August 26, 2015

7 Ways to Save Money as a Tourist Traveling Abroad

When you are a tourist in a foreign country it is expected you will pay more than “expat residents” for most things such as lodgings, rents and food. But thankfully there are still several ways you can save money while being a tourist! Let’s take a closer look.
 

1. Save Money on Accommodations: The ways for discounts on lodging apply to hotels, motels, hostels, inns, and B&B’s.  
  • If you are staying for three days or longer you can ALWAYS receive a discount of about 10% per night! But you have to ASK for it; in most cases they will not just give it to you.
  • If staying for a full month or more, make sure you ask about the monthly rate and not the weekly rate. Always check several other lodgings in the area for comparison purposes and then let them know you are checking other accommodations in the area, that way you can smile and walk out.
  • If you arrive to your destination late and are too tired and hungry to check around for the best value, only pay for one night. The next morning you can find a more suitable, budget friendly hotel. This is usually what we do because no matter how hard you try sometimes you will get in too late.
2. Save Money on Sight Seeing Tours: It’s fine spending money on sight-seeing tours and most of the time you might have to just because you're hiking out in the wilderness where a guide is absolutely necessary, but some tours you can go see on your own without spending large amounts of money for a tour guide. 

If there is a particular tour you are interested in, ask around with other expats and gringos and check to see if it is something a couple could do on their own, taking a bus or taxi, or walking. 

For instance, tour operators charge tourists $50 per person to go see El Chorro Falls in Giron, Ecuador, which is about 45-min. from Cuenca.  

We think El Chorro Falls is a DIY tour. Here’s our video when we went to the falls with a friend, which is another way to do it and just pitch in on gas; and here's how to do it yourself.
 

DIY El Chorro Falls: $8 per person. 
Frank, me, and friend at El Chorro Falls in Giron, Ecuador
Step 1. Take the bus from Cuenca (Terminal Terrestre) that goes to Santa Isabel; you can also catch this bus going south along Las Americas. Look for the sign that says "Santa Isabel". The bus costs $1 per person. You will not be going all the way to Santa Isabel but getting off in Giron, which is before Santa Isabel.

Step 2. Ask the bus driver to let you off at the road that leads up to El Chorro falls in the town of Giron. He'll know. Once in Giron, Flag down a taxi and he’ll take you up to the falls for $4 to $5. 

Step 3. When you get to the landing for the falls, the attendant there will ask for $2 per person and $1 for Ecuadorians.

Step 4: Walk up the well-marked trail to the falls and enjoy! No need for a tour guide on this one, just stay on the trail. Total savings about $42!

There are several restaurants up there, by the way where you can eat lunch for $3. DIY ‘Saves Money’ once again!!
 

Targeted as a Tourist
 

They can always tell a tourist from someone who lives in the area. Tourists have back-packs or tote bags like the locals do but they also look around a lot, dress different and look like their searching for something.  The minute a tourist gets off the bus, or out of the car or taxi, the tour guides come leaping out of the woodwork.
 

For instance when we went to Puerto Lopez, the second we got off the bus, tour operators started quoting prices for the whale-watching tour.  The first price quoted was $60 per person. We knew that price was waaaay out of line so we kept walking and he came running up behind us and lowered the price to $40, and we smiled and still kept walking.
 

It was about 45 minutes and three sales people later we were quoted the real price of $15 per person to go see the whales. That was in 2013 and so the prices might have gone up a bit, but anything over $20 per person will be too much.  But of course as a tourist, feel free to spend as much as you want. Curiously, we wondered how many gullible tourists actually pay the $60 per person. That’s three times the typical employee wage in Ecuador.
 

3. Save Money on Restaurants. When you ask the gringos where is a good tasty, good priced restaurant to go eat at they usually send you to an expensive international cuisine restaurant. There’s nothing wrong with that unless of course you want to save money eating out.
 

Tip: Ask the Locals Where to Eat: When you ask the local business earners where is a good tasty restaurant to go eat at they always send you to a place they would eat at and can afford. This is what we do when we travel because it is difficult to decide where to eat when you are new to a city or town. Why pay more when you don’t have to? We have never been sorry for doing this.
 

4. Save Money on Taxis. Some cities abroad may use meters in the taxis, but that might not mean much when the driver rigs the meter to run faster; we’ve seen this happening in our home town of Cuenca, Ecuador. What you’ll need to do is have the driver start the meter, before getting in the taxi, just to see if it is running fast. You’ll only be able to do this if you’ve already taken several taxis in Cuenca and know how fast the normal meter should run.  

5. Learn what the taxi fares are in the city you are in so you can negotiate.  In countries that do not use meters in the taxis ALWAYS negotiate the price 

6. Learn to Smile and Walk Away: There's a lot of tourism going on and that means a lot of tour operators running the same service or tour. When one seems out of line, simply smile and walk away. sometimes they call you back and sometimes they don't. Go check out the next one in line. For an example, have you seen all of van operators that take people to and from Guayaquil; the prices are all over the map. Remember, you can negotiate too.
 

7. Do NOT Behave Rich. This is a biggie and pertains to anything you are paying for as a tourist. Paying for a $3 dollar taxi ride with a $20 bill is a no no.  Start collecting small bills before you’ll need them. Seriously, most places in Latin America will not have change for a $20. You don't want to give him a $5 dollar bill for a $3 ride either, or you may never see your $2 bucks again!

It’s already given that tourists have money to spend, however if the tourist acts rich, or flashes expensive jewelry, watches, etc, and pulls out big wads of cash from their wallet, you will be treated as such. Heck, you might even get pick-pocketed if you’re not careful. It is never a good idea to act too rich in developing countries.

Until we write again, have a wonderful visit wherever abroad you are going! And we think if you liked this article, you'll enjoy these too!
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

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