All Singaporeans want to save on their holiday, but these budget travel tips will only waste time and money.
Everyone wants to save money when they travel, but there should be limits. Some tactics are so inconvenient or outright dangerous, it’s amazing Singaporeans actually try them.
In fact, we’re dead certain that whoever came up with these budget travel tips probably never travelled further than from Changi to Jurong:
1. Compare Hotel Prices Manually
On a factual basis, this is true. Many hotels have a front desk manager who has some leeway to make decisions. On particularly empty weeks (or if the manager just likes you), you may get a better discount than even Agoda or Hotels.com can give you. It does happen.
But the idea that you can manually compare hotels until you find this deal is beyond ridiculous.
If you don’t book your hotel online, let us give you a forecast of what will happen: you will get off your flight, laden with more luggage than a pack mule, and start walking around New York or Barcelona in a futile quest to find an empty room.
You will probably walk for several hours, and suffer the pain of multiple blisters while you start to reek like a sweaty gym sock.
Once your body is screaming in pain, and your luggage carrier wheels are falling apart, you will give up and start trying to book online. You will probably get a worse deal because of your last minute booking, and you would have wasted the first vacation day walking around like an abused camel.
2. Use Traveller’s Cheques to Protect Your Cash
Would you also attempt to trade your smartphone for a pager, or your car for a horse carriage?
Traveller’s cheques used to be a great idea, in the days when banks were poorly networked. But today, if you present traveller’s cheques you can expect banks and retailers to make an immediate phone call. To a museum.
This archaic method of moving money is tremendously inconvenient to banks, who will often impose fees. It’s also unsafe for retailers, who are more vulnerable to fraud this way.
So forget about most businesses recognising your traveller’s cheques. They’re going to want cash or credit. And if you go to a bank, good luck finding the one bank out of a dozen than may cash it for you. Your best hope is to opt for traveller’s cheques from recognisable names, like American Express.
On the upside, it does protect your money. No one can cash the cheques but you. But this is like locking your money in steel safe and insisting on carrying it with you.
3. Book the Cheapest Guided Tour
If you are going to rely on someone for your safety, do you really want the budget option?
On a package tour, the cheap ones usually have tour guides who earn on commission. They will drag you to every possible tourist trap, where you will be harassed into buying every manner of junk. If the guide is not making enough money, you can expect the tour to suddenly be cut short.
On local tours, cheap tour guides are a health hazard. You never know if the alleys they’re leading you down are actually safe – if you’re lucky they’re just rip-offs, and if you’re not…well it’d be the one time traveller’s cheques are actually useful.
4. Use the Cheap “Unofficial” Taxis Instead of Uber or Proper Cabs
Tourists are often scammed out of hundreds of dollars when they use unlicensed cabs.
Remember that once you’re in there, you’re at the driver’s mercy: you don’t know the city, you don’t know where you’re going, and you don’t have the wheel. Once they start demanding money, you can either pay them or get off in the middle of nowhere, with your luggage in their trunk.
And the cherry on the top of this nightmare? Your personal accident plan often won’t cover you if you use this kind of unregulated “taxi”.
One common bit of advice we keep hearing among Singaporeans is to use the cheap motorbike taxis in Bangkok. This is something even the locals there consider dangerous. While you won’t get ripped off, you will be going down packed highways at 80 kilometres an hour without a helmet.
Think hard about whether that’s worth saving three or four dollars.
5. Don’t Buy Proper Luggage
Yes, you really can pack all your stuff into big canvas bags. Or just leave it in a box and tie it all together with raffia string. Assuming it’s not too much of a mess, many airlines will convey it to the cargo hold like more normal people’s luggage.
This really does save you the S$300 it’ll cost to buy decent luggage. But with credit card welcome offers like ANZ credit cards‘ free 24″ inch luggage for online applications, it’s easy to save money on a TUMI or Samsonite.
The problem with not using a suitcase is the damage you risk. Baggage handlers don’t treat things with loving care. So if you want to risk putting your stuff in a cardboard box, prepare to have a few things broken. You should also be ready for things to be left in a total mess, if customs officials need to rummage through your stuff. They will cut boxes and strings to check.
The final issue is the embarrassment of carting it off the luggage belt. Expect to be stared at as you drag your karang-guni haul all the way to the hotel.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.