If you will be traveling in Asia and need to save money, a variety of small tips will help you to do so. It is important to note that Asia is a vast continent, where every country is different, so not all tips may apply to all countries. However, if you take these ideas with you on your travels, you are bound to save quite a bit.
1. Exchange Currencies
Sometimes, it may seem easier for travelers to pay in their own currencies. Often, though, easiest is not always cheapest. If you exchange money and learn about the local Asian currency, you will know when you are getting a bargain, will not have to worry about businesses not accepting foreign currencies, and will not fall prey to the exchange inflation that usually occurs when paying in a foreign currency. You may keep some of your national money on you, but for the most part, it saves to exchange.
2. Travel with the Locals
In many Asian countries, there are various ways you can travel between cities and across borders. In order to save money when traveling in Asia, stay away from buses and other means of transportation specifically targeting tourists. You will usually be able to find means of transportation that the locals take, which will not always be as comfortable as the luxury air-conditioned buses and sleeping-car-trains, but will always cost less.
3. Stay Away from Hotels
There are almost always cheaper options than staying at the big hotels—options which will usually lead to a more fulfilling, memorable experience, as well. Hostels are one popular option, allowing you to meet and connect with other travelers. Hostels are abundant in most Asian countries. Another option is staying with the locals, themselves. Some websites provide a network with which you can connect and stay with locals. The most popular service today is www.couchsurfing.org. For more information from one of the site’s users, read this review.
4. Eat Where Locals Eat
Fancy restaurants can kill your funds when traveling in Asia. Look to where the locals flock to eat—often, these places will have more authentic food at lower prices. In some cities, such as Bangkok, Thailand, many locals seem to buy take-out or stall food more often than making food at home. In Bangkok, it may be cheaper to eat out every night. However, in other countries, such as Tokyo, Japan, it may be more practical to eat in every now and then. These are instances when it is actually advisable to follow the crowd, and do some pre-travel research.
5. Stay Away from the Tourist Areas
Following local crowds in Asian countries is a great way to find inexpensive options for dining and shopping. Following tourist crowds has the opposite effect. Tourist areas often sell items, food, and tickets to attractions at inflated prices. If you want to spend less, stay away from tourist hot spots, at least for extended periods of time. This also applies to services that are geared toward travelers, such as tour buses and shows. If you do these things, be sure to treat it as a rare expense.
6. Shop Around
In most Asian countries, if something is sold in one place, you will see it in another place, too. Refrain from impulse buying when shopping in Asia. Look around; take note of items you like and their average prices. If you are searching for unique souvenirs, it is especially advisable to wait until you are familiar with what is sold at every roadside stall and shop. That way, when you do decide to buy, you will know that your purchase is truly special.
7. Learn to Haggle
Depending on your destination, haggling may be an important skill for shopping in Asia. In many Southeast Asian shops in places like Thailand and Vietnam, haggling is both essential and expected. Haggling involves negotiating the price. The vendor starts at his or her highest selling price, you start at your lowest reasonable buying price, and the two of you work your way toward an acceptable agreement. Although prevalent in many countries, haggling is not acceptable at certain venues, such as chain businesses and some stores with set prices.
8. Don’t Fall for Scams
Most Asian countries unfortunately have scams that target travelers and their wallets. Doing a little bit of research before you travel will save you the expense of falling victim to many of these scams. If you know what to look out for, you will be able to avoid these often costly annoyances, saving you a lot of money in the long run.
9. Learn Some of the Language
While researching scams, it may be helpful to look up some key phrases and words in the local languages of the Asian countries you plan to visit. Knowing some of the language will often impress locals, and lead people to think more highly of you. Such knowledge has the potential to save you lots of money, as you will be able to ask, for example, “delicious, cheap, food, where?” It may sound like caveman-talk, but it will get the point across. Also, doing business in the local language will make you appear more knowledgeable, thus making it less likely that anyone will take advantage of you.
10. Be Kind, Courteous, and Honest
Being a generally open and kind person will draw people to you in ways that will not only benefit you socially, but monetarily, as well. In many Asian countries, the people are receptive to kindness and honesty. They will be more apt to point you in the right direction, give you discounts and freebies, and just help you out in general. Of course, you shouldn’t maintain a positive attitude solely to save a few dollars, but it can be an added benefit.