This is a guest post from David Bakke of Money Crashers Personal Finance.
Traveling internationally is a great way to experience various cultures, learn new languages, and go on unforgettable adventures. Unfortunately, visiting foreign countries – especially international travel destinations – usually involves a fairly large investment of money and can, due to the nature of traveling long distances, make quite a high carbon footprint.
While you always want to save money when traveling, it’s also crucial to prioritize making your travels as green as possible. There are a number of ways to remain environmentally conscious while visiting foreign places and saving money:
When visiting another country, walk as much as possible or use public transportation. When my wife and I traveled to France, we spent nine days in Paris and never once used any method of transportation that burned fuel, aside from the taxi rides to and from the airport.
Walking everywhere allowed us to get a much better feel for how Parisians live on a daily basis, and we got inside glimpses of life in France that we never would have experienced had we taken buses or subways. Furthermore, a one-day pass for metro travel to all areas of Paris costs about $25 per person, so by choosing to walk, we saved nearly $450 during our trip.
Although dining out at an upscale restaurant or two is certainly part of the overall international experience, you can still do your best to purchase locally produced fare and save money on food while on vacation.
When visiting Moscow, my wife and I rented an apartment and purchased most of our food from street vendors or other small grocery stores. The food was fresh and delicious, and we were also able to negotiate prices with the sellers. We found virtually every kind of fruit or vegetable at these stands for about half of what one would pay in the States.
During our week in Moscow, we spent an estimated $225 on groceries. We ate out at three restaurants during our stay and the bills for these meals alone exceeded the total of our grocery expenses, so the savings were tremendous. And make sure you remember your reusable bag.
You don’t have to stay in an eco-resort to go green – chances are you won’t have much green left in your wallet if you choose this route. Fortunately, many international hotels have integrated water-saving strategies and other initiatives to reduce their impact on the environment. But these still are often quite expensive.
To go green and save some green, do what seasoned budget travelers do: Stay in a hostel. There is an abundance of hostels worldwide that offer budget lodging and amenities, often with eco-friendly features. These establishments tend to cater to young travelers who, as a group, are most interested in saving the environment.
With a little research and planning, you could find a hostel with an organic garden or one that runs off solar power. Plus, you’ll usually have access to a shared kitchen and common areas. Not only will you save money when it comes to eating and finding a place outside your room to relax, but it’s the perfect environment to meet and interact with other world travelers and pick up tips on where else to stay and visit.
When traveling great distances, select an airline that offers carbon offset flights. In addition to what you pay for your fare, you can contribute an additional amount which will be used to plant trees or fund a number of other renewable energy projects.
Beyond that, there are many ways to find cheap airline ticket deals to overseas destinations. I once used a travel agent who offered tips on the best times of the year to fly depending on the destination. You can also consider purchasing a consolidator ticket – consolidator companies purchase tickets from airlines that would otherwise go unused, and then resell them at significant discounts. They’re typically only available for coach seats, and generally include stopovers. There could be other restrictions, so do thorough research before purchasing a fare.
Furthermore, take public transportation to and from the airport if you can, and avoid the hefty parking fees. Travel with minimal luggage to avoid airline checked baggage fees, and get an electronic ticket to reduce the amount of paper being used.
5. Daily Activity
When traveling, continue practicing the green lifestyle habits that you use at home. Switch off lights and other appliances when not in use, keep your thermostat at a conservative level, and adjust the temperature accordingly if you’ll be away from your room for an entire day sightseeing. Also take shorter showers, and recycle whenever possible.
Being a conscientious eco-tourist is surprisingly simple and straightforward, and can even save you money. However, there are many other ways to save on the overall cost of international travel. Sign up for a travel aggregator site like Kayak.com, which will monitor fares for your destination so you can get the best rate. Research the best lodging options, and always remember that you can often rent an apartment overseas, which may be less expensive than a hotel room. Green overseas travel and saving money can go hand-in-hand.
What other tips would you suggest to go green while traveling internationally?
David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, a blog that gives tips on money management, frugal travel, smart shopping, and going green.