“I would love to travel, but I just don’t have the money!” Have you heard that excuse lately? Travel blogs, Instagram channels full of enviable travel pics, and our widely travelled friends’ Facebook feed not only make for heaps of wanderlust, they also bring up the question: How on earth can they afford that? The answer is fairly easy: Travelling doesn’t have to be expansive! On the contrary, the best experiences are often the ones that money can’t buy. At Industriepalast Hostel Berlin we offer you a comfortable stay in a great atmosphere at a really low price, but we also want to make sure that you can get the best out of your trip to Berlin without spending too much. And this is where our newest series Budget Berlin comes into play. In multiple episodes we provide you with some tips and tricks regarding awesome experiences in the German capital that will set you back not more than a few bucks.
Airplane tickets, accommodation, three meals a day, admissions fees, souvenirs, a couple of drinks here and there,… – when travelling, costs can skyrocket quickly. And nothing is more frustrating than having to realize halfway into your trip that you’re running out of funds. But hey, you might say, travelling simply is one expensive hobby, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Let me tell you about Englishman Leon Logothetis, who quit his job to travel some 90 countries on a budget of 5$ a day. And his story is not all that exceptional: many experienced backpackers know, that if you follow a few basic principles, you can save a lot of money – without having to give up much comfort. Want to know how? Here are five ways to travel cheap:
one: Travel Independently
Admittedly, they do sound tempting, these all-inclusive offers and pre-organized travel packages. They promise maximum comfort without any further organizational duties on your end, without hidden surcharges and so on. Too good to be true? Sorry to ruin this for you, but yes. If you book your travels as a complete package, usually you pay more. Furthermore, such pre-organized tours hardly ever live up to the expectation they create: large tour groups, lack of comfort, and a program as original as “locally manufactured” souvenirs purchased at an airport store.
A better way is to plan your travels independently – and to leave enough time for spontaneous changes and flexibility. Online tools such as Skyscanner help you find affordable flight rates, even though it’s often best to book directly with the airline anyway. Also, it might be worth it not booking your entire trip in one haul: Cheap local airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair offer incredibly cheap connections between European cities, and other means of transportation such as long-distance coaches and budget price railway tickets are a great option, too. Let me give you an example: A direct flight from NYC to Berlin can easily set you back more than 1.000€. A cheap flight from NYC to Paris plus an independently booked onward flight with a cheap airline to Berlin are often available at under 250€. Yup, that’s a quarter of the original price. You’re welcome.
Find a hostel that seems promising to you and make a booking directly with them. This way you can chose exactly where you’re going to be staying and you don’t end up paying for something you don’t want or even need. Once you’re there, ask for recommendations about activities, sightseeing, and events in town, making for your very individual travel experience off the beaten track. You’re almost guaranteed to pay less than with an organized tour and your experience will be unique.
two: Take it Slow, Bro
All of Europe in just 7 days? You’ll find offer like that with many commercial travel agencies, promising to give you the “full Europe experience” in just one week. The problem: When you “do” seven capitals in seven days, your actual experience at all these places will be about as intense as a Nascar race on telly. Plus you’ll end up paying a fortune for this “trip of a lifetime”. To take things slow is the secret to any truly amazing travel experience. One week of tightly organized action travelling can easily be more expansive than a full month of intense, deep exploration. Sure, not everyone can afford to take a couple of months off to travel the world on a shoestring. But even for shorter trips, it’s a lot better to choose one or two destinations to explore, rather than speeding from one Lonely Planet top destination to another. When staying in one place for a longer time, you see more, learn more, experience more, and meet more people. Plus, you have the time to prepare a yummy little meal at the hostel kitchen once in awhile, rather than stuffing yourself with mediocre-but-overpriced airport food. In a diverse and colorful city such as Berlin it will take you a few days to really dive in and truly experience the unique vibe anyway. And once you’ve taken that time, you will realize how much more intense, more real your experience will be. To travel slow is to travel far, eventful, and, also: cheap.
three: Do it Like a Local
When hanging out at major tourist destinations you will often find they have one thing in common: A complete lack of locals. The obvious reason is, that these places are usually hopelessly overpriced. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid having to pay for museum admission, a shuttle bus or whatever fee there might be. But altogether you can often save heaps of money by simply sticking to the locals – and you’ll have a greater experience, too. Only because your travel guide lists a restaurant at the top does not mean it’s necessarily good, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be expensive. Ask at your hostel for food recommendations, or speak to your cab driver, subway seat neighbor, or that granny you helped across the street – they will be happy to share their favorite food place with you. After a while you will develop an eye for places popular with the locals. Check them out, they are probably worth it. Use public transportation, rather than a cab. Avoid pub-crawl hotspots and pop in at a cozy bar somewhere in a side street. This way you will get a good look behind the facade of your travel destination minus all the tourist scams. The sights and attractions are usually not, where a city really “happens”. Stick to the locals and find out what life is really like at this place – I promise you’ll be amazed.
four: Knowledge is Power
To be flexible and spontaneous makes your travels easier and more exciting, but that does not mean that you should just dive in without knowing the least bit about the place you’re visiting. Get well-informed in advance and you can make the best of your journey – at a lower cost. No matter if it’s sights, transport, or events, more often than not there are special discounts, admission-free days, or cheap alternatives. For example, when booking a train ticket in Germany online and a couple of days in advance, you often save up to 75%. Otherwise, long-distance coaches and share rides are great affordable alternatives. Instead of blindly trusting the tourism infrastructure it is often better to find out more about a place. Travel blogs and online portals offer valuable recommendations for an affordable experience. Take Berlin for instance: Did you know there were free sights, free walking tours, many cheap eats, and even a free bus tour (https://goo.gl/ufCB4i)? To be smart and informed will take you a long way when travelling on a shoestring.
five: Self-Denial is not worth it
Sure, if you are happy to forgo all amenities you can save a lot of money. But, given this is your hard-earned vacation, do you really want to spend your nights on park benches while feasting on supermarket bread and tap water? Traveling is supposed to be fun, and if you deny yourself the comfort you need you will not enjoy it. We Germans are obsessed with a concept called “Preis-Leistungs-Verhältnis” (“cost benefit ratio”) and it’s your key to happy travels on a tiny budget. The question is basically: What are the amenities I really need and how much am I willing to pay for them? And what comfort do I not need and am therefore willing to forgo? A good night’s sleep might be important to you, but does it really have to be that first-class ticket for your 90-minute train ride? Sure this 40€ steak at the trip-advisor-approved steakhouse looks delicious, but how about you try this charming little restaurant run by locals? Be generous with yourself when it comes to the things you really need and enjoy, and save money everywhere else. This way you’ll stay happy during your travels and are able to make the most of your funds. That is, if you’re not hopelessly posh. If you are, there is no hope for you.
Offering maximum comfort and a great atmosphere at a cheap price, that’s the idea behind Industriepalast Hostel Berlin, too. We want you to enjoy your travels without having to forgo any amenities, while keeping your funds where they belong: In you travel account. Book your stay in Berlin online and save money. We look forward to meeting you here.
Photo: #110443648 | Urheber: sebra
is Berliner by choice and a passionate backpacker himself. As a receptionist he knows the real hostel life; as a blogger he's been writing for Industriepalast Hostel's Berlin blog since 2014.