We are all about the saving, travelling on a budget and staying within our monetary limits. Why? Because it means that we can travel for longer! We’ll always go for the cheapest option (including giving ourselves fancy new haircuts). In this blog post, we’re going to share our tips for great things you can do in any city in the world for free!
We wrote this together, so have used our names so that you can see who wrote which tip.
First things first, we always head to the local tourist advice centre. They have free maps there, free advice, and they can tell you the best places to go on a budget. Free maps are great because you can write on them (and we do!). It’s wonderful to keep a map full of your notes as a keepsake, reminding you of that amazing park or the lovely room that you rented.
Walk. When we are in a city, we can walk over 20,000 steps a day and will always choose walking over transport. Why? You get to see the city, witness the architecture and experience areas you might have missed had you chosen the underground. Some cities may be too large to walk, and in this situation, we hire bicycles (little tip – we’ve found that if you hire a bicycle on a Saturday you can usually get a day free as a lot of places close on a Sunday!).
Check out the local markets. We love visiting markets, whether it’s food, craft or anything else. You can wander a market for free and learn about local cuisine, meet local people and get some excellent deals too. Having trouble locating a market? Do some research on the internet. You should be able to find the market location and day for your city.
Join a free tour. There are free city tours all over the world – it just takes a little bit of re/search. Try a website like http://www.freetour.com for free tours in the city you are visiting. This is also a fantastic way to meet other travellers!
Also, there is always the fun option to steal some knowledge and just wander up to larger tour groups, find out what they have to say about a specific sight and then head on your way with your own itinerary.
While we talk about walking a lot; often you’ll find that the defining features of many places are open air and so free to see if not go into, Big Ben, the Eifel Tower and the Forbidden City to name just a few. So get some comfy shoes and go exploring.
Often, if you do a little research, you can easily find a free museum. Free doesn’t necessarily mean poor quality either, for example here are 5 amazing museums around the globe that you can get into for FREE:
1. NY Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen is free on Sunday
2. National Museum of China, Beijing is free
3. Victoria and Albert Museum, London is free
4. Smithsonian, Washington DC
5. Lourve, Paris. Yes, you can even get in here for free. Though it is only the first Sunday of the month during certain months so plan your trip well for a bargain.
Often we find that, if we can’t find a free museum or gallery that we can visit we are forced to shortlist a few that look interesting and just pick our top 1 or 2 depending on time and entrance fees. That’s not a cool or sexy tip but worth thinking about if you’re spoilt for choice and cheap.
Not strictly free but always recommended; do it yourself.
– If you see a tour to an attraction that you want to visit, always see if you can simply get the train or a bus there yourself. It might not be as comfortable but it can save you money and is always a nice way to see a bit more of the culture.
– Take a lunch. Often snaffled from a hotel buffet breakfast, a packed lunch can save some money and avoid the time wasting associated with two people looking at menus and both saying “Honestly I really don’t mind where we eat” (when really you do).
– Take a drink. Obviously this isn’t recommended all over the world and I would strongly suggest checking the local laws before embarking on this. However, one of my happiest memories is drinking the cheap warm gin (I’d been carrying in my backpack) out of plastic cups in Venice after discovering a spot where we could hear a church choir practicing.
But, don’t let your budget stop you from doing amazing things.
It’s easy to get into a habit of holding on tight to those purse strings, but it’s a shame to travel a far way not to see something amazing. Here’s an example: I went to India ten years ago, and travelled to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. At the door I realised it was a £20 entrance fee. What did I do? Turned right around. I decided instead to walk around the magnificent building and not go in. At the time, £20 seemed like a lot of money. After all, I could survive on that for at least four days in India. Luckily, we plan to go back to Agra and this time, I will pay that entrance fee. I have always regretted not going in – especially considering all the daft items I’m sure I’ve bought over the last ten years for £20!
On a similar note, I really regret not paying the entrance fee to Amsterdam’s Kattenkabinet, a gallery featuring only artwork depicting cats. We were at the end of a few months going around Europe and starting to get very low on cash, however, this seems like a missed opportunity to experience some of the weird and wonderful that the world has to offer.
Of course, this swings both ways and I do regret paying a whopping 30 Euros to go into the Vatican in Rome. This was a gross display for unfathomable wealth that I could easily have done without. In addition, being in the Sistine Chapel simply involves being herded like sweaty tourism cows towards a singular point, while security guards disrupt any enjoyment of the artwork by constantly shouting at the heaving masses trying to take pictures of the one thing that they paid 30 euros to see.
Still, as much as we may have wished those 60 euros had gone on something else, it would have been a shame to visit Rome without visiting the Vatican. Daniel and I might disagree on that one!
What amazing things have you done for free?