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Traveling on a shoestring budget

By Peter Muiruri | December 9th 2018

It is that time of the year again when the word travel is on the lips of many. Getting out of town is exciting but the expenses that come with the love of adventure put you on edge. How, you wonder, can you travel out of town without breaking into a bank? Here are seven tips to help you travel on a shoestring budget.

1. Cheaper options for accommodation

You might be heading upcountry where staying with relatives is good for family reunion. Still, you may need some downtime to reflect on the year ahead. What then? Check around for any homes listed on home stay booking apps such as AirBnB. These are usually cheaper than contemporary hotel rooms. Will you be travelling as a family or a small group of friends? Then look out for Kenya Wildlife Service self-contained guesthouses located in most national parks in Kenya. KWS also offers clean and secure camping sites in the parks for the more adventurous. Their website has the listing as well as the costs. Nothing wrong spending a holiday on the wild side of things.

2. Have a spending limit

The fact that it is December is no reason for extravagance. “Chopping your money” this month has serious repercussions for the next several months. Unfortunately, many Kenyans hardly plan ahead for a holiday and find themselves doings things at the spur of the moment. Last minute decisions are not only expensive but tire the mind as well. So, take time to plan for expected expenses. Leave no room for impulse buying in your travels. Be careful on the many ‘offers” at this time of the year. They will only feed your consumerism bug before the infamous ‘Njaanuary’ comes knocking.

3. Pack only what you need

Deciding what to carry or not is perhaps the most tedious of all chores associated with a holiday, big or small. We shall give you no list here. The size and contents of your travelling bag depends on how long you will be away, who will be travelling with you and the mode of transport. If you are travelling with younger children, then you might pack a little more than if you were travelling with teenagers or just your spouse. Whatever the case, take only what you need.

4.  Look for cheap transport

In just a couple of weeks from now, we shall (once again) witness a sea of humanity at the Country Bus Station as Kenyans scramble for some space in the few buses that are available. By then, the fares will have gone through the roof. Many hardly make it to their preferred destination. You can save yourself some money, and embarrassment, by booking your transport ahead of time. Can you carpool with friends who could be heading in the same direction? Of course if you are heading towards the coast, the train should be your obvious pick – it is economical, punctual and reasonably comfortable. However, if pressed for time, then check the budget airlines plying the Kenyan skies for a deal. These include Jambojet, Fly 540, Silverstone and Skywand Express. Again, such flights have to be booked in advance if you expect to clinch the best deal.

5.  What to eat

The holidays come with indulgence in food and drink. Treating yourself and your loved ones to a nice hotel meal may earn you some points. Be balanced though. You are on a budget, remember? Be adventurous and walk around town, sniffing the best food deals. When I am in unfamiliar territory, I normally ask hotel staff for their favourite eateries outside of the hotel, a place where they usually hang out with friends when off duty. They usually point out those places they can afford, not just areas teeming with ‘tourists.’ In addition, all major holiday towns such as Mombasa, Malindi or Diani have some good open air eateries on their main streets that are decent and serve local cuisine to visitors. Try them out for an experience. If on the other hand you are staying in a self-contained guesthouse where you are expected to make your own meals, visit the local market for foodstuff. These are always fresh, cost-effective and delicious.

6. Buy on the cheap

If you must make purchases on your holiday, then shop around for genuine discounts. It is a holiday, not a shopping spree. If you are a student, then it helps to carry your student’s identification card. This can get you discounted rates in some establishments such as hotels, guesthouses and hostels as well as some forms of public transportation.

7.…and pay in cash, if possible. Paying for expenses in cash helps control your spending. It also minimises the charges you have to pay the bank for your transactions. 


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