Being on the other side of the world with one credit card blocked and another simply not working for unknown reasons, 18 USD in the wallet, and still another week of staying abroad helps you start thinking critically about where each coin goes. Wouldn’t it be better to start this thought process before the trip begins?
In fact, you can economize on everything from transportation to meals, and still enjoy your vacation even with a tight budget.
Transportation: To get the best airfares, be flexible. You can save a fortune if you are willing to have second, third and fourth choices of not only dates but also destinations, thanks to huge fluctuations in airline prices.
The Skypicker.com and Airixo.com websites offer lists of the cheapest deals from the Czech Republic depending on the approximate dates chosen. The French web page Jetcost.com gives a list of all the airlines’ rates on chosen dates and compares the prices, times of the travel, and changing flights.
When traveling to neighboring countries, consider either a bus or a train. Most AAU students prefer buses for their lower costs but train lovers say they will pay more for greater comfort and speed.
Student Agency usually has “first-minute” bus and train tickets. When booking tickets more than a month in advance, a return ticket will cost 500 Kc (about 20 Euro) less than a regular “Flexi ticket.” The company also gives a 10 percent discount on bus or railway routes to students with a valid ISIC card. Ceske Drahy, the Czech national railway, on the other hand, provides discounts only for Czech students and does not accept ISIC cards.
In order to save a bit more, book night buses or trains to cut accommodation expenses and save hours of actually being at your destination — but think first about the way you will be sleeping on a bus.
Getting to the city center: After reaching the final destination it is always recommended to have a route to the city center already planned.
It is always appealing to take a taxi from the airport, especially seeing a long line of yellow vehicles waiting in front of the terminal exit. To avoid an urge to get a cab look up public transport connections, shuttle buses or a speed train: the price will be more reasonable.
A map of the city and a hotel location saved on the phone or written down on a piece of paper will save the priceless time abroad. In case of emergency it is okay to ask for help. The nearest hotel receptionist will gladly share a city map and explain how to get to the center.
Accommodation: Out of the variety of accommodation options, 77 percent of AAU students surveyed said they preferred hotels and hostels. Booking.com and Hostelworld.com are the most demanded sites on Google search, and the first ones to pop out.
Fewer students chose bed and breakfast (B&B) and Couch Surfing (CS). Staying at a B&B is an alternative to the classic hotel stay, which is sometimes more expensive. Usually located in private homes, they offer far fewer bedrooms than hotels. However, sometimes they are located in renovated old houses or mansions with antique furnishing and original décor.
Couch Surfing, a hospitality exchange website, gives an opportunity to travel to the most exotic places at no cost. Only 12 percent of AAU students use CS regularly.
“You can kind of choose who you are going to stay with,” said AAU student Mario Ceselka. “You cannot do this in a hostel, where you are put in a room with random people and cant change it.”.
However, one should choose a host very carefully. Numerous news outlets report assaults and cases of rape. A recent Guardian newscast reported on the case of an Italian policeman who used Couch Surfing to drug and assault female travelers. However, the website tries to minimize risk the best it can.
Sightseeing for Free: Planning sightseeing by searching for “free things to do” on Google will bring out a variety of activities that will not cost a penny.
In many cities museums are open for everybody on certain days free of charge: for instance, Prague’s National Museum is free every first Monday of the month.
Public transportation can be used as an alternative to traditional bus tours around the city. For the same price as you would pay for a tram ride, Prague’s Funicular Railway connecting Ujezd tram stop and the top of Petrin hill opens a magnificent view over Prague.
In New York City, the Staten Island ferry gives an opportunity to enjoy a very close view of the Statue of Liberty. Part of the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, it is free to ride. Old trolleys in Miami designed for tourists show the main historic sites and transport travelers through places of interest for free, too. Amsterdam ferries along the river are free as well.
Taking a bus tour around the city is a way to get a general overview of the most popular sights. A cheaper option is a “free walking tour” and every big city has one. “ I adore free walking tours due to the great opportunity to meet new people and feel at ease because pecuniary side is not touched,” said Anna Maroz, AAU Journalism major.
Food: When it comes to food, students save their money according to their abilities: either it is eating in McDonald’s and other fast foods, or buying food in supermarkets and making salads or sandwiches in the hotel room.
“Every evening we were going to the pub to find some boys to buy us food, drinks or whatever,” said AAU student Georgyi Pak about traveling to Berlin for five days on 50 Euros. “I know it sounds bad but it was the only way we could survive there.”