Saving and managing your money, before and while traveling

Have you been traveling or planning a long trip. Whether it is just for a few weeks or for many months there are many ways to save money before and while on the road.

Before you leave

First of all, cut down on any extra expenses. Restaurants, theater, movies, etc... Less activities before you leave will mean more activities while traveling. If your goal really is to travel you will easily be able to cut down on some unnecessary expenses.

Think ahead of what you will need in your backpack and buy when on special, try looking online for some stuff you might find great deals compared to local shops.


If you have too much stuff that you would need to store in the time you will be gone and are willing to sell some, do a big yard sale and get rid of what you can live without. Make some extra money at the same time. I had sold all of my furniture and most of my electronics before I left for South America.

Choose where you want to travel carefully. Many countries are a lot cheaper than others. Choose wisely, read about the countries you prefer and think ahead of time. From my experience countries like Peru and Bolivia were very cheap to travel, that is if you travel wisely. Other countries like Chile and Argentina are awesome too but a little more expensive especially in high season. If you are flexible and have more than one option to choose from, take time to research. There are plenty of websites that will help. So saving money on the road means some planning before you leave.

To be flexible on your time of departure will also save you a lot of money. Shop around for plane tickets is the first step to cheaper travels. There are many flight planners out there and they will not all have the same prices. Look at all them sites and more than once, some days of the weeks are always better to buy plane ticket. Tuesday is always the cheapest day of the week to buy tickets, many companies make changes to the prices on Tuesday, which is why some prices go down a lot on that day of the week. But keep looking you could also find better deals on some other days. Here are some of my favorite flight finders, but there are many many more.

Booking Buddy
One Travel
ITA Software - Matrix seach

If you do not mind having a bit of rain or lower temperatures for some countries you can always travel off season. Many countries will be a lot cheaper to travel in those times. Activities and accommodations will have a difference in prices since there are a lot less tourists and they are trying to book their tours or fill their rooms. Lowering prices is a way to get more customers, so look around you could find some incredible deals. But be aware that it is low season for a reason. Some countries will only have colder weather, some others will be rainy season. But even in rainy season you can manage to get there at the beginning or end of low season and still have awesome weather, but it is always a guess. You might be lucky or not.

Dealing with money and currency

The first tip will always be to use the local currency, it will always be easier to deal with locals in their own money. There are some exceptions, for example in Argentina the American money as a higher value than normal, where it is possible to negotiate better prices for accommodations for example. But for most countries, do not try this you will end up having a very bad exchange rate. In most underdeveloped countries you can always negotiate prices with street vendor or even accommodations if you plan on staying many nights in a row. With street vendors it is obvious that they will most likely give you a tourist price. On the first few days always be aggressive while negotiating it will give you a general idea of how much lower the true price will be. If you can always negotiate prices down by 30% of the price they give you then you will know that most vendors will easily go down by 25% of the price they give you at first without ripping them off. After a few week you will have a fairly good idea of what the price of four bananas might be everywhere else, so if a vendor does not want to bring down is prices simply turn around a go see another one, most of the time they will call you back and sell it to you for a lower price, not wanting to loose a customer.

1.2 Million Guarani in Paraguay

If you wish to save money on exchange rates, the best way to do so is to not exchange any money at all, unless there are no other options. I always used my credit card in bank machines and not my debit card. Here is how I did it : Do an over payment on your credit card so that they will owe you money, wait a few days for the payment to be processed. Go to most bank machines and take money out in local currency. Since the credit company was owing me the money, they never charged me for exchange rates on my Visa card for example. Another saving is to withdraw enough money to last a few weeks at a time. Lets say 300$, in Peru would last me more than two weeks generally. I was charged a 5$ fee every time for making a withdrawal, so making bigger withdrawals would last me longer and cost me less fees. From there make sure not to carry all your money in the same place. Hide some in different pockets of you bags, use a money belt, be wise and never carry money in an easily accessible pocket. There could be some pickpockets in some countries or even someone wanting to steal from you in hostals, keep your bag locked up and safe even if you have no money in it. Never carry more easy access money than what you need for a day or two, that way if you would ever have the bad luck of being robbed you only give that little bit, saying that's all you have. I was never robbed or had anything stolen from me, but always be on the safe side, it could still happen.

Food & transport

Many people are afraid of street food, don't be. It will be the cheapest lunches you can get and the freshest food you will get. The locals eat street food all the time and the products they use will most likely be freshest than many tourist restaurant, that will be more expensive. Also try out the local markets for cheap food stands. Good full local meals for one quarter of the price of local restaurant for similar food. Look for places with set meals at a fix prices. In many countries in South America I would see signs outside of small restaurants saying Almuerzo (lunch) or Cena (dinner) for a fix cheap price. For example while in La Paz, Bolivia I would often go to one place that had a Cena sign for 5 Bolivanos, which was a full supper for less than a dollar. I could sometimes eat for a whole day for less than 5$, but it always depends where you are and when you are there. Look around when you get to a new country and find these good deals and to get to know what you can expect to pay for different services.

Street food is always great

How to save on transportation. The first option to consider is to see if there are different types of buses available in the country you are in. Some countries like Peru have tourist buses and local buses. Although the tourist buses are still affordable, your best bet will be to go with the locals for cheaper transport. In many countries the bus stations have many different operators and the prices will vary from one to the other. Shop around and try bargaining from one operator to the other, you will be surprised at the differences you will see. For sure you must expect that the cheapest prices will probably be less comfortable buses and maybe more stops on the way but one way or another you will get to your destination in the end. I must recommend that while traveling in local buses, stay careful and watch your belongings. If a bus makes a stop, always ask the driver how much time you have and don't wander too far. The drivers most likely will not count heads before leaving, so don't miss your bus. Always be patient, because the local buses will, most of the time, run late. If you wish to save even more money while on transportation, try taking the night bus. You will save a one night stay in a room, when the traveling time is more than a few hours.

Local buses will sometimes be overfilled

Whenever dealing with taxis, always ask what the fare is before getting in the cab. If you are just getting into town and wanting to find a taxi from a bus terminal, look around for other travelers that might want to share the fare with you. Be careful and ask some personnel inside the terminal what the price should be to get to your destination, they usually have a fairly good idea. Or if you have a reservation with a hotel or hostal, ask them what the price should be. If the driver asks for too much, try negotiating. If he does not want to lower his price, go see another taxi driver. If you are in a country where they have rickshaws or mototaxi, go for them for their fares will always be much lower than any taxi.

Mototaxi in Peru

In city buses or transport, if you are not sure when to get out for your destination, ask another local if he can help you out. They are always of good help and will let you know when you are getting close to your station or stop. Don't be shy to ask, it will most likely save you time and trouble.


Looking for a place to stay. You have various option for various prices. The cheapest and most rewarding will be to live with locals if you have the opportunity. Then you have the Couchsurfing option that is always a great way to meet locals and a cheap bed. If you have a camping gear and are in a country suitable for camping you have another cheap option. There is the youth hostal that are most of the time very affordable and great for meeting other travelers. Sites like Hostelworld and Hostelbookers were my favorite to find a place to stay, but look around town they are not all promoting on such sites. The last one I will suggest is sometimes the best, depends where you are, they are guesthouses or local hostels. Guesthouse are usually like a bed & breakfast with shared accommodations, and local hostels are cheap hotels usually also with shared accommodations, but here you will always have more openness to dealing prices when you plan on staying many nights, these are usually never advertised anywhere, the only way to find out their prices will be to walk in and ask.

I often was making reservations in youth hostals on the first nights I would get to a new town. If it suited me I would stay for more days, if not I would leave early in the morning and would find myself a cheaper place to stay before I had to check-out, usually around 11am or noon. That way I did not have to carry my backpack all around town just to find a new place.

In the end

Having a few tips like these in the beginning will be a great way to start your travel, but I am sure that once you will get used to the traveling way of life, you will find tips of your own. If you have any tips that you would like to share with others please feel free to share them in the comments below. I will also be glad to hear them, the more you have the cheaper your travels will be. Have fun, be safe and travel far and long.

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