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ways to get cheap transport travelling

Updated on March 19th, 2020

There are a few travel expenses that generally amount to high percentages of your vacation costs. Those are accommodation, food and transportation. There are many tips and tricks I have learnt in my years of travelling to keep travel costs to a minimum. Today I want to share with you how you can save money on travelling and transportation.

Whether you are taking a domestic or international holiday these tips will help you save on costs associated with the inevitable of getting from A to B. We’re lucky that we have the ease of the internet nowadays and have a huge selection of travel comparison sites and providers.

One of my top money-saving travel tips is to compare, compare, compare. So many times I have thought I found the cheapest ‘insert tour, flight, hotel’ and then the more I look, the cheaper it becomes.

Depending on where you are and where you are going, we have access to flights, buses, trains, taxis, boats, tuk-tuks, motorbikes and other weird and wonderful transport options. The extensive amount of options may seem confusing and overwhelming to some. Although if you follow my tips below you should be able to find the cheapest mode of transport and find the cheapest way to use it!

scenic train journey

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Save money with plane travel

How to get the cheapest tickets

This may just be the biggest expense of your entire trip. At least it is when you fly all the way from Australia. There are so many stories going around that, ‘it’s cheapest to buy tickets on Tuesdays’, ‘buy your tickets 6 weeks ahead’, ‘put your browser in incognito mode’ etc etc.

Nomadic Matt, the budget travel king states these are just myths. Although I swear I’ve done the incognito trick and it worked, maybe the flight just got cheaper.

So, how do you get the cheapest tickets? The best way is to be flexible! Flights can vary by hundreds of dollars with just a single days difference. Before booking your time off work, check out the flights and see which is the cheapest day to leave.

Skyscanner has a great feature of being able to see the whole month at a glance. You can choose to see it as a grid or by calendar making it super simple to find the days with the cheapest flights.

As much as it isn’t fun to wake up pre-dawn, the early morning flights tend to be the cheapest.

Consider alternate airports

Many large cities will have multiple airports. You can save hundreds by flying into a smaller one on the outskirts of the city. Milan, for example, is a great example of this. To fly into the central Milan Linate airport will cost you a lot more than flying into Malpensa or Bergamo which is frequented by the low-cost airlines.

It does pay to have a look at neighbouring cities also. If you have the time flying close to your final destination and then getting a bus or train could be the cheapest option.

view out aeroplane window

Fly budget airlines

There are so many budget airlines that I personally believe are just as good as the full carrier ones. As more of these are popping up, many have newer nicer planes.

The biggest downside to these is on top of you standard fare you are required to pay for baggage, seat selection, food and additional credit card surcharges. However, for those that couldn’t afford a long-haul flight in the past should take a look at these.

If you only fly with a carry-on (see below), don’t choose a seat and pack your own food the only fee you should need to pay for is the fee for using a credit card – unfortunately unavoidable.

To show you how cheap these budget airlines really are here are some flights I found. Scoot Airlines fly Sydney to Athens for $349 or $359 to Berlin! Iberia Airlines fly San Francisco to Barcelona for $178. Basically London to anywhere in Europe if you book at the right time is under $50. These are just two I found right now! Imagine with a little time what you can find.

Google Flights explore screen

Don’t forget to take into account transportation to the airport

Getting to and from an airport tends to be expensive regardless of how you get there. The bus and train companies know they have the one up and you probably won’t be leaving your car while away.

Again, use my compare, compare, compare rule and see what works best for you. If you are travelling as a family, chances are it could be cheaper to drive to the airport and leave your car.

A great tip when leaving your car at the airport is to not use the official airport parking. Choose a privately run company which will likely be further from the airport but will offer free shuttles.

If you are a solo traveller, find out where the closest public transportation stands are nearby. A 5-10 minute walk out of the airport could save you $15 or more.

River boats

Don’t overpack

The biggest additional fees for flying comes down to luggage. Kudos to you if you can fly with just a carry-on. I haven’t mastered that myself yet. If flying budget airlines the checked baggage fee can be up to $100.

In addition to this, the excess luggage charges are astronomical. Just don’t do it. My bag usually weighs 12-13kg. My biggest secret for packing light is to use a smaller bag. I somehow will fill my bag regardless of its size.

Previously I used a 40L backpack but found it a bit hard to fit everything when travelling in cold-weather destinations. I upgraded to a 65L backpack and have never been able to fit more than 15 kg in it even when I have filled it to almost bursting. You can check out my guide of choosing the best backpack for Europe.

Another tip is to put your heavy items in your carry-on bag. There are only a few airlines which will weigh this (Jetstar being one of them). Although careful if they do as this will generally be charged as an extra bag.

Having a lighter bag will also mean you can walk to hotels and transportation options when you otherwise would need a taxi.

Check indirect flights

Sometimes the direct flights will cost more than the indirect ones. As you can see above flying from London to anywhere in Europe is super affordable. Instead of flying straight to Europe, check if it’s better to fly via London.

When I fly out of Asia, I tend to look at flights from wherever I am to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Bali and then home. Last year when we left Europe it worked out much cheaper for us to fly from Milan to Bangkok, spend a few days there and then Bangkok to Sydney.

You can look at it as getting second holiday included for the price of one. First, find the cost of the direct flight and then take a look at locations that fly directly to your end destination. Next, look at the cost of flights to these and then to the final destination. You can choose to do the trip in one day or spend a few days at that destination as we did with Bangkok.

It’s more work, but you can literally save hundreds of dollars doing this.

Sign up for sale alerts

Join the mailing list of airlines that fly from your local airport. You can also set price alerts on websites like Skyscanner and Google Flights.

This is a great idea if you don’t know where you want to go. When a great sale comes up you can snag the deal usually within 24 hours. I’ve snapped up a $99 sale flight from Australia to Bali before and used this sale method to plan my entire trip. I only booked the cheapest flights out of the country I was in.

There are also membership sites that alert you to when there are mistake fares or just really cheap prices.

fly budget airlines

Collect air miles

Also known as travelling hacking, some people are able to do this so well they only ever fly free. Sign up to frequent flyer programs to start collecting points/miles. The points you earn can be redeemed for free or heavily discounted tickets or upgrades to business class.

The gist behind travel hacking is if you can get good at it you’ll always earn points for any purchases you make. Regardless of how often you fly you should sign up to the frequent flyer programs (they are free so you have nothing to lose), next, you want to sign up to credit card companies that offer sign up bonus points. From here you’ll want to use these cards to make all of your purchases thus earning air miles and points

If you want to learn more about point hacking this is a great website for Americans, this one for Aussies and here for the UK.

Travel in the off-season or shoulder season

The most expensive flights will always fall over holiday periods and peak travel seasons. Not only will the flights be more expensive, but so will everything else from accommodation to activities.

Pick your holidays to fall outside of the peak season and you’ll also enjoy fewer crowds. You can find out the main tourist season by doing a quick Google search.

Tip: Want to fly around Christmas? Flying on Christmas Day is heavily discounted.

Travelling by car on a budget

Have your car serviced

If you are taking your own car, make sure you get it serviced before leaving home. There is nothing worse than having to pay for hotel rooms and expensive repairs if your car breaks down on the road.

A well-maintained engine will also help to improve fuel efficiency by up to 10%. Clean air filters allow the right amount of fuel and air mixture decreasing petrol consumption.

Check the tires before heading off. Ensuring your tires are at the right pressure means optimum fuel efficiency.

Road trips can save money

Look for good petrol prices

Some countries I have travelled in have a standard fuel price, but I have found this to be very rare. When we were in Montenegro no matter which petrol station we filled up at, the cost of diesel was 1.25 Euros.

Whereas back in Australia and many other countries the price of fuel varies significantly between different companies. When I lived in Newcastle there was one petrol station that always sat around .20c cheaper than its competitors. It always amazed me to see how many people were filling up at the expensive one just 5-minutes down the road.

Use Google and search for ‘compare petrol prices in X country’ to find websites that work on a location basis. They’ll show you the best places to get fuel near you. You can use Petrol Spy in Australia, Prix Carburants in France, Confused in England and Gas Buddy for the US.

Pay in cash

This was something we discovered in Italy. In some countries, it is cheaper to pay for petrol in cash. Using this trick can save you around 10 cents a litre.

Avoid toll roads

Another thing we did in Italy was to avoid road tolls. Parts of Europe have exceptionally high prices for driving on freeways. I’m taking 20+ Euros. That is just crazy. Instead of taking the quick freeway route we set our GPS to avoid tollways. Sometimes the additional drive time was only half-hour, and almost always the road was much more scenic.

There was one trip into the Dolomites which ended up taking us significantly longer. We probably spent more on fuel than if we had just paid the toll. Although the route we took was beautiful and I wouldn’t change a thing doing it again. Just make sure you weigh up fuel vs tolls.

Find free parking

One of the biggest hassles with having your own vehicle is the cost of parking, especially in cities. If you do some research ahead of time you should be able to find the locations of free parking or much cheaper rates. A good idea if there is more than one of you and you have luggage is to drop one person off at the hotel to unload the bags and check-in. The other person drives to the car park and walks back from there.

Even if you are travelling alone, check to see if there is a drop off zone by the hotel to drop off your bags first. Better yet, when searching for accommodation, add to your search filter, free parking.

When we were in Venice the main day parking was over 30 Euros. We read that it’s cheaper to park on the other side of the bridge to the island, but on further investigation, it was 10 Euros each to get to Venice by public transport. We managed to park nearby on the island for 15 Euros for the day.

Hire someone’s car space

Alternatively, if you can’t find free parking. Use apps like Just Park (UK) to hire out someone’s car spot. Prices are supposedly 60% cheaper than street parking!

Budget coach trips

Go all-inclusive

The term all-inclusive sounds expensive and scary. Although you can find some great all-inclusive budget-friendly coach trips around the world. This way if you are nervous driving abroad you have someone do the hard part for you. You’ll get dropped off outside each attraction and picked up without having to worry about a thing.

There are a couple of styles for this trip. You can choose the tours like G Adventures which are multi-day trips that include a guide and most of your activities.

If big group tours aren’t your thing, you can always join a coach trip that just includes the transport and accommodation. This leaves you free to travel as you normally would.

Bus passes

I’m pretty sceptical of the unlimited travel bus passes as I think a lot of the time it’s cheaper without them. Although if you are going to be moving quickly from place to place these could be a good option for you.

Busabout in Europe is popular to get between countries. You can also do the city hop-on, hop-off bus tours which although are a bit pricey are a tour as well as transport.

Just make sure you compare the price of buying an unlimited ride ticket to buying each ticket individually. Sometimes you are paying for the convenience.

How to save on train travel

Train passes

As with bus passes, train travel can be a really affordable way to travel around the world. It’s just important to compare to bus tickets – sometimes trains are significantly more expensive, i.e. in Europe.

Depending on where you are, the train systems usually has a first and second class ticket, possibly even a third-class option. The lower the class, the cheaper the ticket. In places like India and Sri Lanka, a first-class ticket may still be really affordable, so it’s worth looking at the price difference between classes.

train passes

Avoid the Eurail

The Eurail sells itself as a convenient affordable way to travel around Europe. It’s an all-in-one ticket that allows you to travel in certain European zones for a set amount of days over a set amount of time.

Trains in Europe are fast and super modern. This means they are not the cheapest means of transport. When I was in Europe for 12 months, I took 3 trains due to their expense. I can potentially see their worth if you are travelling long distances in a short period of time but not for general travel. You can see their prices below.

Eurail prices

Cruises

Book a cheap cruise

A cruise is your transportation, hotel and generally food, all-in-one. I’d never been interested in cruises until recently, now it’s something I’d love to experience.

Cruise liners often have great sales and you’ll be able to find a cruise to suit your desired level of activity and adventure. Some stop at interesting destinations with lot of shore activities while others spend a lot of their time at sea and you just have the onboard activities to entertain you.

Look for last-minute deals and packages. If you don’t live near a cruise terminal, take into account the cost of flying to reach it. It could be that flying to a terminal further away is actually a cheaper departure point.

River cruise boat

Other ways of saving money on transportation while travelling

Consider group travel

Travelling in a group can really cut down on expenses. Larger groups can get the best rates if they plan ahead. A great way to get group discounts if travelling solo is to stay in a hostel. The hostel will usually organise local tours with the best rates and you can bet on making a few friends at the same time.

Use car-sharing services

There are many companies that offer a ride-share option or you can look on local Facebook pages and forums to see if anyone is heading in the direction you want to travel.

Ridesharing is the act of joining someone else’s trip. The driver of the trip can list their trip on one of the apps and passengers will contact the driver and share the cost of fuel. It’s a win-win for both parties. Take a look at the following per location you are visiting;

Travel slow

Possibly the best way to save on transport costs when travelling is to travel slow. Instead of visiting as many places as possible on your next trip, stay in one place longer. This way you won’t have to have so many travel days and will be able to get to know one place really well. In addition to delving deep into the culture of the place you are visiting you will also greatly reduce your overall transportation costs.

Cow drawn cart in Myanmar

Hitchhike

Hitchhiking can be a great way to get around. In certain countries, this is a totally accepted means of transport and people will readily pick you up.

I haven’t hitchhiked between destinations with my big bag but I regularly hitchhike to get around on day excursions. This is especially good when there is a single road heading to a main destination. You can almost guarantee that all of the cars driving past you are heading to your desired destination.

The lower Balkan countries is a perfect example of where hitchhiking is frequently used to get around. So next time you’re in Albania, Kosovo or Montenegro put out your thumb and give it a go. You’ll likely meet some interesting people and get a great story during the ride also.

Find vehicle relocation deals

In countries where it is popular to hire a car and drive one way, rental companies will want to get their cars back to the starting point. How this benefits you is that you can drive the opposite direction and hire the car/van for a fraction of the price.

Have you ever wanted to drive the coast of Australia? How about hiring a campervan for $1/day? Yep, that’s a totally legit price when you search for relocation deals. The one catch is you have a restricted time frame in which you need to be at the endpoint. The time will vary but is usually up to 10 days. Take a look at the following websites to search for deals. You can also check out Thrifty Nomads detailed article on the topic.

Use Uber and Lyft (or their equivalent)

Want to make sure you are getting the best rate for a taxi? Make sure you use the local Uber of the country you are visiting. Taxies will often be more expensive and are happy to rip you off with a common taxi scam.

Find accommodation near major transport hubs

Another great way of saving on travelling and transportation costs is to stay close to the major transport hubs. Look for accommodation that’s within walking distance of the train or bus station. This way when you arrive you’ll be close to your end destination – especially nice after a long journey.

Secondly, sightseeing during your trip will be really easy and affordable as you can use public transport to get around.

Take advantage of free city bikes

Free city bikes are popping up all over the world. They are the perfect way to explore a new city. Some will be free for just 20 minutes, but a trick to get around this is to dock the bike and rehire it. The stands are generally located super close together so this won’t be a problem

At the bike station, you will be required to pop your credit card into the machine for it to put a hold on your card. This acts as a deposit if you don’t return the bike. Next, read the instructions on the screen. Different places will have different time limits on the bikes.

Walk

Lastly, make walking your favourite activity. You will see so much more if you walk rather than being driven and it’s great exercise. When I visit a city, I easily rack up at least 20,000 steps a day. Pop a few must-visit destinations into your map and walk between them.

Not only do you see the city’s attractions you will also experience how the locals live in between the sights. I always find cute cafes and boutiques that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

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Travelling and Transportation: Implement These 29 Ways to Save Money

Hello! My name is Erin, the lady behind Curiously Erin. After more than 10 years of travelling and working abroad, I wanted to create a platform where I could share my stories and travels. My goal is to help you live the life you desire and inspire you to travel more.

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