Tips to Help you Save Money When Exploring a new City

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Planning a trip is one of the most exciting things to do. There will be plenty of things to see and oh so much food to eat. But before you hit the ground running, you’ll need to do some research in advance to save you time and money!

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with going into a city with an open mind and without an itinerary. However, wouldn’t you want to prepare yourself? These seven tips for exploring a new city are focused on saving you money. You don’t need to follow them all, but going with just a few of them will stretch your travel dollars.

Tips to Help you Save Money When Exploring a new City

Figure out how to get your accommodations

If you’re flying to a new city, there’s a good chance that the airport is located quite a distance from the city centre. The good thing is, there’s likely to be a few different transportation options available to you. In many cities, public transportation may be the cheapest option, but you also need to figure out how long it’ll take you. Taxis tend to be expensive, but Uber is available at some airports which will help you save. Depending on what country you’re in, getting a private driver or taking a shuttle may be the best option. Ask your hotel or host for their suggestions and don’t forget to ask for the address in the local language if you’re in a country where English isn’t common.

Get familiar with the public transportation

Now that you know how to get to your accommodations, it’s time to figure out how to get around the city. Public transportation will always be the cheapest option (besides walking), so get familiar with it. Start off by checking to see if there are any daily or weekly passes that will save you money. If you’re in a walking friendly city, it might make more sense to buy individual tickets. You’ll also want to get familiar with the routes you’ll need to take. Simply research where you’ll need to go via Google Maps or download any local transportation apps.

Find out where the closest grocery store is

There’s nothing wrong with eating out while on vacation, but if you do it every meal, you’re going to spend a fortune. A good way to balance out your expenses is by heading to the grocery store where you can load up on drinks, snacks, and even prepared meals. You may not think you’re saving much here, but the costs certainly add up. Just recently I was in Portugal where a small bottle of water at a convenience store was €2. The same water at the grocery store was €.12. Grocery stores are also a great place to pick up cheap gifts since you can just grab some local candy or snacks to bring home.

Research restaurants in advance

One of my favourite things to do when travelling is eating! I don’t spend hours researching, but I do take the time to look up a few good places to eat near my hotel. I also tend to look up popular restaurants and coffee shops on TripAdvisor. The reason I do this extra research is that I’ve eaten at too many places which just taste terrible. Tourist trap restaurants are everywhere, if you do some research in advance, you won’t have to settle for the first place you see because you’re hungry. Plus, while doing your research, you can find places that are inexpensive to dine at.

Look for free or cheap things to do

Nothing is better than free right? Most cities offer at least a few free things to do. If you’re in Europe, the odds are there will be a few free museums or art galleries available to you. In Asia, look for temples or shrines since they rarely charge an admission charge. Eventually, you’ll have to pay to get into some things, but you should check to see if the city you’re visiting offers some kind of museum pass. Don’t forget, purchasing your admission tickets in advance online will sometimes save you money and allow you to skip lines.

Pick accommodations that are convenient

You may be tempted to pick the cheapest accommodations available, but that may not always be the best choice. I personally prioritize location since I like to be close to everything and am willing to pay more for the right place. Alternatively, I’ve chosen places to stay based on the neighbourhood and proximity to transit. Staying just a few metro stops away from major areas can save you a considerable amount of money. If you haven’t tried, use my affiliate link now to get $25 CAD off your first stay (this applies after you complete your stay).

Figure out what the local customs are

Before you start exploring a new city, it’s always wise to figure out the local customs. Things such as dress code, eating customs, and greetings are the obvious things to look up, but don’t forget to research things that relate to your money. For example, tipping in Japan is considered rude while in some countries tips are a very common thing (and expected). It may also be expected for you to haggle about prices in some countries, but it may be insulting if you offer a price that is too low.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

1 Comment

  1. Susan White on May 29, 2018 at 10:03 AM

    Thanks Barry! Really helpful. Am going to a new city, Ljubljana, Slovenia, in September.This was a great reminder of how to “suss out” a new city.

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