Tag: Cheap Travel

Commie Kitsch in Budapest’s ‘Ruin Pubs’

Hungary's hottest nightclubs evoke the last days of communism

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The Frugal Traveler Bids Farewell

The author of the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler column, Matt Gross, is leaving the gig after four years—soon to be replaced, as is customary, by a new Frugal Traveler columnist.

Gross, who is also a World Hum contributor, will be working on a blog about fatherhood and an idea for a TV project, among other things. In a farewell post, he looked back on his frugal travels and notes that it wasn’t always easy being the Frugal Traveler.

Often, I’d wind up on a beach somewhere (France, Greece, Malta) and want nothing more than to lie on the sand all day, with occasional forays into the cooling surf. But then I’d think: Where’s the drama there? If I didn’t go do something—anything—I’d have nothing to write about! And so off I’d go, anxiety-ridden and not nearly tan enough, in search of more prose-worthy excitement.

May your future travels be anxiety-free and allow you the time you need to tan sufficiently, Matt.

Which Budget Bus Line is the Best?

Which Budget Bus Line is the Best? Photo by Keyler Oliveira via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Keyler Oliveira via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Slate’s Noreen Malone offers up this amusing “snob’s guide to bus travel”—in which she compares the Northeast’s various discount bus lines, applying “the supremely useful, difficult-to-master art of distinguishing among the baser things in life” for the task.

I haven’t tried out Fung Wah, but I’ve ridden all the other lines mentioned—Megabus, Bolt Bus and good old Greyhound—and I agree with her choices for best and worst: Quasi-hip, wired Bolt comes in tops, while Megabus (whose glowing green ceiling lights kept me awake for the bulk of a 10-hour overnight ride a couple weeks back—honestly, who doesn’t dim the lights on an overnighter?) often makes me wish I’d shelled out for the train.

Got a favorite discount bus line? Or any budget bus horror stories?

Where to Find Free Food in New York City

For those budget travelers who sometimes prefer to spend money on our drinks than on our meals (who, me?), Matt Gross has a helpful run-down of New York City’s free bar snacks. I can vouch for the tasty popcorn at Temple Bar.

‘Social Spaces’: The Budget Traveler’s Happy Place

‘Social Spaces’: The Budget Traveler’s Happy Place Photo by ForsterFoto via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by ForsterFoto via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over at Travel Generation, Bruce Thurlow has put together a list of nine “social spaces”—parks, markets and so on—that he argues are the key to truly appreciating the life of a new city.

I agree: I think I’ve done some of my best people-watching and observation on subway trains, on playing fields or in public squares. And the best part? These spaces are almost always free, or pretty close to it.

Here are a few spots to add to Thurlow’s list:

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Budget Dining in Barcelona: How to Do it Right

Budget Dining in Barcelona: How to Do it Right Photo by visualpanic via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by visualpanic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The first time I visited Barcelona, I was at the tail end of a 10-week backpacking trip around Europe. I had just four days left before I caught a plane back to the U.K. (where I’d been living) and then home to Canada—and, predictably, I was out of money.

My British and Canadian bank accounts were both tapped out, and while I could still charge my dorm bed—a clear necessity—to my credit card, I stubbornly refused to charge restaurant meals or withdraw cash for groceries on it. (The interest will kill you, y’know.)

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Budget Barbados: Five Free Island Activities

Budget Barbados: Five Free Island Activities Photo by Eva Holland
Photo of North Point by Eva Holland

I’ll admit, Barbados is hardly known as a shoestringer’s paradise—this isn’t $5, $25 or even $100 per day territory.

But still, after a couple of extended visits here, I’ve learned that it’s not all pricey cocktails, rooms with a view and chartered yachts, either. There are affordable accommodation options and wallet-friendly meals to be found—and, best of all, some of the island’s most memorable spots are free, or close to it.

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Cheap Tickets to Hawaii, Costa Rica and More

Cheap Tickets to Hawaii, Costa Rica and More Photo by bobster855 via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by bobster855 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Every few weeks here, I round up some of the best air travel deals I can find.

Want to visit the Pacific? Alaska Airlines has an insanely good deal to Hawaii. They are advertising $169 one-way fares from Seattle, Washington or Portland, Oregon. You need to buy your tickets before June 3, and you must travel between July 3 and September 30. If you play your cards right, you can fly to Hawaii and back for a total of about $360 after taxes and fees, round trip.

Also, Air Tahiti Nui is advertising round-trip fares, after taxes and fees, of about $731 between Los Angeles and Tahiti, but it’s for a maximum stay of four days only.

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When Scrimping on the Road Goes Too Far

We all like to save a buck when we travel. But at what point does cost-cutting cross the line?

That’s the question Carlo Alcos posed over at Brave New Traveler recently, in his look at some questionable (but common) money-saving tactics on the road. A few of the tricks listed: posing as a student or a local for admission-fee purposes, fare-dodging on public transit and inventing complaints—and then demanding compensation. After the run-down, he concludes: “I would say there is a line to be drawn. Not a black and white Sharpie fine line, but a blurry, wavy, grey line that is dependent on the circumstance.”

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A First-Hand Look at Some Desperation Deals

A First-Hand Look at Some Desperation Deals Photo by exfordy via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by exfordy via Flickr (Creative Commons)

There’s been a lot of talk about tourism numbers contracting during the economic crisis, and plenty of observers—our own Rolf Potts included—have pointed out that for the budget traveler, with the travel industry running scared and handing out deals left and right, there’s no better time to hit the road than right now.

Still, until I arrived in Barbados this week and started making some bookings for a visit to Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent, I didn’t fully understand the extent of the bargains out there.

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NYC Raises Subway Fares; Sky Falls

NYC Raises Subway Fares; Sky Falls Photo by Eva Holland
Photo by Eva Holland

After months of ominous foreshadowing, New York City’s transit authority finally did it: Effective June 28, subway and bus fares will jump from $2.00 to $2.25. Reaction has been swift and snarky—check out this satirical subway advisory, for instance. Said one commenter on this Jaunted post about the hike: “Yet again NYC trumps all when it comes to being plain expensive.”

Whoa, hold on a minute. Sure, nobody likes a price increase, especially when consumers aren’t expecting to see improved service in return—the move is an effort to stop the bleeding, not rejuvenate the system. But New York City’s public transit is still cheap compared to what’s available in other big cities, and—much like the city itself, which I will always maintain is a fantastic budget destination—it remains a great value for money.

Trip Planning Tips and Tools from the Frugal Traveler

Trip Planning Tips and Tools from the Frugal Traveler Photo by Matt Murf via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Matt Murf via Flickr (Creative Commons)

In his latest blog post, the New York Times Frugal Traveler (and World Hum contributor) Matt Gross offers a detailed look at his pre-travel research and planning process—including an exhaustive list of the resources, both print and online, that he makes use of to put together his dollar-efficient trips.

It’s an excellent collection, and I don’t have much to add to it—I will mention one overlooked area, though.

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Don’t Forget to Splurge!

Don’t Forget to Splurge! Photo by Carlton Browne via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Carlton Browne via Flickr (Creative Commons)

For me, part of the fun of budget travel is the chance to loosen the purse strings once in a while and drop some cash on a worthwhile splurge.

Whether that means a night in a plush hotel room after weeks of hosteling, a spa day, or a way-out-of-my-price-range meal, I generally find some way to treat myself once during any budget-conscious trip—and, I figure, I appreciate my reward that much more than if I’d been pampering myself all along. It doesn’t have to be about spending a lot of money, either. My favorite travel splurge of all time cost just $15.

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Low-Cost Carriers: Not Always a Bargain

Low-Cost Carriers: Not Always a Bargain Photo by irishflyguy via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by irishflyguy via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Fodor’s posted a helpful reminder for thrifty travelers this week: Be wary of European budget airlines. Of course, those low-cost carriers have generally been a huge help in reducing the expense of European travel, but, as writer Doug Stallings points out, they aren’t always as cheap as they seem.

His first two points are, for me, the most important: low-cost flights tend to leave from secondary airports, and at odd times of day.

Five Hostels I Have Loved

Five Hostels I Have Loved Photo of Lizard Point by Eva Holland
Photo of Lizard Point by Eva Holland

These days, there are more accommodation options than ever for the budget traveler: everything from house swaps to pod hotels to rock-bottom recession-era deals at more traditional travel digs.

But even with that abundance of choices—most of which I’ve sampled, and enjoyed—I think my shoestringer’s heart will always belong to the youth hostel. I love the hosteling community, I (sometimes) love the fiesta atmosphere, and—of course—I love the price. From grungy party pads to serene dorm-room retreats, here are five hostels I have loved:

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BusJunction: One More Reason to Take the Bus

BusJunction: One More Reason to Take the Bus Photo by Daquella manera via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Daquella manera via Flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s been almost a year since I grudgingly acknowledged that, train delays and airport security being what they are these days, taking the bus might sometimes be the most convenient and comfortable way to go.

Since then—one gruesome incident notwithstanding—I’ve gone from a still-reluctant bus user to a full-on regular. And I’m not the only one: new bus lines have been popping up everywhere (and particularly here in the U.S. Northeast), and now there’s even a dedicated bus carrier search engine, BusJunction.com.

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‘This is a Broad-Brush, End-of-the-World Fare Sale’

So says This Just In’s Sean O’Neill, who also dubs Southwest’s latest round of price cuts “the most amazing airfare sale since 2001.” He goes on: “This isn’t some flash-in-the-pan gimmick ... There are millions of these tickets out there, so it’s not a bait-and-switch.” Other airlines, including AirTran, American, Delta, and United, have matched Southwest’s cut-rate prices for travel throughout the spring and summer; check out the details, and book by April 6.

In the Budget Travel Game, Persistence Pays Off

I know, I know—awhile back I said that the real key to successful budget travel was to be informed. Well, here’s another absolutely critical element in the cheapskate traveler’s makeup: tenacity.

Last week I was contemplating a quick trip to Atlantic City, and while browsing hotel websites I came across a great web-only deal: $39 per night, for a premium room. But when I tried to book two nights—at $39 each, plus about $10 in taxes, coming to a tidy total of $88, right?—the total showed up as $114, with no explanation of where the extra $26 was coming from. Puzzled, I tried rebooking as “2 adults,” in case it was a hidden single supplement, but no dice. I tried opting for a standard room, also listed at $39, in case I was facing a hidden upgrade fee. Again, nothing changed.

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Arthur Frommer Promises to Keep Digging up the Deals

The guidebook author/publisher-turned-blogger takes a hard look at the latest travel numbers and trends, and concludes that while overall travel is down, “nearly 90% of all Americans are continuing to travel. And when they do, they are seeking bargains and values beyond all else.” He goes on: “Though some have criticized this blog for its alleged over-emphasis on special deals and discounts, we’re going to continue to make those discoveries a hallmark of our content.”

Well, consider me a fan of that alleged over-emphasis—Frommer’s blog is a great source for must-act-fast cruise, flight and hotel deals, and sure enough, here’s his latest bargain find: a set of $750 round-trip flights from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand.

Blog to Watch: Cities on the Cheap

The site—which got its start simply as Atlanta on the Cheap—now covers the latest bargains and budget shortcuts in 30-plus locations across the U.S. and Canada. The emphasis so far seems to be on the Sunbelt, and on kid-friendly destinations (there’s an entire Disney on the Cheap page), but if those aren’t your bag, don’t despair: Cities on the Cheap is still expanding. (Via Arthur Frommer)