The purpose of this blog is to try to help you make a few pounds here and save a few pounds there to stretch your budget as you head off on your travels. In January 2008 my girlfriend and I decided we wanted to take a year off to see the world. Only problem was the money. We knew we didn’t have enough so we hit upon the idea of seeing if we could use online trading sites to help. We figured we’d try it and if it didn’t work out, well, we’d stick everything on the plastic and worry about the debts when we got back. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and it did work out!
What follows are all the hints and tips we found useful. We’re not going to bore you with the places we went and how we enjoyed them. There are plenty of travel blogs out there if you want to read that. What we will do is try to prepare you before you go, advise what you can trade in certain places and pass on all those other secrets and tricks we learnt to make our journey that much cheaper. It’s all about taking care of the pennies on the road as things can add up really fast if you don’t.
Anyway, we hope you enjoy what follows and that you will learn a few things about travelling on a budget before you even set out.
BEFORE YOU GO, START SAVING
Yes it sounds obvious but preparation is everything. The first thing you need to do is commit to the idea and start saving. However much you have, it is never enough. The next thing is to look around you and start selling everything you don’t need. We sold everything right down to lamps, furniture and the books and CDs on the shelf. You’ll find when you get home a year later you won’t miss them, you’ll even be glad they’re not cluttering the place up. You really do come back to a new beginning. Obviously Ebay is the place to begin as it is also an opportunity to build up your feedback – which is especially important if you are a new seller. You may find Amazon marketplace just as good for books. Finally, if you still have any left, take them to an independent bookseller and ask if they will buy them as a job lot. If you are in London then try the guys who sell books on the Southbank. We got £100 for a carboot full of books we no longer wanted. We would have taken anything as it meant we didn’t have to store them.
BANKS AND CREDIT CARDS
There is only one bank to be with when you are withdrawing cash abroad, and that is Nationwide. Their Flexaccount Visa Debit card will save you potentially hundreds of pounds. We met so many people who were juggling all kinds of cards and wasting money. This debit card allows you to withdraw your cash anywhere in the world for no fee and at a business rather than consumer exchange rate. If there are two of you then get an account each and a joint account too – that way you have four cards that can access your cash the cheapest possible way. I cannot emphasise enough how important this is over six months or a year. It is also a good security measure as it means since there is no fee you don’t have to withdraw larger amounts so you actually carry less cash from day to day.Keep the money you have saved and the money you will earn in a higher interest account (Alliance & Leicester Premier was the best last time we checked) and transfer what you need to Natiowide in good time to withdraw it when you anticipate you will need it.Use a credit card only if you are good with them. Otherwise keep it as an emergency back up. We chose this one as it seems to build up substantial flying benefits pretty quickly: BMI Diamond Club . Remember to always pay it off each month to avoid interest though. We used it a fair bit in the run up to our departure. As a result it got us two flights from Bangalore to Bangkok, saving about £300 at the time.
If for whatever reason, you're getting refused plastic then get a prepaid card that you load up with money before spending, rather than getting a bill afterwards. There's no contract, everyone qualifies because you load it with money up front so there is no risk for the provider. FairFX is a Mastercard for travellers that appears to give better exchange rates than most others including the Post Office when you buy stuff but like all these kinds of cards, you get charged at the ATM so try not to use it there.
CLAIM YOUR TAX BACK BEFORE YOU GO
As you will not be resident in the country for part or all of the financial year you are therefore not liable to pay tax for the time you are away. If you have been working and paying PAYE tax you may be entitled to reclaim the tax paid on the first £6,475 you earned in the tax year. Follow this link to the Inland Revenue website where you can download the necessary form. You'll need your P45 too.
IF YOU ARE A HOMEOWNER YOU NEED TO MAKE IT PAY
If you own your own place then you need to get it rented out. Make sure you do it the right way. You’re either going to have to use an agent or a friend since you won’t be there to sort out any problems. Legally the bond will have to be placed in escrow which means it is held by a third party in case of any disputes between landlord and tenant. Check out this guide to letting at Landlord Zone for practical advice and recommendations, and this page at DirectGov for regulatory advice. As with most things, let common sense guide you on this one. Speak to at least three agents and if possible get a personal recommendation from someone in your neighbourhood.
DO A TEFL COURSE
This can prove invaluable if you decide to stay in one place for a while or are running low on funds. If you have a course behind you, you are much more likely to get hired and can command a higher wage for your services. These guys - www.onlinetefl.com - do online and classroom courses so if you're still in the planning stage a little bit of this each evening means you'll be able to get work anywhere when you go. You might never come back! We met quite a few people who have stayed on teaching. If you like the look of it then use this Book Now link to get a discount on their usual prices.
OTHER STUFF BEFORE YOU GO
Join Skype. Open an account and save all your important people's details there. If you get those people to join before you go then you can talk to them for free. Set an account up for your mum and dad before you go because they won't do it after you have left. When you keep asking from the other side of the world, they'll keep saying "Oh yeah, next time" and you'll have to pay for the calls you make (albeit much cheaper than if you were ringing from a payphone or mobile abroad). You're quicker to just show them how to use it before you go.
Contact Lenses! To save money in the long run and hassle order the whole lot before you go. Online places like GetLenses will save you money and you'll know you can get your hands on them before you head off to some place where there's no chance of anyone filling your prescription. I ordered a year's supply, carried half with me and when we got down to Australia my brother posted the other half down for me to collect. It meant I didn't have to carry the full year's supply or worry about different types in different countries.
Travel insurance is much cheaper if you get it for 365 days rather than 366, which is possibly the actual amount of time you'll be travelling if you have a round the world ticket, so it's your call which one you get insurance for. It could mean your last flight home is technically uninsured as you cross the International Date Line. We took the risk but it's up to you. Remember to get a backpacker policy and not an annual one. Annual insurance is for a few holidays per year, it doesn't cover you for one long trip...and don't even think about pretending to the insurance company that you were on a shorter break if you need to make a claim - it won't work, so don't skimp on it! QuoteBanana have a pretty broad choice of insurers to compare so have a look there for starters.
What follows now are a few tips and ideas on the kinds of things you should be looking out for and where, as well as how and where to sell them.
As an independent traveller India is possibly the most amazing and varied country you will visit. It is also one of the cheapest to travel in and a good place to do business, so it is worth dedicating a large part of journey to it. Of the 52 weeks we were away, we spent 12 in India. It will drive you crazy but you'll miss it when you leave.
We spent most of our time in Jodhpur and visited the surrounding area for a few days at a time, returning to Jodhpur as a base. Its a good way of travelling light as you can leave alot of your kit at your hotel provided they are reputable, you have checked them out personally and you trust them.
This beautiful sandstone city is a great place to stock up on camel skin products. The greatest value we could find was in camel skin hats and satchels which make ideal durable laptop bags. They can be bought for £5 and sold for between £30 and £40 on Ebay, which is still a good price compared to anything comparable on the high street.
When it comes to selling then it is best to be direct with the advertising. Explain who you are, what you are doing and where the product is. Hopefully at this point you will have established a good feedback on eBay and therefore be a trusted seller in your home market(s). Buyers don't mind the unusual so long as they are kept informed of how things are going.
Jaipur is a much busier, less tourist destination with a much greater variety in the marketplace. Remember when you are looking you are not shopping. You are looking for goods to sell and post. Ideally you want a good price, a potentially high mark up and ideally small and light enough to transport. We're not trying to make our fortune here, remember this is part of a trip that is in the first instance supposed to be fun. Of everything on display here the best value appears to be in bathroom fittings. These things cost a fortune in the UK and for the life of me I cannot fathom why. Good quality fittings are available here at a fraction of the cost. This would be a good point to mention that if you can enlist the help of a friend or relative in the UK you can greatly reduce your postage costs. Have goods shipped by surface mail to the UK and in place to be dispatched to buyers from a UK address. You can take the photos and design the adverts before they go, then place the ads when your goods have been received in the UK. Shipping may take longer but as long as you don't have a cash flow problem this should not matter as you place the adverts when you are ready, wherever you are in the world. This can be a nice little sideline for your UK friends too if you cut them in for a small fee in return for forwarding the goods for you once you have your sales. Again, honesty in the advert - you can legitimately state that the goods are in the UK awaiting dispatch and it also makes life easier should you have any returns.
How you deal with customs is up to you. For small low cost items there usually isn’t a problem. You could try marking higher value individual items as gifts. For bulk shipping you may find there is no way to avoid customs costs.
As far as buying goes – here’s something to think about before you dive in:
New Zealand details its sevice here:
It’s not so clear on the Australian website, so here is what you need to know; the system within Australia Post allows you to have your post sent to a city-centre holding place. There your post will be held for up to 1 month and you can go in and collect it by providing a proof of identity such as your passport.
To send to the Poste Restante services in the main cities use the following addresses:
Your Full Name,
c/o Poste Restante,
NSW 2000, Australia.
Collect from: 310 George St. on the 3rd floor of Hunter Connection
Your Full Name,
c/o Poste Restante,
VIC 3000, Australia
Collect from: the general Post Office, Bourke St. and Elizabeth St.
Your Full Name,
c/o Poste Restante,
SA 5000, Australia
Collect from: 141 King William St., Adelaide, SA 5000
Ok. Bangkok is a crazy place and we couldn’t possibly claim to know all about what to do and buy there, but here’s what we do know. Chatuchak Weekend Market is awash with cheap goods. Haggling here is harder than in many places with only small discounts being offered until you mention that you are looking to take quite a few items. Then things begin to change, especially later on in the evening when trade is slackening and stalls begin to close. With sunny Australia in mind think about what you could send ahead to collect when you get there. Women’s summer clothes (denim skirts, bikinis, shoes) pack down small and are available for between $1 and $4. What you do with them when you get to Australia is up to you. There are opportunities there to set up your own weekend stall in various spots around the cities. Not surprisingly, Bondi in Sydney is one of the best. It has a lot of grazing tourists keen to pick up little items, especially if you can get a smiling girl to run the stall! Trust me; women don’t generally buy bikinis from men.
Ok – this one isn’t for selling but I thought I’d mention it because it made buying Christmas presents damn cheap, quick and easy. Phnom Penn is awash with knock off DVDs and software. Don’t even think about selling this stuff on, it is so not legit. What you could do though, is buy new release films and send them all home in one bundle at Christmas as gifts for everyone in the family. New releases sell for a $1 each.
Once you’ve picked up your gear its time to get it flogged. Sign up on http://www.ebay.com.au/ but just as importantly, use http://www.gumtree.com.au/ if you’re in Sydney. It’s very popular and generates a lot of sales leads for free.
If you are planning on staying in Australia any amount of time it is best to buy a car or van. You’ll see them for sale everywhere. Avoid all the companies that specialize in selling to visitors and offer buy back schemes. You simply don’t need them. Buy a car independently as you would at home, and sell it independently as you would when you’re at home. There is no difference so why would you agree to pay over the odds just because the guy specialises in selling to tourists? I read that as specialising in selling to people who don’t know what they want and won’t be around long enough to really affect the seller’s reputation. Get on Ebay there or Gumtree and find yourself a bargain privately. Then when you’ve finished with it YOU sell it to a tourist while empathising with their position, just like the ‘specialists’ do.
New Zealand can be quite expensive as there are so many activities there to do, it adds up pretty quickly. Luckily some companies use a website called http://www.sella.nz/which auctions a lot of these activities so you can often get them cheaper than turning up on the day. We found we saved a fortune on day ski passes at the beginning of the season, especially midweek. If you can time it right to be in New Zealand in the ‘shoulder’ season (i.e in the run up to the ski season or summer season) you’ll find hostels and activities are that bit cheaper and less packed too. Always haggle when you’re renting your gear too. Queenstown in the south is the capital for all this adventure stuff and the businesses are packed in close together. We found that by shopping around in the town and haggling for just 15 minutes we managed to rent our ski gear for less than half the original asking price. They’re really friendly people and it’s all done in the best spirit.
Another word on South American hostels – their excursions, events and activities are always way over priced. You will almost always be better off (and have a more fun, individual experience) doing these things independently. Sometimes you can do things for a quarter of the price they offer just by taking public transport and being an individual. It’s not difficult. Look on http://www.couchsurfing.org/ for local people’s advice and www.travellerspoint.com for experienced travellers’ advice.
For Spanish speakers, http://www.mercadolibre.com/ is the place to buy and sell in Latin America. If you are travelling overland from Argetina to Brazil, or visa versa, you may want to make a quick stop at the border near Iguazu where you can make a quick day trip into the tax free shopping zone of Paraguay. Electronic goods here are considerably less to buy than in either of those two countries, so again, with a bit of research you can go hunting bargains to fill up your pack as you head on to the major cities and their higher prices. Having decent Spanish (or Portuguese when you get to Brazil) is a big help here.
International soccer match tickets are a highly valued commodity in South America. Unlike Europe, you have to get to the stadium and buy your ticket in person a few days ahead of the game. In Argentina sales are limited to two tickets per person. You could buy one for yourself and one to sell on. Apparently this is what everybody in the queues does. We went to Argentina v Brazil on Sept 5th last year and bought one ticket each. People couldn’t believe it. These tickets were changing hands for ten times face value. We were asked why we didn’t do it. I thought it was a bit unfair as we weren’t local, it wasn’t ‘our’ team and making money off it would be a bit mean. Some people couldn’t believe we would be that dumb, saying that since we bothered to queue up we should see the profit as payment for our time but it didn’t feel right to us. If you’re in town for an international game, you may want to check it out for yourself. It’s a high earner if you want it.
Well, we hope some or all of the advice above comes in useful for you. If you decide this isn't for you then please just follow the advice on the debit cards - that alone could save you a couple of hundred quid over the course of six months or a year of visiting ATMs around the world! We had a great adventure and we hope you will too!