Wondering how to explore beautiful Zimbabwe and have incredible travel experiences when your bank account is screaming, “gara kumba”? You’re in the right place. We love the soft life. And we love a good bargain too. So in the spirit of “ubuntu”, to help you make sense out of your cents, we caught up with travel expert, Eminently Eve, to share her top tips on how to travel on a budget and still have the time of your life. Here are her genius travel hacks for when you’re broke:
1. Plan at least a year before travelling
One mistake that we tend to make is hear a friend saying they are going to be travelling in a week’s time and we start thinking, “Oh! it would be nice if I can travel too.” Then we start thinking of how and where to get the money for that. This only makes us realize how much we cannot afford to travel because, of course, our bank accounts cannot support those kind of impromptu trips. Quite honestly, even responsible millionaires, those who have worked to get to where they are, actually also plan their trips. Financial advisors will tell you that sudden trips equal financial suicide. So the bottom line is you need to start thinking about your trip or trips at least 12 months prior. It will give you ample time to do the research that is needed and save up the funds over a longer time frame, which will ease the financial burden of travelling.
2. Travel off season
If you are travelling in Zimbabwe then you want to avoid travelling in April, August, December and any other public holidays like Workers’ day, Heroes day etc and weekends. This is because tourist destinations actually hike their prices during those months and dates. You will be surprised to see that in other places the prices are actually doubled and that it affects the entrance fee, accommodation, meals, and everything.
3. Travel as a group
Of course this only works if all the group members are going to be participating in the expenses. However, it is a great way of travelling to save money because literally all the expenses are divided among the group members. It will also give you a chance to spend time catching up with the people otherwise you never get the chance to because of the busy and stressful lives you all have.
4.Use public transport
One thing that really helped me to cut back my travelling expenses significantly, when I first started, was using public transport. In fact, in anything you want to do in life, always remember to live within your means. Please do not go all out of your way to hire a vehicle or borrow one. The expenses that can result from that can be frightening. Imagine the costs if you end up in an accident with a borrowed car. Quite honestly, sometimes even if you have your own vehicle, public transport may just suit your budget better and actually make the whole trip stress-free, relaxing and much more enjoyable. So, let’s say you are in Harare and are planning to visit Leopard Rock Game Park in Vumba (Eastern Highlands). You can go to 4th, board your bus and get to Mutare. From Mutare, you get into those smaller public vehicles which will drop you off right at the gates of Leopard Rock Hotel. If you do the calculations, you will be shocked at how much money you would have saved. It’s important to always remember to put emphasis on the important things and not focus too much on the less important things – “majoring the minor” as my high school teacher used to always say…. in this case, the most important thing is to get to the Game Park safely and have a blast of a time with nature and the not so important thing is how you get there. So whether you use a Fortuner or you use Tenda bus you are still going to get to your destination as long as your alternative choice is a safe one. The time will come when you can afford the expensive lifestyle.
5. Use a fuel saver vehicle
If you choose to use a vehicle (because of course some of the places are remote – and there may not be any public transport) then it is better to use a fuel saver. One thing that you will see everywhere though is, “you need an SUV to visit game parks“. Yes, that is good advice for the most part BUT it is not a hard and fast rule. The only reason they suggest that is because the roads and terrain in most game parks are not suitable for small vehicles. So what you do is travel with your small vehicle then arrange to go on a guided game tour with the vehicles that are provided for by the game park operators. In some game parks you will pay an extra fee for the guided tour; however in other game parks, the guided game tour is already included in the entrance fee. Remember also that you will be travelling off season so in general the hosts are going to be extremely happy to have you at such a time when they are hardly getting any visitors. In some cases, you may even be offered free activities that they would normally charge for or a discount on those activities.
6. Avoid accommodation which is charged per person.
There are different kinds of accommodation offered at tourist destinations. You want to avoid any accommodation that charges per person and instead go for chalets or cottages that are charged per unit. This means that you are going to be able to divide the accommodation fee among the group members.
7. Choose self catering accommodation
To avoid spending money which you don’t have on exorbitant food charges you need to choose self catering accommodation. That way you have both options to cook your own food which is always cheaper or to eat at their dining room if you feel lazy and you have the extra coins. But what you want to avoid is ending up starving yourself because you can no longer afford the food served at the dining room which is basically going to be at hotel prices.
8. Invest in a camping gear
Camping is one of the most affordable accommodation options when it comes to going on a vacation. Just make sure you are well informed on the requirements for camping and what to look out for when considering a camp site before you pick one and similarly embark on your expedition.
By: Tapiwa Mhlanga