How To Live Frugally While Travelling Abroad

Jane Wardle

Written by Jane Wardle on February 4, 2019

Updated June 3, 2019


According to the latest government figures, around eight million people travel abroad each month. The majority of these trips are for pleasure, with the average holiday lasting nine days and costing £2,417 per holiday. If this is out of your price range, but you still want to travel, possibly for longer than the standard nine days, don’t think you can’t – there are lots of ways to live cheaply while travelling abroad.

Be prepared

Before you head off on your travels, it pays to spend some time getting ready. Work out where you want to go and what you want to do and how much this will cost you. Set up a savings account, transferring money into every month. If that isn’t enough, look at ways to cut your everyday costs or ways to make more money, selling unwanted items on eBay for example, or picking up extra work to boost your income.

If you plan on travelling for an extended period or paying your way by working, make sure you check visa requirements before booking any flights or accommodation.

Ways to live frugally

Once you’re on your way, there are lots of ways to live within your means but still live well including:

1. Currency

Holiday currency

Travelling abroad means using different currencies, which cost money to convert. If you have a set amount you don’t plan to go over, and only need one type of currency, you can get your money converted before you leave, shopping around for the best deal from banks and high street money exchanges. Compare currency providers here on Lending Expert.

However, there are risks attached to converting money before your trip – what if you lose your wallet for example? – So it may not be your best option. Instead, you might want to change money as you need it while you are away. Withdrawing cash from ATMs is probably your best and cheapest option here while changing it at the airport the most expensive.

Check with your bank or building society on fees for withdrawing cash while abroad so you aren’t surprised by unexpected charges when you get back. If the fees are higher than you want to pay, consider using a pre-paid card that you can load up with money before you go.

2. Accommodation

Hotels can be costly, and if you are looking to travel on a budget, many may be out of your price range. If they are, look for hostels which can save you money, especially if you are comfortable sharing a room and a bathroom.

Airbnb or similar sites are another excellent option, though you should be looking to rent a room rather than a whole house to save as much money as possible.

3. Transport

Getting around can be expensive. If you are moving around a town or city, avoid taxis and take buses or – even better – walk to where you need to go. If you are going to be in a place for a while, get yourself a travel pass, which will save you money in the long-run. If you are travelling between cities take trains instead of planes; they may take longer, but they will probably be cheaper.

If you’re travelling in Europe an Interrail pass is a great option. If you’re under 28, a monthly pass works out as little as £15 a day if you travel every day (it’s £20 if you’re over 28). Plus, kids’ passes are free.

4. Activities

Unfortunately, some of the most popular tourist attractions charge a fee to visit. While you won’t want to miss out on them (in fact, they may be one of the main reasons you’re travelling), if you fill the rest of the days with free activities you will be able to afford to visit without breaking the bank.

Online travel guides such as Trip Advisor are a great way to find free activities. However, local magazines, newspapers and websites are an even better source because they will include up-to-date listings.

5. Food

Local publications are also a great way to find out about cheap places to eat, ones off the tourist trail, where you can enjoy regional cuisine at a fraction of the cost. As eating out can add up, try and mix eating in restaurants with making your meals if you have access to a kitchen where you are staying, or buying fresh produce and making up picnics to eat in local parks.

Outside of food, alcohol is one of the most significant expenses you can face travelling if you aren’t careful. Keep an eye on how many drinks you order with a meal or stick to buying your alcohol during happy hours.

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