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Budget Travel

Cheap Or Free Things To Do:  There are a ton of things to experience in any city that require little to no cash.  Some examples are:


  • city walking tours (a couple that I know of are an art walk in Mazatlan and a history/culture walk in Reykjavik. This site does not cover many cities but it does provide a few walking tours around the world:


  • Take yourself on a city bus tour - literally just as it sounds, public transit is often the cheapest way to get around any city and can be a great way to get a feel for a new city.  So grab a metro map or bus route out of the local paper or nearest bus station or something along those lines, and hop on for the ride! Maybe bring a city map and pen with you and circle various places that you'd like to check out later, or just hop off to check it out and grab a later bus!  Somewhat pricier but another decent way to see a new city (if they have them) are the "hop on hop off" type tours, they are often double decker open air busses that take you around to numerous points of interest throughout the city.  


  • go to a museum, there's a museum for just about everything these days (I've been to everything from a penis museum (literally over 200 mammal specimens lol) to a punk museum (located inside an old public city bathroom) in Reykjavik, a sculpture garden in Paris, a Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and probably hundreds of others).  Some museums now offer free admission, or at least have specific days of the week where they offer discounted or free admission (also, the majority of countries now participate in International Museum Day - on May 18th of every year a vast number of museums around the world are free!)


  • visit an art gallery


  • go to the beach


  • go for a walk through a park, or have a picnic in a park, some places (check the local laws before doing so) even allow you to bring alcohol so grab a bottle of wine and enjoy that with your picnic ;-)


  • hit up some hiking trails


  • visit a church/mosque/temple (please ensure you are dressed respectfully - generally covered shoulders, sometimes covered knees, and sometimes you may have to cover your head - I almost always have a scarf/pashmina with me when I travel that I can use to cover up if need be - plus it doubles as an extra layer to help keep warm if it cools off in the evening!) 


  • find a street-side cafe and spend an afternoon people-watching


  • Be flexible and don't be afraid to ask if the attraction has a cheap or free day:  On a recent trip to Lisbon, we headed up to São Jorge Castle one Thursday afternoon and we were planning on spending the rest of the day there, but when we inquired we found out that on Saturday they were having a free "Night at the Castle" - which included events such as traditional Portuguese dancers, a weapons show, and a play!  We switched our plans around so that we could make it on Saturday and I am so glad we were able to experience that!  I mean, how often do you get to hang out in a medieval castle at night?!?!  We never would have known about it if we hadn't asked!

Cheap Accommodations:  Hostels, Couchsurfing, and Housesitting/Petsitting are the way to go if you're on a tight budget.  Housesitting is often free (usually with the caveat that you either look after pets or something along those lines), but can be difficult to organize if you have a  specific city or area that you want to stay in.  See accommodations.


Flights:  I have heard many times that around the 6 week mark is the best time to purchase flights, and have also heard that if you book on a Tuesday they're cheaper.  However, I recommend two things, watching for seat sales yourself, and signing up for a flight watch email - you will get seat sales coming right to your inbox for the dates you have selected.  When you receive an email with the desired flight at a good price, buy it, unless you have plenty of time and you are fairly certain there may be a better sale later.  Seat sales sometimes are only good for a day or sometimes up to a week.  In 2018 we were heading to Mexico for a wedding, and we had over a years notice to look into flights, I waited until I saw a seat sale about 4 months prior to the wedding to purchase.  


Flights on Fridays and Sundays tend to be the most expensive, even moreso around holidays.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the cheapest days to fly on.  Sometimes the best flight options aren't ones you've thought of - for example, I regularly find super cheap flights through the budget airlines across Europe, but getting to Europe (from North America) is the expensive part.  I won't limit my search to my destination, I will search ALL flights to Europe for the cheapest ones and will then find a budget flight to my final destination from there.  See flights.


Transportation:  Some cities (Paris, London, Dubai for example) have excellent public transportation, while others leave much to desire (LA for one has awful public transit, as does Edmonton).  Staying in a city that has good public transit is one way to save money (otherwise you could wind up spending a small fortune on taxis or ubers).  Buying a pass is (almost always) cheaper than buying individual tickets as well.  Exception to that rule are places like Mazatlan where they don't sell ticket packs, you buy them individually when you get on the bus, but the busses there are so cheap anyways that you don't need the bulk discount!  


Another way to see a city for free or cheap is by bicycle!  I rented a bicycle in Copenhagen and it was a great way to get around!  They had bikes for rent all over the place, you just had to sign up with your credit card.  Some hosts (on places like couchsurfing or airbnb) will even provide their bicycle(s) for your use while visiting, which makes it free :) 


What's your favorite free or low cost travel activity? 

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