What’s your advice for doing a gap year on a budget?

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What’s your advice for doing a gap year on a budget?

Avatar for Andy
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Afternoon gappers.

So here is what’s happening:

I’m writing a new feature based around taking a gap year on a budget for the site. I want it to be extra good as it may be going into a travel magazine as well.

It’s a broad and well covered subject area and can take in an almost unlimited number of ideas.

The way I’m approaching this is to create something for entry level travellers. I’m going to give a general introduction to the idea that gap years needn’t cost the Earth, then move onto a few specific areas of gap year travel.

For each one I’ll talk about what you generally do and then include comments from one of you guys explaining your experience of saving money.

For example,

Accommodation

Unless you are the terminator you will eventually have to sleep on your gap year. While you might miss a few nights sleep here and there your body will crash and you will sleep.

But where? Hostels can be cheap enough, but what if you want to scrimp on even shelling out $10 a night somewhere?

Experienced traveller Warrick Howard says: “You can get a 20% discount on hostels anywhere in the world with a Super Unbeatable Backpacker (SUB) Card.

“I generally also saved money on accommodation by always getting the overnight trains and buses, thus saving on not staying in hostels.

“Plus, if you can romance a lady, you may end up staying at her place… for free!”

You get the idea. 

So the areas I want to cover are:

Kit
Packing & clothing
Flights
Trains, buses & other transport
Accommodation & hostels
Tours
Food
Drink
Seeing famous sites

If you can think of any topics you think are particularly worth mentioning, just go ahead and add them and give your comments!

Please be general with this stuff - we don’t want “You can save $40 on overlanding with the African Giraffe Company in June.” It would be more like “In many areas, like SE Asia, you can avoid paying for a full tour by hiring a local driver for a fraction of the cost.”

How much to write? Anything up to 150 words is best, I think. Two lines might also be fine, though.

Submit your comments and ideas on the thread below.

If you need some inspiration to get the old cogs turning, check out this section of gapyear.com advice: http://www.gapyear.com/articles/category/money/1434

Lots of the articles on there are good, but I want some fresh new content from you guys.

I have purposefully avoided ‘fundraising’ as that is a whole section of its own.

 

 

 

     
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Kit
Outdoors shops ALWAYS have sales on so don’t buy anything full price unless you’ve left everything to the last minute.
Also, don’t forget to shop online which is often cheaper. Go into a store and decide what you want to buy / try it on / look at the quality, then buy it for a discount online!

Ask for kit as presents for Christmas / birthday / Valentine’s etc. Make a list of stuff you need then send it round!

Borrow things! A friend / relative / colleague may have things you can borrow (just remember to check what the ‘returns’ policy is - e.g. will they hate you forever if you lose/ damage their item.

Ask for discounts. If you don’t ask, you won’t get. I’ve worked in an outdoors store and would sometimes give discounts to people who asked just because they asked (shhh, don’t tell anyone!). This will usually be easier for people doing charity or volunteering things.

Look on eBay or for second hand items advertised on Gapyear.com. I have just bought a pair of ex-hire boots from an expedition company that are in decent condition and I’ve saved more than £300 doing so.

Flights
Book as soon as you find the flights you want. Airlines do not sell off flights cheap closer to departure, quite the opposite - prices can triple or more. The exception to this is obviously airline sales and special offers but these are hard to predict and more often than not the departure dates are restricted.

Shop around. Do not even consider booking from the first company you get a quote from. Take that quote and itinerary and ask at least 3 other companies to provide a quote for the same itinerary. Often companies will try to beat a quote for your business.

Remember to ask what is included. Are they going to add on admin fees, taxes and other fees to the quoted price? If you’re booking RTW flights and may want to change your flight dates, how much do they ACTUALLY charge you to do so. Is it a set fee, or a set fee plus the difference in cost between the time you booked and the time you decide to change it to (STA do the latter).

Don’t overlook budget airlines for short hops as you can save a fortune.

Trains, buses & other transport
When in countries where local people don’t speak or read much English (e.g. China) ask staff at your hostel to write in the local language your travel plans to help you book your tickets. This will save you getting overcharged or buying the wrong thing.

Sleeper trains rock (not literally)! 2nd class is ample in every country - 2nd A/C in India. Hard sleeper in Vietnam/ China etc. Takes out one night in a hostel and thus saves you cash!

But bear in mind that sleeper buses are most comfortable if you are 5’5 or shorter (I’d pay extra and travel during the day to avoid a sleeper bus). <- just my opinion.

Take a discreet cable lock so you can leave your luggage unattended and not worry someone will walk off with it. You don’t want to be replacing your gear while on the road.

Food
Eat at street stalls (but pick the busiest ones so you avoid stomach problems).

Eat snacks like fresh fruit, local snacks throughout the day rather than forking out on one or two expensive main meals.

Famous sites
Many places of interest have tourist days or free days so find out when they are and go then.

If you’re a student (or have a convincing fake student ID) ask for student discount. Many places offer a discount but don’t display the fact.

And I’m spent… for now.

     
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[color=purple]Transport:[/color]

Look ahead to see what deals and discounts you can find online before you arrive in said country. Australia/New Zealand and the USA all have bus passes and they often do deals such as buy one get one free or 50% off . If you dont have a friend going with you use websites like gapyear to meet people to travel with and share deals with!


[size=1]Food: [/size]

When travellign around try and pre empt food purchases the day before (e.g. cereal for brekkie, sandwiches for lunch). Use cooler bags to keep food fresh and available on the coach.

[color=blue][size=1]Days Out/ Landmarks:[/size][/color]

Use discount vouchers from the back of booklets etc which you can pick up in hostels and tourist information centres.
Look at whether museums/art galleries are free or have reduced fares for certain times of the day. The USA have ‘suggested’ fares for museums so you can pay less than the advertised price.

Books:

Take one book with you and then use hostel libraries to swap books with. These can be fiction books or more usefully, lonely planet books!

Drink:

You can have just as good a time buying drinks from the supermarket and staying in at the hostel as you can going out and visiting expesnive bars. However, don’t get hung up on always saying no to nights out to save money. Some times whilst you are away you will be faced with spending money in exchange for a great experience (yes drinking is the same in every country but the people arent) and in my book it was always worth it!

[color=blue]Accomodation:[/color]

Don’t panick! Unless you are visiting Sydney for new years (and other equally busy places) you WILL find accomodation to suit your budget. Just make sure if you are going some where you know will be busy- book ahead so you get the right place for the right price.  Compare Hostelworld and Hostel booker as well as the hostels own website to see what deals are available.

Also check whether it is worth getting a YHA card or Nomads MAD card if you plan to use a lot of their accomodation as they give you money off accomodation and other attractions.

BE CANNIE! Plan flights/long bus journeys so they fall over night. It may not be the best night sleep you ever have but it saves you a nights accomodation costs!

[color=green]Tours:[/color]

If you intend to book tours rather than do things yourself, LOOK AROUND. Dont arrive in the first shop you see and accept the sales pitch. You can usally barter for money off, or, added attractions. For example, booking Fraser Island may also get you a free Scuba Dive. etc.
Spend some time seeing what other companies will offer you and if you feel brave, work out the cost of doing it on your own grin

     
Avatar for Fingfang
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I plan to follow most of the above hints and tips when planning my trip.

The only thing I can offer from my experience of short holidays is to check out weekly bus/train passes if you are staying in one area for a few days. I got weekly passes for Rome and New York and saved a bit of money.

I’m also planning on cooking a few of my own meals - especially when travelling to expensive countries, and at least getting my own supplies in for breakfast to make the costs of eating out cheaper.

     
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Kit
Keep it to a minimum. You can buy pretty much anything while travelling so don’t buy it especially for your trip. All of these gadgets and gizmos soon add up in cost and weight and then you never use most of them.
Our pharmacies love to rip us off to don’t spend loads on a travelling medical cabinet; most pharmacists around the world are well educated, speak English and use the same names so buy it while in cheaper countries.


Clothing
Simple items which you can layer up in cooler weather while being wearable on their own in warmer climbs.

You’re likely to lose it, damage it, wear it out or realise it’s completely the wrong clothing and you want to chuck it, so don’t spend loads of money on big brands. As above, you can buy tons of clothing (including cheap knock offs) while travelling so don’t buy loads before you go.

Transport
‘Private’ transport (taxi’s, tuk tuks, rickshaws etc) can be useful, especially if you can share with others but they also tend to be more expensive than public transport. Trying to work out the local buses, trams, trains, metro, water buses etc in towns and cities can be tough and a little stressful but they are also a great way to experience local culture, get out there and see the place and you get a great sense of accomplishment.

Cheaper still is to walk everywhere (hence why to keep the bag as light as possible).

Accommodation
Never ever accept the first price. There’s always another hostel/hotel down the road, and they’ll always accept you back when you walk back in having found nothing better in town.

A cockroach is less disturbing if you catch him alive under a glass, keep him as a pet and name him (ours was called ‘roachy’ but I’m sure you can be more creative).

Tours
Can you do it cheaper yourself (and have time)? Then do it. DIY Travel is far more enlightening, rewarding and always has unexpected turns.
If it’s only really feasible with a tour then shop around. Sometimes your accommodation can do it cheaper, but often they know they have a captive audience so you can get it cheaper from a local agent/direct. If you’ve seen it cheaper online then tell them, they’ll beat/match it.

Food
Keep it simple. Eat street food or buy your own for most meals. Eat local cuisine, western food will normally be much more expensive (and dissappointing).

Drink
Keep it to a minimum, find the cheap bars, drink before you go out, stick to local brands.

Seeing Famous Sites
Hotels will always offer tours or packages to see them, but you normally can get to them on public transport and get in for far less.
Don’t fall for the up-selling of audio guides, guide books, tour guides etc. Most guidebooks will give you a good overview of the sites and the best sites have documentation or explanations in English. If you need to, listen in to other peoples tour guides wink

     
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This is great stuff guys, keep it coming!

     
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Spend money to make money. It might seem odd when you’re buying that naive new traveller’s drinks all night, but it’ll be worth it when you don’t need a hotel room because you’re busy knocking the back out of her on the beach.

     
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excellent Warrick

     
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Warrick - 19 December 2011 03:48 PM

Spend money to make money. It might seem odd when you’re buying that naive new traveller’s drinks all night, but it’ll be worth it when you don’t need a hotel room because you’re busy knocking the back out of her on the beach.

This is essentially the example I used in the OP!

     
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My travelling motto is simply “Aim High”. Now, granted this is usually referring to the fact that girls lower their standards and their guards when travelling, so don’t be afraid to approach the girl who looks like a film star; chances are she’s just as keen for one night of carnal tomfoolery as you are.

In this context, however, the whole “Aim High” things kind of applies to budgets as well.

Don’t be afraid to walk into a 4* hotel in South East Asia and say “I’ve got £20, can I have a room?”. We did this no end of times when we wanted a comfortable bed for a night and a swimming pool to dick around in. We got a room more often than we were turned away.

     
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I’ve got a great tip. Sleep in an airport from time to time. Saves on accommodation and its great fun!

In fact, I think it’s such a great tip that I’ve even written a guide about it - http://www.gapyear.com/articles/154632/the-gapyear.com-guide-to-sleeping-in-airports/1641

Enjoy!

     
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Anymore? We wanna be writing this up!

     
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Simply walk where possible rather than take cabs / public transport in cities, you see more, it’s healthier (bar smog) and free

     
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kenny0_3 - 22 December 2011 10:18 AM

Simply walk where possible rather than take cabs / public transport in cities, you see more, it’s healthier (bar smog) and free

All taxis are free if you can run faster than the driver and/or the random you’re sharing the cab with.

     
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Kit- It’s worth always checking messageboards in hostels and talking to folks in your dorm about what kit you have, as we swapped guide books with people doing our route (but the opposite way) so we both benefited.

Also Food- In western countries, hostels generally have ‘free food’ shelves. That was always the first place we looked when we arrived- we rarely paid for pasta/oils/rice/salt/breads and more, because there was always some going for free! So it’s worth checking it if you’re in an expensive country for a long time!

     
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MEET THE LOCAL’S….and BE CHEEKY!!!

I’ve been travelling for 9 months, 4 of which i have spent in Oz, still have 3 months of travelling to complete and havent and do not intend on working a day!!
No im not a millonaire, i am simply CHEEKY!!
I met a Kiwi guy in the Philippines who gave me a few contacts, those contacs turned into more contacts which equals amazing places to stay with great company, being treated like part of the family, travelling and exploring more of the east coast than a typical backpacker and even attended 2 aussie weddings. My moto “IF YOU DONT ASK YOU DONT GET” I think in the 4 months (i have left and come back too) I have spent approx 2500 pounds, which for what i have ate, drank, seen, done and slept is pretty god damn good!!

OP SHOPS are awesome for some cheap clobber if you fancy kitting out your backpack, or swap your old rags for another backpackers, i’m forever in someone elses clothes these days!

HITCHHIKING is sooo much fun, of course you have to be careful, but some of my best and most interesting stories come from a time when i hitchhiked, and it’s free, or do what i do carry some choccies as a gesture to say thanks, its also helps if you mention that on your sign too “SYDNEY - I HAVE SWEETS” works every time!