The cost of a tour can vary greatly. It’s easy to spend too much by going for a popular option that isn’t necessarily better than the cheaper alternatives. Whatever is the right choice for you is for you to decide. Here are various options to help you save money on attractions, find cheaper alternatives or find free things you can do instead.
Some places offer a discount for students if they can provide proof. Other times the hostel may have an arrangement.
Go with a group
Sometimes you can save money if you travel with others so you can split the cost for the transportation and/or guide.
Instead of going on expensive tours with guides, cooks, porters, drivers etc, go on your own. You can literally save hundreds of dollars on some trips.
Tour companies tend to be the expensive option. But if you go for a local tour operator it can sometimes cost the same or even less than what you would pay on your own. The reason is that they can bring a large group which makes it cheaper than everyone going individually.
Never book a tour in your home country (unless the tour is in your home country) if you want to save money. Because then you are paying way more for a third party that doesn’t really make a difference or provide anything other than a small convenience. Instead go to the area where you want to do whatever you want to do and find a local company.
Isn’t this a risk? Well, yes and no. The company overseas charging you 2-5 times the price are also using the local guides. You could probably even contact the third party tour operator and ask which company they work with. If you shop around, ask questions and use your intuition you can get a good sense of the options. There are some things you can do to check if they will be a good choice.
How to find a tour company
1 Talk to them. Ask as many questions as possible. 2 Search for reviews online. 3 Talk to other travelers and ask them who they used and what their experience was. 4 Ask your host (if you find your host to be trustworthy, again online reviews can help you) if they have any recommendations or know anything about the tour guide/operator you are looking into. The host can be collaborating with a tour company for profit though so make sure the host is genuine.
Keep in mind that even if the tour turns out to be sub optimal that you saved enough money to do the same or a similar tour 2-4 more times. Also keep in mind that a tour operator overseas can do crappy tours too. Eventually you will end up with a bad guide, that’s inevitable, so there is no need to pay more for it than necessary.
Free or cheap experiences
If you don’t want to pay for attractions there are many things you can do instead that are either free or very cheap. Below are a few suggestions for active, relaxing and spiritual things you can do that cost next to nothing.
Hiking (waterfalls, volcanos, mountains, jungles, deserts basically any nature area that isn’t an established national park with entrance fees.)
Go to the beach
Watch sunrise and sunset
Rent a tuk-tuk/scooter/bike/taxi for the day or for a round trip or go by local transportation if possible. If you go with other people from your hostel you can minimize the cost.
Free group tours and events
Free travel guides
Alternatives to expensive tours
If you are adventurous then use your creativity and think about alternatives. You can find some amazing adventure off the beaten path other people never heard of. I’ve added a few examples below.
Instead of going to Serengeti or other popular and extremely expensive national parks, rent your own jeep and drive around to some of the free or cheap national parks in Africa with far less visitors. For the cost of 4 days in Serengeti for 2 people you could rent a jeep for a month and go anywhere you’d like. By the end of the month I’m sure you will have seen far more than anyone ever did in 4 days in Serengeti. Especially if you have done a bit of research beforehand. The more people you are the cheaper it will be. Just make sure you have a phone number to call for help if you need it.
Instead of climbing Kilimanjaro (which is crazy expensive and crowded) climb Mount Meru or trek the Himalayas in Nepal or India.
Bring Your Own Gear
If you like mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, diving etc bring your own gear and settle down in the nicest spots in the world for whatever you’d like to do for as long as you want. If you are good at it, or when you do become good at it, you can start teaching and make money. Traveling slow is the key to save money as moving around and paying for flights is the expensive part.
Local tour guides
NOTE: There are a bunch of similar sites where I find the cost to be too (ridiculously) high to add here. But I’m sure there are other reasonable alternatives out there.
Keep in mind that the links provided are not exhaustive. It is just a place for you to start, and if one site doesn’t provide the information you need keep looking for similar sites or use your creativity to find alternatives. You can also simply ask either here or at a travel forum. I merely showing you a small glimpse of what’s possible.