How to drink cheap as you travel

As much as I love sightseeing, and visiting all the attractions, one thing I also love is to have a good night out. Sometimes the best way to experience a new culture, especially if they are one that likes a drink, is just to get out there and sample the local beers, wines, or whatever it is that takes your fancy. Equally, having a night in at the hostel, and having a few drinks with your room mates is also one of the easiest ways to make friends quickly. With drink prices varying wildly depending on where in the world you are, and most popular destination charging an arm and a leg for just a beer, the question is, how do we drink cheap as we travel?

1. Head to cheaper parts of the world

May sound obvious, but if you don’t have a set plan of where you want to go then head to cheaper parts of the world like Asia, or South America. Even Eastern Europe, although not as cheap as it once was in parts, it is still cheaper than Western Europe not just for drink, but for most other things. Anywhere where your home currency is stronger than where you are going also makes a difference. For instance, on my first trip to Australia I got 2.4 AUD for every pound. This was just before the economic downturn, and exchange rates are nothing like that now, but at the time it felt like I had more than double money because usually a drink that cost around 3 GBP back home, would cost 3 or 4 AUD there. Or you could get jugs of cocktails for 7 AUD which is around 5 full glasses, and so was only costing me around £2.90 total at the time for 5 drinks. Equally, countries to avoid when looking for cheap drink are Ireland, UK, and pretty much most of Western Europe. Dublin is particularly bad, as an average pint there costs around 4 Euro which is just ridiculous in my opinion.

Even if you are in the dearer countries however, head out to the more rural areas as you will find drinks are much cheaper there than the city. In Germany, whilst visiting friends I went to what they call a “drinking village”. You pay around 3 or 4 Euros entry, and then you get discounted beer the whole night for less than 1 Euro a beer. The drinking village is open 24/7 so you can party all night long. This was out near a collection of little German villages in the North-West Rhine Peninsula, and away from the nearest big cities in Düsseldorf, Cologne, Dortmund etc. Another important factor to be aware of is to read the latest blog posts or guides when finding out the average price of drinks in each place. I recently found out the hard way that Prague is much more expensive than it was just 3 or 4 years ago. In the city centre you can expect to pay the equivalent of 3 – 4 GBP per drink, and if you’re ordering beer a lot of places don’t even give a full pint for that. The vodka shots however are about double what you get in the UK, which sort of makes up for it, but I was told figures much less before I came. Fortunately, cheap accommodation near the city centre is still easy to find.

2. BYO

When staying at the hostel, if they have a common room, or somewhere to hang out other than a hostel bar, then usually they have a BYO policy (Bring Your Own). You can therefore go buy booze at the local off licence or liquor store much cheaper than you could at a bar or nightclub, and drink it at the hostel with your backpacker buddies. So whether you like drinking beer, vodka, or something else, you’ll pay on average around 60% less than what you would purchasing alcohol from a bar. The same goes for restaurants. Some restaurants operate a BYO policy which means you can bring your own drink. Here in the UK they don’t really have much of a culture for compared to some other countries like Australia, but they should have a sign on the window or door somewhere if they do, so be sure to look out for it!

3. Look for the local bars

Tourist packed bars will always be more expensive. Nuff said. Although old man type pubs might not be so appealing, they usually have a much better price of alcohol than big flashy city bars. Also, the local pubs and bars are usually situated out with the city centre, therefore making them that bit cheaper again. If you’re starting the night off with a few quick beers and chat, then you will at least get a seat in these places, and see some interesting characters! Also, there are usually a lot more local branded beers to choose from rather than just international branded drinks so will give you more of a local feel to a night out, rather than just drinking what you usually do back home

4. Backpacker Bars

Backpacker Bars usually have deals on in them most nights of the week because they are aimed at travellers on a budget. Although I think some backpackers spend too much time caught up in them, they are good for a going out mid week, or your first night when you don’t know anybody.

5. Lie and say you’re a student!

Maybe it’s just been since I stopped being a student I’ve been noticing it more, but everywhere seems to have student discounts going on! I lost my old student card, and most places expect to see a card or they won’t give you a discount, but if you look reasonably young sometimes they will just let you away with it. I find it works about 40% of the time without a student card, but I do have a very deceivingly honest baby face, so most people both trust me and think I’m much younger than I am, therefore leading to the assumption I must be a student! You can usually get between 10% – 30% off drinks, or are eligible for certain drinks promotions not available to non-students. You can also ask for a backpacker discount if you are not a student, but more pubs/bars/clubs out with actual backpacker bars don’t offer this I have found.

One Response to “How to drink cheap as you travel”

  1. Sofia says:

    Great tips there! In Australia and NZ we often found that restaurants had BYO, which was awesome since drinks are usually so expensive at restaurants.
    Too bad it’s not as common here in Europe 🙁

    Another tip for both guys and girls to get cheaper of free drinks: Use your charm ;P

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