Cheap Transportation While Traveling

Friday, July 1, 2011  at 6:58 AM
Be a transportation cheapskate by knowing your options.  Since Chris and I avoid paying for lodging when traveling as much as we can, transportation is usually the bulk of our costs and we try to keep that cost down as much as we can.  Today is another (very long) travel day for us, so I thought a post on travel would be fitting!

Small Lorry in Italy by Danalynn C
Taking a teeny-tiny truck is optional!  This was one that I found in Florence a few years ago--I was tickled by the pocket-size of it.

First of all, if you will be traveling a long distance then compare the price of your intended mode of transportation to flying, as taking a plane can often be unexpectedly cheaper.  Read my post on reducing the cost of plane tickets for more information.  Once flying has been ruled out, read on for further tips on reducing your transportation costs.

Bus:  Buses can be quite cheap, although they are not automatically the cheapest option.  They are useful for traveling across borders, going places where it is inconvenient or impossible to take other forms of transportation (such as rural places), and short-distance travel.  In some countries they are the best option for long-distance travel, but I generally find that trains or planes are generally the cheapest option.  Some tickets (especially longer-distance ones) must be purchased in advance, but usually you will buy a ticket either just before or just after entering a bus.

Train:  Avoid the 'all-inclusive' train passes (such as Eurail) unless you have done your homework on them and you know they will work for your style of travel--they usually have a plethora of possible surplus charges (including for sleeper compartments, some lines, and some train types).  Keep an eye out for rail discount cards; in France I bought the 12-25 card (for people between 12 and 25 years of age) for less than 100 euros and it then gave me around 40% off of every train ticket.  In Swizerland I had the Binario 7 card, which let me ride any train in Switzerland for free after 7pm and gave me 50% of every ticket before 7pm (including already discounted tickets).  Trains are normally so expensive in Switzerland that I made back the cost of the card after one weekend of use!

Taxi:  In some countries, taking a taxi is actually a cheap, viable option.  Make sure you know exactly how much it will cost before you get in and do not rely on the meter for pricing--many taxis do not use the meter, even if it's 'running.'

Bike: Some countries are great to bike in, while others it would be a death-defying feat.  Use your best judgement and wear a helmet.  Also, pay attention to how the bikes around you are treated--are they all locked up?  Do people seem worried about parts being stolen off the bikes?  When I lived in France, you had to lock the frame as well as both of the tires of the bike to a stationary object, otherwise someone would steal the tires.

Hitchhiking: This one is definitely a 'use your best judgement' option.  Be prepared to wait quite a while to get picked up.  If you decide to hitchhike, try to have a sign clearly labeled with the name of your destination (or the closest large city) written in the local language.  Figure out the local hitchhiking sign--'thumbs up' is used across the USA, but in other countries that might be unknown, and in several countries it is considered an insult!  As for your hitchhiking location, you need somewhere where people can see you from a distance, can slow down and stop, and are going in the correct direction.  Rest stops, parking lots near a freeway on-ramp, or the sides of long roads are all great locations to try to hitchhike.  One person will get picked up more quickly than two people, but two is considered to be safer.  Personally, I will not hitchhike by myself, but that is completely up to you.

Walk: The old standby--walking!  Have a good idea of your pace and have fun seeing all of the sights.  :)  I walk quite often while traveling and don't mind walking longer distances, which has saved me quite a bit of money.
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