Gone are the days when travelling outside Nigeria was reserved exclusively for the rich. Thanks to technology, the web and social media, more people are exploring further away from the home nest while learning new cultures and trying out different adventures. The beautiful thing about travel and holidays is that it does not have to cost an arm and a leg. The exact same trip that may cost one person several thousands of dollars may cost the next person nothing more than $2000 (I am deliberately using USD to aid with currency conversion). However, when it comes to travel, there are tricks to the trade.
IDENTIFY YOUR INTERESTS
What do you enjoying doing? Your interests should play a key role in determining your holiday destinations and not because you are the last of nine friends to visit a particular place. Different things are of importance to different people. If you are going to spend money getting to a destination, it only figures that you should be able to create some enjoyable memories for the days when work takes its toll. I enjoy learning (actively so); eating; shopping; and (cultural) visiting places with historical significance. Hence, my holiday destinations should afford me an opportunity to enjoy at least three of these. I absolutely love to walk down a street knowing it looks almost exactly the same as it did centuries ago! and like I said earlier, I love to shop (especially for unique items gotten at a bargain price).For these two reasons, I prefer to travel alone because more often than not, I find that people cramp my market- trawling game. The summary of my first point: Identify your interests and move to step no.
This is the most difficult stage. It’s not mandatory to conduct a research before travelling. However, if you don’t have a huge amount of money to throw away (yes, I said it) and/or you are like me who likes to bag as many deals as she can, then you cannot avoid to do this- RESEARCH!
For me, researching holiday destinations are plenty of fun. I can do that for several hours on end, several days a week, without getting tired or bored. After, you have identified what your interests are, research destinations that meet most of your interests. As part of your research, identify the travel route(s); the cost of travel (inclusive of visa); and accommodation. Identify the best times to visit these places. For some cities, tickets and accommodation are cheaper during the ‘off season”. However, you don’t want to buy tickets during non peak periods only to discover it is either too hot or too cold to step out of your temporary residence. A simple search on Google will tell you the best time to visit a place. To get off season rates but peak season enjoyment, I usually time my trips 1 month to the start of the peak season.
I use sites like www.wakanow.com and www.travelstart.com.ng to research the cost of tickets from Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt (Nigeria’s air emigration routes). With information from these sites, I proceed to the sites of the airlines to see if getting tickets directly is cheaper. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. However, comparing can save you money that can be used for other things on your holiday. Also, travels from different Nigerian cities to the major parts of the world have different prices, even for the same airline. Of course, travelling from Lagos is cheapest for most routes.
A five star hotel in one city may cost you less than $100 in one city but several thousands in another. Some cities have loads of hotels available all through the year; some have very few. Also, some countries have very good transportation system. Staying some distance away from the city may cost you a whole lot less, even if you add the cost of coming into the city every day. For accommodation research, I use www.booking.com . Previously, I used www.airbnb.com but had an unpleasant experience with them which led me to delete my account. However, you can get posh apartments in prime locations for next to nothing through AirBnB so I plan on opening another account soon.
If visiting a non-English speaking country, it is important to check if the general population speak some English. There is nothing as annoying as getting lost in a strange city, on a holiday. Also, as part of your research, check the cultural practices and security prevalent in these destinations. Even if you are a tourist taking pictures of everything, you should aim to blend in with the local population as much as you can and not put yourself at risk in any way. www.tripadvisor.com and www.lonelyplanet.com are fantastic for getting information on some of the popular destinations in the world. If you cannot get information from these sites, remember “Google is your friend “.
With all the information gotten during step 2, develop a plan. Remember, planning involves budgeting. When you have identified where you want to go and what you want to do, putting a plan helps you know how much it will likely cost. It is also important to note that planning ahead on your holidays, save you thousands of $ in travel and accommodation costs.
Your plan/ budget should include the cost of visa; accommodation; daily feeding; cost of transportation; cost of visiting particular places; cost of shopping for self; family and friends. If you are travelling from one city (e.g. Lagos) and you live in another city, remember to include the cost of internal travel and accommodation. Also, bearing in mind that the luggage allowance for international travel is more than the allowance for local travel, also factor in the cost of paying for extra luggage on your return trip home.
I usually identify a number of destinations and have a single spreadsheet where I detail the cost for all likely destinations. More times than not, cost is a determining factor on which destinations wins the vacay-war.
If you are using an airline that travels through another country, different from your destination, stopping over in the country it passes through may cost little or nothing to your fare if you spend a few days to have a feel/look of the city.
If travelling alone, you may consider accommodations that offer breakfast as part of the cost (personally, I prefer hotels that offer this option). You can save a lot on feeding when you use the bed and breakfast option by skipping lunch and paying only for dinner. If travelling as a family, it is cheaper when you stay in accommodations that offer self catering options as you have greater control on how much your family spends on food (this may mean that the holiday is less restful, as you’d still be involved in cooking, almost as when you were at home)
GET ON A FLIGHT…OR A BUS!
Done with steps 1,2 and 3?…now get on a bus and have yourself a jolly good time. There may be moments when your trip seems like a colossal failure. Nevertheless, take great pictures with a wide smile and nobody will be any wiser!
PLAN FOR YOUR RETURN HOME
No matter how great your holiday is, do not spend down to your last dollar!…As we say in Nigerian parlance, “have vex money in your pocket”. Once, on a trip to the UK, i spent all my money less GBP2 because I did not foresee any challenges during my return trip. As fate will have it, my Turkish Airlines flight was delayed in Heathrow for about 90minutes and I missed my connecting flight from Istanbul to Lagos. That was one of my most embarrassing travelling experiences as my local Nigerian ATM did not work in Istanbul and I had to resort to begging for GBP8 to get a transit visa to enable me pass the night in one of the hotels. To cut my sob story short, a nice Nigerian lady gave me the GBP10 I needed for a transit visa and I learned my lesson the hard way.
In summary, travelling is a great way to learn about different cultures and if you’d rather have tons of pleasant memories from different places visited, rather than tons of stuff in you closest, you know what to do!
By Wynyfred Egbuson