Traveling Abroad On A Budget – Part 2 (Caribbean Style)

Budget Blonde

I like to keep my promises, folks, so today I am bringing you another traveling on a budget post – this time with a little Caribbean flair!

Since I live in Grenada, I think it would be a crime not to share the things I’ve learned about Caribbean travel, at least on my little island. Below are my top tips for having an enjoyable vacation when you come down to the islands, mon.

1. Relax

Traveling is stressful for everyone, but when you are headed to the Caribbean, it’s time to relax. Know that the locals love tourists since tourists bring great business to the island. In Grenada, all students and locals have to pay customs fees on our computers and other electronics. However, if you are a tourist, you should be able to breeze right through customs without any trouble provided you don’t have anything illicit in your bags of course! Also, if your plane is on time, you’ll likely be greeted with great music and a rum punch to start the vacation off right. Perhaps you’ll visit so much you’ll be like me and write sappy posts about calling two places home.

2. Haggle Like It’s Your Job

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed a cab at a restaurant or at the airport and been quoted an outrageous fee because they think I am a tourist. Usually, I just politely say, “Can you negotiate please? I live here,” and they oblige. All that to say that most cab drivers will quote you the highest rate. Don’t be afraid to ask for less. The worst they can say is no, and that’s unlikely given how friendly they are here.

3. Avoid The Touristy Hotels

Just like the tips I shared for traveling to the Middle East this past Monday, you should avoid touristy hotels in the Caribbean too. Places like bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals are much more affordable and can actually give you a more authentic Caribbean experience. Many of the locals I know who run small hotels have guests that they consider friends who come back year after year.

4. Head To The Beach

Most people head to the Caribbean to enjoy some sunshine. The best place to do this is definitely at the beach. Ask a local where a more private beach is. I know that in Grenada my favorite beach, Magazine Beach, is quiet and serene whereas Grand Anse beach, the popular, touristy one, is full of people trying to sell you things. They are only minutes apart, but one is more well known and more crowded than the other. The best part is that here, as with many other Caribbean countries, the beaches are free and open to the public.

5. Go To Market

When you are looking for gifts to bring back to your friends and family back home, I recommend visiting a local market. This is where you can buy local handicrafts, spices, and other accessories for better prices than you would find in a hotel or airport gift shop. Plus, you can learn about the culture and the sense of community while you shop!

So now that you know what to expect here in Grenada, I want you all to book tickets and come visit me. Who’s first? :)

Tips for Traveling Abroad On A Budget – Part 1

Traveling on a budgetWhat would you rather do more than anything else in the world?

I actually have two answers to that question: writing & traveling. It’s no wonder that when the hubs mentioned moving to the Caribbean, I was all for it.

He and I have been very fortunate to visit many places around the world, and our list of the places we still want to see is very, very long.

So, this week is going to be full of budget travel related posts. The holidays are coming up, and we’re flying home to Louisiana. Still, I’m dreaming of our next big destination. Today’s post is about a place I’ve never been but have always wanted to go ever since I did a project on it in grade school: Egypt.

The Concept of Baksheesh

As with any place you travel, it’s best to do your research about the safety and review the travel advisories before booking your ticket. It’s also important to learn a bit about the culture and places to stay before you go. In Egypt, one of the most important things you need to know for your budget is the concept of “baksheesh,” which is a word that means tipping. Baksheesh is almost a way of life in some poorer Middle Eastern countries. It can help turn the paltry amount of money earned by the hotel maid or the cleaner into something akin to a survival wage. That’s all well and good, but if you’re not too careful, it could cost you a tiny fortune (which could easily spoil the budget for your holiday).

The best thing to do is to prepare yourself for baksheesh ahead of time. Don’t carry any larger denomination bills without filling up a pocket or purse with small notes and change that you can use for baksheesh. That way, the tips will never amount to more than a dollar or two in total. No matter what time of the day or the night, baksheesh is expected or demanded. Having the small bills will potentially save you hundreds of dollars. I very much believe in being generous. The point is be prepared for it wherever you go, otherwise you’ll be taking more than the odd trip to a place like the HSBC bank in Egypt to get smaller bills.

Get The Best Foreign Exchange

As someone who exchanges US dollars into foreign currency every day, I know how important it is to get the best rate. Arriving in Egypt with a fistful of US dollars in hand and then changing them into the local currency will likely save you a bunch of cash, but only if you go to the right place. I recommend popping into the nearest bank, and you’ll get a much better rate of exchange, even better than converting your money back home prior to setting off. Your dollars (or British pounds or Euros) will certainly stretch much further as a result.

Haggle

Much to the hubs’ dismay, I absolutely love to haggle. I consider it a really good time. Plus, we all love bargain-basement offers and a good sale. Markets, bazaars, souqs (call them what you may) can be found all over the Middle East. Many of them are still occupying the exact same spot that they’ve had for centuries. The best part is that haggling over the price of everything is expected. Just like baksheesh, it’s very much part and parcel of everyday life. So, there are bargains and savings to be had provided your haggling skills are up to par!

Tips For Places To Stay

Current wisdom says you should be able to live quite comfortably in the Middle East on about $10 to $15 dollars a day. That may or may not be true. Visiting Egypt or other countries in the region in the low-season will certainly save you a bundle and so will avoiding touristy-type hotels.

Regardless of your age, hostels are actually really great places to stay for the price. (Go here for information on hostels in Egypt.) However, not all are created equal. Make sure to check the reviews and the safety of a hostel before booking one blindly.

The one perk is that what you pay is typically what you get in Egypt. Cairo is a good example of this. Prices vary from hostel to hostel and on whether you stay in a single, double or dormitory-type room. However, I always believe the point of traveling is to see the world, so even if the place you are staying is spartan, you could still have a great time and a comfortable yet cozy stay. You can actually expect to pay a little above $6 to just over $8 per night! Many of them will also give you access to laundry facilities, the use of a kitchen, and maybe even internet access and air conditioning. Not too shabby, in my opinion.

So, now that you know a little bit more about traveling to Egypt, it’s your turn: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?  I want to hear all about it! Bonus points if you have other budget travel tips!

[Note: Image from Flickr Creative Commons; Content partnered by HSBC Bank and BudgetBlonde.com]