Thursday, 26 December 2019


True: time costs money. Also true: it is possible to minimize travelling costs and maximise travelling time by remembering a few budgeting tips. Money can’t buy happiness, but knowing you can get around the world on a less-than-promising budget is good enough for us. Check out what we’ve learnt on the Purse-use of Happiness!
Don’t go with the first travel insurance company you find. As a backpacker, you need to be covered for more than the usual leisurely holiday. You've got to be covered for: trekking into the wilderness, partaking in adventurous activities, transport delays and cancellations, natural disasters, injuries and potential medical emergencies... and the details of different policies can be a little confusing. We decided that insurance was not something we wanted to scrimp on.

Haze was set on getting her travel insurance early and was tempted to buy the STA quote she was offered when asking about a tour. But despite boasting student-friendly prices, STA is one of the most expensive companies to use in terms of value for money. As boring as it sounds, it is worth reading the small print before mindlessly ticking that little “yes I’ve read the T&C’s box”.

Fortunately, we found a great company called True Traveller. Their site is user-friendly, their quotes are affordable, and you can ring them up and tell them what you need and they will tell you precisely and honestly what your options are. By just reading the policies and ringing around, we found a value for money policy that won't leave us in a very expensive mess should something go wrong *touches wood*.

Use Sykscanner month view. This does what it says on the tin and shows the cheapest flight to your destination for every day of the month. I can’t stress how useful this tool is for saving money: it can be £100 cheaper to fly a day later or earlier than the one you’ve researched, and enabled us to get to Rio from London for less than £225! With flights being the most expensive cost of travelling, our schedule has been scaffolded by whichever ones are the cheapest. Estimated saving: £100+


Clear your cookies before you book. I’m no computer engineer, but I think Google has worked out that if I keep looking up flights, it means I’m planning to book one. So it puts the prices up, just for me. Normally I love attention, but in this case, being anonymous is how we beat these money-hungry airlines, and somehow, clearing cookies online is how we do that. If only the same anonymity could be guaranteed when clearing cookies from the family tin…. Estimated saving: £20

Cook! Eating in is such a simple way to save money. In Patagonia especially, we realised that it just wouldn’t be financially sustainable to dine out like we had in Brazil. So, we tootled on down to the local supermarket and bought our lunches and dinners in bulk. Pasta costs under £1 and the vegetables, as they’re grown in South America (check your veggie sources in the UK, you’ll see what I mean), are affordable. It’s always good to exercise the old cooking skills and it can be a nice way to meet other people in the hostel and socialise too! It's also good if you fancy something specific for example, a home comfort like a jacket potato with beans and cheese (though it must be said that baked beans were not a thing in South America). It may not be the most luxurious of meals but if you have the time, you can cut your costs by £10+ per day. 

Thank you TJ for your ramen recipe xxx

Use, not Hostelworld.
This is especially useful if you are doing a long-haul trip, as each time you use, you’re getting closer to upgrading your ‘Genius Level.’ I’m on Level 2 and get 10% off all hostels and free breakfasts! Some people really take this to the extreme by booking each night as a separate transaction to boost their points, but this is a bit of a hassle as it means you might have to swap rooms, or be required to check out and back in. If you can’t decide on a hostel in a specific location, compare things like free breakfasts, free airport transfers, cooking facilities, WiFi and laundry services to help make your decision!

Student card. If you are in your third year, take this from a student who rEgRAts not doing this: purchase a Totum card of three years so you can receive student discounts after you’ve graduated! Student cards are valid abroad and an excellent way of saving money on museum entries, art exhibitions, national park entries, and more. Fortunately, Hazel has her UniDays app which has somehow renewed for her and our other friend was a smarticle and purchased a Totum card in time. I, on the other hand, had to bite the bullet and pay full price. Sometimes tickets are 50% cheaper with a student discount! Estimated saving: £5 per entry.

Use an international bank! I’ve been using two different accounts, neither of which charge you for using your card abroad. They’re so useful that I’m going to continue using them back at home! (Estimated saving £2.50 per transaction)
Monzo is attached to an app, which makes it super easy to track spending, set budgets, freeze your card if it gets lost, and our favourite feature: split your spending by setting up a tab. Rather than all of us waving our cards around and asking in broken Spanish if we can pay separately, one of us can pay and simply add the transaction to our ‘Travelling’ tab later. Monzo automatically converts the currency to £, divides it by the number of people in the tab and minimises the chances of us all losing our cards at the same time. Lifesaver!
Starling, in my opinion, doesn’t have quite a user-friendly app, but is advantageous over Monzo in that there is no cap of cash you can get out. With Monzo, if you withdraw £200 a month, they start charging you an additional 3%. Plus it's always good to have a backup card!
Here's what our George and Haze Monzo tab looks like!

... we use it a lot!

Tuppaware. Now, there have been a few Tupperware lost and found along the way -- try not to cry whilst reading this please Hazel -- but their usefulness is not lost on us! Ha ha ha… Great for reducing single-use plastic usage (see ya, clingfilm), we could both pack sandwiches, or the night before’s leftovers in them to eat for lunch the next day. This means you save on throwing away food you’ve bought and won't need to buy lunch the next day. Estimated saving: £6 per use.

Book in person. In South America at least, there is an additional tax for online booking. Buses are frequent and reliable -- just head to the bus station and book with the company. If possible, do so a few days before, as they fill up quite quickly and we thoroughly recommend doing anything humanly possible to avoid being stuck waiting at a bus station for say, 7 hours, say, overnight, on say, a bank holiday. Estimated saving: £10

Research! Does the country charge for ATMs? Does the place you’re going to accept card? Is public transport reliable/safe? Is there a cheaper tour? Research sounds like a gruelling task on your vacation but it really does save you money and time in the long run! It doesn’t have to take long, just a few wiki searches, Reddit asks, and chats with the hostel staff will suffice. In fact, people’s advice when you get there is often better than anything Google can tell you so do take and share notes with other travellers!

Each company will tell you their tour is the best value for money. Head to an information centre to get the unbiased facts, they will tell you what every tour offers and the prices so you can make an informed decision. Our hostel chums paid a whopping £120 to get on the exact same boat as us (we paid £40) and the only ‘extra’ they got was a trip to a small island; they reported back that they'd seen a “dolphin carcass” in a marine life museum. I think we made the right choice by saving some ££ and giving it a miss…

Another example of research saving the traveller’s pocket is our experience with public transport. The Lonely Planet guide advises people against taking public buses because they’re often subject to robberies. We thought we would have to take the metro but when we got to reception they said that Uber is super cheap and safer than taking the metro too. However, in Chile, we ordered an Uber to our B&B without realising that it was illegal to do so! When we got there the receptionist offered to book us a cab to the airport for our flight the next day -- we had to pay £3 more for the ride but it was worth it to be respectful and safe.

We hope you've found our budgeting tips useful!

All the love,

George and Haze xxxxx


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