The Rand has been taking a bit of beating of late, but we South Africans are a resourceful bunch. Here’s how to make your budget go further if you’re travelling abroad for work or pleasure.
1. Start right
Make arrangements to get to the airport early rather than just on time. Nothing kills your holiday joy faster than having to pay a fee to get onto the next flight – and who knows when that might be.
2. Money matters
Your ATM withdrawal limit in South Africa probably won’t apply overseas, which means that a large amount of money can disappear if it gets stolen. It’s a good idea to carry a dummy wallet with an expired credit card and other important-looking cards to hand over, should you get robbed.
3. Have a base
If you only have 10 days, consider making one city your base and going on day trips from there. You’ll have more time as you won’t have to travel so much and you’ll probably save money as better day rates apply for longer stays. Besides, nothing beats being treated like a “local” at the corner café instead of a tourist.
4. do the math
If you are going to fly from one city to the next, don’t automatically opt for a low-cost carrier. Chances are that it doesn’t fly into the main airport, which could mean spending the 30 euros you saved on a bus fare to get to the city. It’s always a good idea to use a website or app such as Travelstart, a trusted platform that searches several airlines and hotels at once and quickly provides a list of options, arranged according to price. It will also give you the option to book a flexible ticket so you can change your travel dates for free if you need to.
5. Think trains
Specifically, overnight trains. You may not see much of the countryside but you’ll save a night’s accommodation and arrive early enough to start enjoying your first day in a new city immediately.
6. Pack light
Gather together all the clothes you think you will need and then leave 75% of them behind. If you are going to London in the middle of winter, not even the warmest coats from South Africa are up to below-zero temperatures. A handy backpackers’ tip is to buy what you need at a charity shop such as Oxfam and then return it at the end of your trip. Not only won’t you have to schlep it back to South Africa but you’ll get some money back too.
7. Tax returns
In some countries VAT can be as high as 25% and it will be worth your while to get a refund. Find out which purchases qualify before you go shopping, get the necessary stamps and receipts, drop them in the correct box at the airport before returning home and wait for the money to reappear in your bank account.
8. Write a wish list
Even if you enjoy travelling independently, it’s important to have a wish list ready so that you don’t return from Barcelona without seeing the Sagrada Familia, the reason you went there in the first place (it can easily happen once you get caught up in the excitement of a new city). It will save money if you check which places are near one another and plot your route accordingly so that you don’t have to travel to and fro unnecessarily.
9. Not all city passes are equal
Compare your wish list with the list of museums and sights a city pass will give you free access to as well as which public transport is included. If, for example, you only want to visit two or three museums, a 48-hour card will be sufficient, even if you are staying for a week, and thinking like this will save you cash. In Amsterdam, for instance, the difference between a 24-hour and a 96-hour card is 30 euros.
10. Plan your last days
Even if you don’t plan anything, decide what you’d like to do on your last day, especially if your hotel has a checkout time of 10am and your flight is only at 10pm. Having a plan and a not-too-ambitious to-do list, will help you not to spend too much money simply killing time.
This post is sponsored by Travelstart.