Friday, 23 October 2015

How to Travel Cheaply: Transport tips

I recently posted on how to save money in the lead up to travelling, and today I bring you a follow up: how to travel on a budget. Instead of travelling for two weeks in fancy hotels and eating out every night in Michelin star restaurants, I want to be able to travel for as long as possible. This means cutting back in many areas including accomodation, transport, and food. Let's start with transport

Airplanes
Depending on where you'll be travelling, flying may be necessary and may be one of the largest expenses you have for the trip. I'm no expert, but my layman's advice is to:
1. Book well in advance. As soon as you have tentative dates for your travel, start looking at booking airfares. DO NOT leave your flights til the last minute looking for last-chance deals. This is stressful and in the end you will likely pay more anyway. 
2. Shop around online. There will be various deals that airlines provide, some of which save you a ton of money. You can sign up to mailing lists to receive deals straight to your inbox (Ryanair provides cheap inter-European flights and they send emails frequently). 
3. If you have a complicated itinerary, enlist the help of a travel agent. I thought that travel agents were old fashioned and unnecessary as I know how to use a computer. Not so! On our latest trip, we planned to go through Australia and Southeast Asia on the way to Europe, and it turned out that it was actually cheaper to book through an agent than do it ourselves online. We gathered quotes from over ten travel agents around the country to compare prices, and STA Travel provided the best deals. They organised all the flights for us (we chose to book the accommodation ourselves), and it took the worry out of so many connections. Again, you need to shop around as prices can fluctuate dramatically between travel agents: the most expensive quote was for double the price we ended up paying!

Cars
Roadtripping in a car is by far my favourite way to travel, as it allows freedom not only in terms of destinations but also schedule - you can go anywhere, any time you like! The cheapest way to travel by car is to buy a car secondhand and then sell it again once you've finished your trip. This can be complicated due to the processes you need to go through to purchase the car, register it, and apply for insurance, and these can vary drastically depending on which country you intend to do this in. I recommend doing in-depth online research and asking friends who live in the country if they know the process. If you can drive away from your own country (not possible in New Zealand), it will likely be much easier than trying to do it once abroad. 
An easier way to do this in Europe is the Peugeot EuroLease scheme, in which you technically buy the car from Peugeot and sell it back at the end, but they do all the work and it's pretty much just like renting a (brand new!) car for a fraction of what you would pay normally for a car rental service. (I will be writing a full blog post on exactly how we used Peugeot EuroLease for our Europe road trips soon.)
When filling up the car with petrol, shop around. Don't wait until you're in the red to fill up, as many times you'll be paying much more than necessary. I've found that in Europe and New Zealand, supermarket petrol stations are generally cheaper than popular brands. NEVER fill up on the motorway: petrol stations can get away with charging extortionate prices. Instead, drive off the motorway into a town or the outskirts of a city where prices will be lower. 

Trains
Trains can be much cheaper than airfares and car costs, but they generally take much longer depending on where you are going. However, once you've started your trip and need to get within countries or continents, trains are a good choice. Passes are great value if you're going to be travelling enough to make benefit of it. Again, I'm no expert as I prefer car travel, but Nomadic Matt has a great article explaining it all here if you're considering utilising rail.

Ferries
As with any other transport, book well in advance for ferry crossings where you can, particularly in high season. With small ports, it may be okay to rock up half an hour before and buy your ticket, but it's always best to be prepared for the worst case scenario. In some areas there will be only one ferry service, but for busy crossings you will have multiple companies to choose from. Directferries.com  allows you to compare prices between companies, and is the website I use when booking ferry tickets. 
When you book, never pay for a seat or room unless you are desperate. These added features are ridiculously expensive and often there will be seats for you to use anyway (but be prepared to sit or sleep on the floor if they are unavailable). 

Bicycles
Full disclosure here - I can't ride a bike. I never learnt. But I've heard great things! Certainly one of the cheapest ways to slash transport costs is to cycle. Your expenses will be the initial purchase and any subsequent repairs, but apart from that it's free! There are of course limitations, such as storage space, a lack of shelter from the elements and the need for decent leg muscles so consider this when you plan how you'll travel. 

Hitchhiking
I've never done it myself, but hitchhiking is an option when considering cheap travel. An informative article on hitchhiking can be found here if you're interested in exploring this possibility further. 

Tours
Though I have a tendency to flinch when I think of going on a tour, sometimes it's unavoidable ("I promise I won't get lost in that complex of caves") or simply easier than doing it yourself. For instance, in Vietnam we booked a taxi to the train station in Hanoi where we caught an overnight train to Cai Rong. From there we took a van to Sapa and then did the reverse three days later. However, when we were looking into visiting Bai Tu Long Bay (Ha Long's little sister), we found that it would be difficult to find our way without speaking Vietnamese. So we booked a tour through  Ethnic Travel, who allowed us a certain level of flexibility and freedom. It was still a tour - shudder - but we mainly utilised the tour company for the transport side of things, and it worked out to be a helluva lot easier than booking all the components ourselves. We even got to kayak, which was great fun. We'd never be able to do that normally as one of us would have to sit out to watch the valuables. 

Inner-city Transportation
When getting around within a city, my strongest recommendation for transport is your feet. Walk around, get to know a place really well. If you're going too far to walk, or you need to get there quickly, you can probably take a metro, bus or tram depending on the city. In some parts of the world you may need to take a taxi or tuk tuk, and it's best to ask staff at your accommodation (or other trustworthy locals) what prices you should be paying for a ride. I'd stay away from tourist trains or sightseeing busses as they are just awful, but free walking tours are an option as well as bike rentals. Segway tours seem to be on the rise... I prefer walking thank you. Gimmicky transport such as horse drawn carts or gondolas are often very pricey, but if you're really keen on one then share the ride with as many people as you can to bring the cost-per-person down. 

Thanks for reading. Hopefully you found this information useful. What did I miss? Share your yogurts in the comments below!