7 Ways I’ve Learned To Save Money While Traveling

Piggy Bank by flickr user alancleaver

One of the biggest myths in travel is that taking an adventure of a lifetime has to be expensive.  Often the cost of living, when travelling as a budget backpacker, is less than the regular expenditures associated with living back home; however, learning all of the ins and outs of budget travel is a process that is mastered over time.  The following is a list of some of the ways in which I’ve learned how to shave costs over the years:

Hostels

Before I first started backpacking I had somewhat of a negative image of staying in a hostel.  I suppose I watched too many bad movies where hostels are always depicted as grungy, low class, dangerous places to stay.  In my opinion, in most cases, this couldn’t be anything further from the truth.  In many ways hostels beat stays in hotels.  Not only are many hostels charming and affordable but they’re fantastic places for one to meet other travellers and exchange notes and possibly even forge lasting friendships.

Eating Locally 

When travelling I’m often dumbfounded by the amount of travellers I see eating at fast food joints when local dining options are all around them.  Even if you’re not necessary a foodie with adventurous taste-buds, by making an effort to eat locally once a while you’ll save yourself a lot of money.

Coupon Codes

Coupon codes are a fantastic wave to shave money off of transportation tickets, admission to cultural events or even certain dining and entertainment events.  As an example, recently I used voucher codes to receive a discount to a special traditional Korean folk performance in Seoul.

Traveling Overland When Possible

 Experiencing a jet set lifestyle while travelling is appealing to many; however, when it comes to saving money this is a surefire way to burn a hole through your wallet.  Instead, whenever possible try to take overland transportation options such as buses and trains to cut back on costs.

Slowing Down

The point of travelling is to try to cram in as many travel experiences in as short amount of time as possible?  I used to actually travel this way until I learned to slow down and see more.  Aside from having a more meaningful and rich travel experience, slow travel will ensure you save money as well.  I’ve also started packing lighter when I travel so that when I am mobile I’m not breaking my back in the process :P

Discount Airlines

Recently, discount airlines have presented travel options that are at times cheaper than even overland travel!  By booking a flight on a discount airline, such as Air Asia, not only will you save time travelling but you now may save money as well!  What’s not to like about that?

Sharing Travel Expenses

Finally, I’ve learned that travelling with a mate or partner is a great way to enrich your travel experiences.  Not only will you have somebody to share things with but you’ll also be able to share costs on items such as taxis, hotels, food and other modes of transportation.

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{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica December 24, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Great list! I prefer traveling overland for so many reasons. As you mentioned, it’s cheaper than flying. Plus, I also feel like it provides a richer culture experience. The scenery on long bus and train rides is sometimes stunning, and always interesting.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I completely agree with you. Whenever I fly I feel as though I’m being cheated on culture and scenery :)

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Kay Rodriguez December 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Fantastic tips! I have definitely learned a lot of these while traveling – especially the one about eating locally. Also staying in hostels is great. I think sometimes they get a bad rep, but I have had my most fun travel experiences while staying at them!

Happy holidays, Samuel!

Kay

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Same with me! I’ve met some lifelong friends staying in hostels :)

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Britany December 26, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Great tips, Sam! Overland travel is definitely my preference, even though some of those over night bus rides can be torturous – the savings make them totally worth it!

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Hahaha, isn’t that the truth. The longest continuous journey I ever had was close to 70 hours from Quito, Ecuador to Puno, Peru. Wouldn’t do that again even if I was paid.

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Belinda@Esthetician careers December 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Hi Samuel.
I really like these advice. Usually, when I travel miles away, the only thing I do is I prefer cheap hotels and restaurant.
I didn’t realized about the coupon codes.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

It sounds like you’ve already mastered quite a few budget travel tips. I hope the coupon codes come in handy.

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Janice December 27, 2012 at 12:14 am

Hey Sam,
Great tips! I have the same negative image about hostels too. I guess to many horror movies. I am not good at traveling, so overland is not for me really..although transportation is getting better day by day.

For example, I had to travel 900 miles to get to my family for Christmas and could not afford the ticket plane so I bought a bus ticket. It’s been a while since I traveled by bus and I am amazed. Newest buses have electric and internet connection. I really saved some money there. However, I could not sleep whatsoever.

I live far away from home and I had to learn to save money. Local food stands are a good options but it is much better if you go to the supermarket and prepare a quick meal. It may not look possible while traveling, but I’ve managed a technique to do it quickly: Jam sandwiches.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Hey Janice, you bring up some great points. I’m truly impressed with how much more comfortable buses are becoming these days. I used to dread taking them but now sometimes I enjoy them even more than taking a train.

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Dariece - Goats On The Road December 27, 2012 at 4:29 am

Great post Sam!

I couldn’t agree more with all of your ideas.
One more I would add (which you sort-of covered!) is to take overnight transport when possible. Your transport and your accommodation is paid for in one!

Cheers.
Dariece – Goats On The Road

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Great tip Dariece! I’ve done that many times as well with that in mind.

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Ryan December 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Hey Samuel, good stuff! I agree, I thought hostels were the same way until I stayed at one. I’d say an even better tip is NOT getting into the insane party see hostels usually foster!

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Great point Ryan, spending too much time at a party hostel is hardly a budget friendly option. I’m pleased that most rating sites give reviews that usually specify whether a hostel is a party type or not.

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Stephen S. December 28, 2012 at 2:01 am

I have recently discovered the joy of coupon codes! Great list mate, I will be using this in the future for sure.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Thanks Stephen, sometimes I kick myself thinking that I could have been using coupon codes a long time ago.

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Peter Lee December 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Saving money while traveling is the biggest challenge for most of us. We often end up in spending much more from our budget. I agree with you, if we travel with mate we save a lot of money by sharing room and food which is one the best way to save money.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Most definitely Peter. I’ve found that it’s very easy to under-estimate your costs and even little things like replacing toiletries and getting your hair cut are often expenses that are not planned for.

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exotic travels and vacations December 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Thank you for the information! This would really help me .

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Glad this was helpful!

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Jessie Festa December 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm

So true! My friends are always asking how I travel so much and where I get there money. They don’t believe me that it doesn’t have to be super expensive! ha. But I’ve also found the cost of backpacking — especially in places like South America and South East Asia — is much cheaper than living in at home in New York.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Indeed, Jessie, and those two regions you mentioned are my favourite spots to go backpacking :)

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Michael January 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I agreed over all your points, especially regarding the hostel and discount airlines. Normally, these two aspects make up the majority of the expenses during traveling.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Totally agree with you. If one can find a way to cut back on transport, accommodation and food costs it’s total budget travel mastery.

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WeAreHolidays January 2, 2013 at 1:49 pm

It is really a great aspect and definitely need for all travellers to same bucks on travel. I agree with all facts, travelling style is one of the important things. For local travellers I would rather suggest to travel through train instead of booking flight.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Travel by train is my preferred method of transportation in almost any situation :)

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AnitaMac January 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Great tips. I agree that you can spend less on the road than staying at home! I couldn’t believe how little 3 months in Europe cost – while I didn’t spend loads of time in major cities, I had the most amazing experience for less than what it cost to go to work on a daily basis at home!
The cheap airlines help to hopscotch great distances – just be certain to read the small print. I got hosed by easy jet! I had pre-paid for extra baggage and they told me that I had not chosen the right option and charged me 100 Euros! Would have been cheaper to ship my extra home – FedEx has much better rates! But, at 8am in the airport, they left me little choice! Remember to read the fine print.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I’m seriously impressed with how easy it is to hop all over Europe without breaking the bank in the process.

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Hogga January 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Great tips!

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Thank ya! ;)

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Wends of Journeys and Travels January 3, 2013 at 6:34 am

great post this is!

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Thanks Wends :)

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superdome hotels January 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

Great ideas! I’ll keep these in mind for our next trip!

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Cool! Hope your next trip goes well :)

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Abby January 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm

This is fabulous! Especially the overland bit – in America where there’s not an train system like there is in Europe, travel is so much more expensive and STRESSFUL.. Plus trains are just fun :) The train ride from Austria to Slovenia was one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed.

But yeah, this is a great post. I plan to make one like this on my blog soon :)

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Being from Canada I can share in your frustrations. The only real ‘budget options’ tend to be buses booked well in advance.

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Evan January 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Thanks for the tips! Once I stayed in Berlin for 5 days witj 20 euros! That was fun))) Hostels, coauch surfung and free muffins))) That was something I will remember all my life)))

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm

That’s very impressive Evan! Many would spend that in a day and feel they’re doing some serious budget travel.

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John January 6, 2013 at 12:34 am

This is a great list. I particularly like the eating local food tip. It’s not only cheaper but probably healthier as well. I don’t think there is any need to eat bad food everyday just because you are travelling.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 4:02 pm

That’s a great point John, eating locally often does mean eating healthier which is a major side benefit.

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Suzzane from Travel Universally January 7, 2013 at 11:17 am

Hi Samuel, I always consider a lot about transport costs. When I need to travel for more less than 300 miles., I prefer Bus compared to rent a car, whereas for longer distance such as 2000 miles, an express train stands best. For overseas traveling the discount airlines are suitable, Ohh I forgot to mention about the flier miles loyalty program-it helps me in cost cutting for budget Air Travel!

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Great tips Suzzane, I’m just about to benefit from a rewards program when I booked a free flight from Canada back to Korea recently.

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Red Hunt January 8, 2013 at 3:42 am

Slowing down and eating locally are big tips….it’s far too easy to get carried away with a go-go-go mentality of trying everything, everywhere. Discovering all the cheap local secret spots is fun….and money-saving!

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I completely agree with you as I get massive pleasure trying to discover hidden gems that are budget friendly.

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Donna Spears January 9, 2013 at 3:49 am

You as a traveler you really need to save unlike when you are just in your place you cannot save at all right? By the way I learn something about how to save money not just for travelers but it can also apply to our daily living.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Thanks Donna, that’s a great point. I’ve actually applied these when I’m in between trips and it’s allowed me to reduce the gap between journeys :)

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Nico January 9, 2013 at 4:06 am

Discount airlines are definitely a great way to save money. It’s equally valid in Uerope as it is in places like South East Asia. I know you can fly cheaper to Spain for the same price you can get a two hour train ticket in England for example.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Nico, that’s one of the true joys of being based in Europe. You can almost fly almost anywhere without spending too much.

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frugal expat January 11, 2013 at 8:54 am

great list! Taking advantage of discounted airfares is a great way to save travel cost. You just need to be alert for promos..

Cheers

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Indeed, being aware and ready to pounce is the name of the game :)

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Travel Wired January 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm

If you slow down enough you can even rent a place for a month or two — it can really help the budget.

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Samuel January 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Yes, I’ve noticed a lot of digital nomads do that. I think it’s nice to have the base for a while as well.

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Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home January 13, 2013 at 8:08 pm

We can add to the list as well couchsurfing, wwoof-ing, house and pet sitting :)

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Samuel January 19, 2013 at 1:19 am

Indeed Izy, with so many options to save on accommodation the excuses one can potentially make for not being able to afford travel are quickly muted.

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Jimmy and Sarah January 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Never knew about discount airlines. Thanks for pointing that out along with all the other options.

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Samuel January 19, 2013 at 1:23 am

Thanks Jimmy and Sarah, I’ve saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years using them.

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Jeff | Planet Bel January 17, 2013 at 4:03 am

I think staying longer in one place is so key to saving money and having a deeper appreciation for the place. I’m always amazed at travelers that blow through as many places as they can trying to see it all and end up seeing nothing.

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Samuel January 19, 2013 at 1:27 am

It baffles me as well Jeff. I’ve often found random experiences I’ve had, such as visiting a local market, or wandering around aimlessly, turn out to be my favourite memories.

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Shermika January 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Thanks for mentioning the cheaper airlines. We’ll def do that next time when we’re abroad to quickly hop from place to place. It’s always fun to travel, but even better when you save moolah.

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Samuel January 19, 2013 at 1:33 am

You’re welcome Shermika, it’s definitely a great way to get around (and save money) on a trip where time is limited.

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Joe Can Write January 19, 2013 at 6:56 am

Great list! What is the cut off age for staying in a hostel?

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Zubi Travel January 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Great tips although eating locally can be sometimes a gamble.
You can have a good meal for a decent price but try a restaurant just outside of the main tourist areas.

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Arti January 20, 2013 at 3:14 am

Thats a great list Sam. Slowing down and eating locally are indeed very helpful.

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Natalia | Always Trekking January 21, 2013 at 1:53 am

You’re so right. Slowing down is an amazing way to save money. There are many cheap options aside from hostels. I’m not the biggest fan of hostels, but in a pinch I’ll stay.

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Julia Reed January 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

A wonderful list – I feel that it was advice from an experienced traveler)
I prefer eating locally because in my opinion food traditions are one of important elements of culture. It would be unwise to lose a chance to get to know a foreign country from this perspective. Moreover, I usually add a couple of new recipes to our family cookbook after each traveling.

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Thomas @ JourneyScout January 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I couldn’t agree more with travelling over land Sam! Not only is it cheaper, you get to see and experience so much more. I once paid double to take the train in Vietnam as oppose to flying because I was scared of missing out on seeing all the landscape and rice paddies.

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kristy of Migration Expert January 22, 2013 at 1:27 am

I love the tips! I and my friends often dine on local restaurant because it’s cheaper and you will have a chance to try their authentic delicacies. Local people too give you discount if they know you are a tourist and they also give you tips which places are good to go.

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Wil January 22, 2013 at 6:39 am

As a recent college grad planning an extended trip money is my top priority. I’m trying to travel for as long as I can and as far as I can without missing out on anything or going into debt.

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Arienne Parzei February 2, 2013 at 2:49 am

I use these same techniques as well, especially traveling overland and taking it slow (though if you’re on a fixed vacation time period, this could be more difficult). I haven’t done the coupon codes yet, so I’ll definitely consider adding that to my arsenal :)

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Curious Nomad March 1, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Eating locally is a great tip to help save money on the road. If you are adventurous eater, you can find good street food for really cheap.

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Rafting Wales April 4, 2013 at 11:42 am

I was also shocked when I visited Indonesia at the lack of travellers eating at local restaurants and cafes. Tasting a part of the local cuisine is one of the best ways to embrace a local culture, I really struggle to think that people actually get a true taste of a region without it. I’m going to have to open my mind to the opportunities of hostels. Like you suggested, I think I have a fixed image in my mind.

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Matt April 23, 2013 at 6:17 pm

All very good tips, a BIG way to save money is to eat locally and OFF the beaten path for sure! In Halifax, NS if you stay near the waterfront it’s $11 for a 2 piece fish and chips but walk 2 blocks up the hill and you’ll find the same for around $6. It’s all about shopping smart!

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Clayton @ The Big Travel Theory May 27, 2013 at 10:05 am

I find that being just off the beaten path can lead you to lots of good food. Eating in and buying groceries to cook myself has been the cheapest and many times the tastiest option. On the flying, it’s important to remember baggage fees and all the other fees you will have when you are deciding on overland routes or flying.

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Kori June 15, 2013 at 2:07 am

These are all great tips that I could use when I travel to Europe. I am always looking for ways to save.

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Charles Rahm (@DWJustTravel) July 3, 2013 at 10:53 am

A great list of tips. Hostels are a good way to save money while travelling, but so are home stays which are catching on in popularity and offered through some specialist websites such as Airnb.

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Jade - slow traveler July 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

not only are these good tips for traveling cheaper, they’re good tips for traveling better :)

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iAn | freedom wall September 23, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Great tips! Eating local is a must, but you must research who serves the best version in the area. Usually, the holder of the original recipes sells them at very affordable price.

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Samuel Jeffery September 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Yes, and the food tends to be a lot tastier as well!

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Nikki September 26, 2014 at 10:46 am

Take night buses and night ferries! That way you’re not missing out on day time, and also don’t have to pay accommodation that night!

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