Truly Offbeat Budget Travel Tips

Photo: Mohamed Muha

It’s the new year and you want to get your travel on, only your wallet isn’t working for you. You’re scrimping and saving, even though you’re unsure about where or even how you can travel during your vacation. It’s time to veer off the traditional travel trails and into a more localized experience – even if you journey to a destination far from home.

There are tons of ways to save money and experience a new culture –sometimes for free – by exploring the local terrain, be it an urban, bucolic, or rugged outdoors location. And the best way to find out where the real deals are is to ask the locals – they know where the good (and cheap) stuff is.

Here are some local digs that offer sweet information about where to stay and what to do while you’re there.

Hostels: Not just a place to crash. The front desk at any hostel offers a plethora of local information, from where to find the best pubs to where to check out local dance performances. For instance, a whirl through San Francisco found me hanging at the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf hostel in Fort Mason right near Golden Gate Park. Not only did the front desk hand me a detailed map off all of the local public transportation routes, but they also told me where the nearest parks, cafes, and libraries were. In fact, they gave me enough information to occupy me for days and for a relatively small amount of money. Plus, hostel staff members are usually very friendly and informative. Just ask them about what you’re looking for and they’ll tell you. Don’t forget to check the bulletin boards for local events.

Yahoo Groups: A virtual hangout spot teeming with people who know about your destination. With a regional directory of groups, you can surf on through here and find out what’s happening in different spots around the world. Want to know about things to do in Botswana or how to find romance in Germany? There’s a group for it somewhere in there.  Join up and start asking questions.

Local papers: Not the big city kind; the ultra-local neighborhood papers will serve you better here. The last time I hit a big American city and needed the low down on what to do, I grabbed a few papers from the stands on the streets. The hyper-local ones provide the best details on local restaurants, museums, and parks. As an added bonus, you get a feel for what the place is like and how much time you want to spend there.

Local libraries: More than a research facilities or places to pick up the latest fiction for free, these are information powerhouses on the local front. In fact, a few years ago, I rolled on out to Bali and kicked it in Ubud for a few weeks. While I was there, I was getting too frustrated with my inability to speak Indonesian. I headed on down to the local library where I not only found a cool Indonesian language instructor (for about $6 an hour, a top-rate bargain), but I also picked up info on the latest events, classes and treks in the area. While I was there, I met a few local expats who now called Bali home and they turned out to be the best information sources around.

Local bookstores: Yet more information powerhouses. These gems can give you access to books in your own language as well as the language of the country you’re in. You can also check out the local bulletin boards for information on events and activities in the immediate area. And the owners are used to answering lots of questions, so ask them what activities they suggest doing while you’re in the area.

Local sports shops: If you haven’t already booked an adventure trip or if find yourself with some free time and the urge to get out into nature, local sports stores can be a great place to start. Call around if you can. Or show up and see if you can talk to the people in the store. Want to go on a bike tour around the area? The people at the local bike shop not only have the gear you need, but they probably know where the best rides are and what you can see along the way. Remember, mostly sports enthusiasts work in sports shops. They know the things you need to know. And if they don’t know, they can tell you who does.

Your university alumni association: Your university usually has a directory of alumni, some of whom might be traveling or living in another country. Why not ping a former friend or classmate and find out what they’re up to? They might have ideas on what you can do, as well as contacts in your destination area.

Other travelers: Then there’s the tried and true, just hanging around experience that drums up some the best times you’ll have while you’re traveling. Hang out around sports shops, museums, cafes, the beach. Anywhere you like to be. You’ll soon find yourself chatting with other locals and travelers – and finding out the local tips and tricks that no guidebook can truly offer.

So start asking around. You never know what you’ll find out and what kinds of truly free or amazingly budget-friendly things you can find to do by taking a grassroots, local approach to travel. And you might make some cool new friends in the process.

Average: 3 (1 vote)
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Guest's picture

Finding cheap local stuff to do is also really easy to do if you are a member of an organization like Toast Masters. Their chapters are all over the world (in places you wouldn't necessarily expect) and, as a member, you can just show up to a meeting and introduce yourself. You would be amazed at all the people you meet, and all the opportunities you will be afforded (such as food and lodging by other members who just want to converse with someone from another country). The cost of joining these organizations, especially if you are a student, is ridiculously low compared to what you gain in terms of contacts.

Guest's picture

You hit the nail on the head with this post---locals locals locals.

Quick story--my wife and I went to Paris a few years ago, and one night we were looking for a classical music performance. Not one in particular, just any.

We found out from a few locals to look on telephone polls for little fliers advertsiing them and to follow that. We were skeptical, but found what the local was talking about.
The flyer directed us to an amazing old church where we took in an incredible performance. The age and shape of the church made the acoustics impeccable.

Follow the locals!

Sasha A. Rae's picture

@SailboatFamily Great idea. And Toastmaster's is such a good organization. Come to think of it, seems like Meetup would be a wonderful source of information too!

@ David/yourfinances101 I agree. The local residents know where the best stuff is. Absolutely. No matter where you go.



Guest's picture

Google the city/location, zoom in/out and look for the "green" - park areas on the map. Google maps provide the name of the park. Then google the park name for entrance fee, etc. Getting around? Purchase the local all day hop-on-hop-off pass. Always pick up maps! Even if it's a tourist map - they are helpful and usually have coupons. And of course ~ always talk to the locals! And one last tip: lots of cadillacs, lincolns, etc. in the restaurant parking lot = a great meal deal value!