Useful Skills for Budget Travelers
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Life on a budget takes practice. It isn't easy to keep a constant eye on your bottom line, especially on the road, and the little things have a way of building up. There's always something else to drop money on. Beer gets flowing, tickets are never cheap and tacky souvenirs make sense after asking "when will I be here again?"
Travel gets expensive even more quickly since pretty much every piece of life costs money, from getting a drink of water to finding a place to take a nap. Still, from backpackers trying to make the most of every nickel to honeymooners still reeling from the wedding, there are a few skills that can help keep those costs down. Here are a few that come in universally handy while living on a budget on the road.
One of the problems with saving money while traveling is treating foreign currency like real money. Although intellectually we know better, those pounds, lira or baht can sometimes seem like Monopoly money: bright, colorful and utterly unreal. It doesn't help that you only use the stuff when living by vacation rules.
Don't worry if you've ever felt this way. It's just unfamiliarity. Paper money has the value we give it, and Americans don't grow up learning to save our euros.
Instead, think of everything in dollars spent, and for that you'll need some basic math. Round the local conversion rate off to the nearest whole number and do the quick conversion in your head. Whenever you see prices don't think "10 pounds," think "20 dollars." It'll give the transaction a better frame of reference and make the spending feel real again.
#2. Spotting the Difference Between Cheap and Bad Food
I love street food. I've advocated for it many times in this space and will almost certainly do so many more to come. Street food is some of the most inventive, diverse and, yes, affordable on the planet. In some cities, it's an entire culture unto itself, with places like Bangkok waiting until sundown to really come alive around small plastic tables set up on the sidewalks.
Eating from street vendors is a great way to save money, but people mistrust them for a reason. For every curbside genius, there's a dirty, greasy short order cook who hasn't refrigerated his chicken since Caldor's was popular. Street food is a huge cash saver, but it's important to know the difference between cheap and crap.
Ask for recommendations and keep an eye out for a few key signs: look for long lines, lots of locals and signs written in the local language. Check the food storage: is the meat out in the open or tucked away? Finally, don't be afraid to judge a book by its cover. Dirty carts and trash strewn on the ground might tell you all you need to know about the cook's habits.