If you’re still not sure about what to do this summer, gasping for a holiday or just want to get away from wall to wall Queen-o-lympics there’s no better way to do it than by stepping across the border and exploring foreign lands.
Here’s a little secret for you – you don’t need to be rolling in money to do it (I’m definitely not). Just say no to a few nights out, cook your own meals on principle, and you might save enough for your big trip. You don’t need a lot of money to go abroad, this is what travel companies want you to believe. They would prefer you took one or two short luxury trips a year, rather than spend the money bumming around Eastern Europe or Morroco for a month. Have patience, and travel unconventionally.
So how to do it? Plan your budget and destination accordingly. If you’re broke, going to Berlin rather than Stockholm makes more sense, as things are cheaper. The two biggest expenses on holiday are transport and accommodation, and with a bit of planning you don’t have to spend too much on them.
Let’s start with transport because, well, you’re gonna have to get there. With relatively cheap tickets from budget airlines there really is no excuse not to travel. Ryanair treat you like cattle but they are relatively cheap (watch out for those pesky hidden charges) and fly to a lot of destinations from Edinburgh – although they are planning to cut a lot of routes (including the one that takes me back to Slovakia!) so keep that in mind if you’re planning long in advance. Nearly each low cost has a newsletter – so get subscribed to these things for regular sales. Especially good if your schedule is not set in stone. Usually you can get a good deal if you’re buying a month ahead. Also make sure that the airport you’re flying to is actually where you want to be so you won’t be surprised when you get out from your flight to Paris and end up in a village an hour away from the city of love. Don’t do what I did when I took a taxi from Prestwick to Glasgow, embarrassing and sad, especially for my wallet (it was a long taxi ride). Still, I made the flight to London and it still cost me less than if I’ve taken the train.
For bigger trips, you’ll probably need to get your ticket ahead of time to save money. Each airline has its own peculiarities regarding prices so check skyscanner.net regularly to get a good deal. Make sure to have the money on you so you can buy it before its gone. Also don’t be afraid of stopovers. On my way to Australia (my first solo flight) I changed at Dubai airport, and on a different occasion my brother spent 3 days in Hong Kong to get the best deal.
You can of course get away on train or a bus but they are usually expensive or uncomfortable. However if you know you’ll be using this type of transport a lot, get your ass to cheap countries where you can travel a lot for a fraction of what you’d spend at home. For example in Russia a ticket from Moscow to Tver (3 hrs away) would cost you only about 3 pounds. If you’re in Central and Eastern Europe you can travel from country to country quite comfortably for less than you’d spend commuting within Glasgow.
Gather your mates together and do a roadtrip, the best/cheapest way to travel on the road is to hitch-hike. It’s not for everyone and it is quite intimidating the first time around but it is an amazing experience. Not only you get where you want for free but you meet all those amazing characters (like that Bulgarian truck driver in France who kept talking to me in Bulgarian and got us completely lost for a few hours).
Make sure to check out hitchwiki.org before your trip. Don’t be dumb like me and don’t go on the road with only a cardboard sign a pen and no knowledge about hitch hiking whatsoever – read this site and get a map as well. Some countries are nearly impossible to hitch through (Germany I’m looking at you) while others are hitch friendly so keep that in mind while picking your destination. Also it’s always better not to hitch alone especially if you’re a girl, two is ideal, if there’s more of you, you should prepare to get split. Truck drivers are great as they know the roads quite well, although a lot of them can get into trouble for taking hitchhikers. As the people who will pick you up probably spent quite a lot of time on the road try and be nice to them and keep the conversation going, it’s the least you can do.
Don’t stay in expensive hotels – you’re probably going to stay out exploring your destination, so all you need is just a bed (sometimes not even that) you can crash down at.
Dorm rooms in hostels are not only cheap but provide a great way of getting to know other travelers and explore a new city, or get drunk, depending on your preference. If you’re a couple or two people travelling together in a lot of hostels you can get a private room if you’re concerned about safety or want to get some “private time”. Hostels are not only cheap, but often have kitchens so you can save some money by cooking yourself instead of eating out.
Don’t like hostels? Got no money? Well there is a great way to get your accommodation completely free: couchsurfing. It’s a website where strangers will host other travelers for free. It’s great because you will stay at people’s flats – usually natives of the country who will often show you around, or tell you about the best places to go or party. Due to the system of references it’s very unlikely you’ll have someone unpleasant. I have had only positive experiences.
Some pointers – research the people you want to stay with and pick someone you’d be likely to get along. This will also help you to send personalised requests. A lot of people will reject you outright if you used boring, generic, text. If you want to get to popular destinations like Paris or Amsterdam people at the top get requests nearly every day so it might take a while to find someone to stay with. That’s why its good to leave yourself some time, or go and explore small cities as well. Also it’s good to get your host a little present from home or cook something for them – especially if you’re staying longer than a few days.
If you don’t like the idea of staying at a stranger’s flat you can also use this site for meeting up with people to grab a drink or go for a trip in a foreign country or your own. Scotland also has a thriving couchsurfing community so you join and perhaps help a few wide-eyed foreigners get around Glasgow or even host someone.
There are as many ways of travel as there are travelers, so hopefully you’ll get to use some of these tips to plan your amazing experience. Whether its hitchhiking around France, couchsurfing in Poland and Czech Republic or exploring the nature and beaches around Croatia. It should come as no surprise that there are a lot of amazing places all around the world, but you know you’re on the right track when your friends and family ask “why would you want to go there?” You can just smile and continue planning your big trip to Armenia. With this sort of travel you will definitely get more interesting travel experiences. It’s not about how many books you’ve read at the beach during a family holiday (my record is 11) but all the cool people you’ve met at that crazy party your couchsurfing host brought you in Belgium or the times you …
So start planning or just hit the road and see where you’ll end up.
Some more useful info: travelindependent.info