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Travel Money

6 ways to save money when you’re travelling solo

A travel writer and broadcaster who has written for The Times, Vogue, The Guardian and many others. She is also the author of the solo travel manifesto 'A Trip Of One’s Own'

There’s a myth that going away alone can make a trip prohibitively expensive, but thankfully the days of hotels and tours charging a single supplement are, for the most part, over. That said, if you’re not always splitting the costs with someone else, travelling by yourself can soon add up. Here are some ways to make your money go further when you’re solo.


1. Choose your card wisely

Forget exorbitant exchange rates at the airport, or paying extra fees every time you use your credit card. By opting for a free Currensea card you get an FX rate of only 0.5% (0% for Premium and Elite card options) on all overseas transactions (compared to 3-5% standard banks charge) as well as fee-free ATM cash withdrawals of up to £500 a month. Currensea links directly to your bank account too, so there’s no need to try and find Wi-Fi to transfer money every time you want to use it. It also emails you a transaction summary and allows you to set your own daily limit so you can keep track of your spending. But my favourite part is that it sends you a satisfying update on exactly how much you’ve saved with every tap. Which is a good excuse to invest that money on a cocktail, I reckon.


2. Find the free stuff

With a bit of research you can find fun things going on in most towns or cities for absolutely gratis. Many museums, galleries and tours have free entry times or ‘pay what you can’ days. The mecca of free things has to be Washington DC, which has over 70 museums, most of them costing absolutely nothing to enter.


3. Ask for discounts

Because you can often be more flexible when you’re travelling by yourself, it’s possible to get amazing deals. Call up on the day and ask if hotels can offer a last-minute or mid-week rate. Hotels lose money when they are empty, so they would rather have a filled room at a discount than an empty one. Don’t be scared to pluck up the courage in a shop or market and ask if there are any deals on offer. 


4. The big breakfast 

The old saying that you should ‘breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper’ is particularly true when you’re travelling solo. Breakfast is a brilliant meal to linger over when you’re by yourself - you can plan the day and it’s often included in your hotel rate. Lunch is better out and on the go, either from a food market, or look for restaurants or cafes offering lunch deals. Then cook dinner if you have a kitchen in your accommodation, or just have a small snack at a bar with a glass of wine. This also avoids the ‘argh! Look at all the couples having romantic dinners’ moment that can strike when you’re solo.


5. A break from the norm

Think outside the box on your destination and you can save stacks of cash. The typical tourist spots tend to be expensive, so by choosing somewhere a bit off-radar, everything (accommodation, food, transport) will instantly be more affordable. For example, instead of Amsterdam, consider Rotterdam. It has a cutting-edge art and electronic music scene and a cool film festival held in beautiful old theatres. New York is famously pricey, but Philadelphia has stylish speakeasys and world-class art museums, too.


6. Mix it up

Whether you book one fancy dinner, and then eat instant noodles for the rest of the trip, or decide to stay somewhere lavish for a single night and then couchsurf your way around the rest of the country, switching up your spending makes you appreciate both aspects so much more. And remember, you don’t have to be staying at the best hotel in town to enjoy its bar, spa or restaurant. Just go as a day guest and lap up the ridiculous splendour and then make your way back to your budget hotel feeling pampered.