The reality of traveling is that it is quite expensive relative to most people’s incomes. Unless you’re fairly well-off, you won’t be able to travel regularly throughout your life until you master some discount travel techniques.
The art of discount travel is more then simply one quick trick, it is an overall approach that you can, and should, apply to every element of your trip. For example, you should explore charter flights and last minute deals, etc. to get the cheapest possible airfare.
Once you arrive in a foreign country, you should meet some locals and establish where the cheap places to eat and stay are. Discount travel involves a lot of small things that when applied together result in big savings, and allow even those on moderate budgets to travel regularly and enjoyably.
An important concept to get used to if you want your money to last while you are traveling in a foreign country is that of bargaining. In most local markets and shops in Africa it is a norm to bargain in order to get a good rate for a product that you may need. In most foreign countries, and especially those of the second world, barging plays a big part in everyday life, and you will find yourself continually overspending if you don’t participate in it.
Most North Americans are terrible at bargaining, which is not at all their fault: bargaining simply does not play much of a role in our everyday transactions, and except for large purchases like buying a car, and maybe to a lesser extent a house, most of us aren’t used to it – we certainly aren’t used to haggling over small items. As a tourist you may need some little skills of bargaining when buying unpriced products such as souvenirs, transportation rates, etc.
The first thing to understand – and a great discount travel technique – is that in the second world, almost everything is negotiable, and usually very heavily negotiable. If you start to bargaining, you’ll soon see that the type of bargaining that goes on in other parts of the world is very different from the North American style: people often start with figures that are double or more their desired amount.
The first step in bargaining is to not be in any kind of rush to get in a taxi, or in a hotel room, or to purchase your item. Take the time to ask around, and if you can, find some locals who will (hopefully) give you an idea of a good price. In local markets, if you are given a price start from offering a counter offer of half the price asked. Most times depending on how you haggle you will see the reaction of the sales person and this should give you a hint about how much you can add to your offer. Most of the time you will purchase the product at 3/4 of the first offer!
The second thing to keep in mind is you have to be willing to walk away, or at least good at pretending that you’re willing to walk away. Oftentimes you’ll find that by simply showing a lack of interest and willingness to avoid the transaction the price will be lowered, without any need for specific bargaining on your part. Don’t be rude to the sales person. Be kind and show that you are willing to buy only that you don’t have enough money which the sales person is asking for! This will create a bond between you and the salesman and therefore a favorable price will be easily reached by the both parties.
Once you get the hang of bargaining you’ll find it rather easy, and in some cases fun. The main thing to keep in mind when you’re in a foreign land is that your status as a North American will usually label you as rich to locals, even if it doesn’t seem that way to you. If you don’t want to get charged double – or more – for every single thing you do while traveling you’ll have to get used to the idea of bargaining – a key component in an overall strategy towards discount travel.
Bargaining is not possible on priced commodities sold mostly in supermarkets, local stores etc. The good thing is that these shops normally offer a moderate price for these products. Therefore if you are not good at bargaining, if you don’t want to be cheated buy things straight from these shops or stores!