The best things in life are free

20 Jun

So the song goes, and we agree – we always get a small sense of satisfaction when we get something for nothing and these freebies can vastly enhance the quality of your trip whilst helping to save some cash when you’re on a tight budget. From our travels so far we’ve been able to put together the list below of what items we’ve got for absolutely nothing, where you might find similar items and why they were so useful.

What: The ‘Yapa’

Where: Fruit & Vegetable markets in Bolivia

Why: Sometimes, market stall owners will entice you to return to their stand by throwing in some free fruit or veg with your purchase. This is known as ‘Yapa’. It isn’t considered to be cheeky if you ask for this directly if not already offered.


What: Leftovers

Where: Most hostals have a communal cupboard full of food and condiments that travellers have left behind at the end of their trip because they no longer need them.

Why: This can often be a treasure chest of spices and oddball ingredients that will enhance your pasta or rice dish and are the things that you A) didn’t think of buying yourself; B) considered a luxury item so didn’t buy it or C) didn’t know it existed! And it’s all free!


What: Fruit

Where: We’ve stayed in several camp sites on our trip and a surprising number of them had fruit trees dripping with luscious oranges, apples and pears.

Why: Of course it’s a free snack but the fruit can also be used to enhance tea, cereal or porridge and you can even make a half decent cider by boiling up some of the apples and adding sugar.


What: Tea bags and coffee sachets.

Where: Hostals and restaurants.

Why: Coffee is relatively expensive in most countries so you’ll save some cash. Being British we’re obviously quite partial to a good cup of tea and if like us you’ve found South American tea to be weak, you may find yourselves doubling up on your tea bags.


What: Sugar sachets.

Where: Hostals, coffee shops and restaurants.

Why: As well as using them for your tea and coffee, they’re great for enhancing your breakfast cereal or putting in your home made cider.


What: Sachets of butter, jam, mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise

Where: Hostals, restaurants and fast food joints.

Why: Great additions to your breakfast or packed lunch and the often dry South American bread you’ve been carrying around for a few days.


What: Washing up liquid and cooking oil.

Where: Hostals or campsites.

Why: Most hostals have both available for guests to use in the shared kitchen. Technically not ‘free’ as it’s probably included in the cost of your room or campsite but there’s no harm in topping up your own supplies of these to keep you from running out.


What: Napkins and toilet paper

Where: Restaurants and fast food joints.

Why: Toilet paper and tissues can sometimes be hard to come by so don’t leave home without a stash in your pocket and/or bag (especially if you’re going on a long bus ride in Bolivia!) Napkins make a great substitute if you can’t find the real thing.


What: Plastics bags

Where: Supermarkets, shops and launderettes.

Why: Plastic bags are obviously not great for the environment but at some point on your travels it’s likely that you’ll receive one so why not re-use it. If you’re carrying a food bag like us, the extra bags can be used to wrap up items of food that might spill or contaminate the rest. Using the bags for food makes them easier to pack than items that are in boxes and allows you to save space. They’re also good for storing clothes in your rucksack, so if it gets wet your clothes are protected.


What: Soap or shampoo

Where: (Very) occasionally you’ll stay at a hostal where you may find a small complimentary bar of soap or shampoo ready for dropping into your wash bag.

Why: Clearly you can use this on yourself but it’s also really useful for cleaning stains out of the clothes you’ve been wearing for the last 8 months and for washing your smalls in the shower or sink.


What: Firewood

Where: Generally you’re not too far away from free wood if you’re staying in a campsite or you’re out in the countryside.

Why: A good camp fire will make the coldest nights much more comfortable and you can also cook over it instead of using your much smaller gas stove. There’s nothing quite like the hypnotic powers of a campfire with a glass of wine on a starry night.


What: Transportation

Where: Hitch-hiking can be very easy (we found this to be especially true in Chile and Argentina) and you stand good odds of getting a free lift to, or near to, your next destination. Putting your thumb out next to a petrol station is a good starting point.

Why: Public transport can be very expensive and make your journey longer, but hitch-hiking can also be good fun and offer you a great opportunity to meet the locals and brush up on your language skills.


What: Photographs

Where: Fellow travellers you may have been on an excursion with.

Why: Maybe your camera battery ran out or it wasn’t as capable as the 24 inch lens that the American guy had! Get into the habit of sharing your snaps and you’ll get some great shots for free! We did this on a trip across the Bolivian salt flats and got some great pictures from our 4X4 friends.


What: Museum entry

Where: Larger museums often have one day a week where they reduce entry fees or don’t charge at all. Usually Sundays or Mondays during reduced opening hours.

Why: You save money and get access to that great museum you thought you couldn’t afford!


What: WiFi

Where: Hostals, hotels, cafes, restaurants, government buildings. If you ask nicely most places don’t mind giving you their password even if you’re not staying there.

Why: If, like us, you like to keep in touch with the outside world then WiFi is essential. Of course it’s also vital for researching your next destination and for booking accommodation. It also saves you from spending mucho dinero at the local internet cafe.


What: Exercise

Where: Many of the larger cities have walking or running tours lasting a couple of hours, the details of which can be found on-line or at your hostal.

Why: You only pay what you can afford as the guide is usually only paid by tips. Admittedly not quite free but great value for money, you get to meet people, get welcome exercise and get the inside track on the city.


What: Local knowledge!

Where: Fellow travellers, hostal receptionists, local guides, tourist information.

Why: Guide books can only help so much – hearing the real experiences of locals and of course other travellers is invaluable to you as you plan your activities. In cities where there are dozens of tour companies some honest advice and personal recommendations will save you a huge amount of research and legwork. (The Chilean gentleman below was a fabulous 82 years young and an absolute goldmine in local history and information!)


So, there you have it so far – we hope it’s been useful. Hopefully there are more freebies to come our way and if you have any to share that we haven’t covered, let us know so we can indulge too!

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