You've booked your flights, bought your insurance and reserved your hotel - but there are still plenty of savings to be made
Use a cycle scheme Low-cost, short-term bicycle hire schemes have been pedalled out in Paris, Copenhagen and Barcelona to name but three. Once you’ve paid an annual subscription, hire is free for your first 30 minutes or an hour, and cheap as chips after that.
Hire your car the ‘wrong’ way If you’re planning one-way car-hire, do it in the opposite direction to the norm. For example, in New Zealand it can be much cheaper to hire in Picton or Christchurch than popular start-point Auckland.
Use local transport Not only cheap but often better than any tour (Hong Kong’s Star Ferry, San Francisco trams, Canada-Alaska Inside Passage ferry); also look out for day/multi-day passes and saver cards, which may also give discounts on museums and attractions.
Skip airport taxis Hotel transfers may be cheaper; minibus transfers, trains, public buses or trams cheaper still –and often quicker. In Istanbul, for example, a taxi to the airport from Sultanahmet might be £15; an airport bus £4; the tram/metro combo £1 (also the fastest option).
Buy a train or bus pass These can be good value. For example, a 30-day national Amtrak railpass (valid across the USA) costs $599 while a one-way journey from Chicago to LA costs from $143.
Buy in bulk For example, the Gatwick Express offers a four-for-the-price-of-two deal. On arrival, find three other people heading into Victoria to get the discount.
Become a volunteer While some projects can be pricey, others are cheap to arrange, offer free accommodation or even pay you for your time (such as VSO).
Look out for free admission to museums This varies according to country and city, but many places have at least one day a week when entry to some state attractions is free.
Look for budget transport alternatives ‘Low-cost’ doesn’t just apply to flights: budget train and bus companies are now offering no-frills options. For example, a new bus service offers return fares between Washington DC and New York from just $3 (£1.50; Boltbus).
Look for budget alternatives Watching white stallions prance in Vienna will cost you a fortune; hop over the border and see a horse show for less in Slovenia. Likewise, tickets for opera can be pricey in places such as France or Italy, but head to the auditoriums of Hungary or Poland and the cheap seats can be secured for a few pounds – reasonable alternatives to ‘must-do’ experiences.
Walk! When you arrive at your destination, pick up a (usually free) map from the tourist office and stretch those legs! You’ll save money on tickets, discover hidden corners and work up an appetite for the local delicacies.
Relocate a car Rather than hire a car, contact a relocation agency (mostly in Australia and the US). You can arrange to deliver a car for someone from A to B, only paying petrol money. The snags are limited routes and timing – you need to be prepared to go where asked in a specific time frame – but with flexibility (and a co-driver to share the burden) you can cover a lot of ground for little outlay.
Switch off your voicemail You’ll be charged to receive and then listen to any messages left on your mobile while you’re away. Try Vyke: this service allows you to call most countries for the cost of a text. Text Vyke with the number you want to call and you’ll get a call back connecting you.
Hire and buy locally If you need specialist equipment you should be able to buy it locally for less or even hire it. For example, outdoor gear shops abound in Kathmandu and Pokhara, servicing Nepal’s trekkers.
Book direct This won’t always save you money – there are economies of scale in joining a group tour or booking with a UK operator (as well as the benefits of not having to do the organising), but arriving at your destination and arranging a trip with a local company cuts out the middle man and can save money. You may also benefit from a last-minute deal; for example, booking your Galápagos cruise in Quito a few days before departure could save you $1,000 – as long as you have the time and flexibility to do so.
Guides A great local guide can transform your experience. In the Galápagos, for example, the price of your cruise boat can reflect the size of the cabins and the variety of landing spots, but most importantly whether you have a specialist, English-speaking naturalist guide or just someone who can tell you where not to walk.
Travel insurance Shop around for deals, but don’t just pick the cheapest without checking the small print – most importantly, don’t scrimp on medical cover.
Footwear There’s nothing worse than setting off on a five-day trek – and getting blisters three hours in.
Suncream Buy good-quality high-factor lotion.
Once-in-a-lifetime experiences Are you going to get the chance to balloon over the Namib Desert/chopper-ride up to Fox Glacier/drink a Singapore Sling in Raffles Hotel again? Don’t return home with regrets for the sake of saving a few pounds.
Haggling This can be a great way to save money, but don’t go overboard. The chances are you’re bartering over pennies with someone far poorer than you – would it hurt to pay a little more?
Car hire Pay the extra to increase your insurance excess; if you do have a prang or if a stone cracks your windscreen, your bill will be much lower.
Flights Don’t buy cheap flights for the sake of it. Low-cost airlines add extras to the online price (for checked baggage, checkin, food etc) and often use remoter airports, increasing the price of transfers. Add that all up and it might be cheaper, more convenient and more comfortable to fly with one of the full-service carriers.
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