Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tips for travelling on a budget


I think that I can speak for most people when I say that if you can save some money without compromising on comfort or quality then you would jump at it. Many people wonder how I can travel regularly even though I work part time and study, thinking that I either a) have a magical money tree or b) my parents fund it. I usually laugh at both of these suggestions. I'll admit that most of the travel I have done so far was funded by my parents, but only because I was still in school and didn't exactly have much of a choice! (No complaints here though) 
But since I finished school I am obviously expected to be self-funded when it comes to travel.

Now, coming to my point about where I have all this money to spend on travel. It's not so much the amount I earn (trainees don't earn a great deal!) but how I spend what I have. I am careful about how I spend money on "non-essentials" but I am also careful when it comes to spending money on travel itself. There are some amazing deals and bargains to be had if you just look hard enough. There are always cheap flights around if you are flexible with dates and destination, and many hotels offer discounts for staying in certain periods. 

Moving on now - here are my tips for saving money on some of the main expenses when travelling!

Flight

As much as I love to whinge about certain budget airlines with their ridiculous luggage restrictions and moody staff, I wouldn't have been to the places I have without them. I recently booked a £20 return flight to Copenhagen on Ryanair to go in May, which is one of the lowest prices I've seen in a while. And really, who can complain about moody staff when your flight is cheaper than a meal and drink in Soho?

Also, if you don't have kids make sure to take advantage of off-peak flights. During school holidays, flights can be sky-high as all families are pigeon-holed into going away at these times. Flying to destinations outside their peak time can also save you some money. So if you visit a "summer" destination in autumn, winter or spring chances are there will be less demand and therefore cheaper prices.

Accommodation

The country or city you are visiting will determine what is the best accommodation option. However, generally places on websites such as AirBnB will be a good deal cheaper than hotels, and also offer you a lot more variety. When trying to find accommodation in Copenhagen I was struggling to find even hostels, (let alone hotels) for my group's budget, but managed to find a three bedroom apartment just outside the center on AirBnB for our budget.

Transport

This one is actually closely linked to accommodation. I usually try to limit my use of transport in favour of staying in a central location. You might see a cheap place about an hour out of the center of the city and think "oh great, money saved!". But really you could end up spending all the money you thought you saved on accommodation and putting it all into transport and have an inconvenient commute!

Food

I find this one the easiest to save money on. Living in London means that restaurants in most other countries seem cheap in comparison! I am a big believer in not compromising your travel experience for the sake of saving money. What I mean by this is that I don't want to eat bread and butter and packet noodles for the whole time I am in a new country. For me, discovering and trying local food is just as important as seeing the most famous tourist attraction there! I will at least try to have one meal a day out at a restaurant that serves decent and authentic food.  For the other meals I will go to the nearest supermarket and buy some things there. Actually, one of my favourite things about a new country is going to the supermarket! I have found some of the most amazing things there because it is what the locals eat and use every day.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Where to stay in Fes


Before I went to Morocco last December I found it quite difficult to pinpoint the best place to stay in Fes. After a fair bit of research, I finally figured out that Fes el Bali is the old medina part of town and the best spot to stay. However, this is a large area! After further research, I figured out that The Blue Gate or Bab Boujloud is one of the main things to see and seemed to be the spot to be.
So based on this vague information I managed to collect, I booked my accommodation a 10-15 minute walk away from Bab Boujloud. I wasn't too wrong about the location, but a few things were clarified once I got to Fes, as is always the case!

So it turns out that Bab Boujloud is the main entrance to the medina. Once you go through the gate, it forks so that you can go left or right. The majority of shops and stalls are on these streets, and a few spill out into the interconnecting streets. Unless you want to see a particular attraction on one of the streets, it doesn't really matter which way you go as both have fairly similar shops.

It is extremely easy to get lost in the medina's streets. All 9000 of them look similar and there are not many street signs! For the first few days, I got slightly lost trying to get to Bab Boujloud in the morning and then finding my way back to the riad again later. A 10 minute walk turned into 30 minutes very quickly! The location of the riad was fine once I got oriented and figured out where to go, but for the first few days it would have been so much easier if I had stayed really close to the Blue Gate. Why? Well one of the things about the medina is that it goes downhill from Bab Boujloud. So I found that after wandering the medina streets for a few hours, I could always find my way back to the Blue Gate if I went uphill. Easy hey? So if you are only in Fes for a few days, you will save loads of time if you are staying near Bab Boujloud and know this tip!

Of course you could just do what I didn't do and buy a cheap SIM card with data and let Google Maps guide you. Then it doesn't really matter if you are staying a bit further away from the gate. Thinking about it now, I don't know why I didn't get a SIM as it would have made it so much easier. Oh well, sometimes the best way to explore is by getting lost!

If you are only in Fes for a few days and don't plan on getting a SIM with data, it's best to stay as close to Bab Boujloud as possible. This means that you can see everything you need to without getting lost every day! If you are getting a SIM or have an excellent sense of direction, staying 10-15 minutes out of the busy part can be nice as you can get away from the crowds and shops at the end of the day.

A final tip would be that if you are staying in a riad, make sure that they arrange for someone to either pick you up from the airport or pick you up from the nearest gate. Often the taxi drivers will only know where the gates are, not the streets because they can't drive in there. So if you can at least get someone to meet you at the gate it will mean you're not walking around dark streets late at night!