travelling

Travelling: 5 Tips On Sightseeing and Souvenirs (Part 5 of 5)

Posted on April 13, 2007. Filed under: travelling |

In this last section I’ll tell you how to save money on sightseeing and souvenirs. It might be a couple of bucks here and there but it really adds up in the end.

1. Use the student card

The majority of all sights and attractions give you student discounts. Most European countries give you discounts on train tickets if you are under 26 years old. If you’re not a student but you look young… you can say “you’re a student”… I’m not saying I’ve done this before, it might be a possibility.

2. Do some research!

Pay attentions to posters, pick up newspapers, ask around. This is a great way to find out about festivals and free events. Also, many museums offer free admission on certain days of the month. Remember to keep an open eye!

3. Don’t buy kitschy stuff

Avoid buying mass produced junk from the tourist shops. Are you sure you need another shot glass? How about a shirt that you’ll never wear? Instead, buy something that is made locally. You’ll be sure to get something much more memorable and support the local economy at the same time.

4. Bargain!

Don’t be afraid to bargain, especially in less developed countries. If it’s obvious that you’re not a local, you’ll tend to get overcharged. Bargain down to a price that you feel is a fair price. Remember, the shopkeeper won’t sell anything to you if they don’t make a profit so don’t feel bad about bargaining over a dollar or two

5. Is it worth it?

Is the cost of admission worth to the sight? It is an awesome museum or is it just a tacky tourist trap? Do your homework before you fork over your money.

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Travelling: 5 Tips To Eat Cheaply and Well (Part 4 of 5)

Posted on April 13, 2007. Filed under: eating, travelling |

Today, I’ll discuss the best ways to eat cheaply while traveling. Its possible to eat everything the local cuisine has to offer and still be easy on the budget.

1. Use supermarkets

Supermarkets are a good way to try to products the locals eat everyday. In Prague, we were able to buy cold cuts, chesses, and bread to make sandwiches. We also picked up a nice selection of chocolates and candies not encountered in America. We were able to save a bunch of money this way.

2. Farmer’s Markets/ Festivals

This is a great way to try out the local delicacies/produce. Many times, there’ll also be food stands where you can get a great meal very cheaply. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing its fresh and its authentic.

3. Stray Away From Tourist Centers

The restaurants clustered around the tourist centers are mostly tourist traps; their prices are higher and they can pass off anything to unassuming tourists as the “local cuisine.” Instead, try to go to the areas less frequented by tourists, such as suburbs or side streets away from the action. If you find a restaurant full of the locals, you’ll know you’ve arrived at the right place. Although you might not be able to read the menu, you’ll have a great meal (and maybe even meet some friends).

4. Ask for Recommendations

Another great way is asking locals where they eat. The places they tell you will surely be both fairly priced and authentic. I found a great restaurant in Culebra, an island off coast of Puerto Rico, in this very manner. Its called El Cabao and its some of the best Spanish food I’ve ever had.

5. Cook

This might be difficult depending on where you’re staying. But if you’re staying with a friend that has a kitchen, this is one of the cheapest ways to eat. Pick up some groceries at the locl market and make something. Although it won’t taste like the local food, its a good way to save money so you can splurge at a restaurant and get two entrees. (I am a fatty and I have done this on numerous occasions)

Tommorrow is the final installment: Saving Money Shopping and Sightseeing!

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Travelling: 5 Sites to Getting a Cheap (or even FREE) Bed (Part 3 of 5)

Posted on April 12, 2007. Filed under: travelling |

Today I’ll tell you the 5 sites I use to make sure I get a good deal on hotel/accomodationn

Cheap

1. Tripadvisor.com in conjunction with Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com

Tripadvisor is a great resource to find out which hotels are great in the city and which ones are absolute dumps. If you see a hotel you are interested in, tripadvisor can link you directly to travel websites to book to the room. Remember to try all different travel websites for the same hotel–you’ll often find a cheaper rate that way.

Cheaper

2. Ratestogo.com

This website is good for up to 21 days before the day of travel. Its for hotels to sell excess inventory. It can really be hit or miss. You might be able to get a sweet deal or you might end up in a loud dump in the middle of nowhere. Remember to do research on the hotels before you book (tripadvisor.com)! You earn credits on then website for each time you book a room that can be applied to future bookings

Cheapest

3. / 4. Hostelworld.com or http://www.iyhf.org

Hostels are then cheapest ways to find a bed for a night if you are traveling solo or with a friend. They range anywhere to hotel-quality to you’d be better off sleeping in the train station. Pay close attention when you are booking– some hostels have private rooms with bathroom, same sex shared, co-ed shared. Same sex shared or co-ed shared usually end up being the cheapest options, but be warned, you might end up with some creepy ass people. One time I stayed at a shared room in a hostel, someone stole our freaking cellphone! Don’t forget, some hostels have curfews and the majority of them kick you out by 10 am.

FREE

5. Couchsurfing.com

Of course I saved the shadiest option for you last. This involves joining the website and asking people if you can stay on their couch for the night. I’ve never done it, but the site proudly proclaims that over 50,000 people have successfully completed couch surfings. If you’re willing to sleep in someone’s house you just met on the internet then it’s a great option. You might meet your future wife/husband or they might kill you and sell you as sausage. But hey, at least you didn’t have to pay for a hotel room! ; )

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Travelling: 5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Money (Part 2 of 5)

Posted on April 10, 2007. Filed under: money, travelling |

Alright, so yesterday, we covered the cheapest ways to get to where ever you want to go. Today, I’ll tell you how to get the most of your dollars when you convert them to the local currency.

 1. Check the Rates Before Your Trip

Before you leave, check the rate on www.xe.com , the website lists up to the minute rates for all the currencies. That way, you can get a good idea of what the exchange rate is. It’ll come in handy to determine whether or not a currency exchange place is ripping you off.

2. Get a Bank with an International Presence

I currently have accounts at Citibank, HSBC, and Chase. These banks all have locations internationally. By using an HSBC bank in Hong Kong or in London, I do not get charged any fees and I get the best possible rates (unless you go to the black market). If you use a non-bank ATM, your bank will charge you a fee.

3. Never Exchange Money at the Airport 

The biggest ripoff is exchanging money at the airport. Not only are the rates horrible, they also charge you a commission on the total amount you exchange. Bad rates + Commission = Rip Off!

 4. Be Sparing With Your Credit Card

Last time I went to Europe, whenever I used my credit card, I as charged a 2% surcharge on all my purchases. Keep this in mind when using your credit card. Sometimes, it might make sense to use a credit card instead of using all your cash. Remember to tack on 2% on all your purchases.

 5. Don’t Carry A Lot of Foreign Currency

Instead of changing or withdrawing a thousand dollars at once, only exchange a few hundred dollars at a time. That way, you won’t be put in the awkward situation of have a lot of extra leftover currency at the end of your trip. Changing the foreign currency back to American dollars to a hassle and EXPENSIVE.

Tomorrow: How to find a cheap bed for the night!

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Travelling: 5 Tips to Get There On The Cheap (Part 1 of 5)

Posted on April 8, 2007. Filed under: travelling |

Alright, so recently, I went to Prague, Budapest, Vienna for a total of 10 days. I spent a little over $1000 for everything. I’m not sure if you could replicate the my success in budgeting (consider I stayed with a friend), but hopefully my tips will help you minimize your expenses while travelling.

1. Developed nations are expensive.

I had a layover in London for a total of 6 hours. Just to get into the city center cost us a total of 35 pounds! That is roughly $70 dollars! In Prague, that amount of money was enough for 2 days worth of cheap meals. The more developed a nation is, the more expensive it is to travel there. Keep in mind how far your dollar goes when choosing your next vacation locale.

2. Sign up for a credit card that gives frequent flier miles.

With reguar spending and sign up bonuses, you can earn free flights in a relatively short amount of time. Many times, you can earn miles without spending anything at all (Slickdeals or Fatwallet will have postings about surveys that award you free miles). I did not pay for the last two flights I took. With taxes, it cost me $150 to get to Prague, round trip. Just make sure you cancel the credit card after you’ve redeemed the miles so they won’t charge you the yearly fee. (Note: in the future, I’ll have a post about maximizing your frequent flier miles earning power).

3. Search, search, search.

If you have to actually pay for your ticket, dedicate one or two hours to scour the web for the best fare. Go to these websites.

farecast.com (only good for domestic)

sidestep.com

flights.com

kayak.com

Money saving search tips are: fly out thursday and return monday, fly to nearby smaller cities, and searching with flexible dates.

EDIT: Check out this great article on NYT for searching for fares. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/07/business/07money.html?_r=1&ref=travel&oref=slogin

4. Go to the airline’s direct website.

After you’ve found a flight that matches your schedule, go to the airline’s direct website. For example if orbitz.com listed a flight an American Airlines flight at $515, you can usually find the same flight on the aa.com website for $5-$10 less. That is because Orbitz charges you a “hidden fee” for using their website.

Also, on AA.com, if you purchase a flight on the website, and it is cheaper within 24 hours, you get a refund of the difference (I don’t know if this true for other airlines)

5. Subscribe to the airline’s newsletters.

By subscribing to newsletters, airlines will announce special last minute fares to various locations. If you find a really good price, it might just be a good time to take a vacation. : )

Tommorrow: How the currency exchange places rip you a new one and how to avoid it.

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