A week ago I wondered whether there is such a thing as frugal travelling (frugal travelling part 1)? Before I really never paid much attention to my (frugal) habits when I was abroad on holiday. Having planned a short trip to Rome made me think about it. I started thinking how frugal travelling could be defined and what my spending habits are when I travel. Do I use holiday as an excuse to spend lots of money, shop extensively and buy lots of food and drinks? Or do I have the same mindset as when I’m home, and be careful with my spending?
I discovered that my boyfriend and I spend more money being abroad, however, we still are very conscious of our spending. We like travelling luxurious in the sense that we prefer to stay in a hotel, and don’t go backpacking or drive around in a camper. When we go abroad we try to escape being a tourist and just try to discover the city and local culture by walking around and just experiencing the city. This way we can discover new touristic or non-touristic things. This is however a personal thing. There are so many different way to travel and go abroad. The things we like, other people will maybe hate or the other way around.
Based our past holidays, and our city trip last week, I can give some tips that I think help to travel fugally. However, some of you may travel in a complete different way, so some tips will perhaps be less relevant.
Last minute deals:
Look for last minute deals but also check the price. I think that a lot of travel agencies make advertisement for “last minutes” but in the end these last minutes are as expensive as other holidays… Also check whether it is better to book your flight and hotel separately. That’s what my boyfriend and I did. This gave us more choice in flight times etc.
When booking your flight always check different websites (such as cheaptickets.com and the websites of the companies itself). Also look carefully whether the prices include taxes and what the luggage restrictions are … We wanted to book with a company. It was 200 euro to go to Rome for the two of us, retour, however with only hand luggage. When we wanted to book the flights there suddenly were taxed added and the price became 460 euro which we thought was a bit too expensive. So we found another company where we paid 260 euro for the two of us, return, with taxes and luggage.
Booking a hotel is very personal. My boyfriend and I always try to take a hotel in the city centre so we can reach most of the things by foot (we think it’s so much better to discover a city by just walking around). When booking a hotel in the city the prices are however a bit higher. To book a hotel check different websites such as booking.com, trivago.com and of course the website of the hotels itself. For our trip to Rome, the price of our hotel was really good since we booked it very last minute (a few days before we left) and because it was low season.
Bus, metro or taxi:
Concerning public transport abroad I can’t say that much. In Rome my boyfriend and I walked all the time (I have to admit that at the end of the week we were really tired, we had an average of 25000 steps a day). Apart from walking, metro and bus are cheap alternatives to go through the city. Concerning taxis, it was nice to see that in Rome the official prices were on all cabs, so you knew the exact price to go to the airport. Before we left to Rome we did not know the official prices and whether taxis are trustworthy in Rome, so we asked the hotel to book a taxi for us and asked for a fixed price. I think it’s always better to ask a fixed price before you get in a car. Some drivers otherwise just take a detour to ask for more money. Not always of course, but I think it can happen when they see that you are new in the country (it depends on the country).
Determine in advance a budget per day. Keep track of your expenses and try to stay within your budget. Our budget was 70 euro for the two of us per day. To help us maintain our budget and have an overview of our spendings we took cash money with us and never paid with credit card. This way we also avoided extra costs to withdraw money. It was also nice that we could pay in cash because you hear stories about credit card fraud in some touristic cities. So our budget for 5 days was 350 euro. In the end we paid 415 euro for our food (without breakfast) and for museum and sight tickets. So we went a bit over budget but still okay I think.
Drinks and snacks:
Try to look for a local store to buy some water or cookies when you’re walking around. My boyfriend and I like to go for a drink form time to time. However, in some cities (certainly when they are focussed on tourists such as Rome), the prices of drinks can be very high. So we went to a local store to buy some bottles of water that we could take with us. When we were thirsty we had something to drink with us, so we could choose whether we wanted to go to a bar to have a drink or just take our water. We also bought cookies because walking around and visiting a city makes you hungry (well it made me hungry). One night we also bought a bottle of sparkling wine (bubbles J), which we drank in the hotel. It was much nicer and cheaper than drinking bubbles in a bar where every half an hour a guy is trying to sell you a rose (I have to admit, in Louvain where we live, you also have the guys who try to sell you roses)!
Tickets for museums and sights:
We found out that it’s a good idea to look online for the prices and maybe even buy your tickets online in advance. We where not really prepared concerning what we wanted to visit. We first visited Castel Sant’Angelo. We were lucky that there was a very small queue so we did not have to wait very long. We also wanted to visit the Colosseum. From friends we had heard that the waiting lines can be very long (around 2 hours queuing). We didn’t look it up at home, however we were lucky that there was Wi-Fi in the hotel (also in a lot of public places in Rome). So we looked up how we could avoid the line and found several tips online. We know now that for the Colosseum there are two waiting lines, for people who still have to buy their ticket and for the ones who already have a ticket. So if you buy your ticket online you don’t have to wait that long. Or, as we did, you can buy a combination ticket in the Roman forum or Palatine hill (Roman forum + palatine hill + colosseum for 12 euro). At these two sights there is a smaller queue. When we then went to the Colosseum we did not have to wait because we had a ticket… So looking online for tickets or tips in advance can save you a lot of time and frustration.
Pickpockets and hustlers:
When you go to a (touristic) city, be very careful of pickpockets and hustlers. In every big city you can find them and they have a very good eye to spot tourists or easy money. In Rome it was quite horrible since it’s such a touristic city. Everywhere we went there were so many visitors and of course so many hustlers who wanted to have your money. On every corner these guys were trying to sell selfie sticks, umbrellas or roses. Every time again we had to say no, it really got annoying after a while. If you encounter such persons be sure not to touch the thing they are selling, and don’t take it when they try to push it in your hands. Once you’ve touched or taken it they want you to pay for it. We saw it happen that some people didn’t want to buy it but that the guy was being really difficult for he wanted them to pay him. Also, when these guys are circling around you (most of the times in very crowded spaces), try to have the habit to keep your handbag, money and personal belongings very close to you and pay attention to them because a pickpocket will take advantage of the distraction.
Meet a resident:
If you know someone in the city/or country where you go to, you can always arrange a meeting with that person, or ask him/her tips. You can also look on the internet for persons to meet. I knew a colleague from the university who lives in Rome. We met him in Rome and he showed us some nice places that we didn’t know of. We also went to eat with him. It was very nice since he took us to a restaurant where we could try some real Roman dishes (instead of all the spaghetti or pizza that you find on the tourist menu’s). We also were surprised by the price of the diner. It was only 65 euro for three persons (three dishes, 2 side dishes, a bottle of water, a bottle of wine, and digestives). Compared to other restaurants it was quite cheap and no extra service costs were added (in another restaurant we had to pay 56 euro for 2 persons and 11 euro service costs were added). I still don’t understand these service costs rules. So it’s always good to know someone who lives in the city/country you visit.
Buying souvenirs is also something very personal. In all honesty, we don’t buy any souvenirs anymore. I used to buy a souvenir to every country that I went as a memory, but now I now that these things most of the time disappear at the back shelf in the closet. I also learned that you don’t need stuff to remember a nice holiday. And I always take lots of pictures so I can look at them as memory. For friends or family my boyfriend and I also don’t buy souvenirs. Most of the time these things (like magnets, keychains …) mean extra clutter for the person who you give it to. We sometimes however buy some (local) things that we also would buy at home or things we can’t find in our country. But we don’t really like the typical souvenirs in the souvenir stores. However it is something very personal. My father in law loves these kind of stuff, so I hope he is not that disappointed we didn’t bring him a fridge magnet from Rome.
When going to a hotel I love the small bottles of shower gel and shampoo. Not all hotels have it, but when they have it I’m always happy. I have to admit that I’m one of these persons who takes all these bottles home. We then use them when we for example go to the gym or when we are out of shower gel.
These were some (frugal) tips of going abroad and our experiences of our city trip to Rome. What do you think of these tips? Or do you have any other tips? How do you like to travel?
To answer the question whether we liked Rome. Yes we liked Rome! It was a beautiful city with beautiful buildings and a rich history. It’s spectacular to think how old some building are such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum … We however did not like the fact that we could not disappear as “tourists”. We could not really discover the “real” Rome, because every where we went it was touristic; the restaurants, bars, shops … But it was a nice holiday! 🙂
Below some pictures of our trip.