The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Scared Traveler: Doing what the locals do

I’ve always been a fan of great deals, and if that means getting no sleep to get the best price, I’ll do it. When you are living in a foreign country with language as a barrier and no clue to the ins and outs on how to get a great deal you start thinking to yourself, where in the world should I start? I know not everyone is a savvy shopper nor will asking for help lead you to the right answers. This would make any person that is a savvy shopper go a little crazy to pay regular price for anything. This is exactly what happened to me, but fear not I haven’t gone off the deep end.
My first task at hand was figuring out where to find the bargains. So, I decided to look at where I felt the most comfortable in shopping and that’s for food. I quickly figured out most places offered reward programs to shoppers. Needless to say, I have several rewards cards ranging from grocery stores to ice cream shops. The best part about these cards is they can be used at various stores, they offer free food when you accumulate a certain amount of points, and even send you email coupons. If language has become the barrier use the kindness of others to help you get these handy dandy discount cards. Also, most of the time the person will offer you a chance to sign up for the card.
Once you have figured out shopping in your local area there are questions you may have in regards to travel. Well, traveling can be one of the most rewarding things to happen to anyone living in a foreign country, but the hardest thing is traveling cheaply. Let’s forget the on the “budget" idea. We all want to travel without spending a lot of money. The question you need to figure out is how to go about doing this.  Since the information highway has become the route to everything, this is where you start. First, look at sites you are familiar with (Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz and etc), because you need to do a price comparison among these sites. Also, make sure these sites are available in the language of the country you are living in. One thing I have learned is what is offered on the Expedia Korea and Expedia in America are different. So, keep in mind some knowledge of the foreign language is needed. If all else fails use a translator, it helps.
One important thing is making sure you are aware of all the regional airlines in and out of the country. This is important because there are several deals given by regional carriers at all times. One of the best ways to stay abreast of great travel deals are from Facebook pages and through these companies newsletters. For instance, there was a special free airfare offered through Air Asia from certain cities. For travelers in the know they have already booked these flights. I would suggest frequently checking these sites once a week, because you never know what you may find. Also, this would be a great way of planning a trip, months in advance.
The websites for air travel are mostly through Asia, but you can travel to other parts of the world using a few of these carriers.
When you have booked a ticket at a great price the next thing you would think about is getting a place to stay. I have to admit I have always loved the idea of staying in hotels, and the reason for this is it was all I knew. As you know hotels have stars ranking them from the best to the worst. You will pay for every star that is listed on that hotel, and the higher the star is the more the hotel will cost. As a traveler trying to travel as cheaply as possible, I really don’t want to spend a fortune staying in a hotel. So, I have taken on the mindset of a backpacker. What backpackers do is stay in group living situations or in single rooms in hostels. I know the name can scare you if you saw the movie Hostel, but don’t fret it's nothing like the movie. Hostels have become more than a place to lay your head, but a way to make new acquaintances.
They have become a great place to mix and mingle with other people, while offer an affordable place to stay. They cater to the backpackers and families as well. They offer various style rooms such as group living (6 to four people depending on the hostel), twin (two to three people) and single (1 to 2 people). People who are paying to stay in group living style rooms pay less than twin and single rooms. Also, when staying in hostels you can look at the rooms before committing to sleeping there overnight if you have not booked in advanced.  I will admit you do get what you pay for so if you opt to staying in a $5.00 a night hostel you will get a $5.00 a night hostel. But there are really good hostels that will offer free breakfast or even have a inexpensive restaurant attached to offering a western style menu. They also offer a chance to book tours for various tourist places in the area. Also, hostels can be located in the heart of the city making traveling easier by bus or subway.
365 Hostel in Beijing
Here are a few websites to help you in booking hostels. I recommend reading the information carefully, because they all have rules pertaining to booking on these sites. You can book directly with the hostel if you have their information, and from there you can make changes with the hostel staff. They have their own rules when booking through them as well. Please read the comment section before booking, because it will help in planning your stay in any hostel.

To all my fellow travelers I hope this will help you plan a great trip without spending a fortune.

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