What One Woman Spent Travelling in 2017

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As a self-proclaimed budget traveller, it felt fitting to include a travel receipt of sorts in my 2017 roundup series. Travel is all fun and games until we have to face our wallets (…or purses or bank cards). Hopefully it sheds more light on my travel costs this year, helps to guide your own Jamaican adventures or merely serves as inspiration for your own travels. I include 8 universal tips for how to save on sightseeing at the end so feel free to skip ahead.

 2017 Travel Receipt

2017 travel receipt

Screenshot of my 2017 travel expenses in JM$

Key

  • 🇯🇲 – those places (4) where I got a locals discount
  • 🎓 – those places (3) where I got a student ID discount
  • 💤 – those places (1) where I got a discount for going on a less popular day
  • 👥 – those places (3) where I split costs equally among a group or got a group package deal.

**Most Expensive Trip for 2017: Blue Mountain Peak $3200.00 (about 30USD)
**Cheapest Trip for 2017: Free

Yes, I actually do document these things and you should too! #FinancialLiteracy2018 And yes, I’m also aware that some of these places may not count as travel spots for every reader. However, I’m very much into off-the-beaten path spots and places rich in history, culture and novelty appeal. Unfrequented rivers and waterfalls in the Jamaican countryside, beaches, national parks, museums, greathouses and a studio tour were my kind of “travel” for 2017. I didn’t take the typical long luxurious stays at resorts which most people envision as a holiday, not that I have anything against luxury. I’d fancy myself a weekend nestled up in a cozy mountain hotel or getting sun-kissed in a hammock or lounge chair at a beach resort, and those days will come. Instead, day trips were my trade-off for 2017 and above is a summary of what I spent at each location. Included for each place where applicable are admission costs, bus and taxi fare, tips, cost to hire my Blue Mountain Peak guide, a hike trail maintenance fee and campground rental. More cost details are included in the Getting There section of each individual post on my travel page. The only omitted costs are gasoline in cases where I personally drove (how on earth would I estimate that nor would it be relevant) as well as food and drink. I rarely bought food at those aforementioned places and sometimes my sightseeing is so short I wouldn’t need it anyway.

Some Things to Clear Up

Unfortunately some of how I managed to save won’t work at every destination, especially for non-Jamaicans and Jamaicans who aren’t students, indicated by the Jamaican flag (🇯🇲) and graduation cap emoticons (🎓) respectively. Here’s why:

  1. The admission costs for destinations with the 🇯🇲 flag are local rates so click on my posts individually to see the non-local prices if you’re not Jamaican. It may sound rude or segregational that some of our tourist spots have different prices for locals and foreigners but remember that Jamaica is a third world country. The rates for locals are often still expensive to us and keep attractions inaccessible to a large number of Jamaicans. Therefore, the slight subsidy is to encourage Jamaicans to explore their own country and see parts which they may live next door to yet can’t access because of poverty.
  2. I think the idea of student rates are self-explanatory. Despite counting as an occupation on paper, students are mostly unemployed and don’t have much to spend on going out. Thus, 3 places I visited this year offer student rates that include even tertiary level students and I’m grateful for that. A few more places offer student rates too such as the Peter Tosh Museum in New Kingston, but unfortunately they require groups of 10+ people for the discount. For the life of me I couldn’t find 9 other history nor reggae UWI student enthusiasts this year and I’m too stubborn to pay $2,000 when I can pay $500.
  3. I’m aware that not everyone is travelling from Kingston but since that’s where I live, it’s the only perspective I can give save for my St. Ann posts when I’d been staying near the capital for 2 weeks. If you’re travelling from elsewhere to any of the destinations I’ve featured, fare costs and route will be different. Nonetheless, a lot of my tips are still useful regardless of the parish from which you’re travelling.
  4. For the Blue Mountain Peak trip in particular, I shared the experience with 7 other friends so we split transport and tour guide costs equally among ourselves. Thus, if you go in a smaller or larger group, expect to pay different prices.

With that said, what worked for me this year?

My 8 Travel Tips From 2017

1. Go in groups. Some things are too costly for one person. If you have friends and family interested in going to the same place, go together. For example, had I gone alone to Blue Mountain Peak, I would have paid $11,000 on the way back for the bus I chartered. That trip would’ve had to be kissed goodbye. Group travel makes for a more interesting trip, opportunity for bonding, safety in numbers and your pocket will thank you for it.

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The Bob Marley Museum, St. Andrew

2. Ask about and make use of local rates and student discounts. Many tourist spots have lower rates for locals and even lower ones for students. Ask about these or look on the attraction’s website. You’ll be amazed at how much you can save. I would have paid $2,500 if I’d gone to the Bob Marley Museum without my student ID, 400% more than I paid by providing proof of being a Jamaican student. A university ID card may not give you concession rates on JUTC buses any more but it holds clout at many museums and historical landmarks. Even if you’re visiting Jamaica and this doesn’t apply to you, I’m sure there are places where you’re from at which you can capitalize on this tip.

3. Avoid all-inclusive tourist packages. This is self-explanatory. Tourist packages are useful if you don’t have time to plan or are unfamiliar with an area but if your funds are limited, plan the details on your own. It’s shocking how much extra you pay just to have someone do the planning for you! When I was looking up how to get to Blue Mountain Peak, I found prices ranging from $9,500-$20,000 per person!!! That makes me feel like I got a steal for $3,200 yet it still was my most expensive trip this year.

4. Don’t be afraid to take public transport if you don’t have your own vehicle.
If I had had my own car all year I’d probably skip public transport altogether but it brings a unique spin to my trips. It’s eco-friendlier and Jamaicans are just amazing, especially country people. Half my trip is made from just immersing myself into the culture, vibrancy and rambunctiousness of my people which I don’t often take time to appreciate daily. The driving may make you gulp a few times but remind yourself that motor vehicle accidents are much more likely in urban areas and that these drivers are more experienced than you’d be on these roads. If I were to rent a car or charter a taxi, I’d pay up to 10x more nor can I always nag friends to carry me where I want to go, worse if there’s no parking security at the places to which I’m inviting them. I’d never live with myself if someone’s car got stolen on a trip I planned.

Somerset Falls in Hope Bay, Portland JA

Somerset Falls in Hope Bay, Portland JA

5. Go on the less popular days where prices are cheaper. Many places have cheaper weekday prices to encourage patronage on their least popular days. Find out about these and make use of them. Classic example: Somerset Falls where I saved $350 by going on a Monday as opposed to a Saturday.

6. Combine several short day trips into one, especially if they’re in close proximity.
If you have your eye set on two or more short trips in a close geographical area, combine them into one day. That often saves on transport costs. Ex: Consider going to the museums of the 3 Wailers in one day; that of Bob Marley in Liguanea, Peter Tosh in New Kingston and Bunny Wailer in Washington Gardens.

3rd cascade

Gordon Town Falls’ third cascade

7. Try going to free public spaces instead of privatized ones. There are still public beaches and free green spaces left in Jamaica and most parts of the world. Make use of them as opposed to the hefty fees of commercialized spots. Of course, take care with that. Uncommercialized places have less security so be wise and do your homework first.

8. Carry your own food and (ice-cold) water. This goes without saying! Tourist traps only serve food at tourist prices, then they prevent you from eating food brought from outside to create a monopoly. Eat before you go or carry food and drink to have right after you leave the premises. Some places give you an armband and allow re-entry. Go outside, sit on a bench or in your car, have your food from home then go back inside the venue. Several dollars saved. Also, it’s a good idea to freeze your water and other drinks because when it gets really hot, your lukewarm beverage won’t taste so pleasant which forces you to spend on a cold drink to cool down and get refreshed.

Happy exploring for 2018, adventurers! Last roundup post drops tomorrow. ✌

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