There’s no way of avoiding the fact that you’ll spend money while travelling, whether that’s on transport, accommodation, entertainment or the more mundane necessities such as visas. But there’s still plenty of fun to be had for free in even the most expensive parts of the world.
Your first stop should be the tourist office. They will be able to tell you of any free activities. To find the nearest one, go here: http://www.towd.com/
Another great resource is the timeout website: http://www.timeout.com/. Find the relevant city and you can search for free events. Alternatively, you can just google free things to do, for example “free activities in Cape Town”.
Here are a few general suggestions:
Most cities have great parks. Particular favourites of mine are Central Park in New York, Stanley Park in Vancouver, Centennial Park in Sydney and Regents Park in London. After a few days fighting your way through the crowds visiting the sights, what better way to get away from it all by taking a stroll through the park, or sitting on the grass people watching? Instead of buying your lunch in a cafe or restaurant, you could save some money by taking a picnic with you.
Many of these parks often have free concerts or entertainment. Other open spaces, such as the South Bank and Covent Garden Piazza in London have street performers, who may even get you to join in! Of course, if you enjoy their show, it’s only fair to make a donation.
A wander round a market gives a great insight into life in a different part of the world. My particular favourites are the souks of north Africa and the Middle East, with all the local produce, spices and crafts on offer. Of course you don’t have to buy anything to walk round taking in the colours and fragrances, but if you don’t mind spending a small amount of money (as well as trying out a few phrases of a new language while practicing your haggling skills!), you can get yourself a cheap lunch. Just try and ensure you watch the food being cooked and wait until it’s piping hot, or buy lovely fresh fruit that you can peel.
Particularly if you’re travelling for a long time, it’s important to have the odd day taking it easy. When you’re tired of bus journeys and crowded cities, why not chill out at the beach?! Personally, I’m not a huge fan of sunbathing but I really enjoy sitting on a deserted beach reading a book or going for a swim. Other times it’s fun to take in the atmosphere of somewhere more lively, like Venice Beach in LA, where you can enjoy the street performers and musicians, as well as the talents on show at the basketball courts.
Museums and art galleries
In many cities, museums charge no entrance fee, such as the Smithsonian in Washington DC and the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand in Wellington. In London, such great attractions as the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Imperial War Museum are all free. So are some galleries such as the National Gallery, the Tate and the Tate Modern.
Others have certain days of the month when they’re free, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and the Louvre in Paris.
To find out which museums in various cities of the world have particular days of the week when they’re free, check out http://freemuseumday.com/.
When you’ve spent plenty of time indoors (maybe on a free trip to a museum!) or cooped up on a long bus journey, go for a nice long walk! You can either explore a city, go on a coastal walk, such as Bondi-Coogee in Australia, or go a little bit more off the beaten track in somewhere scenic like the Lake District in the UK. If you want to walk round a city, find it on http://www.frommers.com/ and you’ll find some suggested walking tours.
Many religious sites the world over, from the cathedrals of Italy to the temples of Asia, are free to enter. Even those that aren’t can still be admired from the outside for their architectural beauty.
A walk across a bridge not only allows you to explore a different area, it also provides some amazing views. I once crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on Independence Day, and spent the evening watching the fireworks while looking back over the incredible skyline of Manhattan. Crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge provides a great view back across the harbour to the Opera House.
…such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Trevi Fountain in Rome. OK, if you want to go up the tower or have a gelato at the fountain it’ll cost money, but nothing to go and see them!
Go and watch a TV show being recorded
If you’re in a major city, there are often TV shows in need of an audience. You can use a site such as http://www.applausestore.com or google ‘free tv show tickets in (Auckland)’. It’s worth signing up for email alerts so you know when tickets are being released.