8 Budget Travel Ideas for the World’s Most Expensive Cities

8 Budget Travel Ideas for Visiting the Most Expensive Cities in the World

This is how you can make your travel budget go the distance!

As travel trends and habits continue returning to normal, the all-important issue now lies with having enough travel funds for that long-awaited trip. Luckily, we’ve prepared these general tips on saving money while travelling, as well as some budget travel ideas on what to do when you’re visiting the most expensive cities in the world like Hong Kong, London, New York, Tokyo, and Zurich. You know, the destinations that can make you bleed money at every turn. No matter where you’re heading next, this is how you make your budget go the distance. 

Also read: 13 Tips for Travelling Around South Korea on a Budget

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1. Set aside money to build your travel fund

Budget Travel Ideas for the World’s Most Expensive Cities: Start a Travel Fund

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If you clicked this article, then you’re probably looking for ideas on how to build your travel budget as early as now. To grow a travel fund, a good practise is to have a separate bank account and gradually allocate a percentage of your salary every month. Back in 2017, one Filipino traveller did exactly this by committing to a 52-week money-saving challenge and generated ₱137,000 (~S$3,780), which was more than enough to take her across several cities in Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia

2. Exchange money before your visit

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We all know that the airport usually doesn’t give the best exchange rates, so it helps to exchange your money at the bank prior to arriving in your post-pandemic destination. Just to cover your bases, of course! 

3. Use public transportation and take advantage of transit passes

Budget Travel Ideas for the World’s Most Expensive Cities: Take Public Transportation

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If the city you’re visiting has an efficient public transportation system, then you can reduce your expenses by commuting. Trains tend to be the more affordable option for travellers who want to explore several cities on their itinerary, especially compared to the standard cost of a flight. One of our writers successfully completed a two-day tour of Singapore and Johor Bahru — for just S$200! 

Another budget-saving trick is to use transit passes or transportation cards if they’re available. These allow you to navigate multiple cities and even go country-hopping for a specific duration. Moreover, they save you the trouble of having to buy a single-journey bus or train ticket any time you need to go somewhere. In Europe, travelling is much easier with a Eurail Global Pass, whether you feel like visiting art museums in Milan or taking a side trip to the fashionable streets of Paris

Zurich, One of the Most Expensive Cities in the World

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Many expensive countries offer their own travel passes as well. In expensive Swiss cities like Geneva and Zurich, for instance, you can navigate your way around Switzerland easily with a three, four, eight, or 15-day Swiss Travel Pass. In fact, one of our contributors did this and travelled across Switzerland for 15 days with only S$702

4. Stay in an Airbnb and other budget-friendly accommodations

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Couchsurfing, sleeping in hostels with multiple beds in a room, embarking on a 7-week overland journey, and sleeping on the Trans-Siberian Railway for S$3,000 — all of our favourite budget travel ideas. Certainly, if you’re looking to make a friend or two while on vacation, the budget-friendly option of sharing accommodations with strangers is definitely the way to go.

Budget Travel Ideas: Stay in an Airbnb

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However, if you don’t feel comfortable booking cheap hostels or guesthouses, staying in an Airbnb is an alternative that can save you a lot of money. This applies to expensive cities such as New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London as well. You can enjoy good value for your money in an Airbnb, while benefiting from relaxing amenities. 

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5. Volunteer at budget-friendly organisations

Budget Travel Ideas: Volunteer

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Alternatively, you can avail of volunteering options that will allow you to participate in a project in exchange for room and board. Not only will you make a difference in the local community, but you’ll also have a place to crash for a very fair price! 

Also read: 15 Websites Every Budget Traveller Needs to Know About

6. Know where the fast food restaurants, groceries, or convenience stores are

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On the subject of eating fast food abroad, we’ve enjoyed learning about the different opinions and perspectives of our readers. Some travellers believe you should always make it a point to eat the local cuisine and that it defeats the purpose of your journey if you just eat the same thing you do back home. But as a counterpoint to that, we believe that the different fast food chains of the world are also worth trying and discovering. In fact, we can name many unique fast food restaurants that stand out for their design and interesting menus

Also read: Why You Shouldn’t Be Ashamed Of Eating In Fast Food Restaurants Abroad

7 elevens korea

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That discussion aside, nothing’s stopping you from doing both. You can enjoy the best of what a destination’s culinary scene has to offer, then alternate with fast food when you’re craving the taste of something familiar. People have different tastes and budget constraints, and you should do what works for you. 

But at some point in your trip, you’re probably going to want to cut down on your costs on food. Luckily, many convenience stores can be found not just in the streets of Tokyo and Seoul, where low-cost supermarkets and 7-Eleven branches are a viable alternative compared to dining in restaurants. 

Plus, you never know what delicious goodie you might find! We can write an ode to all the extraordinary convenience store snacks that we’ve found in our past travels. 

7. Prepare or bring your own food

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Even better than the last tip is to prepare your own food to go! You can make easy-to-make sandwiches for your road trips or long journeys ahead. This way, you don’t have to splurge on expensive restaurants, especially if the local food upsets your stomach or you find the prices too steep for your liking. 

8. Take advantage of cheap flight seat sales and travel credits

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Booking your flight on the cheapest day, in the early morning, flying into a less busy airport, and opting for connecting flights — there are many budget travel ideas that can save you plenty of money. Couple that with the right travel credit card that can get you miles, cashback, and more savings, and that will guarantee you money that can be spent on other things during your holiday.

Also read: 10 Best European Countries That Won’t Break the Bank

What did you think of these suggestions? If you have any budget travel ideas that have worked for you in the past, we’d love to hear them; share your travel story with us here to be our next Featured Traveller!

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About Author

Tiffany Conde
Tiffany Conde

Tiffany wrote articles on travel, food, and pop culture for TripZilla. As she plans her next adventure, she enjoys writing about the coolest places to stay around the world and where to find them.