There are plenty ways the savvy budget traveller can save money by visiting a regular café. Besides getting some wakey-wakey juice, and saving some cash, there are many other benefits to visiting a café on your travels.
In an increasingly expensive world, here are 10 easy ways to save money while travelling by getting a cuppa:
Save some money – Grab some TP
Yip. Well you’re hardly going to buy a 4-pack of toilet paper and throw three away are you? Bump a roll, leave a nice tip. Or if it’s McDonald’s, don’t leave a tip.
A guy in the Basque country sold me a single roll from his shop for 20 cents once, but currently there isn’t really a market for single rolls of TP. To think there are people paying for “travel” toilet paper!
Obviously don’t take the last roll from a café. Someone else needs that more than you.
Bored? There’s a toilet paper encyclopaedia (lol)
Recharge your stuff (and yourself)
If you feel bad for “stealing” the electricity, charging a typical mobile phone amounts to less than €0.001 per hour at a conservative rate. Or a third of a typical energy-saving bulb.
It’s always better to ask first if you can recharge your phone/camera/laptop unless it is the type of establishment where it’s commonplace (McDonald’s, Starbucks etc.). I usually find this leads to a nice conversation too.
Have a wash
If you’re camping and/or cycling and/or crawling in sewage the chances are you’ll get some mucky hands. Now is a good time to scrub up. We’re not talking about baths here. But you can get cleaner.
Don’t forget your face though..those random bathrooms are often the only time you’ll see your own reflection. Sometimes I’m surprised how clean I look. Sometimes I’m surprised I’ve spoken to 10 people and none of them mentioned I have a piece of dead fly next to my eyebrow.
Other free places to wash: showers on beaches, service stations, petrol stations, recreational centres, lakes, rivers, public fountains.
Probably the most obvious free thing of visiting a café. Starbucks, McDonalds, other fast food, Airports, hotels, universities and basically all tourist offices around Europe offer free WiFi as standard. In Starbucks, occasionally you need to buy something to get the code for the wifi and toilets. (If you’re really skint, sit down when it’s busy, put an empty cup in front of you and use someone else’s receipt for the WiFi. If you act like you belong, you’ll have no trouble. Believe.)
Bear in mind that some McDonalds, like in Germany and Italy, require phone numbers to connect to WiFi (In Italy it has to be an Italian number too). Some churches, councils and city centres also have free WiFi. Look around, it’s everywhere. Check out this free WiFi guide from Lifehacker.
Generally I prefer to go to independent businesses because the coffee is actually good, and there’s a higher chance you can do the next thing on this list.
Talk to the staff
Tips, advice, general chat, banter, sometimes even free coffee. Always worth it. I’ve been led to meet great people I otherwise wouldn’t have, told some great (free) places to stay and found out the basics of the local language. When you’re travelling alone it can revive your sanity and gives you a chance to connect with a local.
Borrow the condiments
Tomato ketchup, mayo, sugar sachets, milk sachets, salt and pepper, oil. I’ve never actually done this one but I’m well aware you could if you didn’t want to pay for the big bottles. In fact, I know some people that do this when at home!
Make the cutlery magically disappear
Have you ever tried to buy a single teaspoon before? Well I have. It’s impossible. Better just to acquire one and leave a nice tip. Unless, that is, you want to fork out for fourteen forks and knifes too.
By the way, a spork (a spoon and fork together) is one of the most useful pieces of equipment you can buy for travelling. After three plastic ones that lasted only a couple of months, I finally got a titanium one. Totally worth it. Just don’t lose it.
It has been done. Only my face.
Wash your things
It’s strange because this is something I previously would never consider doing. But when you’ve been travelling a while you realise: why the hell not. And even if someone sees you, you’ll probably never see them again.
T-shirts, yes. Pots and pans, yes. Trousers? Probably too much. It’s not difficult to wash a t-shirt and a pair of undies in a sink within a couple of minutes without anyone noticing. Obviously if you’re the only person in the café, it’s going to look strange and you may be better to find somewhere else. Take your clothes in a small plastic bag. Then at the sink, wet, scrub with soap bar, rinse, wring, done. Most hostels/hotels will charge around five bucks so it’s a pretty easy way to save some dolla. If the weather is good I just let them dry on the back of my bike. Much to the amusement of the locals when they see my undies flailing in the wind.
You can find some other free or cheap tips on washing clothes here.
Of course there are rivers too but in that case you should be using environmentally friendly soap. Some camp sites might also allow you to hand-wash your clothes for free.
It’s not hard. I went three months around Spain, Morocco and Portugal without using a washing machine.
Get some water
I believe it should be a universal right that everybody has free access to clean drinking water.
Tap water is safe to drink in all EU countries and is more tightly regulated than bottled water. That goes for the US and Australia and many other countries too. It’s well known that bottled water in Europe and America (especially the cheaper stuff) is often just tap water and it’s bad for the environment. It’s perhaps one of the biggest and most successful consumer scams of late. Obviously you have to be more careful in developing countries where tap water may be contaminated. A portable water purifier is a solid investment and you’ll be spending as little as 0.01 cents/litre compared to about 0.50 cents/litre. Often water quality is better near mountainous areas and worse in flat areas.
For all the times I’ve drunk the water from cafés, I’ve never gotten sick once. And for all the hundreds of times I’ve asked staff to fill up water bottles (even without buying anything), none have refused. Except in England. I think that particular person was having a bad day.
Other places to get free water: churches and more commonly graveyards (for the flowers, eh)
I hope you’ve found these money saving tips useful. If you have anything to add, whack something in the comments below! 😀