Ruth and Max at the Natyra e Qete Restaurant & Camping near Berat, Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Berat, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Greece.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to explore a city inexpensively

Accommodation can be a major expense for a visit to any city, but once you've got that looked after you can still save a lot of money during your visit to the city itself.

First of all, even small cities have a department of tourism, and a website devoted to that. They will have contact information, and usually listings of things to do that are free or inexpensive. If they don't have a listing of the info you're looking for, send an email to their "contact us" link and they will be quick to get back to you. As an example, we will be staying in Wakefield, England for three weeks and they are a city of about 76,000 people, just outside Leeds, England which is a city of about 800,000 people.

Just ask about free things to do and you'll find a few days worth of activities to keep you busy.

As we experienced in Chicago, most major cities also have a free greeter tour. This is a fantastic way to see things and this is probably the first thing we would do when we arrive in a city. There are now 25 major cities participating in the official greeter program. All for free!

How to keep your food expenses down? Make sure that where you are staying has a fridge and microwave. Then buy the basic necessities to make sandwiches. coffee, tea, breakfast cereal, granola bars, and apples and oranges. If you're going to eat a meal out, make it lunch. You'll be able to get a filling meal at much cheaper prices than eating an evening meal in a restaurant.

All food expenses for our five days in Chicago came to a total of $103. We were fortunate that our hotel supplied breakfast, but we only ate out for one meal per day. We bought roast chicken takeout twice, for $7 each time, we had Subway once, and we had a Thai takeout meal once that was under $20 for the two of us. The rest of the time we made sandwiches and wraps that are easy to eat when you're out and about.

Wherever you stay, hotels that are outside of the city center are a lot cheaper than those in the core. That means you have to be able to get around, and parking can be both expensive and difficult. Better to use public transportation. Every city has daily or weekly passes that make it easy and relatively inexpensive to get from A to B.

Any other money saving tips that you can contribute?


  1. Thanks for the link to

    I am going to use it but also pass it along to our daughter, Carrie, who is still traveling for work. She loves to tour the cities she is in. Usually they are the bigger one. She will love this link.

    If those clouds were moving in the header photo, I would be dizzy.

  2. Good list! Here are some other ideas that we employ:

    Plenty of cultural attractions (especially museums) have free days or evenings. Sometimes they’re only on a specific day, like the third Wednesday of each month, so it helps to plan ahead.

    Ask about discounts. We’re surprised by the number of places that give AAA discounts but don’t advertise it. Many others have discounts for seniors, students, military, and a host of other organizations.

    City saver passes can be a good deal, but check the details. If you’re planning on hitting a bunch of sites, sometimes you can buy a bulk pass and save a bundle on individual admissions.

    Rent a bike. Many cities now have inexpensive bike renting schemes with tons of pick-up and drop off locations. Riding is not only a great way to see a city, but can be far less expensive then other forms of transportation.

    Walk. Walking around and discovering a city is one of my favorite activities, and is completely free.

    Eat street food. This isn’t really true in the U.S. but elsewhere street food is typically far tastier and cheaper than meals in restaurants.

    That’s it for now . . . maybe more later.

    Happy travels,

    1. Thanks for your tips. We do a lot of these as well but forgot to mention them. The only problem you might get with going to the museums on the free days or evenings is that it could be busy but still a great way to visit it.

      City Saver Passes will save you lots of money but when you have a family of four or five it can be expensive. In Chicago, one of these passes cost $84 per adult and $69 per child aged 3-11 and was good to five attractions so it really adds up. Unless you really want to see all the attractions it is better to research the options and then pick one or two that would really interest you.

      We definitely agree with the biking and walking. We always do lots of walking in cities.

  3. Our additional money saving tips:
    -bring a soft cooler bag in your suitcase if you are staying at a hotel without a fridge.
    -research your trip on the Trip Advisor Forum for the city you will visit. We have received lots of good "insider" tips from locals (eg: restaurant suggestions, cheap parking, things to do on a budget).
    -if we need to rent a car, we use Costco travel. They have a "Low Price Finder" option that compares 4 major car rental companies. We check it daily and if the price has gone down, we make a new reservation and cancel the old one. On a recent trip to Boston, we were able to rent a compact car for 5 days for just under $100.

    1. Thank you as well Cindy. Again some more great ideas. WE too have found that you learn lots by talking to the locals.

      When we were in Las Vegas, Kevin did the same thing with the car rental. Best price he found was $168 taxes included but he kept checking the price and later in the week found it cheaper so he cancelled the orginal and rebooked. He did this once more before we ended up with a price of $128 taxes included for a week. Also if you book it with a credit card that covers the insurance there is no need to purchase "their" insurance.

  4. Lotsa good tips there for saving money and having fun, our favourite way to travel.

  5. Great tips. We have been doing lots of them for many years. One additional thing we do is check if there are any National Parks, Monuments or Historic Sites in the area. They are usually inexpensive, interesting and well-done. And, if you're a senior you can get a Golden Eagle Pass for $10 which is good for the rest of your life at any of the National attractions.

  6. Wow! $103. bought food for two for five days in Chicago. Last time I was there I made a successful business transaction and celebrated at Morton's and the bill for food and liquor was $142. just for me. Times change; on Thursday, I bought lunch for three in Jalcocotan, MX for $4.


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