Hi, I'm Daniel Roy Greenfeld, and welcome to my blog. I write about Python, Django, and much more.

Travel Tips for Geeks: Traveling Cheaply

Monday, August 05, 2013 (permalink)

It's a given that in order to travel you need to have money or make a lot of money, right?

That's not really true.

There are ways to live well but cheaply. It takes a bit of discipline, forethought, and judgement, but the reward of living is amazing. This article explains how Audrey Roy and I do it.

Pick the Right Location

A number of famous destination cities are expensive no matter what you do. San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo might be wonderful, but they are also places where you have to pay more. More for everything. Rent, food, and accessory costs are likely to be at least double what you expect.

Similarly, certain entire countries are expensive. Switzerland, Slovenia, Australia, and New Zealand are lovely, but everything just costs more there.

Also, if the transit system is good, consider staying a little further from the expensive downtown or waterfront. This can make even expensive cities affordable.

Affordable places we've discovered this year:

  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Bologna, Italy
  • Florence, Italy
  • Krakow, Poland
  • Islands near Split, Croatia
  • Warsaw, Poland
  • Zagreb, Croatia

One of our resource is The World's Cheapest Destinations, which, if nothing else, is an interesting read.

Use a service to find a place and stay a while

Use a service like airbnb or the local equivalent to find a place. Some people like to just stay at hostels, we prefer apartments. Stay for a month so you get a lower rate.

Try to research the nearby grocery shopping. While little stores are wonderful, they cost more than a large supermarket. The supermarket will allow you to stay cheaply in an area. However, make sure to check out the little markets at least once a week because the food there is often much, much better.

Our two constant requirements:

  • WiFi (we work remotely)
  • Washing machine

If you work remotely

We're fortunate in that our work lets us work remotely. Keep in mind the two cardinal rules:

  • Be available in real-time: Use Google Hangouts, Chat, IRC or whatever at regular times to demonstrate you are working.
  • Get your work done on time: If you are working remotely while traveling, you have to demonstrate to the client/boss that the travel isn't a distraction. If you seem flakey, they'll seriously consider other options besides you. Honestly, who can blame them?

Try to Cook and Eat at Home

Our rule is we eat out once a week. Otherwise, it's all home cooking. Even when we do tourist things on our day off, we bring food from home.

Also, the ingredients are always different. Fruits, vegetables, and meats are grown in different soils and climates and taste different. This means don't try and replicate what you eat at home, cook simple things they make where you are.

Finding Good, Affordable Restaurants

Finding good, affordable restaurants is easy. Here are our steps:

  1. Find a place that looks busy. A busy place means the food is palatable and because of volume, the food is fresh. If the place is empty, walk away.
  2. Check the menu for prices. If they make you flinch, walk away.
  3. Listen to what people are saying. If it's in your version of your language, walk away.

Once you stay, keep in mind local portion sizes. For example, in slavic countries like Poland and Croatia, the portions can be quite large. What we sometimes do is share a main course and use the savings to buy drinks or dessert.

If you like beer, try to order local varieties of beer. They often sell for less and can be really tasty.

If you like wine, the rule goes like this:

  • In the USA, order the cheapest non-house wine.
  • In Europe, order the house wine.

What Else?

I'll be updating this article in the days and months and hopefully years to come.


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