About 5 years ago I planned a trip of a lifetime to New York City: Manhattan hotels, yellow cabs and jogging in Central Park. I had saved up a bit of money and so I felt quite prepared but somehow the costs kept adding up until my NYC dream was blown to smithereens. The next day I woke up with the strong urge to go somewhere, anywhere. I packed a suitcase and drove to Durban. It was no NYC but that trip woke me up to the possibility of travel even for those of us who aren’t as financially inclined. After many crazy adventures, with plenty travel mistakes, I’ve learnt to travel smart with these 10 tips which I hope will help you get the best out of your next getaway.
The three most important things to consider when travelling are accommodation, transportation and food. It might take a few days online comparing prices but it’ll be worth it. Two of the best ways to do this is to visit online forums or through friends who have previously been to your chosen destination. Also, when researching online be sure to compare reviews from different sources to avoid being deceived by misleading reviews.
- Start close to home
I pulled off my first trip, which was to Durban, with only R3000 in my pocket. Before this trip I had secretly qualified great travel with the distance; the further away the destination, the greater the experience. However, I was surprised at all the new and exciting adventures I stumbled upon in nearer places such as Durban and Mozambique.
- No hotels
If you’re on a budget, a hotel should be the last thing on your mind. You will save a heap of money if you consider hostels, backpackers, Airbnbs and guesthouses. It’s always a plus if your accommodation is a walking distance to your intended activities so you can save on transport. It may also be cheaper to consider accommodation that is out of town on condition it is located on a public transport route.
Don’t take metered taxis if you can help it. Public transport such as buses, trains and tuk-tuks are your friend. If those options aren’t available, I use taxi services such as Bolt or Uber. If you are in South Africa and looking for a an affordable and hassle-free way to hire a car, you can use an online service called Rent My Ride.
Shopping at the supermarket while on holiday might not be glamourous but it will save you plenty of money. You could pick up easy-to-prepare items such as bread, cheese, cold meats, nuts which you can pack and eat anytime and anywhere. The next yummy option is local street food. It’s accessible and affordable. In South Africa I usually buy street food such as corn on the cob, boerewors rolls, fruit, popcorn. When it comes to restaurants, I love Turkish and Pakistani eateries. They’re usually clean, tasty and decently priced.
- Visa-free countries
If you are a South African passport holder you are in luck when travelling within Africa as most countries are visa-free. Outside of South Africa you can consider popular visa-free destinations such as Thailand, Brazil and Bali. (Get the full list of visa –free countries for South Africans on, http://businesstech.co.za/news/wealth/292722/here-are-101-countries-you-can-travel-to-visa-free-with-your-south-african-passport-in-2019)
- Have cash
Carry cash with you. It will save you a lot on ATM withdrawal costs. This also makes it easier to keep track of how much money you are spending daily. Remember to keep your money secure at all times to avoid falling victim to pick-pocketing.
- Mingle with the locals
Imagine, god forbid, you get into trouble in the country you’re visiting, maybe having unwittingly broken one of their laws (especially non-English speaking countries), and you have no one to call. Knowing a few locals in your holiday destination can help you stay out of dicey situations. Besides the worst case scenario, hanging out with locals allows you a unique and authentic experience.
Wherever you are don’t be afraid to ask if they have Wi-Fi. I am a Wi-Fi savage and I’m unashamed. Even with Wi-Fi being more and more available in big cities it’s still advisable to get a local connection for your cell phone for your own safety and peace of mind. Research the different mobile networks for your intended destination to make sure you choose a plan suited for your needs and the duration of your visit.
- Pack light
You are going to be walking a lot so a light load will help you go the distance. Make sure you pack simple clothes such shorts, t-shirts, jeans, etc. It’s also okay to pack one or two fancy outfits for those special nights on the town. Most importantly, pack comfortable shoes as you will likely be walking to all the attractions and activities.
Be safe. Try and be with people when visiting a place for the first time. If you will be alone get guidance from security guards or police officers before wondering off into unknown areas. Remember to be aware of your surrounds and ensure your money and your passport are safe at all times.
Happy travels wanderers!