5. Learn to use public transportation
Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to traveling in many parts of the world because most of us have very limited experience with public transportation. But the good news is that public transportation systems in most other countries are far more extensive — as well as affordable and user-friendly — than here in the U.S. Once you've mastered a subway system or figured out how to use public buses or trains in one country, you'll be amazed at how easily you can navigate the public transportation systems in countries all around the world. We rented a car for a total of only five days during our recent trip to reach some remote locations not accessible by public transportation, but otherwise our trip through 11 countries and covering more than 3,000 miles was entirely by public bus, train, ferry, subway, tram, foot, motor scooter, bicycle and — on rare occasions — taxi. This saved us an estimated $3,500-plus compared to the cost of renting cars to make the same journey.
6. Embrace self-catering
Make no mistake about it, my wife and I love to eat, and sampling local cuisine is one of our greatest pleasures when we're globetrotting. We research in advance the dishes we want to try and then ask local folks to direct us to the restaurants they recommend for those specialties, often enjoying them for lunch rather dinner — when menu prices are generally lower —or sometimes as inexpensive street food. However, even for food junkies like us, eating every meal in a restaurant when you travel for long periods not only gets extremely expensive, but also gets downright tiresome. Since I love to cook, most of our meals are self-catered, often prepared in the kitchen facilities common in the type of accommodations we prefer. Sampling local baked goods, cheeses, meats, libations and fresh fruits and vegetables — in the form of everything from simple picnic-style breakfasts and lunches, to some pretty impressive impromptu dinner parties I've whipped together for groups of fellow travelers out of our compact "food backpack" (complete with a thermal compartment) — gives us a chance to shop where the locals shop and experiment with cooking ingredients we can't always find at home. It also gives a cheapskate like me a chance to learn phrases like "Do you have a coupon for that?" in multiple languages.
7. Minimize money exchange costs
Particularly when traveling between countries with different currencies, it's easy to waste a lot of money by not being smart about currency exchange. During our trip we encountered seven different currencies in addition to the euro — that's seven chances to trade away the value of your travel funds in commissions, fees and rip-off exchange trades. In general, the most cost-effective strategy is to withdraw as much of the local currency as you estimate you'll need from a bank ATM upon your arrival. This usually gives you a better exchange rate than trading money in the country itself, and, if you're staying in a country for a longer period of time, allows you to safeguard your cash by withdrawing it incrementally. If you travel internationally enough, it's worth the time to look for a bank back home that doesn't charge a special service fee for ATM withdrawals overseas or has minimal fees. The same is true of finding a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
8. Study local negotiating customs
Throughout much of the rest of the world, negotiating the price of goods and services is the norm, not the exception like it is here in the U.S. In many other countries, you're not being rude — you're just doing your due diligence — if you politely ask at hotels, local markets and some other service providers (e.g., car rentals, taxis, etc.) if they'll take less than their stated price for something. I kept score, and on our trip more than 90 percent of the time when we inquired at hotels or other lodgings about the possibility of getting a lower price, we got one — along with a friendly smile — with the average reduction being 10 to 20 percent of the originally quoted price.
9. Go long for greater value
Of course our ability to travel much of the world for the all-inclusive price of about $100 per day as I mentioned earlier is, to some extent, a function of the protracted periods when we're able to travel. If we'd taken only a one- or two-week trip to Eastern Europe and had to pay for airfare, we'd have more than that average daily amount in the cost of the airline tickets alone. And some days in particularly pricey locales we easily spent more than $200 per day. But when you travel for long enough, as the freedom of retirement — or, in our case, semiretirement — allows many of us to do, in the end it all averages out.
So, how can you afford to travel the world for months at a time? When you travel the cheapskate-way, the better question is: "How can you afford not to?"