Quick Ways to Save While Traveling

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My heart leapt from my chest the day a friend showed me her most recent souvenir purchase: a ring for $90. Her face lit up as she explained the great deal she’d just got from the salesperson, while I restrained myself from telling her what I could have done differently with that $90.  Obviously, we were leading very different traveling lifestyles. Lets face it, some of us are rolling in dough and others of us just aren’t. If you’re like me and fall into that second category, this article is definitely for you. Even if you’re living the high roller’s life, this article can offer you a new perspective on spending money—and give you insight on how people like me are able to afford a lifestyle like yours in Costa Rica.

Tips on How to Save Money While Traveling

Skip the drinks

This one is easier if you aren’t a heavy drinker. Some people have to drink when they go out, so this suggestion isn’t the best one for them. But from my experience, I’ve been able to save myself well over $200 a month by merely saying ‘no thank you’ when the beverages are passed around. Depending on which country you visit, the price of alcohol will vary, so your savings will too. And this doesn’t just include alcohol, but you can save yourself extra cash by skipping the fancy drinks with your meal and just ordering a free glass of water with lemon. My advice to avid drinkers would be: You can still save yourself half the money by only saying no half of the time.

Eat fulfilling meals

Start with breakfast. Go to lunch. End with dinner. Simple. There’s no extra need to try every new snack/meal/dessert you stumble across at every street corner. Ok, the first time yes, you don’t want to miss out on trying new things. But if you decide to skip breakfast, and you find yourself starving by dinner, even though you’ve stopped to eat 8 times throughout the day, you are doing something tragically wrong to your stomach-and to your wallet. I hate to sound like your mother here, but she does have a point: the way to start your day is by having a hearty breakfast. If you eat 3 complete meals a day, you shouldn’t have to spend an additional $10 every day for snacks.

Steal deals when you see them

Travel is expensive so don’t walk past those hot deals when you spot them! Traveling can be hectic, so even if you’re on your way out to explore stop and take advantage of unbeatable deals even if it means you’ll be running late. When I came to Costa Rica on a budget, the only thing I bought was food and basic necessities. I didn’t go shopping at all, until low season came to an end and stores were clearing out their inventory for new stock. I found tops and bottoms that were originally $45 marked all the way down to $5. Go figure, I was in heaven! Another thing I did was wait for food to go on sale. Tuna was originally priced for $3, but during certain times of the month, prices went all the way down to $1.50.

Pay the locals price

People will hassle you and up your prices once they discover that you’re a foreigner -especially from North America. For some reason, they assume that everyone from the States is rich, and I have inkling to believe that all the Americans walking around with their flashy gadgets, restaurant splurges and fancy cars are partly responsible for that. I once had a taxi driver offer me a discounted price of $10 when I was standing at the bus stop that would charge me $.90 for the 10-minute drive. His reasoning? I was American with plata (money), he told me, rubbing his thumb and index finger together. I rolled my eyes and walked away.

Don’t be afraid to haggle a price. If you feel you are being duped, you probably are. People with money don’t care about overly inflated prices or they just don’t understand the concept of stretching a dollar, which is why it is easy to offer a ‘traveler’s price’ to every single traveler-thanks guys. But if you are looking for a better deal, I say take your time thinking before you buy; vendors sometimes lower prices for you as they see you contemplate walking away. Other times, you might want to just tell them what you’re willing to pay for something and be adamant about that price.

Making friends with locals can benefit your savings; ask locals to purchase items you need or initiate the taxi ride, and watch as the prices drop.

Bring less money

This one is pretty simple too. If you bring less money, you’ll spend less money. So when you’re about to start your day, only put half of what you’d normally spend, in your wallet and leave the rest at home. This will help you also in the case of losing your wallet, or getting it taken. The less money you have on you, the better it is. And if you can’t buy something one day, if you still want it the next, you can always go back for it. Most times you’ll realize that you don’t need half of the things you’re going to buy.

Ask for a discount

Are you a student, senior citizen, or someone else uniquely special? You might be able to receive 10-15% off of entry fees and purchases. Also, if you’re going on tours, always ask for a group discount. If you don’t ask, they probably wont mention it. A little savings here and there goes a long way. The worst they can say is no, right?


This isn’t for everyone but hitchhiking can save you big bucks. I would only suggest this if you are in a safe area and traveling with a companion. Hitchhiking has taken me to the very top of a mountain for free. It has also helped me get private access to local free hot springs when I almost paid an $80 entry fee. Another recommendation I have is public transportation. Yes, this can add an extra hour to your trip, and you will be on a hot, sticky bus with a bunch of strangers. Which would you rather pay: $4 for a public bus or $60 for a private shuttle? I like riding public buses because they give you a chance to admire the passing scenery and meet new people off to different destinations.

Creative souvenirs

This year I promised myself not to take home the typical key chains, t-shirts, and cups as souvenirs. It took me a while to figure out what to bring as a substitute, but when I did, I felt like my gift giving skills had upgraded forever. I took the things that meant the most to me and wrapped them in pretty packages. What I wanted to remember about my trip was what I wanted to give to my friends and family. I took a quick trip to the grocery and located all the popular items that I fell in love with: sauces, coffee, spices, drinks, snacks, etc. I would give my friends and family a taste of what my country had to offer and each item was no more than $3. I also took pictures of myself at various locations and made my own postcards. Then I visited the beach, picked up some free sand and made them into little beach-in-the-bottle gifts. Another great gift is the gift of money, especially in a country with currency unlike your own. Save a few small bills, especially if they’re really colorful and create a picture frame of money to give to your friends. 

Eat at home

Explore the local supermarkets and discover traditional local meals. Plan a fun day at home or your vacation rental cooking these new meals. This will save you the extra $15-30 you’ll spend dining out, tipping, and traveling.

Skip the guided tour

Guided tours can be informational and fun but costly at the same time. There are plenty of parks and attractions to explore on your own without the expensive guide. I almost paid $200 for a day trip to Nicaragua. Fortunately a few friends convinced me to travel with them in a group and I ended up staying for four days and spent $250. Sometimes it’s best to skip the tour and plan the activity by yourself. Get a group of friends to make it more fun, and create your own memories of different places. You can research places before you go and impress your friends with extensive knowledge of the area!

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