Think Like a Local: 5 Ways to Save on an Urban Escape

4 min to read

Those of us who crave the buzz of city travel know that our favorite destinations can end up breaking the bank if we’re not careful. By the time you arrive, you’ve already paid for overpriced taxis, a hotel and airfare. So once you’re settled in, how do you make the most of your remaining travel budget? Think like a local!

These five tips should help you save some serious cash on your next urban getaway:

1. Use your feet.
Walking is free and as long as you have a smartphone there should be no worries about getting lost. (Besides, getting lost on the streets of Paris or Rome is a fantastic experience!) Not only is there no cheaper way to get around a city, but opting to walk has tons of benefits beyond being easy on the wallet. The most obvious is that it’s the healthy alternative! Why not work off that amazing gelato with a long stroll? You’ll also learn your way around a city much better by foot than in a taxi or on the subway. You might even start to feel like a local by the end of your trip!

Covering block after block on foot means picking up on the small, intricate details of a city, like the tiny shops hidden in alleyways, the street art on the walls, and catching pieces of conversations to improve your accent. And don’t forget to look up as you walk to admire the city’s architecture! The best urban travel tip I ever received was from a walking tour guide in London: “Look up, you never know what you might see!”

2. Use a bike-sharing system.
Another transport-related tip: cities across the globe have instituted bike-sharing programs that allow locals and tourists alike can rent bikes by the hour to explore the city. They all run on a similar model: you can usually get a free bike for up to 30 minutes to get from point A to point B. Simply park the bike at a station near point B and, when you’re finished sightseeing, pick up a different bike to move on to point C! If you want to do a longer tour, renting a bike for the entire day will usually cost between $8-$15. Hardly extravagant, and you can see the whole city from above ground without having to go down into the subway!

This map shows you just how popular bike-sharing systems have become in cities all over the world. Just remember: unlike when you’re walking, try not to look up too much. Be safe and keep those eyes on the road!

3. Take free walking tours.
Free walking tours have sprouted up all over the world in recent years, in cities like New York, Paris, and even La Paz, Bolivia. With companies like Sandeman’s New Europe tours, the price isn’t even the main attraction. Truth be told, while the tour is free you’ll still want to tip your guide for the service ($10 would be generous). Because they work for tips, these guides provide you with a high-quality tour including all the insider info you really want to know: off the beaten path spots, hidden cafes, restaurant recommendations and they’ll even give you an idea of what it’s really like to live like a local in their city.

4. Look for deals on Groupon or Yelp.
A few weeks before you travel, it’s a good idea to sign up for your destination city’s Groupon alerts and let the deals come to you! You can find great restaurant and entertainment deals at places you would never have known about otherwise. Once you get in to town, use location-based apps like Yelp to find even more deals near your accommodations (or wherever those long walks take you).

5. Consider apartment rental sites.
Unless you’re willing to splurge and stay in style, low-cost hotels make for a pretty gritty urban escape most of the time. That’s why I opt for vacation rentals over hotels every day of the week. Renting an apartment on sites like, or will cost way less than a hotel room and you get the whole apartment to yourself, often including a comfy living room and your own kitchen. Plus you get to stay in a local neighborhood away from the tourist center and get a true feeling for how people there really live – you can even pretend to be a local yourself! It’s a win-win.

What are your favorite cost-saving travel tips? Let us know in the comments!



Kit Whelan is a digital nomad and author of Seek New Travel. She loves trying food she can’t pronounce and is addicted to buying new travel gear. You can follow her adventures on Facebook and Twitter.