“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” Eugene Fodor
One day a friend asked me how my family could afford to take so many trips on what we made. My response? Because we’re cheap!
Seriously, we’ve rarely allowed ourselves to fall into the vacation mentality of “We’re on vacation, who cares what it costs!” Being choosy about how we spend our dollars while traveling has meant that we can take more vacations, more often and still enjoy ourselves.
Wanna spend less while still seeing the sights? Here are three of my favorite free (or nearly free) tours.
Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are a great way to see a city with a guide without spending a fortune. Tour groups are larger than you might experience on a more expensive tour but not so large that you feel like you are part of a herd. The guides tend to be very knowledgeable, energetic, and genuinely excited to share the history of the city you are touring. You are expected, and should, tip appropriately at the end of the tour but a generous tip is still far less than the average cost of a tour. We’ve enjoyed free tours in Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and Dublin.
There are many operators offering free tours in major cities. We have used Sandemans New Europe and found their tours to be excellent.
Take a Stroll With a Local
One of the best tours we took while in Paris was with Paris Greeters. Georges, a local resident met up with us and spent a couple of hours walking us through his neighborhood of the Marais sharing the history of the area, local attractions, restaurants, and even the best bakery to pick up a loaf of bread! Going fairly early in the day meant we had the normally bustling streets to ourselves. Seeing the city through the eyes of someone that lives there was such a personal way to see an area of the city we would have missed on our own.
Public Transportation often offers an inexpensive; albeit not guided, tour. The ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island is free and features incredible views of the city from the water. You can also get some amazing pics of The Statue of Liberty as you sail past.
The number 28 tram in Lisbon only costs a few Euros and is a fun way to see many of the historic areas of this beautiful city. The tram provides a roller coaster ride to its riders as it travels up and down hills and winds through the city’s narrow streets. If you are lucky enough to get a seat next to a window, not only will you get to enjoy the breeze but can literally reach out and touch buildings as you pass. It’s an experience not to be missed!
In France, taking the local bus from our cruise stop in Villefranche to Nice offered a scenic ride along the coastline for a couple of Euros. And if you have kids, half the fun will be the adventure of getting on a train, bus, or boat. Check online to see if there is a local route that offers more than just a way to get from point A to B.
I hope you will consider some of these options on your next adventure!