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Six practical ways to save money on solo travel

Solo travel can have a number of pros and cons like less advance planning, more spontaneous decision making, a loose schedule and perhaps, a heightened sense of what is going on around you, which is one of the fundamental reasons to travel in the first place. Not having to share every moment with someone else can sometimes let you hone in on the things that you really want to see and do, and to test yourself in the world as well.

But while solo travel can be great for your sense of self, it is usually not so favourable for your rupees or dollars or cents, mainly because you have to foot the full tab for everything. On other trips, you might split the cost of a hotel room with a travelling companion, but when travelling alone the expense is all yours.

Luckily there are ways around these extra expenses. Here are a few:

1. Lodging

Hostels, home shares, couch surfing, and flopping with friends and acquaintances are all good ways to get around the built-in lodging surcharge, but these tactics are not always available. Additionally, for travellers who are not comfortable living in communal settings or staying with strangers, these are not always attractive options.

Finally, family-run hotels and B&Bs often offer smaller, single-bed rooms simply due to the layout of their buildings; these are particularly common abroad. It may take a bit of web searching, but they are out there.

Another consideration before you book is whether the hotel offers an airport shuttle, or if there is an easy public airport transport option nearby; you can save a ton of money and time getting to and from the airport this way.

2. Transport

A car rental is another expense that is often shared and therefore offers a disadvantage to the solo traveller. You are paying not only the daily rate but also the fuel, tolls and parking fees yourself.

The simplest advice is to search on the smallest car class you can find; if it’s just you and your bags, you don’t need much space. You might want to get a car that at least has a trunk, though; that way you can hide your stuff since you don’t have anyone to keep a lookout when you are checking into a room or grabbing some food.

It’s often worth asking yourself if you really need a car at all. Many times, for example, buses and trains will get you almost anywhere a car could take you — even small villages — and for a solo traveler they will usually be cheaper.

3. Find Free Stuff

One of the luxuries of traveling alone is that you set the schedule — and you can do so to take advantage of free museum days and hours, free concerts, street festivals and more.

To find free offers and discounts, the oft-ignored tourist bureau can help heaps, with schedules, listings of free attractions, coupons and welcome cards that often include public transportation.

4. Food

Shopping for your own food and meals can have many rewards; for one thing, you can learn a whole lot about the locals by figuring out how they shop for staples.

For the solo traveller, eating alone in restaurants can be interesting, but may become boring or awkward after a while — but bringing your own meal to eat on a bench in front of a famous monument or fountain never gets old.

If you do want to eat out, many travelers choose to sample the better restaurants at lunch time, where lunch specials let you try similar food at a lower cost.

5. Internet

Whether you are staying in hotels or hostels, Wi-Fi can be an additional and unwelcome expense. To beat these costs, free Wi-Fi connections at coffee shops, museums and especially public libraries are all good solutions for a solo traveller, as most of these places also offer some exposure to the locals.

6. Make flexibility work

When travelling alone, it is sometimes less critical to arrive everywhere on time — so if there was ever a chance to take an airline upon being bumped from an oversold flight, this might be it. You want to be sure it is worth the effort and lost time though, so drive a hard bargain at the gate desk.

Finally, keep in mind that travelling solo means that there’s no one to force you to spend money on an activity you’re not interested, a hotel room that’s outside your budget or a souvenir you think is tacky. If you spend as much as you want but only on the things you care about most, it is all inevitably worth it.

Text by Nikhil Das

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