotel like you own the place, sit in the lobby and use the free WiFi. If staying in a posh hotel, ask the staff where they personally would go to eat for the best places – the local equivalents of a ‘workman’s café’ are always brilliant.

Duncan Milligan is an expedition organiser and leader (www.tourdeforceuk.com)

12. Phoning home

Get your mobile phone unlocked, then on arrival replace your UK SIM card with a local version for local calls and texts at cheap prices. Or buy a global SIM that works everywhere. If you’re in Lima on O2, for example, incoming and outgoing calls are charged at 99p per minute. Install the UK2Abroad PAYG SIM (£19.99 from www.uk2abroad.com) and those costs drop to 55p and 70p respectively.

Chris Haslam is a travel writer

13. Home exchanges

This summer my family and I completed our fifth house swap using homeexchange.com. We have holidayed in Lesbos, Nova Scotia, the Côte d’Azur, Morocco and Kentucky, exchanging not only our home but also our car, which really cuts down costs. You do have to tidy away your knickers before you go, though.

Sara Wheeler's latest travel book is Access All Areas (Johnathan Cape, 2011)

14. Haggling

Part of the fun of buying things abroad is haggling in the market. Start by offering 30-50% off the asking price – but make sure you always give a reason. The trick is to finesse your counter offers. So if you’re buying a wooden elephant, first point out that its trunk is wonky and then that one leg is a little shorter than the others. Haggling is about more than just numbers; it’s about social interplay. So whatever happens, keep smiling! Remember – it’s supposed to be fun.

Conor Woodman is Channel 4’s ‘Adventure Capitalist’ and author of Around the World in 80 Trades (Pan, 2009)

15. Feeling festive

Most traditional festivals are free events and provide a perfect way into local culture, as well as top street food and a feast of music. Or consider going to a music festival abroad. You’ll be surprised how many there are, from dance and rock events on the Glastonbury model through to oddball roots events (anyone for the Lunel Mandolin Festival in the south of France?). All-in tickets are often a bargain, with your campsite and all entertainment thrown in.

Mark Ellingham is the founder of Rough Guides

16. Haggling & guidebooks

Don’t be afraid to bargain. If you’ll be in a town for a few weeks, visit a few hostels and ask what deals they can offer for a longer stay; when buying a bunch of postcards ask: “how much discount for buying more than ten?” – just be friendly about it. Put away the guidebook as much as possible; when hotels and restaurants make it into the guides, they often jack up their prices. Want a cheap filling meal? Ask a construction worker or a cop.

Doug Lansky is author of First-Time Around the World (Rough Guides, 2010)

17. Train savings

For tickets in Europe, head for the rail operator’s site rather than an agency: eurostar.com for Eurostar; www.tgv-europe.com for France; www.bahn.de to and within Germany; www.renfe.es for Spain. From the UK to major French cities and major cities in Switzerland, Spain or Italy, use www.raileurope.co.uk or www.tgv-europe.com.

Mark Smith is the founder of seat61.com

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