5 Places You Think You Can't Afford
Updated: Apr 14
We all have those destinations on our travel bucket list - the ones we avoid due to the assumption we’d need a small loan in order to afford even a short weekend there. However, over the last few years, I’ve realised it doesn’t have to be this way. Some 'expensive' places don’t have to be pricey at all and can actually be enjoyed even more on a budget. If you do your research, find reasonable flights and a hotel in advance, you’re already saving yourself a ton of money.
Here are my tips for enjoying five popular places around the world, without breaking the bank.
Don’t fall for expensive food
When I first visited New York, I set out to eat as many cuisines in as many ways as possible. This included New York-style pizza, Chinese takeaway food and Italian meatballs. So, instead of joining the monstrous queues in Times Square to spend $100+ on American grills, we ventured deeper into Manhattan, eating in family-run restaurants for $30 or less. We also took great pleasure in devouring bagels and coffee from the local cart down the street for breakfast, wrapped up in our many layers watching the New Yorkers rush to work. For us, that was the perfect way to experience New York and the bottom line is, if you want to spend less money, don’t follow the crowds.
Visit the MoMA after 6 pm on a Friday
Museums are a huge attraction in New York and all the entry fees can soon tot up! Luckily, the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is free to enter on Fridays between 4 pm and 8 pm! Word of warning, if you want to avoid the queues, I would recommend going after 6 pm!
Get your theatre tickets on the night of the show
A night at the theatre was extremely high up on my 'to do' list, but the prices gave me major anxiety. We were quoted around $160 for two tickets purchased in Times Square! However, as a couple of bargain hunters, we took the risk of booking tickets at the office only a couple of hours before the show started and bagged ourselves two tickets for $40. Result!
Some free things to do in New York:
· Stroll around Central Park
· Visit Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge (on foot)
· Fangirl/boy outside the Friends building
· Walk the High Line towards Chelsea Market
Join a free walking tour
If you’re interested in the history of Berlin and are keen to see as much of the city and its attractions as possible, a free walking tour is the way to go. We started our tour from a hostel near the Berlin wall and spent an amazing day learning all about the German capital from a friendly tour guide, including everything from its eccentric nightlife and local beer to the World War II battlefields and Memorial to the Murdered Jews. It’s also a really good way to meet people (if you want to).
Gawk at graffiti in Kreuzberg
Kreuzberg is an awesome place in Berlin and is enjoyable enough without having to spend a penny. Its gritty buildings are covered in amazing art and the (please forgive me for saying this) vibe is really cool. If you do feel like taking a break from exploring the streets though, you will find affordable coffee shops and bars nearby.
Get off the beaten track for drinks
Berlin is well known for its nightlife, especially its club scene! But if you’re after something a little bit less electronic, there are local bars and pubs everywhere serving beer and spirits for less than €3!
Get there by tube and bus
At first glance, Positano may seem impossible to get to, and expensive, but if you do a bit of planning, it’s actually very easy and affordable. My advice would be to fly into Naples (we found flights for £20) and make your way straight to the train station. From there you can hop on a tube to Sorrento which takes about 45 minutes and costs around €4. Once you're in Sorrento, there are buses running from the tube station to Positano all day. Again, the journey is only about 45 minutes long and from what I remember, only costs €10, so ignore what you read online! If you want to take a break between your trips, treat yourself to a pizza in Sorrento, they're massive!
Eat your evening meal before 5 pm
Positano is by far one of the most magical places I have ever been, and I didn’t want to waste a second of being there. Both mornings, we were up and eating our breakfast on the balcony before 7 am, so it’s safe to say we were doing things slightly ahead of time for a holiday, which wasn’t a bad thing. We were always ready to eat our dinner/tea (or whatever you choose to call it) by 5 pm which was a blessing, because all the prices double in restaurants after that time, so you’re saving yourself between €15-20 a night per person!
Soak up art in the hills
Positano is known as the vertical village because everything is built upwards, and the buildings embedded in the hills are stunning. Among the cosy gift shops, restaurants and bars, you'll find adorable, free-to-enter art galleries, displaying contemporary paintings and sculptures, making Positano the perfect place for art lovers.
Extra tips for saving money in Positano:
· Don't just stick to the main beach. There's a smaller beach around the corner which is quieter and full of laid-back beach bars. Pick some sunbeds on the row furthest away from the sea too, they’re cheaper and you’re closer to the bars!
· Swim. The view of Positano looks even better from the sea.
Eat tapas in the local bars
Barcelona is actually pretty huge, and in my experience of it, there isn’t just one place you should go to eat. Luckily, we were staying in an Airbnb in a more residential area and were surrounded by tapas bars. As opposed to paying over the odds for food in fancy restaurants, we basked in the Spanish ambiance with the Catalans, enjoying €12 jugs of sangria and tapas in the street. Most bars have tables set up outside for customers to enjoy the evening as the sun sets, and you can grab your own tapas as you please from the bar - prices ranging from €1 to a whopping €1.50.
Explore the city by bus
As I said, Barcelona is pretty huge, so in order to see it all, you need a bit of help. For only €15 (ish), you can take advantage of the hop-on-hop-off buses the city has to offer. These will take you everywhere, including the Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló and of course, the beach. Definitely worth the money.
See Barcelona from the sky
For less than €10 you can hop off your bus, on a tram and onto a funicular towards a funfair in the sky. Mount Tibidabo (not to be confused with the foothills Joey Tribbiani claimed to have hiked in) overlooks all of Barcelona and is home to a beautiful church as well as a vintage amusement park. For its views and uniqueness, this one should not be missed.
Visit the Meiji Shrine
The Meiji Jingu Shrine is located in Shibuya and is super easy to get to (as well as completely free to enter). Set in the middle of forested grounds, it is absolutely stunning and the perfect place to revel in traditional Japanese culture. You’ll be able to cleanse your hands before you pay your respects and, if you want, you can add some wishes to the wishing tree. One of my favourite memories of Tokyo.
Try Japanese food down Piss Alley
I know Piss Alley doesn't sound like the most appealing place to eat your lunch, so let me explain the reasoning behind the name. Back in the day, due to lack of restrooms, people would use the alley to, you know. But now, it's an awesome street filled with lanterns and flowers, serving ramen for next to nothing. Yum!
Experience the hustle and bustle of the Shibuya crossing
One word... crazy! As many as 2,500 people can cross the Shibuya crossing at one time and it's truly amazing to see. Moments like this are worth much more than spending your life savings on tourist attractions.
My final tips for an affordable and memorable trip to Tokyo:
· Observe the spectacular views from the Tokyo Skytree
· Embrace the colourful fashion in Harajuku
· Relish the lights of Kabukicho
And there you have it! If you'd like more tips or advice on any of the places above, please feel free to ask.