The U.K. has an abundance of climbing crags, but there are certainly some things it’s missing: sport multi-pitches, tall mountains, and reliable weather. Sometimes, we just need to leave home to widen our climbing experience and discover new adventures.
But the cost of going abroad can often put people off planning overseas climbing trips. If this is you, it’s a real shame, because with a bit of forward planning it’s quite easy to make sure travelling to climb doesn’t break the bank. Our 22 tips will give you the head start to plan your perfect cheap climbing holiday abroad. We can’t wait to hear about it already!
By Emily Pitts & Anna Fedorova
Getting there & Getting around
Fly on less popular days of the week
The price of a flight can differ massively depending on the day of the week you fly! Everyone wants to leave on a Friday night and come back on a Sunday. If you’re prepared to be a bit more flexible and shop around you are bound to find a cheaper option.
Cut your luggage
If you can get onto your flight with hand luggage only, then you could save a lot of money – hold luggage can cost an extra £20-£30 with some airlines. There are neat ways that you can bring along exactly what you need for your trip, for example by wearing more clothes, just for your flight, getting a case that is large, but within the hand luggage allowance and, our favourite: get a massive Bum Bag – this isn’t considered hand luggage on most airlines, so you can squeeze in a few more litres of luggage by wearing a bum bag stuffed with stuff! More here about the bum bag trick.
This is relatively popular in some European countries, for example Germany. There is a website called www.mitfahren.de, where you can enter where you are going from and where to, and you will see who else is heading in that direction at the same time. The language barrier may be an issue, but somewhere like Germany most people speak at least some English. It could be an option if you don’t want to spend money on hiring the car – you could simply get a lift to the crag and stay near there in a tent!
Cheaper by train
Travelling to Europe can be cheaper by train. Emily, our founder, travelled with her daughter aged 12 to the Alps from Manchester, using a family & friends Railcard and a mixture of Eurostar and SNCF overnight sleeper trains. Not only was it much cheaper than driving, but it was a brilliant adventure to have with a child. In terms of costs it totalled under £400 for all the transport for a fortnight’s holiday, compared with costs of around £600 driving (insurance cost, breakdown cover, petrol, tolls, wear and tear) and £500 for flights, transfers and public transport.
If Germany is your destination, then Matador network have some great tips on how to get around cheaply in Germany.
Get the bus
Travelling by bus has a bad reputation, but getting the bus doesn’t always mean slumming it. If you travel to Germany, for example, then getting the Berlinlinienbus can be cheap, but the ADAC Postbus can be even cheaper. If you want to travel to the continent from the UK, then National Express offer some deals from the UK, as cheaply as £15 if you can be flexible on times and destinations.
Many countries outside of Europe are pretty big on communal taxis, which cost absolute peanuts and the only inconvenience is you need to wait for them to fill up – usually they need 6 people to depart. This is prevalent in Todra Gorge in Morocco for example – the taxis have a set price, which is equivalent to less than £1 per person, and go between the town of Tinghir and the climbing area of Todra Gorge. It’s the easiest way to get to the climbing and saves you from hiring a car – public transport between large towns is also pretty good.
It’s possible to cycle to many places from the UK… if you have the time. Emma Timmis cycled to the Dolomites to go climbing last summer. Spending under £10 per day for 3 months, her whole trip cost her under £1200 – not bad living expenses for a quarter of a year!
Get your jabs in the UK
On a recent trip to Africa I took a chance with my Yellow Fever jab, thinking that an overnight layover in Tanzania Airport would go unnoticed when I got to Mozambique (you don’t need a yellow fever vaccination from the UK to where I was travelling, but you do from Tanzania). No such luck. When I arrived I had the choice of stumping up $100 for a jab from a ‘nurse’ who was wandering round a sweaty airport brandishing a syringe or facing her out and refusing to pay/ accept the needle. Fortunately for me I’m pretty confident and managed not to be subjected to a possibly dirty needle. I had to wait for a long time in the airport being stubborn and refusing, but it worked. However, I wouldn’t take that financial or health risk again. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Couch surfing or House Sit
Couchsurfing is not a new thing, but not enough people consider this option while travelling. It’s really simple: you go on the website, fill out your profile, and you can browse people in the area you are visiting and get in contact to find out if their proverbial couch is available for a night or two, or even longer.
It may seem unsafe, but you can read the reviews given to the hosts by other people who have stayed with them, chat to them in person or even add them on Facebook to make sure they aren’t a weirdo. If something feels dodgy – don’t stay with them! I’ve made a couple of good friends through couch surfing, and though I have also met some odd people, I have never felt threatened or unsafe. The most popular couch surfing site is Couchsurfing.com.
House sitting is slightly different – you look after someone’s house while they’re away on holidays or working away. Sometimes it involves looking after pets, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you sign up. This website gives a rundown of the different house sitting sites and their respective pros and cons, if this sounds like something you’d like to find out more about.
Camping abroad may seem like a hassle, but many countries I’ve been to, including Spain and Italy, don’t prohibit wild camping, and some even have wild camping spots readily available. On a recent climbing trip to Asturias in Spain we camped in a huge field near a car park, and the only cost was a contribution to the maintenance fund at one’s discretion. For the price of an extra check-in luggage, you may be able to sleep for free every night – and the weather wont let you down!
It’s been around a while now and Airbnb is a great way to experience the hospitality of local culture, by staying in people’s spare rooms or holiday homes, which they rent out using a validated online system. Airbnb are serious about customer service and about safety, so if you’re unsure you can read reviews from other travellers and choose the host who suits your needs best. Airbnb caters for all wallets, so if you need somewhere cheap you’re likely to find a couch or pull-out bed. If you want more luxury then a secluded villa will probably be available too. The choice is yours.
Surviving while you’re there
Plan your meals
It might sound silly, but planning your food for a week can help you to save a lot of money by reducing waste. If you’re camping, think about food that keeps well without a fridge and which you can eat quickly before it goes off, such as cured meats, crackers, or porridge and pasta to cook.
Find friends to cook for
Even better than finding people to share meals with is finding people to cook for – sharing the cost of a bigger meal is almost always cheaper than doing it just for yourself. Offer to cook in exchange for a free meal.
Don’t buy stuff you don’t need
It sounds simple, but there is always a lure to buy things that aren’t useful or truly meaningful. Instead of buying stuff, try to make an experience to remember. A trinket will just get thrown away anyway!
If you’re going somewhere small, with local shops, you might find that fruit and vegetables in season are cheap, but imported goods are pricey. If you’re driving or have lots of baggage space, carry snacks that you know you’ll enjoy and will see you happy on your travels. Never has this been more useful than on my trip to Kilimanjaro, where a pack of high quality chocolate nuts, mixed with pecans and chocolate kept me going when I needed it most. It can be the small treats that give you the best kicks.
There’s a trend around the world for people to connect in a more genuine way with local culture and eating is no exception with the rise of With Locals. It allows you to find local people to eat with cheaply, so you get a more realistic idea of local culture.
Go for the menu of the day
Most countries tend to have a ‘Menu of the Day’ option at local restaurants and cafes, and these are usually the cheapest meal by far compared to other things on the menu as they cook large bulks of this throughout the day/evening. For example, in Northern Spain the usual price for one of these is €8 and includes a three course meal and a drink! Always choose this over the a la carte menu option.
Work in a temporary job
Most of us have jobs we need to be home for after a week away, but if you have time on your hands, why not try to haggle with your hostel to see if you can get your stay for free in exchange for a few hours’ work. Alternatively, see if there’s any work nearby on a temporary basis, picking fruit, working on a farm, or waiting tables in the local cafe/ restaurant.
Be smart with card withdrawals
You will most likely be charged for withdrawals from private cash machines abroad. Some affiliated bank machines will charge no fee or a lower fee, and certain credit cards offer this option too. Whatever charges you incur, you will end up paying them when you get home, unless you work smart and plan in advance. Before you leave, plan out what you will need, where you will get cash out and how much it will cost you, so you don’t get a hefty fee when you return home.
Staying in contact
Check your mobile data/calls package
Everything you spend on holiday is part of your costs. By visiting a country that’s included in your mobile phone calls and data package you could save yourself some hefty bills on your return – Three has a particularly good package for using your allowance in Europe at no extra cost. It can leave a really bitter taste to come home from a great holiday to find a £100 phone bill waiting for you next month.
Buy a local SIM
You can plan for using your phone by buying a local SIM, or go cold turkey and have a mobile-free holiday. You can let your friends know where you are if they need to get hold of you, and check in on Facebook using local internet café facilities if you’re worried about safety or (more likely) people are worrying about you. The chances are you’ll have a better time making the memories than worrying about trying to catch the memories perfectly in a photo.
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