So, in my budget travel series, we’ve taken a look at how to save money on transport, accommodation and food while you’re on the move. Now it’s time to learn how to scope out the local attractions and activities without spending a fortune. I mean, what’s the point in going somewhere new if you can’t experience all there is to see there, right?
Here are a few pointers on how to dodge high prices while still making the most of your trip. Your feedback and thoughts are greatly appreciated, as always, and please share and ‘upvote’ if you like it 🙂
Museums can range from the unique and interesting, like the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, to the downright weird, like the chair museum in Copenhagen. Whatever your passion, you'll usually find a museum to pique your interest wherever you go.
Taking a day to wander around a city's museums can be entertaining, educational and a great way to learn a little more about the local area. On top of that, it usually costs very little (if anything) to go in and, if you're really counting the coins, ask about free entry days at the information desk. There are regularly (generally once a week or once a month) days when museums and exhibitions are open to the public free of charge.
One thing to be aware of in Europe though is that most museums are closed on Mondays so arrange your gallery gawking for a different day of the week.
#2 Free Walking Tours
I generally tend to avoid organised trips and tours as you normally end up paying through the roof for them. Instead, I opt for the (you guessed it) free ones - well, nearly free (you'll usually have an opportunity at the end of the tour to give a donation if you feel the guide is deserving).
Many towns and cities around the world have free walking tours taking place a few times a week if not every day and a quick Google search will bring up any nearby excursions. They're usually run by friendly, knowledgeable locals who guide you through the streets of their hometown, pointing out interesting landmarks along the way. Because your guide is from the area (and working for tips) you can expect them to be helpful, welcoming and educated on the local history and culture.
I've had some wonderful experiences on these free walking tours while abroad. Just be aware of the weather though - I nearly lost my toes in the freezing cold snow on a jaunt around Ljubljana last winter.
#3 Places of Natural Beauty
Cities and museums are great but there's nothing like stepping off the beaten track and experiencing the real natural beauty of a place. If you're staying somewhere rural this is easy, just pop on some shoes, boots or wellies and get those legs moving. If you're based in a more urban setting this can prove a little trickier but not impossible. If public transport is good and cheap then hop on a bus out of town. If that's not an option then think about trying your hand at hitch-hiking or BlaBlaCar (for more information on budget transport check out my post on the topic here).
I've spent many a day abroad just wandering the local area taking photos of whatever catches my eye. Of course, it's important to be safe. Know the weather and terrain you'll be tackling and wear appropriate shoes and clothing. Also, be aware of what time it gets dark as it may be different to what you're used to at home - the last thing you want is to be stranded out in the middle of nowhere as the sun starts to set!
I really can't recommend the website, Meetup, highly enough. I use it at home and abroad to find groups of people getting together for all sorts of activities. Creating an account is free and easy and it's rare to come across a town or area that has no communities set up on it.
You can search activities or groups on the website based on your dates, location or interests and I've always found them warm and welcoming towards new members. I've tagged along to all sorts of things, from yoga lessons to board game evenings and from mountain hikes to art classes and I've never been disappointed. Some of the activities have a small fee involved depending on whether they're renting a space or paying a teacher to come in but, usually, the get-togethers are cheap or free and they're always great fun!
#5 Facebook events
While I don't have a personal profile on Facebook, I do however use their events section quite regularly. It used to be very difficult to navigate but, recently, has become much more user friendly, allowing you to search events by their date, location and category, such as 'art', 'gardening' and 'theatre' to name but a few.
Events on Facebook are less likely to be free though, as they are generally set up by businesses trying to advertise their next class, workshop or big sale. Having said this, there are plenty of gatherings posted there that have no agenda other than to bring people together. I recently went to a free 'Fire Meet' in Dublin where we all gathered one evening to watch some fantastic entertainers breathe, juggle and spin flames!
#6 Couchsurfing events
You may be surprised to find that the Couchsurfing website isn't just a handy way to find accommodation with locals (more on that here) but that the events page, although not as populated as that of Facebook or Meetup, can pop up with some interesting gatherings from time to time.
Putting your location into the search bar will bring up any and all events going on in the area for the foreseeable future. As with Facebook, there are a few people trying to tout their classes and workshops but a lot of towns and cities now have groups of couchsurfers who meet for a coffee and a chat once a month or even more regularly.
Meeting other travelers and hosts in the area can be a great way to socialise while picking up some tips and ideas on the locality and on travelling in general so why not get out there and give it a go!