Roaming Around the World Travel Blog with Tips and Tales Wed, 08 Jul 2020 15:53:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Roaming Around the World 32 32 How to Find the Best Repositioning Cruise Deals: Under $50 / Day! Wed, 08 Jul 2020 15:45:09 +0000 Last Updated: July 8, 2020

Using cheap repositioning cruise deals to travel around the world can provide for an incredibly affordable way to get from one continent to another in complete luxury. We know this because we’ve now taken over a dozen repositioning cruises all across the world’s oceans and have been carefully tracking repositioning cruise prices over the past decade. As a result, we’ve scored many repositioning cruise deals that have gotten us on over a half year’s worth of these unique sailings between North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and even Africa!

Repositioning cruises can be a wonderful travel experience to slowly voyage from one continent to another, stopping at far-flung ports along the way, with the easy & carefree living that cruise travel delivers. Cheap repositioning cruise deals can offer considerable savings compared to daily rates of regular closed-circuit cruises. The bargains can be so good that repositioning cruises often prove to be even less expensive than a coach flight between the same locations. Yet scoring a repositioning cruise deal provides so much more of a travel experience compared to a cramped seat on a redeye flight.

We firmly believe that repositioning cruise deals are the best travel value in the world. The decadent four-course dinners, Broadway-style entertainment, traveling from island-to-island, and retreating at night to a comfy stateroom can all make for an extravagant travel experience that many would only assume is entirely unaffordable. Yet if you know where to find the best repositioning cruise deals, such extravagance can be easily achievable for less than $50 per day!

Our love of these seasonal one-way cruise deals is so strong that we even utilized a series of repositioning cruises to travel entirely around the world without taking a single flight. 

We’re now spilling our secrets of where to find these repositioning cruise deals. This article goes in-depth into everything you may have wanted to know about repositioning cruise deals. But we’ve also hand-picked the cheapest last-minute repositioning cruise deals you can find right now for Fall 2020 sailings.

First, let’s dive into exactly how these one-way repositioning cruise deals work and the costs involved.

Celebrity Eclipse docked in Bermuda which was the first repositioning cruise deal we got

What Is a Repositioning Cruise?

A repositioning cruise is a one-way cruise voyage in which a ship is being relocated from one region in the world to another. Cruise lines regularly reposition their fleets annually based on seasonality, as weather conditions and travel patterns change across the globe.

Since these ships are being moved from one part of the world to another, repositioning cruises do tend to be lengthy voyages with a higher amount of sea days. As a result, these lengthy, off-season, one-way cruises can have low demand. So repositioning cruises are often priced dramatically lower to entice passengers to come aboard these unique, intercontinental itineraries.

Repositioning cruises are sometimes also referred to simply as repo cruises (for short) or relocation cruises (an alternate name). It’s all the same.

So that’s a brief primer on repositioning cruise. For more detail, open our separate article in the link below, and continue reading here for more info on how to score the best repositioning cruise deals.

Stromboli volcano from a repositioning cruise


Repositioning Cruise Routes & Seasonality

Before revealing where to find the best repositioning cruise deals, it’s important to have an understanding about

  • when repositioning cruises are relocated, and
  • where repositioning cruises actually go.

When Do Repositioning Cruises Travel?

Repositioning cruises tend to be most active during the change in seasons:

  • Spring,
  • Fall.

As an example, let’s take a look at transatlantic repositioning cruises to illustrate these seasonal cruise relocations. The Mediterranean Sea boasts pleasantly warm weather and is high season for travel in the summer. So cruise lines often move ships to the Mediterranean in the late Spring to serve the many passengers who desire taking a summer Mediterranean cruise.

Meanwhile, summer months are the Caribbean’s hot and stormy summer offseason. So it’s only natural for cruise lines to move ships across the Atlantic Ocean by May, relocating them from ports serving the Caribbean to ports serving the Mediterranean and Europe.

The reverse occurs each Fall. That’s when many cruise ships are moved from Europe across the Atlantic to Florida, among other home ports serving the Caribbean, in time for the winter high-season months.

These transatlantic repositioning cruises form the most common repositioning cruise route. But there are many other repositioning cruise routes to consider.

Alaskan cruises can’t sail in the winter. So those ships need to go elsewhere, of course! Europe-Asia repositioning cruises can provide for port-intensive journeys between the adjoining continents. Transiting from North to South America (or vice versa) can be an interesting voyage that often includes a Panama Canal Cruise. There are many seasonal shifts in cruising that bring about repositioning cruises.

Cruise ship in Glacier Bay National Park

Where Repositioning Cruises Go in the Spring

The most common trend for Spring repositioning cruises is for ships to be relocated towards

  1. European ports and
  2. the Pacific Northwest (specifically, Vancouver & Seattle) for Alaska’s summer cruise season.

Below are typical repositioning cruise routes during the spring months.

Spring Repositioning Cruise Route Map

  • Northern Transatlantic: Florida (and US East Coast) ➡ Europe
  • Southern Transatlantic: Argentina & Brazil ➡ Europe
  • Panama Canal: Florida (and US East Coast) ➡ US Pacific Coast
  • TransAmerica Panama Canal: Chile ➡ Florida
  • Southern Transpacific: Sydney & Auckland ➡ Hawaii, California, & Pacific Northwest
  • TransAmerica Pacific: Chile ➡ California & Pacific Northwest
  • TransAsia: Asia (usually Singapore) ➡ Europe
  • MiddleEastern: UAE ➡ Europe
  • TransAfrica: South Africa ➡ Europe


Where Repositioning Cruises Go in the Fall

During Autumn, cruises are repositioned away from Europe and Alaska. Most commonly ships are move to Florida and US East Coast ports to do Caribbean cruises during winter months. But cruises are also repositioned to Asia and locations throughout the southern hemisphere.

This is where cruise lines tend to reposition their cruise ships in the Fall:

Fall Repositioning Cruise Route Map

  • Northern Transatlantic: Europe ➡ Florida (and US East Coast)
  • Southern Transatlantic: Europe ➡ Argentina & Brazil
  • Panama Canal: US Pacific Coast ➡ Florida (and US East Coast)
  • TransAmerica Panama Canal: Florida ➡ Chile
  • Southern Transpacific: Hawaii, California, & Pacific Northwest ➡ Sydney & Auckland
  • TransAmerica Pacific: California & Pacific Northwest ➡ Chile
  • TransAsia: Europe ➡ Asia (usually Singapore)
  • MiddleEastern: Europe ➡ UAE
  • TransAfrica: Europe ➡ South Africa
  • Canadian Maritimes: US East Coast ➡Quebec, Canada

Note: The above route maps provide a general idea of the timing of repositioning cruises. Exact routes are constantly changing each year. Later is this article, some of the best repositioning cruise routes for 2020 are detailed. 


What’s It Cost: How Cheap Are Repositioning Cruise Deals Really?

Repositioning cruise deals can vary greatly in cost, based on purchasing trends, timing of the purchase, the popularity of the ship, and the appeal of the exact itinerary.

That said, a decent deal for a two-week oceanic crossing can range from around $400-$800 per person. That breaks down to about $30-$60 per person, per night! Personally, we try to shoot for repositioning cruise prices under $50 per person, per night. Sometimes we’ll go above that threshold that for a great itinerary or if extra perks are included.

During each Spring and Fall season, we regularly see cheap repositioning cruise deals for about $500, or even less, on all the common routes. For those who are ultra-price-sensitive, a nightly rates of $40 or less per person (before gratuities and port fees) is an achievable repositioning cruise deal to aim for.

But repositioning cruises are regularly priced higher than those aforementioned deals. Factors such as great itineraries and sought-after ships will certainly help to drive up the prices for repositioning cruises. Purchasing trends also affect pricing. It’s not uncommon to see repositioning cruises listed for over $1,000 and much higher.

Yet supply and demand for each particular voyage can help drop repositioning cruise prices very low. So how low can they go?

The cheapest repositioning cruise we’ve ever spotted was for a two-week transatlantic cruise deal for a total of $159! This unfathomable $12/night price-point even included the rare feat of an open bar beverage package throughout the entire sailing. It seemed too-good-to-be-true. So back in 2016, we booked this insanely low-priced cruise simply to investigate if this deal was legit. If you’re curious to know what a $159 two-week cruise is like, then read our separate post reviewing it.

Pullmantur Monarch sailing under Malta flag as it leaves the port of St Maarten


Extra Costs of Repositioning Cruise Deals: Taxes & Gratuities

Do know that the repositioning cruise prices mentioned here are before taxes, port fees, and gratuities. This is the industry standard when quoting cruise prices. So understand that the total cost of repositioning cruises will end up being just a bit more after factoring in these compulsory charges.

Taxes & port fees for repositioning cruises will vary greatly depending on the ship and itinerary. But expect taxes to add at least $100, or more, to the total price for each person. This is all added to the repositioning cruise price during the booking process.

Gratuities are the semi-obligatory tips to deserving wait staff, room attendants, and other crew. This service fee typically adds $12-$16 per person, per night and usually isn’t charged until you’re onboard the cruise. (Note: For British and Australian passengers, gratuities are sometimes handled differently.)

So taxes and gratuities do add to repositioning cruises prices. But even after budgeting for those costs, repositioning cruises are still incredible deals that often remain under $50 per day. In addition to those little extra costs, the section below details everything you should be aware of before booking a repositioning cruise deal.

Beyond the compulsory charges, there’s no major hidden costs for repositioning cruises beyond the typical extras passengers may want to indulge in. For those unfamiliar with cruising, additional expenses can include purchases such as alcoholic drinks, dining in specialty restaurants, shore excursions, wifi at sea, spa packages and other splurges.


So What’s the Catch of a Cheap Repositioning Cruise Deal?

These cheap repositioning cruise deals may seem like they’re too good to be true. But they’re totally legit. There are no major catches, really.

It’s a common misnomer that repositioning cruise deals are so cheap because they’re boring and stripped-down cruises. That is simply not true!

It’s actually quite the opposite. Cruise lines tend to ramp up activities, lectures, and entertainment during all those extra days at sea. It can be a lot of fun. We always keep busy and never get bored.

The nightly four-course dinners include the same filet mignons and lobster tails passengers indulge in on regular weeklong cruise itineraries. The first-class staterooms are, of course, the same rooms. They don’t strip down the staterooms for repositioning cruises. The high level of service remains the same too.

Meanwhile, the many exotic ports that are visited along the routes are arguably the greatest appeal of repositioning cruises. Reaching some of these distant locations would cost a fortune to fly to. Thousands of dollars! Yet a repositioning cruise deal can provide a seamless and inexpensive way to reach many far-flung destinations, all while voyaging across the ocean in luxury.

Despite our love and praise of cheap repositioning cruise deals, they certainly aren’t for everyone. We strongly advise anyone to fully understand some potential downsides before booking your first repositioning cruise across the ocean:

  • Travel dates are very specific, not at all flexible, and these deals are only at certain times each year.
  • These are lengthy journeys. So while they can be affordable, you’ll need the luxury of time to really take advantage of the deals (best for retirees, digital nomads, and long-term travelers). A two-week vacation would make for a very tight trip.
  • For passengers who are not continuing onward travel when the repositioning cruise ends, you must account for the cost of returning home. One-way intercontinental flights can add a major expense to the overall trip.
  • Some of the best repositioning cruise deals are last-minute. This can make advanced planning complicated and any last-minute flights can become even more expensive.
  • The best deals are usually for interior staterooms (meaning, no balcony or window). But inexpensive veranda rooms do come about. And free balcony upgrades can be even easier to achieve on repositioning cruises.
  • There tend to be many sea days, which are fun-filled & relaxing (we never get bored). But this may not be for everyone.
  • Any expenses onshore while in port are at your own cost, of course. So that’s another cost to budget for. But exploring ashore can be a minimal expense for those comfortable with independent travel.
  • Wifi is often extremely expensive and can be slow. This is a major problem for anyone who needs to stay connected for working online. Here are some cruise wifi hacks to help deal with that.
  • Repositioning cruise prices are usually based on double occupancy. So you’ll need a partner or travel buddy to score a cheap deal. Otherwise, solo cruisers are often forced to pay a harsh single supplement fee, usually ranging 50-100%.
  • Service gratuities will typically add $12-$16 per person, per night, to your daily cost. So this should be budgeted accordingly into total costs.
  • Lastly, you must know how to find these repositioning cruise deals. They’re not heavily promoted. Also, the best repositioning cruise deals tend to only be around for short periods of times. But we’re here to show you where the deals are and when to book them!

The Norwegian Star's upper deck during a transatlantic repositioning cruise

Know the Best Time to Book Cheap Repositioning Cruises

Trying to book the cheapest price on any cruise can be tricky and is always a bit of a gamble. It can be difficult to predict price fluctuations. Over the past decade, we regularly track repositioning cruise price trends to see common patterns emerge on when to book.

So here’s what we’ve noticed over the years to now help you score the lowest price on repositioning cruises.

Lowest Repositioning Cruise Rates Often Emerge 2-3 Months Prior to Departure

A pricing trend that has remained consistent over the years is being able to find some of the best repositioning cruise deals by booking fairly last-minute. Rock-bottom prices tend to appear two-three months before the repositioning cruise is scheduled to embark.

This comes contrary to common advice for booking cruises. Often with cruises, it’s recommended to book as early as possible to score the best deal. Decent repositioning cruise deals can be found in advance too. But for particularly common routes, like transatlantic repositioning cruises, rates are regularly slashed in the few months leading up to embarkation.

This last-minute repositioning cruise booking strategy has been a tried-and-true method we’ve used to uncover some of the best repositioning cruise deals out there. Prices tend to drop when each cruise’s cancelation period ends, which is about 45-90 days out.

Understand the economics at play. Those who book a cruise in advance have an option to cancel and receive a full or partial refund up until about 2-3 months before the cruise departs. This is known as the cancelation period and it varies by cruise line, ship, and itinerary. Once the cancelation period ends, anyone who booked the cruise are locked into it. Therefor, the cruise lines don’t really know their true occupancy count is unknown until that time frame.

At this point, the cruise lines will often discount remaining cabins greatly in attempts to fill the ship to capacity at the last minute. So during the two-three month period prior to the desired sail date, you can usually find very attractive prices if you have the nerves to hold out that long. (Note: this comes with a realistic risk of prices rising or the cruise selling out.)

A general rule of thumb is the following:

  • Spring repositioning cruises: Around February can be an attractive time to buy for March-April sailings.
  • Fall repositioning cruises: Buy around August or September for October-November sailings.

We’ve found that for an April embarkation, around February can be the best time of year to make a move. During this timeframe, you actually get a double whammy of good fortune. For one, this time of year is what the cruise industry calls “Wave Season,” a promotional period when cruise lines are offering deep discounts and generous perks such as onboard credit, drink packages, prepaid gratuities, wifi packages, and more.

For the Fall repositioning cruises, the best time to buy can be around August and into September. Of course, this all depends on the cruise’s exact departure date, cancelation policy, and recent booking trends.

It Can Also Make Sense to Book Repositioning Cruises in Advance

If you see a repositioning cruise that you really like at a price you’re willing to pay, sometimes it can be a wise move to just book it.

The most obvious rationale for booking a repositioning cruise early is to have the luxury of making international travel plans in advance. And it’s definitely possible to find some decent repositioning cruise deals without having to wait until that semi-last-minute period.

While typically waiting until a few months before the cruise’s departure to buy can be a good bet, above all else, just buy if you see a great deal regardless of the time of year.

There have been instances when we’ve expected a repositioning cruise price to drop based upon past trends, but then prices rose instead. It’s always a gamble as to whether any cruise’s price may rise or fall. If it’s a really nice ship or a very attractive itinerary, the repositioning cruise price can be at even greater risk of rising. And these repositioning cruises actually do sell out.

So if you find a great price on a repositioning cruise you really want to take, it can be smart not to get greedy and wait for price to go lower. Just book it! Waiting for a lower price can often prove to be a wise strategy, but it sometimes leads to disappointment.

Note for 2020 repositioning cruises: Most cruise lines are currently offering flexible cancelations policies, often with refundable cancelations up to 48-hours before sailing. Therefore, it could definitely make more sense to book whenever you see a great deal, given the possibility to cancel without penalty.

Sunrise on a repositioning cruise

The Best Advice for Timing Your Repositioning Cruise Purchase

Really, our best advice on timing your repo cruise booking is this:

If you don’t care much about what cruise line, ship, or itinerary, then it will prove best to wait it out to the 45-90 cancelation period before booking. You will most certainly get an excellent bargain on a sailing, for under $50 per night.

But if there is a particular ship or itinerary that you definitely want to cruise on, then be careful gambling by waiting for rates to potentially drop. Prices could rise unexpectedly, leaving you heartbroken and missing the deal for a specific cruise you’re eyeing.


Best Repositioning Cruise Deals for 2020 and into 2021

🦠 Note About 2020 Repositioning Cruises during the Pandemic

Each repositioning cruise season, we update this article to highlight the best and cheapest last-minute repositioning cruise deals. But for 2020 the coronavirus pandemic has canceled many cruising voyages around the world. This includes repositioning cruise cancelations too. Some Fall 2020 repositioning cruises have already been canceled, while other cancelations may be forthcoming.

That said, currently there are plans for cruising to return in Fall 2020, potentially as early as September. As such, there are Fall 2020 repositioning cruises that you can book right now! Of course, you must be able to comply with any government restrictions and weigh the personal risks on your own.

Also, be familiar with the refund policies in the realistic instance that these last-minute repositioning cruises don’t sail. If you do book a repositioning cruise and the cruise line cancels on you, they tend to offer generous future cruise credit (often 125% of the amount paid), or a full cash refund. So it could prove financially beneficial to book and get canceled upon, if you’re able to use the future cruise credit for a repositioning cruise in 2021. Just know the policy before you book.

If you’re okay with the potential risks involved and you’re able to travel, there are some excellent repositioning cruise deals awaiting for Fall 2020 sailings.

But will repositioning cruises actually sail in Fall 2020? No really knows for sure, as the situation continues to evolve. Yet there are indeed Fall 2020 repositioning cruises out there that intend to set sail.


Booking a Repositioning Cruise for 2020 or 2021

Below are some of the best repositioning cruise deals we’ve found that you may be able to book.

We’ve linked to them through our affiliate at CruiseDirect. We’ve chosen to recommend CruiseDirect because of their easy online booking, a low price guarantee, no booking fees, and they maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. But more than any other reason, we recommend CruiseDirect because we regularly find they have the lowest prices and the best deals. Hence, CruiseDirect is what we’ve been using ourselves to book the last several repositioning cruise deals.

Remember, repositioning cruise prices do regularly fluctuate, sometimes even daily. And in 2020, we expect even more changes than normal. So be sure to follow the links we’ve left below to confirm the most up-to-date price quote, which may be even lower than what we’ve listed here. With the disruption of cruising this year, prices and even itineraries may change overnight. So be sure to click through the links to verify the sailing.

As we’ve mentioned already, some of the cheapest repositioning cruise deals are found last minute. This is particularly true in 2020 with so many people canceling their cruise plans that were booked months (or years) ago.

Below are some of the cheapest Fall 2020 repositioning cruise deals you can still book!


Cheapest Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise Deals: between Europe & US

Transatlantic repositioning cruise route map

Transatlantic repositioning cruises are a classic repositioning cruise route to embark on. They’re the most common and often the easiest to get a great deal on an inexpensive voyage.

The itineraries range from fairly barebones direct sailings across the ocean to port-intensive voyages with only a few sea days in between to break up the trip. Some transatlantic itineraries include Caribbean islands on the eastern side, an abundance of European ports on the Western Atlantic, and far-flung islands in between. Stops into Atlantic Ocean islands such as the Azores, Canaries, Madeira, and Bermuda help to break apart the lengthy ocean crossing.

For Fall 2020, some transatlantic repositioning cruises have been outright canceled. For example, Holland America has bowed out from sending its ships across the Atlantic with passengers.

But many transatlantic repositioning cruises are still available for Fall 2020. Major cruise such as Norwegian, MSC, Celebrity and more all have scheduled transatlantic voyages you can book right now. Currently we’re seeing some of the best rates from Royal Caribbean!

These low Royal Caribbean rates are likely near the lowest they’ll be. But we’d expect some of the other transatlantic repositioning cruises to potentially drop in price during the next two months.

Last-Minute Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise Deals for Fall 2020

The following are the best Fall 2020 transatlantic repositioning cruise deals we’re seeing right now:

🔖🚢 Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas is posting the cheapest transatlantic repositioning cruise for Fall 2020. We’re seeing rates for inside staterooms all the way down to $29/night! This Spain-to-Tampa itinerary is a great way to check out the Canary Islands on the way across the Atlantic, with port calls on both Grand Canary and visited, Lanzarote, before continuing on to RC’s private island in the Bahamas, Coco Cay. Snag this one now. Only $413 gets you passage on this two-week cruise across the Atlantic.  Check rates and availability.

🔖🚢 Want to voyage all the way from Rome to Texas? Hop aboard Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas, priced at a lowly $30/night! This 15-night cruise has a fun itinerary with stops in Spain, Gibraltar, the Canaries, and Nassau before arriving to Galveston, TX. With a later departure date, not until Nov 26th, there’s added hope could actually sail. The $450 price-point for an interior is incredible, but with low prices on oceanview and balcony staterooms, consider splurging here. Get this deal while it’s hot! Check different rates and availability.

🔖🚢 Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is down to a nightly rate of $37/night for its Nov 6 repositioning cruise from Rome to Miami. The itinerary starts of strong, stopping at three attractive ports in Spain for pushing forward across the Atlantic with a stop into Nassau. The 14-day voyages reaches Miami in time for Thanksgiving back in the US. The low $519 price is definitely a repositioning cruise deal to consider snagging! See current pricing and rates.

🔖🚢 The 5-star Norwegian Escape is escaping the British winter to warm up in the Caribbean, with a deal along the way. The October 26 voyage across the pond goes from Southampton (near London, England) to Port Canaveral (near Orlando, Florida). The transatlantic route includes stops in Bilbao (Spain), Lisbon (Portugal), and Punta Delgada (Azores Islands) before pushing forth across the ocean and popping into Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas – Great Stirrup Cay. With prices starting at $50/night, this deal is as hot as the itinerary and it’s the cheapest 5-star transatlantic repositioning cruise we’re seeing right now! Check availability and current pricing.

🔖🚢 The Norwegian Getaway late-season Dec 5th sailing seems promising and is currently the cheapest 5-star ship crossing the Atlantic during this Fall 2020 season, with rates down to $64/night. We also love the packed itinerary from Barcelona to New York! After leaving Barcelona, it stops daily in three great Spanish ports before continuing on to intriguing Madeira and and the far-flung Azores. The voyage culminates by porting in Bermuda for the day and then making the final push to NYC. With a great ship and great itinerary, this may be one to jump on. See complete itinerary and up-to-date rates.

🔖🚢 The Norwegian Jade is a great option for anyone looking for a long and port-intensive transatlantic repositioning cruise deal. The Rome to NYC route takes 18 days to make the crossing, stopping in nine ports in between. The Oct 31 voyage is currently down to a mere $53/night, spanning a half-dozen countries. See the detailed route and current pricing!

🔖🚢 Fans of Celebrity will find its cheapest transatlantic repositioning cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. It sails from Barcelona to Tampa on Oct 31 this year, with an attractive itinerary. Three Spanish Med ports open up the cruise before stopping into lovely Lisbon. There’s one last stop into the Azores Islands before making its final push across the ocean to reach Florida. At $74/night, it’s a decent price for this classy ship. But we’d watch this one (and other Celebrity sailings) for potential price drops. Check today’s prices and rates.

2021 Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise Deal Available Now!

There are already some unusually low rates for 2021 transatlantic repositioning cruises, well in advance of the deals that tend to emerge in the last-minute. In fact, we’ve already spotted a dozen 2021 transatlantic repositioning cruises for $50 per night or less!

The table below highlights the cheapest transatlantic repositioning cruise rates we’re seeing for 2021. If you like any of these 2021 repositioning cruise deal, it’ll likely prove to be a good bet to lock in these low prices now!

Carnival ValorJan-25-2021New OrleansBarcelona$32
Carnival ValorFeb-26-2021BarcelonaNew Orleans$35
RC JewelMar-22-2021GalvestonBarcelona$36
Carnival LegendMar-26-2021TampaBarcelona$48
NCL PearlApr-05-2021MiamiRome$50
RC RhapsodyApr-10-2021TampaRome$49
RC VisionApr-19-2021Ft LaudBarcelona$46
RC VisionOct-30-2021Barcelona Ft Laud$50
Carnival LegendOct-31-2021BarcelonaBaltimore$50
NCL EpicNov-20-2021RomeNYC$50
RC RhapsodyNov-30-2021BarcelonaTampa$46


Cheapest Southern Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise Deals: Europe ↔ Latin America

South Transatlantic Repositioning Cruise map   

Transatlantic repositioning cruises don’t just voyage from the US to Europe. European cruise lines, in particular, like to relocate their fleets over to South America and Caribbean countries during the winter months, then back to Europe for the summer cruise season. While flights between South America and Europe can be very expensive, a transatlantic cruise to South America can make for an interesting option to consider instead.

For Fall 2020, most of these southern Atlantic repositioning cruises are still planning to make the crossing. And we’re seeing some great rates!

Costa LuminosaNov-14-2020Tarragona, SPSao Paulo, BR$41
NCL StarNov-29-2020LisbonBuenos Aires$45
Costa MagicaDec-06-2020SavonaDR or Guadelupe$59
NCL EpicNov-23-2020BarcelonaSan Juan, PR$53


Cheapest TransPacific Repositioning Cruise Deals: South Pacific

Southern Transpacific Repositioning Cruise map

Transpacific repositioning cruise deals that go through the South Pacific tend not to come as cheap as the other repositioning cruise routes. Each season we see a handful of these lengthy cruises with daily rates under $100 per day. Ever so often they’ll fall under $50 per day.

Stopping at many exotic South Pacific islands along the route can make for a particularly appealing way to voyage between Australia and North America over the course of a month. So these ships do tend to fill up.

For those who have the cash, a South Pacific repositioning cruise can be well worth the splurge. When considering how much flights and hotels would add up for a similar itinerary across destinations like Hawaii, Fiji, and New Zealand, then you realize that $2,000 to spend a month voyaging around these islands is actually a heck of a deal!

Sometimes the transpacific crossing is split up between two separate back-to-back voyages. These two cruise segments tend to use Honolulu, Hawaii, as a transition hub. So in the Fall ships will often voyage between North America and Honolulu, with a separate cruise segment from Honolulu to Australia. The reverse of this occurs in Spring.

❌ Not available for Fall 2020 due to the pandemic. 🦠

Unfortunately, the temporary suspension of cruises has claimed 2020’s south Pacific repositioning cruises. Check back for 2021 repositioning cruise deals through the South Pacific.

2021 South Transpacific Repositioning Cruise Deals

There are some great 2021 transpacific repositioning cruise deals already popping up. Here are the least expensive south pacific repositioning cruises we’ve spotted for 2021. Reserve these refundable deals now while the prices are low!

HAL MaasdamMar-04-2021SydneySan Diego$84
Regal PrincessApr-09-2021SydneySeattle$73
HAL OosterdamApr-12-2021SydneySeattle$82
Celebrity SolsticeApr-15-2021SydneyHonolulu, Vanc$180
RC RadianceSep-20-2021VancouverHonolulu, Brisbane$73
RC QuantumOct-14-2021HonoluluSydney$62


Cheapest TransPacific Repositioning Cruise Deals: North America ↔ Asia

Pacific Repositioning cruise route map

Fall transpacific repositioning cruises tend to depart North America in September bound for Asia for its winter cruising season. The most common route is Vancouver to Tokyo, as there are typically 3-5 ships making this crossing each season.

It’s a great voyage we’ve greatly enjoyed a few times now. These northern transpacific repositioning cruise itineraries usually incorporate stops throughout Alaska and Japan, plus sometimes Russia!

Often scenic cruising is included, such as Alaska’s Inside Passage and even Glacier Bay National Park. Meanwhile the open Northern Pacific is teaming with whales viewable from the ship!

❌ Not available for Fall 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. 🦠

Unfortunately no transpacific cruises are making this voyage with passengers in 2020. But there are some deals sprouting up for this northern transpacific route in 2021!

Cruise exiting Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

2021 Northern Transpacific Repositioning Cruise Deals

During Spring 2021, there are five ships among the main cruise lines that are making the northern transpacific voyage from Tokyo to either Vancouver or Seattle. There are attractive rates for three of those sailings, detailed in the table below.

Celebrity EclipseApril-18-2021TokyoVancouver$54
HAL NoordamApril-24-2021TokyoVancouver$82
Sun PrincessMay-02-2021TokyoSeattle$78

The other two (Celebrity Millennium and RC Ovation) are priced high at the time of last updating this article. We’ll add them to this list of deals if/when prices drop and will keep an eye on the Fall 2021 northern transpacific sailings too.


Between the Americas: Panama Canal Repositioning Cruises

TransAmericas Panama Canal Repositioning Cruise map

The changing of seasons between hemispheres brings on a flurry of repositioning activity throughout the Americas. Ships that cruise South America during the northern hemisphere’s winter need to get repositioned back up to the north. So, often the Panama Canal is involved! Additionally, some cruise lines reposition their cruises from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast towards or away from Alaska, via the Panama Canal.

While there are regular Panama Canal cruises throughout much of the year, often they are priced much higher. Many of those pricey Panama Canal cruises don’t even go entirely through the Panama Canal. Instead, they get away with a “partial transit” by going through one lock, then simply turning back around the way it came.

So Panama Canal repositioning cruises provide an opportunity to score a deal on a Panama Canal itinerary while making the full transit. It’s a great experience going through all three locks between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. You can read more about our: Panama Canal transit on the Celebrity Infinity.

We’re currently seeing some decent prices on these cruises between the Americas. But one thing to understand is high port taxes imposed during any cruise that goes through the Panama Canal. So while it’s a common practice for cruise pricing to be pre-taxed, Panama Canal itineraries are important to fully understand the post-tax pricing before buying.

The Celebrity Infinity going through the Gatun locks of Panama Canal

Many Panama Canal repositioning cruises are still planning to sail in Fall 2020. The table below highlights the best last-minute deals currently available for 2020. There are pricier Panama Canal repositioning cruises sailings available that we’ll add to this 2020 list if prices go downward.

NCL JoyOct-09-2020LAMiami$73
HAL VolendamOct-31-2020San DiegoFt Laud$82
HAL RotterdamNov-23-2020San DiegoFt Laud$80
NCL BlissNov-29-2020MiamiLA$81

2021 Panama Canal Repositioning Cruise Deals

There are already a handful of great deals available for 2021 Panama Canal cruises, within that coveted $50/night range. Buy these repositioning cruise deals now before prices rise!

NCL StarMar-27-2021Santiago, ChMiami$47
Carnival FreedomApr-10-2021GalvestonSeattle$59
Carnival FreedomSep-22-2021SeattleFt Laud$58

Middle East Repositioning Cruise Deals Between Asia & Europe

More exotic repositioning cruise routes tend to be even less common, and can be priced higher. Yet these more exotic repositioning cruise deals still do abound too!

Personally, we’ve managed to score repositioning cruises from Europe to Africa and also from Asia to Europe. They were both excellent voyages filled with exotic ports that would otherwise prove very difficult and costly to travel to.

We once took a six week repositioning cruise journey from Hong Hong to Italy, which ended up totaling a mere $49 per night, all-inclusive with an outside cabin! It was an incredible lengthy cruise journey of champagne living on a Budweiser budget. We were able to check out so many interesting places along this amazing itinerary, cruising nearly halfway around the world.

Routes between Singapore and European ports tend to be prevalent. Shorter routes between UAE and Europe also exist.

Asia-Europe repositioning cruise map

All of these cruises use the Suez Canal to slice through the desert, making a full-day transit through the famed canal, taking in a glimpse of Egypt along the way.

As you may imagine, 2020 sailings have been greatly impacted. MSC and Costa have some ships scheduled to ply this route in Fall 2020, but they seem a bit uncertain and aren’t available for booking at last check.

Yet the Regal Princess is still planning to make the repositioning cruise voyage from Rome on Oct 17, 2020. This includes options to voyage to either Dubai, Singapore, or all the way to Brisbane, Australia! Rates for this amazing itinerary start at only $71/night, making it a very intriguing repositioning cruise deal to consider for a lengthy voyage. See full itinerary and up-to-date pricing.

Repositioning cruise through Suez Canal



More 2020 Repositioning Cruise Deals around the World

We’ve covered the most common repositioning cruise routes above. But there are other exotic repositioning cruise deals that spring up, all around the world. Repositioning cruises to/from South Africa are a new-ish route we most recently took. It’s a great itinerary that spans the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Indian Ocean Islands.

The MSC Opera will be taking this journey, departing Venice on November 8th 2020, for a nearly month-long voyage to South Africa. And at only $58/night, it’s definitely an attractive repositioning cruise deal to consider! See full itinerary and today’s prices.

We recently embarked on a similar Europe-to-Africa repositioning cruise itinerary with MSC and loved it! (Play highlight video below).


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A post shared by John & Heather | Travel Couple (@roamingaroundtheworld) on

Further routes exist across the globe too. Repositioning cruise itineraries between Australia to Asia occasionally rear up. Routes between southern and northern Asia can come about too. Once more certainty in the updating cruise season exists, we’ll update this with more of these rare repositioning cruise deals.



More Tips on How to Find the Best Repositioning Cruise Deals

The above listed deals are the cheapest repositioning cruises out there, at the time of last update (July 2020).

If you want to see what additional repositioning cruises are out there currently listed at higher prices, you may want to do some additional sleuthing on your own. The remainder of this post details our process of how we find some of the cheapest repositioning cruise deals. So if you want to start scouting out other potential itineraries or time frames further out (2020 repositioning cruises and beyond), then continue reading.

Just know that prices will likely shift, sometimes dramatically, the further out you look. That’s why we’ve highlighted these last-minute repositioning cruises departing in Fall 2020.

There are so many cruise search sites out there and so many options to book a cruise. It can become a bit overwhelming and confusing to know where to find the cheapest repositioning cruise deals. Finding these deals can take a lot of time, sleuthing, price monitoring, and perhaps even a bit of gambling to nail them down. That’s why we’ve already done the work to detail what we found to be the cheapest repositioning cruise deals for you.

But if you want to continue searching on your own, read on.

As already mentioned, we do like booking with CruiseDirect as they’re simple, straightforward, no booking fees, have an A+ rating on BBB, and often have the lowest price. They also have a decent search functionality to help find these cheap repositioning cruises.

Yet for more complicated routes, we actually begin searching elsewhere, then move on to sites like CruiseDirect to price compare when the timing seems right.

The following sections offer a step-by-step process on how we hunt down some of the best repositioning cruise deals.

On the Costa Victoria looking over balcony, perhaps searching for next repositioning cruise deal


Step 1) Search Carefully for Repositioning Cruise Deals

Although we actually make our bookings with other sites, a first website we often use to uncover these repositioning cruise deals is They are a cruise travel agency. But their website acts as a great metasearch of all major cruise lines and each of their itineraries. Think of it as the of cruises.

We like searching VacationsToGo over other cruise searches primarily because we find this site to have the most advanced search criteria available. By using their “custom search,” you can filter by much more than the month, cruise line, and broad destination.

It’s possible to really sift through repositioning cruise listings with a fine-toothed comb by specifying price ranges, star-level, must-visit ports, ship size, cruise length, departure port, and so much more. It has extremely flexible functionality, while other cruise search engines tend to have only 5-6 broad search criteria to use.

Also, VacactionsToGo listings tend to be up-to-date and they tend to have very good rates. Often we’ve found it to be the lowest price. If not, they are usually pretty close.

Despite our love for searching using VacationsToGo, once you find a bargain you like, it can be best to compare with other sites to ensure you truly got the best price and perks. Prices and promos can be very different from one agency to another.

Additionally, it’s not possible to book online using VacationsToGo. Instead, you must coordinate a call with one of their travel agents. You also have to get on the phone with an agent even to simply get a price quote that includes all the taxes or to confirm availability. It can get cumbersome and time-consuming.

So once we find we a repositioning cruise deal we like, we instead get a complete price quote on CruiseDirect. It does allow you to see the total price, including taxes. It further allows you to seamlessly complete the transaction entirely online, without the need for a phone call.

That said, we do find VacationToGo’s search functionality to be superior. So here are some details on how we recommend getting started to find a repositioning cruise deal by searching using their advanced search functionality.

Binoculars on a cruise searching the ocean

2a) Give Up an Email Address

In order to search using VacationsToGo, you must provide them with your email address. They don’t spam you with tons of solicitations. I just get one email per week (usually on a Wednesday). You can easily opt-out of the emails later if you want. But for now, just give them your email so you can continue with your search for a repositioning cruise deal.

2b) Perform a “Custom Search”

Next, go to “Custom Search.” It’s on the upper left side of the home page. It’s a little blue text link in the upper-left corner of the screen, just below the main search. Click the “Custom Search” text which will then take you to a form with lots of options.

2c) Carefully Filter the Search Criteria

Under destination, select options such as “Transatlantic” or “Repositioning” to see listings categorized for each of these. Then use whatever other filters that may be important for you. You will certainly want to filter by dates to select the months and year.

Maybe you also would only consider a 4-star ship or higher. Or perhaps you want to look for repositioning cruise deals leaving only particular ports near wherever you live or where you are traveling so you don’t have to buy an expensive last-minute flight (e.g., filter for departures from Florida only). Maybe you prefer a smaller or larger ship, in which case you can filter by the number of passengers.

Those are all great search criteria to consider playing around with. However, for your first few searches, we recommend that you use fewer filters in order to yield more results. You can always go back and refine your filters later. To start, try only filtering only by “destination” and “dates.”

It’s also important to note that we have found repositioning cruises that are not listed as “repositioning cruises.” For example, sometimes more exotic repositioning cruise routes that include South America, the Middle East, or Africa, won’t be classified as repositioning cruise, even though they are. Instead, they may be categorized as an “African Cruise” or “South America” cruise. This can make searching around more difficult, because filtering by “repositioning cruise” can erroneously omit these interesting itineraries.

Therefore, it can sometimes be worthwhile to play around with these searches to uncover hidden gems like those we’ve pointed out. Further searching for South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East can ultimately uncover those routes.

2d) Reveal the Cost Per Night

Before viewing the search results, we recommend tweaking one more thing on the results screen. When considering longer itineraries like repositioning cruises, it’s important to not overly focus on the total price. A more relevant figure is the “Price Per Night” cost of the cruise.

A $699 11-day cruise may seem like a great deal compared to $999 cruise. But if that $999 cruise is a 21-day sailing that lengthens the itinerary with some amazing ports, the $999 cruise would be a much better value than the $599 cruise. It’s the difference of taking a $63/night cruise or a $47/night cruise.

You don’t need to do all this math on your own. VacationsToGo allows you to normalize the results to show the price per night. This nightly price is not shown by default, but you can easily reveal it by selecting the “Price Per Night” button in the upper right-hand corner.

Now that you have the price per night enabled, you can even re-sort your listings to sift through the best value cruises based upon the nightly price. We recommend doing that!

See the screenshot below which includes nearly a dozen itineraries on some great ships all for less than $50 per person, per day. (You can also see just how good the repositioning cruise deals are in the Spring!)
Sort by function to uncover repositioning cruise deals

2e) Go Find an Inexpensive Repositioning Cruise Deal!

Now peruse through all of the itineraries, ships, and prices to find the best repositioning cruise deal that suits you.

Step 3: Compare Prices Across Agencies for the Cruise You Want

After finding the perfect voyage using VacationsToGo, it’s a wise idea to price compare with other agencies. Often VacationsToGo indeed has the best (or equal) prices. But around half the cruises we’ve booked, we’ve found their prices & promos can be beaten.

When comparing prices, you must factor in more than just the cruise price alone. We recommend to also take into account the perks and bonuses each cruise agency may be offering. Some agencies may offer promotions such as onboard credit, prepaid gratuities (that adds up to hundreds of dollars!), free hotel stays, or even something simple like a bottle of champagne in your cabin.

Pay attention to the perks in addition to the pricing since this can ultimately be the difference of hundreds of dollars. For example, if Agency A offers your desired cabin for $499 with no perks while Agency B offers that same cabin for $599 yet includes a $300 onboard credit, it actually would make sense to book with Agency B even despite their higher price. (Note: you can turn that onboard credit into cash using one of these cruise hacks).

Compare the True Total Costs, Not Just the Base Fares

To really compare costs after promotions are added in, we get a bit geeky with a calculation. This allows us to more fairly compare prices after factoring in any generous bonuses. and more fairly compare. Here’s the equation we use:

Base fare
+ taxes & port fees
+ gratuities (unless prepaid gratuities are included)
– onboard credit
= total cruise cost

Then, total cruise cost ÷ number of nights = true nightly cost of the cruise.

After factoring in taxes, any free paid gratuity offers, and accounting for onboard credit, we now have the true total cost of what we’re actually going to have to pay for the cruise. It’s a more fair way to compare the prices instead of simply looking at the base rates.

Again, to access the total fares online, you have to use a site different than VacationsToGo, because they only will give you the total rates if you call over the phone.

Compare Repositioning Cruise Prices

Whenever we have found an offer that beats VacationsToGo, it has been through one of our these two sites that are also affiliates of ours: CruiseDirect or Priceline Cruise.

So after scouting out a deal on VacationsToGo, we find it worthwhile to check these other two sites for a second opinion. Sometimes the prices & perks are all the same. Other instances one of these sites will have a better deal.

More so, another benefit to checking on CruiseDirect is that it allows you to see the entire cruise cost online. When using CruiseDirect, once you get to the payment screen, they’ll show you the true price of the cruise including all the taxes and port charges.

So after completing these two price comparisons, you’ll now have prices from three competing agencies. This should give you the confidence to book the one with the best price or at least know they’re all the same. Likely, most price quotes will be very close to one another. But, again, look carefully for those perks, promos, and bonuses!


(Optional) Continue to Compare Across Even More Agencies

⚠ Warning: the following steps can be tedious, time-consuming, and ultimately not prove worthwhile to pursue. Plan to spend at least 20-30 minutes completing them, if not longer. Usually, this results in time being squandered, as we don’t find any offers that beat what we’ve found by this point.

However, if you really want to ensure that you’ve definitely found the best repositioning cruise deal, performing these added steps may help you to sleep at night and book with confidence.

But if you value your time and you’re happy with the deal you’ve found by now, then just go ahead and book it.

Below are more popular online cruise travel agencies to consider searching. We’re affiliated with some, yet we don’t recommend any one of these over the other. If you have the time to compare, give ’em a try. They’re all reputable sites. So search each one for the specific cruise you’re interested in, then book with whoever has the best price.

  • Priceline Familiar & reliable travel site and you can book your cruise entirely online. Note: They have a $24.99 booking fee, but sometimes have perks, like $50 hotel vouchers, that outweighs the fee. We’ve had success with Priceline occasionally having the best repositioning cruise deal. TrustPilot score: 4-stars.
  • Claims to be “the biggest.” Sometimes has interesting promos. Allows you to book online but also imposes a $24.99 processing fee.
  • You can book online and no booking fee. TrustPilot score: 5-stars.
  • Expedia Cruises Familiar and reliable travel site.
  • Local Travel Agency – If you have a travel agent, give them a call and see if they can meet or beat the repositioning cruise prices & promos you’ve already found.
  • Direct with Cruise Line – Agencies almost always tend to have a better deal compared to booking directly with the cruise line, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check.


Step 4: Buy!

If you’ve found a cabin on a sailing you want and your plans are flexible, keep an eye on it until a few months out to purchase. But if your plans aren’t flexible and you really like the repositioning cruise deal you see now, it’s probably best to strike while you can. Prices could go down, but you may be very disappointed if it turns the other way.

Doing a cruise search from balcony on a repositioning cruise

Step 5: After Booking, Continue Monitoring the Fare for Price Drops

Even if you’ve purchased your repositioning cruise deal, it’s still very possible to get a lower fare. Most of the time cruise lines and agencies will honor the new pricing and will refund you the difference or at least provide onboard credit if the price drops before the cancelation period.

So it’s very worthwhile to continue monitoring prices, even if you’ve already booked your repositioning cruise and paid. Cruise lines and agencies will not notify you of these price drops that could result in free money back to you, so you must watch for this on your own to claim. Note that the price change must be for the exact same stateroom category, so watch for that.

If you booked your repositioning cruise deal after the cancelation period, as recommended to get a very low price, you are likely no longer eligible cancel or book any new rates that arise. But it doesn’t hurt to call and ask anyway. It may give you some leverage to swing a free cabin upgrade if one is available. (Note: See our post here about 10 Secrets to Getting a Free Balcony Upgrade on a Cruise).

Here are a few ways you can monitor the prices, which you’ll really want to do if you purchased before the cancelation period.

  • Simply use online searches to occasionally keep tabs on the price. It’s cumbersome but effective. Bookmark the cruise’s fare page and check back regularly. That’s what we do. It takes 10-seconds each morning as I sip my coffee.
  • There are pay services that will monitor the prices and will email you an alert if and when the price for your exact stateroom room category for your sailing drops. The service starts at about $5 and can be a worthwhile way to effortlessly keep tabs on the fare. We’ve never used them since we almost always buy last minute, post-cancelation period, so we can’t personally recommend them. But you may want to consider looking into and if this service is of interest to you.

Playing shuffle board during a transatlantic reposting cruise that we got from searching all the deals

Good Luck and Bon Voyage!

So that’s it.

We hope you find a hugely discounted repositioning cruise deal! Happy hunting and bon voyage! 🚢

For more ways to save money while cruising, be sure to check out our big cruise master post about all of our cruise tips & tricks:

And to see how we used four different repositioning cruises to travel entirely around the world without flights, be sure to read our big fat post about:

Publishing Note: This post is continually updated with the latest information and repositioning cruise deals. Last updated: July 8, 2020. We’ll strive to update it regularly throughout the rest of the year and beyond, so feel free to bookmark this page and check back for more 2021 repositioning cruise deals!

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Haro Wine Festival Review + How to Prepare for Haro Wine Battle Mon, 15 Jun 2020 22:45:42 +0000 The Haro Wine Battle is an annual event that takes place in the La Rioja province of Spain. Known locally as Batalla del Vino or San Vino, this Haro wine festival is centered around a wine fight that occurs in the wee morning hours. It’s during this wine battle that willing participants use red wine to soak their fellow combatants.

It’s all a fun and crazy tradition carried out on a hillside in the heart of Spain’s wine region. Every year thousands of people descend onto this Spanish town of Haro, for a few days of carousing in honor of the country’s signature Spanish red wines widely produced throughout the La Rioja region.

The Haro Wine Battle itself occurs on June 29th every year. Yet, festivities tend to get underway in the days leading up to the wine battle event.

During Spain's Haro Wine Battle, a man dumps red wine all over the crowd during this annual festival

This article details our personal experience at the Haro Wine Battle and goes on to offer travels tips to anyone considering attending the Haro Wine Battle in 2020 and beyond.

Given the global situation in 2020, there are questions regarding the 2020 Wine Battle event. So we’ve added a section to this post to address that with the latest info from Haro City Council, regarding cancelation or suspension.


Haro Wine Festival: Recounting the Experience

We had absolutely no idea what we were in for when deciding to attend the annual Haro Wine Festival, which culminates in the Batalla del Vino or San Vino festival. But the Haro Wine Battle is such a crazy and fun fiesta that it has now gone down as a favorite travel experience of all time. The Haro Wine Festival involves battling (and drinking) all that red, red wine Spain is so well renown for.

How could the Haro Wine Festival not be a total blast? Spoiler alert: it is.

john and heather taking a selfie together during the wine battle in Haro Spain

Many Spaniards and visitors alike have loads of fun each summer with the many annual festivals occurring all across Spain. Of course, most have heard of the Running of the Bulls (known as San Fermin) in Pamplona. And perhaps some have viewed clips of La Tomatina festival, in which a tomato war wages on each year. Those are good times, no doubt.

But there’s another annual battle that takes place in Spain.

This battle is in a town called Haro, deep in Spain’s famed Rioja wine region. Here, the weapon of choice is not tomatoes, but vino (wine)! We had to see what this Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) was all about. And we survived the Haro Wine Battle, victorious to tell the tale.

While the Haro wine fight itself takes place for about an hour or two, the entire Haro Wine Festival is really a multi-day event filled with shenanigans. The festivities in Haro begin heating up during the days leading up to the early morning wine battle begins in Haro, Spain. It’s on the eve of the wine fight, when the Haro Wine Festival really kicks into motion.


Arriving in Haro on the Eve of the Wine Battle

It’s a good idea to arrive to Haro on the 28th, or earlier, well-rested. If at all possible, it is highly recommended to take a siesta on June 28th. There’s a loooong night ahead!

Hotels and guesthouses book up well in advance of the Haro Wine Festival. So unless accommodation reservations are made a year or so in advance, joining in on the all-inclusive camping experiences at the nearby campgrounds is the way to go. There’s an awesome travel company that sets up everything for the Haro Wine Festival and throws a really fun fiesta of their own. They not only include all the camping gear. Campers also can get unlimited free beer and sangria! Really!

With a severe lack of hotels and stumbling across that camping package with booze, it was an easy decision to rough it in the comfy campgrounds. We figured it was just a place to crash for the night. Little did we know how much fun it would end up being.

It’s all with Stoke Travel (enter ROAMING to get the free booze included). But we’ll give you all the details on what it’s like to camp with them later in this post. Let’s get back to the pre-party scene at those campgrounds.

Upon arriving at the sprawling array of tents, the hundreds of other fun-loving international travelers that joined this camping package all began to make pleasantries with one another. With the unlimited booze flowing strong, everyone quickly became chatty. After much beer and sangria, the chilled vibes of this camp atmosphere in the Spanish countryside soon turned into a full-blown fiesta.

It was a perfect pre-party to the Haro Wine Festival events that were happening in town, just a short stroll away.


Partying in the Streets during the Haro Wine Festival

As the summer sun sets over Haro, just before 10:00 pm, the town is replaced by the night sky and lots of partying! This is an opportune time to head into the streets of Haro with new friends met at the campground. By around 9:00 pm or so, the once-quaint streets of Haro transform into a huge party!

This is what the Haro Wine Festival is all about!

Mural on the streets of Haro of drunken men on night before the Wine Fight

Appropriate mural on the streets of Haro


During the Haro Wine Festival, a big stage is set up in the main town square, where a large concert commences throughout the evening. This jamming concert draws a cheering crowd that’s guzzling cervezas and swigging vino. This big street party preceding the Wine Fight is almost entirely a Spanish crowd and it’s a blast attempting to mix in.

Yet it’s equally fun to simply get lost in the hoards that amass throughout Haro’s narrow cobblestone streets. It’s during this street party that there are so many other wine-drinking festival-goers breaking out into impromptu concerts of their own. They may not have a big stage, but these mini-concerts rage on with just as much enthusiasm! Trumpets and other brass instruments provide the notes for the gathering crowd to belt out some apparently well-known Spanish songs.

Everyone sings along. We even joined in for a few slurred verses we were able to pick up from the repetitive chorus. It’s an awesome scene to mentally soak in, while livers simultaneously absorb the extra alcohol during this Haro Wine Festival street party.

And that alcohol does continue to flow freely throughout the streets of Haro. Perhaps it’s all a grand attempt to get everyone in the spirit for the Haro Wine Battle that takes place in only matter of a few hours later. After all, this partying on Haro’s streets is still only a precursor the early morning wine fight that’s about to occur.

brass band at street party in Haro on the night before Batalla del Vino Haro Spain

tapa with cured ham and eggDuring this street party fiesta of the Haro Wine Festival, people stumble in and out of the local bars dotting Haro’s alleyways. They buy drinks from the seemingly endless flow of booze. Simple and normally quiet cafes suddenly have become party hot spots.

Meanwhile back on the streets, people are literally swinging from the lamp posts! It’s this raucous party atmosphere that gets everyone in the right mindset for the Haro Wine Battle that is creeping closer and closer with each hour that goes by.

Some will occasionally grab tapas to add some substance to their alcohol-fueled night, before spilling back out onto the quaint yet packed streets of Haro. There are some great nibbles to be had when ducking into the cafes that stay open throughout the night. This is Spain after all. So delicious tapas are never far! It’s a great idea to enjoy some of these late night munchies to keep fueled into the wee morning hours.

But overall, just be sure to drink plenty of that delicious red wine and join in all the fun of the Haro Wine Festival!


Have a Plan for the Late Night Hours of the Haro Wine Festival

That street party in Haro goes on all night long! After midnight on the eve of the Haro Wine Battle, there are no signs of the fiesta quieting down. And people don’t start to gather for the actual Haro Wine Battle until several hours later, around 7:00 am. That’s a lot of time to fill with partying in Haro’s alleyways.

So once midnight rolls around, there are three options to consider:

  1. Go to sleep at a normal time to rest for the morning to come.
    • ❌ Not recommended! This street party during the Haro Wine Festival is a big part of the Wine Battle experience. Don’t miss it!
  2. Stay out late and sleep for an hour or two before the insanity of the Haro wine fight.
    • ⚠ Take a nap if absolutely needed. Just be sure to have a plan to awake by sunrise. This is what we did and it worked out okay for us. But it would be a tragedy to be in wine-induced coma, then accidentally sleep through the wine fight. Be very careful if choosing to take a late-night nap before the morning wine battle.
  3. Party until the break of dawn and then head out to the wine fight.
    • ✅ This is the tradition and what most recommend. Go ahead, stay up all night during the Haro Wine Festival party. Then let that early morning Wine Battle be the culmination of an awesome night. This takes stamina and pacing, but it can be accomplished with some effort. Consider alternating some espresso and water in between all the alcohol. Again, having napped the day prior is an excellent idea.

crowd of people at wine fight street party in Haro Spain

The Haro Wine Battle Day: June 29

The idea of the Haro Wine Battle is to stay up all night. We lasted until about 3:00 AM, so that we could take a nap before all the craziness of the morning to follow. It worked for us and we were still a bit boozy upon awakening.

We had successfully made it to the main event. It was the time to see what the Haro Wine Battle was all about!


Morning Preparations for the Haro Wine Battle

On the morning of the Haro Wine Battle, sunrise is at exactly 6:36 am. Those pre-dawn hours are a great time to get moving. People begin to gather in Haro by 7:00 am to prepare for the Wine Battle.

It did feel a bizarre rolling out of bed to grab a beer and a mug of red wine instead of coffee. But, hey, it’s the Haro Wine Fight!

The fine ladies and gents who man the kegs at the campground in Haro continued to let the free beer flow. Who are we to refuse a few breakfast beers before the big Wine Battle event? This free beer and sangria is a huge perk of staying at the campground. And it’s nice to top off before heading out for the Wine Battle.

John & Heather in tradition white shirts and red scarf before wine fight in Haro Spain

The “before” picture


The tradition of the Haro Wine Festival calls for everyone to wear a white shirt and a red scarf during the wine battle. Others wear full-on costumes or added flair. But that white shirt is a must!

Once dressed appropriately, the supplies are gathered. Red wine in boxes, jugs, buckets, water bottles, and whatever vessels that can be found are all filled to the brim with the red stuff.

The Haro Wine Battle itself takes place on a mountain, about 6-7 kilometers from the town of Haro itself. Some walk this distance. But there are complimentary buses that shuttle the half-drunk and sleep deprived masses through the Spanish countryside and vineyards to the mountain’s base. It’s here that a short march begins up the mountain. That’s when signs of the impending battle begin to reveal themselves.

Before the Haro Wine Battle commences, there is an outdoor Catholic mass and some opening traditions that take place. But by the time we arrived at the base of the mountain around 8:30, we noticed creeks of wine already streaming down the trail.

This was just a small sign of what we were about to walk into.

Walking to wine fight Haro Spain


What to Expect at the Haro Wine Battle

Closer and closer to the battlegrounds, splashes are felt and those clean white shirts begin to get stained. Before we even realized it, we were in the thick of the Haro wine fight and completely soaked with red wine.

We reached the makeshift wine battlefield by about 9:00 am to find that the Batalla del Vino was already well underway.

The wine battle is on!

The Haro Wine Battle Begins as locals shoot wine from super soaker water guns every year on the morning of June 29 in Spain

Bug sprayers give people a nice light coating of wine, while super soakers blast others.

Yet it’s the buckets of wine that are thrown with force that really gets people drenched from head to toe.

Wine Battle Selfie

Wine Fight Selfie


And there seems to be no mercy or discrimination during the Haro Wine Battle when it comes to these heavy wine dousing.

Keep in mind that it can be quite cold early in the morning on the Spanish mountainside. We witnessed some girls who were soaked, shivering away from the crowd and trying to stay warm. It was only then that a fresh bucket of wine dumped all over them. Haha!

We even saw young children crying because the wine was burning their eyes. It was at that point when Grandpa came from behind not to comfort or help the kids, but instead to dump more wine all over them. No mercy!

This is the Haro Wine Battle at its very best.

Wine Battle Haro Spain on hill with lots of wine soaked people

Inevitably during all the splashing, spraying and soaking, some vino winds up in your mouth, further fueling the party atmosphere.

A party band eventually comes out to play. The singing & dancing continues. And the wine pouring does too.

The band on the battlegrounds was one of the many ensembles that were in Haro’s alleyways just hours earlier during the late night revelry back in town. This band must have also stayed up all night and probably managed to kick back a few drinks in the process. Yet they don’t miss a beat. It’s an impressive feat!


Haro Wine Battle Video

We drunkenly captured this video in attempts show the craziness of the wine battle during the Haro Wine Festival.


After the Haro Wine Battle

Once all ammo (er, wine) has run out and the winds down, wine fighters all walk back down the hill in defeat. By noon, or even a bit before, the Haro Wine Battle slowly concludes. But the fun does not.

We’ve heard that it’s possible to return from the mountain to Haro using a tube or raft in the nearby river. Yet given the chill in the air and our drunken state, that just didn’t seem to be the best idea. Walking back to Haro can be a scenic and fun drunken affair. But it’s a long way. Thankfully, complimentary buses offer the best reprieve to stumbling back toward Haro.

By this point, it’s a good plan to get cleaned up. The partying continues in Haro for a little while, but most wounded soldiers take their wine-stained bodies to bed.

During some years, Haro has a bull run at the Plaza de Toros in town after the Wine Battle. But rumor has it that during some of the Haro Wine Festivals, the organizers get too drunk to do this bull run.

The midday and the afternoon of the Wine Battle day is dedicated to resting. It is one much-needed and long siesta that goes on throughout the day. The town of Haro actually becomes very quiet during the mid and late afternoon hours of June 29th.

But that evening, another party begins. These people just don’t stop! The celebratory atmosphere is contagious and it doesn’t take too long to grab another free cerveza from the campground bar and jump right back into all the fun.


If You Go to the Haro Wine Festival 2020 or Beyond:

Is the Haro Wine Battle Canceled for 2020 or Still Taking Place?

At the time of the last update to this article (June 2020), the Haro Wine Battle is not taking place in 2020.

There have been conflicting statements from the Haro City Council, which has created confusion whether the event is on or not for 2020. In early May 2020, the Haro City Council had initially stated “June festivities will not be suspended.” Days later, they went on to clarify that the Haro Wine Battle would not take place. But then went on to add “the events held within the festive days will be symbolic and representative of the history and traditions of [Haro].Read more about these announcements (auto-translated to English) on local news site,

So it seems there may still be some minimal events taking place in Haro around late June. But the Haro Wine Battle has been canceled for 2020.

With travel restrictions, concerns, and an evolving situation, we suggest to heed travel warnings and government recommendations. Look to official sources for the latest info about any 2020 festivities in Haro. You can try the Haro Town Hall website (in Spanish) and check their social media (on Facebook and Twitter) for any further announcements.

And start planning for Haro Wine Battle 2021! Hopefully the annual wine fight will be back in full force next year. The following is some logistical info for travelers considering going to the Wine Battle in 2021.


Haro Wine Battle Tickets

You do not need a ticket to participate in the Wine Battle. The event itself is free and open to the public. You simply need to have transportation to Haro and have somewhere to sleep once you’re there. Transportation and accommodation can be extremely difficult to find with the influx of visitors all funneling into this small town during the Haro Wine Festival.

That’s why we fully recommend the Stoke Travel camping package that we used. They’ll be back for the Haro Wine Battle in 2021.

Stoke Travel provides both accommodation and transportation for the entire Haro Wine Festival. You definitely should reserve a ticket in advance if going with Stoke Travel. These packages do tend to sell out. So be sure to buy in advance.

We’ve provided more information about Stoke’s packages in the accommodation section of this post (including the details of how to get unlimited free beer by entering ROAMING upon checkout).


When is the Haro Wine Festival 2021?

Every year, the Haro Wine Battle is always held on the morning of June 29, the feast day of patron saint San Pedro (Saint Peter). But you must be in Haro the day before, on June 28th or even prior.

The Haro Wine Battle 2021 falls on a Tuesday morning. That means you’ll need to be in Haro by Monday, June 28th, 2021. Since San Pedro’s feast day falls on a Tuesday in 2021, there is likely to be festive atmosphere in Haro throughout the entire weekend prior to the big Monday morning wine battle. So it may be worth it to even arrive early.

Here’s how the dates will all break down for the Haro Wine Battle 2021:

  • Sunday, June 27th, 2021: Festivities begin
  • Monday, June 28th, 2021: Night street party! 🎉
  • Tuesday, June 29th, 2021: Early morning Haro Wine Battle 🍷
  • Wednesday, June 30th, 2021: Recovery, depart 🛏


What to Pack for the Haro Wine Battle

Arrive at Haro well-rested, as you’ll need plenty of energy for the weekend.

👕 White shirt: Pack a white shirt you don’t care about. This is the tradition to wear to the Haro Wine Battle. Alternatively, if you stay at the Stoke Travel campgrounds, they sell a complete Haro Wine Battle outfit for €25.

🧣 Red scarf: As for the obligatory red scarf, you can pick one up in town at the party the night before the wine fight. Vendors sell them everywhere for a few Euros.

🔫 Squirt guns: Do bring any squirt guns or other means you wish to use to deliver wine onto other people. But if you don’t have anything to spray with, don’t worry – you’ll be fine to just dump the vino directly from whatever container you have. Yet water guns certainly make the process a lot more fun.

🍾 Wine! If coming to the Haro Wine Festival on your own, be sure to bring wine, of course. While there’s plenty of red wine being splashed around at the hill, none is for sale there. You must bring your ammo with you. If you go to the Haro Wine Battle with Stoke Travel, as suggested, they’ll supply some wine you need for the wine fight. Wine for the battle is fully included in their camping package (info on that in the section below).

🥽 Mask or goggles: You may want to bring a mask or goggles, as this will help to keep the wine from stinging your eyes while in the midst of the wine battle. Be a prepared wine warrior! Snag a pair of cheap goggles like these before you go to Haro.

👖 Warm Weather Clothes: Don’t forget to pack some clothes for the weekend. Dress is pretty casual throughout the entire Haro Wine Festival. If planning in advance, it’s best to pack for both hot and cool weather. There have been some Wine Battles in which heatwaves brought afternoon temps to 40° C (105° F). But it’s more the norm to expect high temps around 30° C (in the 80s F).  Yet even on those particularly hot years, morning temps are still cool, under 20° C (in the 60s F). So plan your clothes accordingly.

👙 Bathing suit: Bathing suits are a good idea to take a dip in the nearby river or at the pool that Stoke Travel has at their campsite. Or you may even want to wear it to the wine fight. Just bring one.

🚿 A towel: You’re going to get soaked in wine. You’re also going to shower. (We hope.) And you’ll maybe even take a dip. So be sure you have something to dry off with. We love this lightweight microfiber quick-dry travel towel!

👟 Old shoes or sandals: Your shoes are going to get drenched in red wine during the wine battle. Don’t dare wear any nice kicks you love to the wine fight. I wore sandals and felt fine in them. But you may be better off in an old pair of sneakers.

🧼 The usual toiletries: Be sure to pack whatever toiletries you’ll need. Bring deodorant, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, tampons, whatever you need to stay clean. Don’t forget it these essentials.

💊 Hangover remedy: Whatever may cure your morning-after ailments, pack something to help you out.

💦 Waterproofing: If you don’t have a waterproof phone and you’re going to bring it to the actual Wine Battle, be sure that you have a waterproof phone case like this.

🛏 A pillow: If doing the Stoke Travel camping package, they provide all the camping gear needed (tent, sleeping bag, etc.) but they don’t provide a pillow. So whether a real pillow, a compact travel pillow, or using clothes shoved into a pillow case, just be sure to bring something to lay your head on at night.

☀ Sun protection: It can get hot in Haro and it’s usually very sunny during the end of June. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. We find sunscreen to be quite expensive throughout Spain. Amazon has good prices. Stock up before you go.

😁 Attitude: Above all else, just bring a good attitude and be prepared to have fun.


Where to Stay in Haro

Be sure to book accommodation for the Haro Wine Festival well in advance. Haro is a very small town that simply doesn’t have the tourism infrastructure or hotel rooms to accommodate the swell of visitors that come for the Wine Battle each year. There are no hostels in Haro. Meanwhile, the very few hotels in Haro are expensive and get booked up way in advance of the Haro Wine Festival.

You can attempt checking Airbnb and other alternative accommodations, but nearby listings are slim or completely non-existent for those who didn’t plan way in advance.

And with all the drinking and a severe lack of public transportation in this region, it’s absolutely necessary to stay within walking distance of the town of Haro. You won’t be able to get to the Wine Fight if you stay anywhere else, unless you have your own car and designated driver.

That’s why we strongly recommend Stoke Travel as the best bet for accommodation in Haro during the Wine Battle. They organize that awesome all-inclusive camping trip to the Wine Fight. Stoke Travel’s 2021 Wine Battle trip starts at €90 per night, per person, based on double occupancy. That not only accounts for a place to stay, but it further includes full hot breakfasts (with with mimosas!), opening night wine & cheese dining, closing pool party, and so many other fun perks (like wine)!

Then for an extra €10 per day – they also generously throw in all-you-can-drink sangria and beer from the Stoke bar, which flows plentifully non-stop. But Stoke Travel is hooking up all Roaming Around the World readers with the unlimited beer and sangria for free! Just be sure to enter ROAMING at checkout to get that unlimited beer and sangria for free.)

Stoke Travel’s camping packages do fill up. So it’s best to reserve a spot in advance. Check availability at now


How To Get to the Haro Wine Battle

🚗 By car: If you have a car in Spain or can rent one, having your own wheels can be a convenient way to get to Haro. Use your favorite navigation app to get there and keep it parked during all the festivities.

🚆 By train: Taking a train to Haro can be possible. There is a train station in Haro that has connections to nearby cities in Spain, such as Madrid, Barcelona, and San Sebastian. If coming by train, be sure to reserve a seat, as the trains do become full. A train to Haro will run about €75-€100 roundtrip if coming from Madrid or Barcelona. It’ll be about €50 roundtrip by train from San Sebastian, but that route requires a tricky connection in the town of Miranda de Ebro, with infrequent trains.

🚌 By bus: If you’re going to the Haro Wine Battle with Stoke Travel and you’re in San Sebastian or Barcelona, it usually makes sense to hitch an easy ride on one of their buses and it can be the cheapest transport option. As of the last update, Stoke hasn’t announced their bus route packages for 2021. But in the past, they’ve provided convenient transport from San Sebastian and Barcelona direct to their campsite.


Stoke Travel Wine Battle Review

For all that is included when camping at the Wine Fight, we thought the Stoke Travel camping package was such a great value, particularly when considering the lack of any other reasonable accommodation in Haro during the Wine Battle.

And while camping can be fun, it can also be a total pain-in-the-ass. So we loved the fact that Stoke takes all the hassle out of camping by setting up your tent, breaking it down, and even cooking up a few good meals that are included too.

Basically, all you need to do is show up, grab one of the unlimited free beers or sangrias and make some friends. And it’s a really good fun-loving crowd of people, from all over the world who all come to with the same goals: drink lots and fight with wine!

Stoke’s tents, sleeping bags, and mattresses were all good quality. But for those wanting more comfort, Stoke now has a glamping package for the Wine Battle that makes it almost a luxury camping experience and includes all sorts of extras, like electricity, wifi, a mattress with fitted sheets & pillow, a much bigger tent, a bedside table, and even turndown service! If you can afford to do the glamping, it can definitely worth the splurge to have a much more comfortable experience. Read more about the glamping packages here.

Camping tents at Wine Battle

When we first got on the bus in San Sebastian, we overheard someone talking about Stoke Travel say “They’re not the most professional company, but they’re a shit load of fun!” We now wholeheartedly agree with that. Stoke definitely knows how to throw a party! Everything went off without a hitch. We can now give Stoke Travel a great review and wouldn’t hesitate to book with them again if coming back to the Wine Fight in Haro.

In fact, we had such a great time with Stoke that when we returned to Europe a few years later, we camped with them again at Oktoberfest. (You can see our entire breakdown of our Oktoberfest on a Budget here.)

All the latest info for the Wine Battle can be found directly on Stoke Travel’s website here.


*Free Beer* for You During the Haro Wine Battle!

The awesome folks at Stoke Travel found our article and decided to give all RoamingAroundTheWorld readers unlimited free beer and sangria for all 3 days of their 2021 Wine Fight trip! Just remember to enter: ROAMING when checking out at

And if you go this year, we’d love it if you stopped back by our site and dropped a comment to let us know about your experience. Cheers!

kegs of beer in a bus


The Haro Wine Festival Experience

The Haro Wine Battle is such a unique experience and a crazy good time. We’ve never been to San Fermin or Tomatina, so we can’t compare it. But those we met who had been to multiple fiestas in Spain remarked that the Wine Fight was their favorite because it was much more attended by locals and other Spaniards, rather than by people like us visiting.

That certainly seemed true and it all made for a really fun atmosphere. As visitors, we were the minority compared to local Spaniards. Yet we were always completely welcomed and everyone was very friendly and in high spirits. We had a blast and would definitely recommend Haro Wine Battle if you like a good party.

Haro Wine Battle and band playing on hill in Haro Spain

Every year on the morning of June 29 the Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) takes place in the town of Haro, Spain. Also known as the Wine Fight or San Vino, this festival celebrating red wine is one hell of a party!

Have you gone to the Haro Wine Festival? Drop us a line in the comments and let us know about your experience! Or if you have any questions about the Haro Wine Battle, feel free to ask away.

Want to save this post for later? Pin the image on the right to your travel Pinterest boards.

Publishing note: This post was originally written in November 2014, based on our experience at the Haro Wine Festival. As this article has been used as a source of planning for the event, this post is regularly updated each year to reflect the latest info, most recently updated June 2020.

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35 Best Things to Do in Halifax Nova Scotia: Travel Guide & Budget Tips Thu, 11 Jun 2020 22:25:01 +0000 🦠 Note for 2020: Some Halifax attractions and things to do listed in this travel guide may be temporarily closed or restricted based on the global situation affecting travel this year. Follow local guidance and check directly with the establishments regarding closures and reopening dates. For the latest on the situation and info for travellers to Halifax, see the updates on

The wide assortment of great things to do in Halifax helps to make Nova Scotia’s capital such a fun travel destination to visit in Canada! The friendly waterfront city has so much to offer visitors. Personally, Halifax remains one of our favorite destinations in the country.

So what makes Halifax so much fun?
⚓ its unique maritime culture,
🇨🇦 the friendly Haligonians who live here,
🎉 the weekly festivals,
☀ amazing summer weather,
🏞 the abundant park space,
🍺 a booming craft beer scene,
🦞 delicious local seafood,
🏙 the vibrant Waterfront,
🚗 adventurous day trips to pursue, and
➕ so much more!

This maritime city is awesome and there are so many fun things to do in Halifax, Nova Scotia! We’re here to reveal in this travel guide we’ve found to be the best things to do in Halifax.

Best Things to Do in Halifax Travel Guide

As this site always likes to point out excellent value, we’ve gone on to provide all of our signature budget travel tips for Halifax too! With so many things to do in Halifax, don’t worry that a modest travel budget will be prohibitive to fully experience everything this lively city has to offer.

We’ve completed loads of on-the-ground travel research while spending the summer in Nova Scotia’s capital to uncover how to experience all the best things to do in Halifax, while on a budget. Ultimately we were delighted to discover that Halifax is actually a particularly budget-friendly place to travel to.

We almost couldn’t believe just how many free things to do in Halifax there are! Meanwhile, we also found that hotels in Halifax are way less expensive here in comparison to other popular Canadian destinations. Even flights to Halifax are cheap right now too!

Add to that many Halifax restaurant deals to take advantage of the region’s renowned seafood. And you can wash it all down with delicious pints of locally brewed craft beer, thanks in part to all the happy hours around town. Halifax may just be one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Canada!

Yet if you’re not careful, travel costs can easily accumulate. When searching for things to do in Halifax, you’ll find pricey harbor cruises for $100+. Traditional Halifax lobster suppers are similarly expensive. But in this Halifax travel guide, we reveal alternate ways to ply the Halifax harbor for just a few dollars and even all-you-can-eat lobster suppers for under $10!

In Halifax, you can further enjoy free canoe rentals, $2 beers, and even centrally located places to stay for less than $50 per night! Even most of Halifax’s best day trips are free if you have the means to get there. This detailed Halifax travel guide reveals all these money-saving tips (and more) to help you enjoy all the best things to do in Halifax on any budget!

So save your loonies and toonies while experiencing all the best things that Halifax, Nova Scotia, has to offer!


20 Best Things to Do in Halifax

Here’s a handy Halifax map that pinpoints all of our recommendations for the things to do in Halifax that are further detailed throughout this article. So feel free to come back to this map to get your bearings and connect the dots!

 Without further ado, below are the 20 best things to do in Halifax, with money-saving tips on how to do them all on a budget!


1) Stroll the Halifax Waterfront Boardwalk 

Arguably the best thing to do in Halifax is simply roaming around the Halifax waterfront. It’s a must-do in Halifax!

This working port on the Halifax Harbour boasts one of the longest downtown boardwalks in the world! You could easily spend an entire afternoon aimlessly strolling amongst the timber-frame and stone warehouses lining the scenic seaside.

The walk is dotted with patio restaurants, former naval ships-turned-museums, eclectic galleries, colorful seafood shacks, and inviting outdoor beer gardens!Halifax Waterfront

Found all along the waterfront are other attractions covered throughout the remainder of this travel guide of things to do in Halifax. Ambling on this picturesque thoroughfare, you’ll inevitably stumble across Halifax’s Farmers Market, the historic Alexander Keith’s Brewery, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (which are further detailed in this Halifax travel guide).

But don’t go to the Halifax waterfront just for its attractions. Soak in the atmosphere. You’ll hear the chatter of seagulls, the lapping of the water, the soft creaking of boats against the docks, and the laughter of children running by. The waterfront is such an alluring place that truly defines the city of Halifax.

If you were going to only do one thing in Halifax, let it be a visit to the Waterfront. It’s a must-do activity in Halifax and it’s free!

Walking along the Halifax waterfront boardwalk is a free thing to do in Halifax

If You Go: Halifax Waterfront

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Just start walking! The approximately 2-km waterfront stretches from the Canadian Museum of Immigration on the southern end (here) towards Casino Nova Scotia on the north end (here).
🕒 When: Day and night. The waterfront is often blue & beautiful by day, but it also lights up in the evening.


2) Climb Citadel Hill for History and Views

For sweeping views of Halifax and the harbour, be sure to head over to the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.

You’ll find much more atop this military fort than views. The Citadel also packs in loads of Halifax history. At the Halifax Citadel, you can explore the fort walls, learn about history at the onsite museum, and check out the fort’s many cannons.

💡Tip: Try to be at Citadel Hill at Noon for the daily demonstration when those cannons are fired!

Halifax Citadel cannon

Another regular occurrence to catch at the Citadel is the changing of the guards.

It happens every hour. Don’t miss it!

Halifax Citadel guard

If You Go: Halifax Citadel

💲Cost: Summer rates: C$11.90 for adults, free for anyone under 18.
📍 Where: Located here, the Citadel is about a 15-20 minute walk uphill from the Waterfront.
🕒 When: Daily, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm. Open ’til 6:00 pm, July-August.
🔗 Official Website: Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.


3) Shop at the Oldest Continuously Operated Farmers’ Market in North America

Halifax boasts two notable farmers’ markets that are worthy of exploring.

The original is known as the Historic Farmers’ Market. This farmers’ market was founded way back in 1750, which makes it the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in North America.

But you’ll have to be in Halifax on a Saturday morning to catch this historic farmers’ market in action because it’s only open once each week.

If You Go: Historic Farmers' Market

💲Cost: Free to browse
📍 Where: It’s housed here, in the Halifax’s Brewery Square, in the same building as Alexander Keith’s Brewery.
🕒 When: Saturdays, 7:00 am – 1:00 pm

Seaport Farmers Market Halifax Nova Scotia is a fun thing to do in Halifax on a budget

That centuries-old Halifax market has grown over the years. As such, many of the farmers’ market vendors have more recently relocated to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. This one is open every day of the week, although it’s particularly happening on weekends.

At these markets, you can find everything from locally farmed produce and meats to locally made crafts and fresh flowers. Personally, we enjoy shopping here for Canadian staples like local honey, maple syrup, and even local spirits! There are also some affordable lunch options to consider at the Seaport Farmers Market if you arrive hungry.

Whether you’re coming here to shop, eat, or simply browse, both of these farmers’ markets are a long-standing local tradition that makes for a fun thing to do in Halifax.

If You Go: Seaport Farmers' Market

💲Cost: Free to browse
📍 Where: It’s located here, on the south end of the Waterfront, near the cruise port and Immigration Museum.
🕒 When: Weekdays, 10:00-5:00. Saturday, 7:00-3:00. Sunday, 9:00-3:00.
🔗 Official website: here.


4) Go Canoeing in Halifax

Canoeing is a national pastime in Canada and Halifax makes for a great place to get out onto the water for a paddle. The Halifax Harbour can make for a great place to do so. It gives canoers and kayakers a great vantage point of the waterfront and the city itself.

There are a few different opportunities to canoe or kayak along Halifax’s popular waterfront, and they’re priced accordingly. Expect to find kayak rentals along the waterfront for about C$40 or so.

💡 But here’s a little Halifax budget tip to rent canoes for free! If you venture to the  peninsula to a skinny harbour known as the Northwest Arm, you’ll come to St. Mary’s Boat Club, which provides free canoe rentals during weekends!

It’s a pleasant paddle through the sailboat-filled harbour, along the rugged coastline, and residential areas. You can even paddle across the Northwest Arm to Sir Sanford Fleming Park and briefly dock your canoe. Then you can have a stroll along the park’s waterfront trails or climb to the top of Dingle Tower, which further offers free admission.

Canoeing in Halifax using a free canoe rental from St Mary’s Boat Club

These free canoe rentals at St. Mary’s Boat Club are only available on Saturdays and Sundays, so be sure to plan this excursion for a weekend. Although this seemed to be enjoyed mostly by locals, you don’t need to be a Boat Club member or even a Halifax resident to use the canoes. All you need is some form of identification to snag a canoe for free and get out on the water!

💡 Tip: It’s wise to arrive early because this is a very popular thing to in Halifax on nice summer days. Canoes do get rented-out completely and you may come to St Mary’s Boat Club to find a long queue of Haligonians waiting to paddle.

Clear days make for enjoyable conditions. But more important than sunny days, we recommend using canoes when the winds are calm. On windy days, people have been known to flip right into the harbor! You can check the wind forecast for Halifax here on Ideally, winds under 10 knots make for nice paddling conditions in Halifax.

St Mary’s Boat Club Free canoe rentals on weekends in Halifax

If You Go: Free Canoe Rentals at St. Mary's Boat Club

💲Cost: Free, with identification
📍 Where: Located here, it’s about 3.5 km (45-minute walk) across the peninsula to reach St. Mary’s from the Halifax waterfront.
🕒 When: Summer weekends, 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, June 1 – September 30.
🔗 Official website: Halifax Recreation.


5) Visit the Halifax Maritime Museum

Halifax’s Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the city’s most popular museum. It contains over 30,000 artifacts!

Perhaps most notable is the Titanic exhibit, which tells the story of Halifax’s grim role in the Titantic’s recovery efforts. You can see artifacts from the tragic sinking, from the alluring, like a wooden deck chair, to the morbid, such as a body bag.

Titanic deck chair at Maritime Museum Halifax

Yet there is so much maritime curiosity to explore here, which goes far beyond that famously unsinkable ship. Those who are really interested in history could easily spend several hours perusing through what is Canada’s largest maritime museum.

How To Visit the Maritime Museum for Free

💡 Budget tip to get in for free: It’s normally a C$10 adult ticket to get into Halifax Maritime Museum during the summer months. But for those who come Tuesday, after 5:00 pm, entry is free! On Tuesday evenings the museum has extended hours until 8:00 pm and offers free admission each week during this three-hour period. Plan accordingly to visit then and save!

Halifax Maritime Museum has free admission on Tuesday nights

If You Go: Halifax Maritime Museum

💲Cost: C$9.55, unless visited on Tuesdays 5:00-8:00, for free.
📍 Where: Very centrally located on the Halifax Waterfront, here.
🕒 When: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Tuesdays, until 8:00 pm.
🔗 Official Website: Halifax Maritime Museum.

More Museums to Visit in Halifax

💡 Tip: Visit museums on a rainy day. The Maritime Museum and Halifax’s other museums are good ideas for things to do in Halifax on a rainy day.

So here are a few other Halifax museum suggestions and some more ways to save!

More Budget-Friendly Museums in Halifax

🏛 For Art Lovers: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (C$12)
🏛 For Those Traveling with Kids: Discovery Centre (C$13.80)
🏛 For Those Exploring Their Canadian Heritage: Museum of Immigration (C$14.50)

Save Even More at Halifax Museums
Prices listed here are for adult entrance, but many visitors can receive rates.

🧒👴Children, students, and seniors will usually receive further discounts at museums throughout Halifax.
👪 Families should inquire about family admission rates that usually includes two adults and up to three children at a reduced price.
🔖 Discounts at the Maritime Museum are further offered to members of 🚗 CAA, AAA, ISIC, and 🎖 Canadian Armed Forces.
🏛 You’ll even receive a discount if you have are a member of any other museum, so bring your annual museum card from home.


6) Tour the Halifax Harbour by Boat

Halifax Harbour cruises are popular pursuits for visitors to the city. These harbour tours are a quintessential experience for visitors to Halifax to gain perspective of the port city while cruising in the storied Harbour.

Dinner cruises around the Halifax Harbour can be an indulgent splurge to consider and typically costs around C$100. On the lower end, Halifax Harbour tours tend to cost around C$30. And you can find plenty of options along the waterfront in between those ranges too.

But there’s also a way for travelers on a budget to tour the Halifax Harbour on the cheap!

💡 Budget Tip: How To Create Your Own Halifax Harbour Cruise for C$2.50

For a more economical way to get out into the Halifax Harbour, simply take the public ferry from Halifax to Dartmouth. The fare is only C$2.50 each way and ferries depart about every 15 minutes. You can even ask for a free transfer to continue on, by bus, to other locations across the Harbour.

The Halifax Harbour public ferry is cheap thing to do in Halifax on a budget

There are two ferry routes: the Halifax-Alderney Ferry and the Halifax Woodside Ferry. We’d suggest the Alderney Ferry, which brings passengers to the cross-harbour municipality of Dartmouth. It’s a quick and fun ferry trip across the harbor, that takes about 12 minutes each way. While crossing the harbour, you’ll have some of the best views of the Halifax Waterfront.

💡 Tip: Upon boarding the ferry, grab a seat on the back of the top deck. Many people will pile into the front seats. But it’s the back seats that will offer fleeting views of Halifax city skyline.

Once the ferry makes it across the harbour, you can take the opportunity to explore Dartmouth. There’s a small waterfront here, a park, and a whole ‘nother town to discover with restaurants, cafes, bars, and more.

And that free transfer we mentioned earlier can be used for buses too. So consider catching the #60 bus onward to Fisherman’s Cove. (We’ll explain why next.)

Or take that same bus down to Woodside Regional Park, where you can catch a different ferry back to Halifax. Doing so creates a loop around the Halifax Harbour to give a slightly different vantage point upon the return from Woodside.

Whether by ferry (on the cheap) or a proper Harbour cruise, taking a boat trip into the Halifax Harbour is another “must” for things to do in Halifax.

Looking at Halifax Waterfront from ferry is a fun thing to do in Halifax on a budget - only $2.50

If You Go: Halifax Harbour Ferry

💲Cost: C$2.50 adults, C$1.75 seniors & children
📍 Where: The Halifax Ferry Terminal is located here, easily accessible on the northern fringes of the Waterfront.
🕒 When: Runs approximately every 15 minutes from 6:30 am – midnight.
🔗 Official website with timetables: here.

💡 Also consider a Harbour Hopper Tour: For a proper tour of the Halifax Harbour that’s still economical, we can suggest the very popular and affordable Harbour Hopper tour. It’s a fun 1-hour Halifax tour on an amphibious vehicle that travels along Halifax’s streets and plunks right down into the Harbour that visits many of the city’s most famous sites along the way. This informative and comical narrated tour provides for a much more complete experience into the Harbour and Halifax itself, with budget-friendly prices. Check prices and availability here.


7) Wander Around a Nova Scotian Fishing Village: Fisherman’s Cove

Halifax has a maritime history built around fishing. So visiting a historic fishing village makes for a fun thing to do in Halifax. Nova Scotia’s fishing villages can be intriguing enclaves to explore with lots of photo opportunities abounding.

When visiting Halifax, the most popular day trip to see a fishing village is to Peggy’s Cove, where visitors will find the famed Peggy’s Cove lighthouse alongside a recreated fishing village. Yet it should be noted that a visit to Peggy’s Cove will either require an hours’ drive with your own transportation or you’ll need to join a day tour, which typically runs between $50-$100.

For a closer and more budget-friendly alternative to Peggy’s Cove, we can recommend venturing across the Halifax Harbour by ferry and then taking the bus to see “Fisherman’s Cove.”

Fisherman's Cove Halifax Nova Scotia

There is no lighthouse here. But you will get to see a restored 200-year-old fishing village full of seafood shacks, artsy boutiques, and fishing boats lining the canal.

There’s also a free Heritage Centre to pop into and, of course, the fishing village itself is free. So Fisherman’s Cove makes for yet another one of the many great things to do in Halifax, on any budget.

Fisherman's Cove bright stores

If You Go: Fisherman's Cover

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Located across the Halifax Harbour, here. Can be reached by ferry + bus #60.
🕒 When: Daily, 9:00 am – 8:00 pm. Sundays, Noon-5:00 pm.


8) Visit McNabs Island to Explore Halifax Off-the-Beaten-Path:

If you’re planning a visit to Fisherman’s Cove, don’t stop there. This is the perfect opportunity to visit McNabs Island. We find McNabs Island to be one of the most underrated things to do in Halifax. This half-day excursion is highly recommended to anyone who wants to get off the beaten path and inject a little adventure into their Halifax itinerary.

McNabs Island has a sordid history, as it’s been used as a military fort, an amusement park, and it even had its own soda factory operating there at one point. You can still find some of those bottles scattered throughout the island today.

McNabs Island is an underrated thing to do in Halifax on a budget

McNabs Island has a well-maintained network of trails that zigzag across what is the largest island in the Halifax Harbour. Those trails will take you to old crumbling forts, scenic cliffs, secluded beaches, and the modern-day ruins of former homes that remain on the island today.

McNabs Island is a great place to explore that seemingly few people make the effort to venture out to. It’s easy to spend at least a few hours exploring the trails across this interesting island.

Getting to McNabs Island directly from Halifax can be a very pricey proposition since you’re required to charter a boat with a minimum group size. Instead, simply make your way to Fisherman’s Cove where Captain Mike Tilley will give you a lift in his skiff. It’s C$20 round-trip from Fisherman’s Cove to McNabs Island and back, which takes about 5 minutes each way.

“Captain Red Beard,” as he’s also known, is full of local knowledge about the island and even has some personal ties that he’ll share with you. Be sure to ask questions and get him to tell you some tales.

Captain Mike’s McNabs Island Ferry

If You Go: McNabs Island with Captain Mike's Ferry

💲Cost: Entrance is free. Round-trip ferry from Fisherman’s Cove to McNabs Island: C$20
📍 Where: The island is in the middle of the Halifax Harbour, here. Find Captain Mike’s dock here in Fisherman’s Cove.
🕒 When: Typically daylight hours. Consider calling Captain Mike in advance to confirm.
🔗 More Info: Friends of McNabs Island
🔗 Ferry Website: Captain Mike’s McNabs Island Ferry


9) Pay Your Respects to the Victims of the Titanic

This is one of the more somber things to do in Halifax. The Fairview Lawn Cemetery is notable because it has the grim distinction of being the final resting place of the most Titanic victims.

Fairview Lawn Cemetery Halifax Titanic Sign

Survivors rescued from the infamous maritime tragedy were brought to New York City. But the White Star Line had an office in Halifax, which commissioned 3 ships with the task of recovering the victims from the icy waters.

Some were never found, while others were buried at sea. But a total of 209 bodies from the Titanic were hauled back to Halifax. The White Star Line paid for simple gravestones, many of which remain unnamed because the victims couldn’t be identified.

Fairview Lawn Cemetery Halifax Titanic Tombstones

Today the Titanic section of the Fairview Lawn Cemetery shows a somber yet interesting reality to Halifax’s young history. Do note that it’s still an active cemetery that’s open to the public. So your respects is the only thing you’ll pay to visit.

A visit to the Fairview Lawn Cemetery is among one of the sadder things to do in Halifax, but it’s an interesting sight to experience Halifax’s role in this tragic event.

If You Go: Fairview Lawn Cemetery

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Located here, it’s a bit of a hike from the Waterfront, about 5 km away. 
🕒 When: Weekdays 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.


10) Go Hiking around Point Pleasant Park

Although Halifax is Nova Scotia’s largest city, it still maintains some enormous park space that’s only a short stroll from downtown.

Point Pleasant Park boasts 25 miles of hiking trails along with awesome views of the Halifax Harbour. Point Pleasant is a great place to come get some fresh air, do some light trekking, or have a picnic by the sea on a sunny summer day.

Hiking the trails of Point Pleasant Park is a free thing to do in Halifax on a budget

One aspect that makes Point Pleasant Park unique is that Halifax doesn’t actually own it. Instead, the city rents this land from the British for 1 shilling (about 10 cents) each year, with a 999-year lease. What a deal!

While roaming around Point Pleasant Park, be sure to find the Prince of Wales Tower, which is the oldest Martello Tower in North America (1796) and one of Halifax’s National Historic Sites.

Many National Historic Sites in Canada have an entrance charge, yet this one is free. Neither the tower nor Point Pleasant Park has an entrance fee. Perhaps we can thank the British and their cheap lease agreement!

Hiking or biking around Point Pleasant Park is a fun thing to do in Halifax for those who are looking to get active within the city!

Prince of Wales Tower in Point Pleasant Park Halifax

If You Go: Point Pleasant Park

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: It’s located here, about 3 km away from the southern end of the Halifax Waterfront.
🕒 When: It’s open all day long.


11) Go to a Free Festival in Halifax

Halifax has festivals all throughout the year and these events really come to a pinnacle over the summer. It seems that there’s some major event happening in Halifax every single weekend over the summer. Perhaps best of all, for those traveling to Halifax on a budget, most of the festivals are free! Or they at least have a free component.

Halifax Jazz Festival is a popular free summer event

Perhaps one of the biggest festivals of the year is the Halifax Jazz Festival. It does have modest entrance fees for some of the more notable performances. Yet it still maintains many free concerts throughout the four-day annual event. But Sunday is the day to go because that’s the free day for the Jazz Festival. On Sunday, even the main stage remains complimentary to watch a jam session.

Halifax’s most popular free annual summer events include:

Destination Halifax Events Page Listings: Official Website


12) Take a Stroll Through the Victorian Gardens

The Halifax Public Gardens are one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian Garden in all of North America.

Halifax Public Gardens flowers

Be sure to wander through the blooming flowers and over the quaint bridges. While strolling past charming ponds and ornate fountains, visitors can even find a replica of the Titanic. Perhaps consider pausing for reflection. Or indulge in an ice cream cone from the vendor in the garden’s pavilion.

The Halifax Public Gardens are a popular attraction in the summer. Yet it’s a fairly big space in the middle of the city, so you may end up seeing more traffic in the form of ducks rather than people.

Ducks on bridge at Halifax Public Gardens

While many notable gardens around the world charge hefty entrance fees, Halifax’s Public Gardens are open to the public for free! So while walking around this city on a nice summer day, be sure to amble through these gardens. It makes a great free thing to do in Halifax.

If You Go: Halifax Public Garden

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Located here, it’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the central Waterfront.
🕒 When: 7:00 am until 30 minutes before sunset.
🔗 Website: Friends of the Public Garden.


13) Go Skating for Free at the Emera Oval

A fun and free activity in Halifax is to go skating at the Emera Oval. Rollerblades are popular here. But you can opt to go retro and borrow a pair of roller skates instead! Bikes, scooters, and even plastic toy cars are also available over the summer.

And all of these equipment rentals are entirely F-R-E-E! It’s all such good, clean fun. Slap on a pair of skates and go!

skating at Emera Oval is a free thing to do in Halifax on a budget

In the winter, the Emera Oval becomes ice and hence free ice-skating commences for a popular wintertime activity in Halifax. Whatever season you visit the Emera Oval in, just be sure to bring an ID, which is required for any of the free rentals.

Taking a few spins around the Emera Oval is one of the fun things to do in Halifax for families. Kids love it! (But so do we.)

If You Go: Emera Oval

💲Cost: Free, with identification
📍 Where: It’s located here, about 1.5 km inland from the Halifax Waterfront.
🕒 When: Hours vary. During summer, typically opens at 11:00 am on weekday, noon on weekends. Remains open until 7:00, 8:00, or 9:00 pm, pending the day. Check website for official hours, by day (below).
🔗 Official website: here.


14) Catch an Outdoor Movie or Play for Free

FIN Outdoor Film Experience

Every summer in Halifax there are two regular local outdoor events to entertain you. For movie buffs, you can catch the FIN Outdoor Film Experience in the Public Gardens monthly. Favorite Canadian flicks are projected onto a giant inflatable movie screen.

Each summer they do a different theme. In 2019 it was the “Summer of Sing-Alongs,” featuring musicals each week. In a previous summer, we adored mixing with Haligonians to laugh along during the summer of Canadian comedies.

Outdoor Film Experience in the Public Gardens is a free thing to do in Halifax Nova Scotia

If You Go: Halifax Public Garden

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Located here, in the Halifax Public Gardens.
🕒 When: Friday nights in summer, after sunset, around 8:45 0r 9:00 pm. Arrive earlier.
🔗 Official website: FIN Outdoors.

Shakespeare by the Sea

Meanwhile, if you prefer to watch acting live on stage rather than a screen, you can attend Shakespeare by the Sea.

Shakespearean classics along with other popular theater occurs daily (except Mondays) in Point Pleasant Park. It’s all completely free but charitable donations are encouraged. For example of what to expect, the 2019 season brought to life classics the Wizard of Oz and Henry V, among others. For an up-to-date schedule, check the Shakespeare by the Sea Calendar.

If You Go: Shakespeare by the Sea

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Inside Point Pleasant Park. Nightly performances are held outside the Cambridge Battery, here. Matinees are at Park Place Theatre, here.
🕒 When: Tuesday-Sunday, 7:00 pm. 1:00 pm matinees on weekends.
🔗 Official website & schedule: Shakespeare by the Sea.


15) Go Aboard Canada’s Oldest Warship: HMCS Sackville

While strolling along the Halifax Waterfront, you can climb aboard Canada’s oldest warship. It’s the HMCS Sackville, which is the last surviving of 123 corvettes. The Sackville was actually used during WWII and it played a crucial role in winning the Battle of the Atlantic.

HMCS Sackville is now a museum ship that makes a great thing to do in Halifax on a budget

Today it is now a museum ship that is a worthwhile detour off the boardwalk. You can explore all throughout the WWII ship, from the bow and down into the engine room to learn about the wartime conditions.

The modest C$5 adult admission makes it a great budget-friendly attraction in Halifax too!

If You Go: HSCS Sackville

💲Cost: C$5
📍 Where: Located here, a central location along the Halifax Waterfront.
🕒 When: Weekdays 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.
🔗 Official website: HMSC Sackville.


16) Check Out Halifax’s Vibrant Street Art

Halifax has a thriving street art scene, so keep your eyes peeled while roaming around town. We appreciate how some of the artists keep true to the city’s maritime theme.

One of the best (and easily accessible) murals can be found sprawling along the backside of Freak Lunchbox, which is a fun candy store located in downtown Halifax.

To get you started on your street art pursuits, you can find this mural located here on Google Maps. But be sure to wander around Halifax on your own and keep a lookout for more street art and the new creations that sometimes sprout up overnight. Halifax’s North End neighborhood is also a good area to find a burgeoning street art scene.


17) Why Visit the Library during a Trip to Halifax

Halifax Central Library stairsThe modern glass structure of the Halifax Central Library is a recent addition to the cityscape, opening in 2014. It’s a good place to visit for any architectural buffs. Inside, you’ll find an Escher-like series of stairs taking you to the top floor. And it’s well worth ascending, whether you’re into architecture or not.

Arguably the best reason to venture over to the Halifax Public Library is for the panoramic views you can find on its top floor. There’s also a café up there. So grab a cup of coffee and gaze out over Halifax’s downtown at those harbor views.

The library makes an interesting thing to do in Halifax for its unique architecture. So come to see that, but stay for the free wifi or simply to take a break from a busy day of sightseeing in Halifax.

If You Go: Halifax Central Library

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Located here, a leisurely 10-15 walk from the Waterfront.
🕒 When: Mon-Thurs, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm. Fri-Sat, 9-6. Sun, 9-Noon.
🔗 Official website: Halifax Central Library.


18) Find the Drunken Lampposts

If these street lamps look a little tipsy, it’s not just your imagination. They were actually placed on the Halifax waterfront in 2013 as a temporary art installation. But the drunken lampposts were beloved so much that the city decided to keep them as permanent fixtures.

Drunken lampposts Halifax waterfront boardwalk

The drunken lampposts have since become a funny little Halifax attraction for travelers to seek out. They are said to represent “the nakedly honest portraits of unseemly behavours that are often playing out on our own streets after dark.” We think it’s hilarious. These drunk lampposts really show off Halifax’s quirky side and its sense of humor.

Where are the drunken lampposts in Halifax? You can find the drunken lampposts while strolling along the waterfront. They are located on the pier in front of the Bicycle Thief restaurant. Here’s the exact location on Google Maps.

💡 Tip: To get the best shots of this funny site, go early on a weekday morning. During weekend afternoons in the summer, this attraction will be flooded with many other Instagrammers and photographers trying to snap a picture.

If You Go: Drunken Lampposts

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: On the Waterfront, here.
🕒 When: They’re always there and always drunk.


19) Visit Historic St Paul’s Church for a Halifax Oddity

St. Paul’s church is the oldest building in Halifax which dates all the way back to 1750. So it’s worth a stop simply for that fact alone. St. Paul’s is also the oldest Protestant church in Canada.

St Paul’s church Halifax Nova Scotia

Yet what makes it particularly interesting is a face that remains forever etched into one of the church’s windows. Reminders of the tragic 1917 explosion, which claimed about 2,000 lives, can be found throughout Halifax. Yet perhaps none are as attention-grabbing as the lingering silhouette that is etched into this historic church’s window.

silhouette of man from Halifax Explosion in church window

Lore tells of a deacon that happened to be standing perfectly aligned with the window at the time of the explosion. This legend continues that an intense heat left his profile burnt into the glass. The deacon’s portrait remains in St. Paul’s window today. Hence, St. Paul’s church makes for a fascinating offbeat sight to see during a trip to Halifax.

If You Go: to St. Pauls Church in Halifax

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Located here on Argyle Street, it’s about a 5-minute walk from a central point of the Waterfront.
🕒 When: Go during daylight hours to see this infamous silhouette.


20) Visit the Iconic Halifax Clock Tower

If you’re walking to or from the Halifax Citadel, you must take a moment to check out what has become an iconic landmark in the city: The Halifax Clock Tower. It’s a three-story clock tower that dates back to the early 1800s and sits at the base of the Citadel.

There’s really not much to it. It’s pretty. It’s a clock tower. It’s iconic. And it’s free to visit, making it a great way to conclude this Top 20 list of things to do in Halifax on a budget.

So go snap of pic of this famous Halifax landmark as you make your way to the waterfront for some drinks. Because that’s what we’re talking about in one of the next sections of this Halifax travel guide – drinks!

Halifax Clock Tower

If You Go: to the Halifax Clock Tower

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Right here, in between the Waterfront and the Citadel.
🕒 When: See it in the daytime.


💡 Bonus Thing to Do in Halifax: Take the Free Walking Tour

Cost: Free (donations welcomed)

The city of Halifax boasts a free walking tour that provides a wonderful overview of the city. It’s a great thing to do in Halifax on your first day to help get your bearings, while also learning more about Halifax’s history and culture. This free walking tour stops at a good handful of the Halifax attractions mentioned above.

If You Go: Halifax Free Walking Tour

💲Cost: Free
📍 Where: Pedestrian entrance to the Citadel, located here.
🕒 When: 10:00 am and 3:00 pm, every day June – September 6. Sept-Nov, by appointment.
🔗 More info: Halifax Free Walking Tours.


Best Nova Scotia Day Trips from Halifax

In addition to all the awesome things to do in Halifax itself, there are also a variety of day trips located within an hour or two away from Nova Scotia’s capital. There are famous lighthouses to see, record-breaking tides, and UNESCO-listed village World Heritage Sites.

Meanwhile, adventure seekers can pursue an adrenaline-packed day of Tidal Bore Rafting or taking a hike along the precipitous coastal cliff of Cape Split. After such hair-raising adventures, sipping some local tidal bay wine in the nearby wineries can make for a perfect way to wind down.

There are a few tours from Halifax to pursue such day trips. Yet those with their own transportation will find the most economical way to reach these sites.

If visiting Halifax without a car, consider renting one, even if just for a day or two. We found the best rental car rates in Halifax by searching on Priceline. 💡 Tip: Book your rental car as early as possible, because rental cars become sold out during the summer high season. Search rental cars for your travel dates.


21) Visit the Scenic Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse

Peggy’s Cove is the quintessential day trip from Halifax. At Peggy’s Cove you’ll find a beautiful lighthouse on a rocky point, surrounded by a recreated fishing village.

Know that Peggy’s Cove is a very popular attraction near Halifax. So it often gets packed with visitors during the mid-day and can feel a bit overly touristic. But there’s no denying that this famed lighthouse is a beautiful sight.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

💡 Tip: Go early in the morning, just after sunrise, to avoid any crowds.

For those with their own wheels, it’s free to visit Peggy’s Cove, as there is no entrance fee. It’s just a 45-60 minute drive from Halifax.

Alternatively, take a day tour. This Peggy’s Cove Tour is the least expensive we’ve found online and receives great reviews. Check recent reviews & availability.


22) Visit the UNESCO town of Lunenburg

Lunenburg is one of Nova Scotia’s three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, designated as such for being the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. This colorful fishing village dates all the way back to 1753. Read more about Old Town Lunenburg’s UNESCO designation.

With dwindling fish stocks of recent years, it’s tourism that now seems to be the main industry Lunenburg. Ice cream shops and sunny patios have taken over former fishing docks.

Yet the town has otherwise managed to maintain its original architecture over the course of more than two & a half centuries.

Lunenburg Nova Scotia town

Old Town Lunenburg sure makes for a charming place to detour off the Lighthouse Trail for a few scoops or a pint. But the main reason to venture to this historic area is to explore this vibrant old town that’s been preserved all these years.

Lunenburg is located a bit more than an hour’s drive away from Halifax. And a day trip including both Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove can make a good combo, driving from Halifax on the same day. Exploring Old Town Lunenburg is another free thing to do from Halifax.


23) Experience the Record-Breaking Bay of Fundy Tide

On the other side of Nova Scotia from Halifax is the Bay of Fundy, which is home to the most extreme tides in the world!

With just a 90 minute drive from Halifax, visitors can witness the tidal change at Halls Harbour, one of the best places along the Bay to witness this extreme act of nature. At Halls Harbour the tide swings a staggering 40 feet (~12 meters)! For perspective, imagine the tide rising and falling the height of a 4-story building!

Just a look a the pictures below, first at high tide, then low tide.

Hall's Harbour Nova Scotia boats floating at high tide in the harbour, which is part of the Bay of Fundy and the most extreme tides in the world

It’s an amazing natural phenomenon to experience this in person. Walking along the ocean floor and seeing boats resting on the bottom of a harbor is mind-boggling. And yes, you can walk down there, which really helps put things into perspective.

A visit to Halls Harbour to experience the tides is another nice thing for the budget-conscious. This activity is entirely free!

Be sure to check the tides before you go and plan a visit for low tide. Halls Harbour is also known as Baxters Harbour and you can find the tide forecast here.

💡 Tip: If you’re waiting around for the tides to change, don’t hesitate to pop into the adjacent Lobster Pound restaurant to try one of their local specialties like the lobster poutine!


24) Extreme Adventure: Tidal Bore Rafting!

Don’t just watch those extreme tides. Experience them! A popular adventure pursuit in the Bay of Fundy is something known as Tidal Bore Rafting.

While the Bay of Fundy tides steadily fills the bay, the tidal flow is not-so-gradual when it reaches rivers. There are about 60 known places in the world where the phenomena of a tidal bore occurs. Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie River is one of them.

Rivers in this region flow into the bay, just as most rivers in the world flow outward into the sea. But here in the Bay of Fundy, that all changes soon after low tide. The extreme tides rise in the Bay of Fundy and eventually begin to flow into the river. As the approaching water reaches the river, the rising tide is squeezed into an increasingly narrow space in the river. When the tide moves inward, it momentarily changes the course of the river to flow upstream.

During this process, waves and rapids are temporarily formed atop the sandbars. This is the tidal bore! And it’s now possible to go whitewater rafting upstream, during these changing tides. It’s such a crazy experience and is such a thrill! Check out the video below to get a glimpse at what it’s like.

For complete directions from Halifax, tips to know, who to book with, ways to save, and much more information all about this Halifax day trip, be sure to check out all the details in our complete post that reviews: Tidal Bore Rafting on the Most Extreme Tides in the World!


25) Cape Split: One of Nova Scotia’s Best Hikes

Also in the Bay of Fundy area is what we’ve found to be one of Nova Scotia’s most scenic hikes. It’s the Cape Split hike!

These jagged cliffs dramatically jut out for 7 kilometers right into the Bay of Fundy, where the extreme tides do their thing.

The only way to get here is the hike down to the cape. It’s a 6-kilometer trek each way that winds through a forest, before ultimately opening up to the barren cliffs that drop off into the bay.

drone shot of Cape Split Nova Scotia

For those who are active, hiking Cape Split is a perfect recreational pursuit you can to do as a day trip from Halifax! It’s also another free activity. Just park your car at the trailhead and set off. The Cape Split trailhead is about a 90-minute drive from Halifax, located here.


26) Drink Tidal Bay Wine at Vineyards near Halifax

While in Nova Scotia’s tidal area, it’s only appropriate to drink the signature wine variety of the region: Tidal Bay.

There’s a burgeoning scene of wineries throughout the rolling hills of the coastal farmland. Just a short hop away from Halifax, visitors can find these vineyards that produce the area’s signature white wine.

Tidal Bay is Nova Scotia’s first wine appellation and winemakers must maintain strict standards, such as 100% Nova Scotia grapes, in order to have the Tidal Bay designation. It’s a crisp & refreshing white wine, with green fruit notes and a distinct minerality. Appropriately for the region, it pairs exceptionally well with seafood.

Tidal Bay Wine at Luckett Vineyards

It’s about an hour drive from Halifax to get to the wine region featuring Tidal Bay wineries. In particularly, Luckett Vineyards is one of the more popular wineries in the region. It’s also a budget-friendly choice, as Luckett has a scenic tasting room with a flight of three wines starting at only C$5. While there, be sure to wander through the grape vines to find the red phone booth that makes for some great photo ops.

Also, if you enjoy a good drink, there’s much more to drink within the city of Halifax itself. And that’s a perfect segway into our next section of this Halifax travel guide!


Drinking Things to Do in Halifax

Halifax is said to have the most bars per capita of any city in Canada. With such an accolade, drinking IS one of the best things to do in Halifax!

But beverage prices in Halifax are not cheap overall. So drinking your way across the city can be a budget buster.

Yet with so much fun to be had on a night out in Halifax, don’t put down the glass just yet. Use the money you saved with all the free and cheap things to do in Halifax, to wind down the evening with a few pints of local brews on the waterfront. And if you take advantage of Halifax’s happy hours and drink specials, this can really help to extend your beer fund. There’s loads of great local craft beer to try in Halifax, so beer lovers should be prepared to tip back a few.

Here are some suggestions not only for cheap drinks in Halifax, but also some notable drinking experiences to partake in while in the city.

Gahan's House patio in Halifax


27) Tour Alexander Keith’s Historic Brewery

This Halifax mainstay is one of the oldest breweries in North America, dating back to 1820. Sure, the operation is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, but Keith’s has maintained the historic brewing facility that goes back nearly two centuries in Halifax’s history.

Alexander Keith's Brewery Halifax Nova Scotia

It’s a fun brew tour that’s one part history, one part brewing, and one part Nova Scotian tradition. It’s an equation that adds up to a great time, with many opportunities to drink Keith’s beer while being toured through the old hallways!

Visitors will learn just as much about the namesake Scottish brewer that became Halifax’s beloved mayor, as you will the brewing process.

Alexander Keith's beer while on brewery tour in Halifax

The tour include four glasses of different styles of beer, adding to the value of this fun brewhouse tour!

💡 Tip: Be sure to save your ticket! You can use it to redeem yet another drink at the onsite Red Stag Tavern.

If You Go: Alexander Keith's Brewery

💲Cost: C$26.95
📍 Where: Just off the central Waterfront, right here.
🕒 When: Tours occur about every 30 minutes, Mon-Sat, Noon-7:30 pm. Sunday, Noon-5:00.
🔗 More info: Alexander Keiths Brewery Tour.


28) Partake in the Halifax Tradition of a “Ceilidh”

Kitchen Ceilidh Durty Nelly's Halifax band playing Gaelic musicOne Nova Scotia drinking tradition is attending a cèilidh (pronounced kay-lee), which is a party of Gaelic folk music and dancing. Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland,” after all. And it’s during a cèilidh that Halifax’s Scottish roots shine brightest.

Arguably one of the best places to catch a cèilidh is at Durty Nelly’s on Thursday nights at 8:30. (Check their event calendar to confirm up-to-date times.)

Kitchen Ceilidh, as it’s known here, is a free weekly event, so it’s a great thing to do in Halifax on a budget. Just pony up to the bar for a pint while enjoying the live Gaelic music. Drinks are priced fairly here too. Beers start at C$5.25.


29) Patio Drinking is a Quintessential Thing to Do in Halifax

During the summer months, Halgonians and visitors alike love drinking on a sunny patio. There’s nearly a sport to patio drinking in Halifax and it’s become a hardened summertime tradition in this city.

The Stubborn Goat is a perennial favorite on the waterfront. We love it too for the local beers and the open-air wooden seating on the Waterfront. But our wallet sometimes disagrees with our favorable opinion while lingering to kick back a few cocktails, with drinks running about C$10+ and beers are about C$8.

Instead, our favorite patio in Halifax to drink on the cheap is: Stone’s Throw. This patio bar is in a prime location, directly on the Halifax waterfront. But perhaps best of all, every day of the week, they offer local Nova Scotia craft beer for C$5 (including tax) for a generous 16 oz. pour.

Stone's Throw Halifax Happy Hour sign: 16 oz craft beer 4-6 every day

And while neighboring patio bars get very crowded on sunny days, Stone’s Throw always seems to have a seat available overlooking the harbor even during this fantastic happy hour deal.

The patio bar is hidden in plain sight, as it’s part of the Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. We highly recommend Stone’s Throw for inexpensive pre-dinner craft beer on the waterfront.

Stone's Throw Halifax patio with beer on the Halifax waterfront boardwalk


30) Drink Halifax’s Fantastic Local Breweries

Halifax has a fantastic local beer scene! There are loads of breweries, brew pubs, and cideries to check out all throughout the city. Brewing runs deep in Halifax and is currently having a major resurgence producing delicious results!

Those beer lovers visiting Halifax, make sure to join the (free) Good Cheer Trail Passport Program! This passport can be used to discover local breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries all throughout the province of Nova Scotia.

You can pick-up your passport at any of the participating drinkeries or use their online app. Once you collect a stamp from 15 different places, you can redeem your Good Cheer Trail Passport for a free t-shirt to commemorate your drinking accomplishment!

Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail Passport stamps

And while the passport can be used throughout the entire province, you can easily collect 15 stamps right in Halifax. We can tell you from personal experience that this is a fun pursuit. Yes, drink costs may add up. But be strategic and spread out your drinking over your entire trip to Halifax. Doing so will be a good move for both your wallet and your liver.

Our favorite breweries in Halifax? Oh, that’s really tough because all Halifax breweries have lots of appeal and new brewpubs are sprouting up all the time. But if you pressed us hard, we’d say Good Robot, Two Crows, and Gahan House rounds out our Top 3. But try ‘em yourself and tell us which of Halifax’s local breweries you like best!

You can find the Good Cheer Passport at participating breweries and at the Halifax Tourism Office.

Official Website: Good Cheer Trail Passport


💡 Budget Tip: Where To Find C$2 Craft Beer

Halifax has a great craft beer scene. But pints of the golden nectar tend to average about C$8 or so. Instead, here’s a brewery you can visit and sip on C$2 tasters.

Go to Garrisons Brewery, near the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, where they’re pouring a variety of brews from their dozen taps.

Garrisons Brewery Halifax taster flight of craft beer

Okay, so these C$2 beers are only 4 ounces each. But at that price, grab a few at a time. Many of Garrison’s beers pack a high ABV too. We recommend the 8% Juicy Double IPA for those who like a hoppy beer, if they have this specialty brew on tap.

💡 Budget Tip: Where To Find the Cheapest Pitcher of Beer in Halifax:

By local law, the least expensive price that establishments are allowed to sell pitchers of beer in Halifax is C$10. And we’ve found two places that do just that, all day, every day.

The Oasis Pub pours one of the cheapest pitchers of beer in town. This sports pub offers C$10 pitchers of Bud, all day, every day. It’s also the oldest tavern in Halifax. So if not for cheap pitchers, you can give yourself the excuse of going for “historical purposes.”

The bar’s dark basement location isn’t the most atmospheric during a beautiful summer day. …but C$10 pitchers! For added value, go to Oasis Pub on Wednesdays for wing night when wings are C$0.45.

Oasis pub Halifax is perhaps the cheapest pitcher of beer in Halifax and they have good buffalo wings too

A newcomer with cheap beer in Halifax that more recently opened is Orso Pub & Grill. They have a generous promotion of $10 pitchers of Keith’s.

This bear themed pub boasts a nice outdoor patio with great views of Citadel Hill and the Old Town Clock. Orso may just be the most scenic non-waterfront location in Halifax to drink cheap beer!

Orso Pub Halifax has cheap $10 beer pitcher promotion

💡 Budget Tip: Join the Students for Power Hour

The Split Crow attracts many university students by luring them in with C$2.50 Molsons on Thursday nights 9-10 and Saturday afternoons 4:30-5:30. Come join Halifax’s youth for power hour during this Halgonian tradition.

Split Crow power hour $2.50 molson beers is a popular happy hour in Halifax for students

💡 Budget Tip: Happy Hour in Halifax

Speaking of happy hours, there are many happy hours occurring at the bars and pubs all throughout Halifax. Stone’s Throw is our favorite. But there are many more happy hours to discover throughout the town.

Happy hours promotions in Halifax change quite regularly. So the best way to find current happy hours in Halifax is simply being observant of chalkboards and posters as you roam around the city.


Eating is a Thing to Do in Halifax!

There are some interesting things to eat in Halifax that are unique to the city and to Nova Scotia. So these final five things to do in Halifax offer up some suggestions for these interesting foodie finds throughout the city.

Halifax has a designated official food that you may find surprising. It’s a must-try, reviewed below.

Yet it’s Nova Scotia’s seafood that simply can’t be ignored. Whether oysters, scallops, lobster suppers, or local haddock (fish), there is lots of seafood to try throughout Nova Scotia’s capital. And while seafood can tend to be expensive, of course, you know that we’re offering up our signature budget tips to help you enjoy the best of Halifax’s dining scene without spending a fortune.


31) Try the Official Food of Halifax: The Donair

The Halifax Donair has been proclaimed the official food of Halifax. And lucky for budget-conscious visitors to the city, the Halifax Donair makes for an inexpensive meal to try while in town.

Halifax donair is a great cheap eat in Halifax and is the city's official food

It may look like a typical Turkish doner kebab. Yet here in Halifax, donairs have taken on their own identity.

What is a Halifax donair? A large pita is stuffed with shaved spiced beef, rather than lamb or other doner meat. But what really makes it a “Halifax donair” is the “donair sauce.”

A concoction of condensed milk, sugar, garlic, and vinegar is what gives a Halifax Donair its distinction. As the story goes, it was 1973 when a Greek immigrant adjusted his recipe to local tastes by using beef and developing the signature sauce.

Nearly 50 years later, there are now donair shops all over Halifax. But his “King of Donair” shop is still in Halifax too. So go there to try this deliciously messy meal. Just grab some extra napkins!

Official Website: King of Donair


32) Eat Local Maritime Oysters in Halifax

Nova Scotia, along with the surrounding maritime provinces, is known for its fresh oysters. So be sure to try some freshly-shucked raw oysters on the half-shell while you’re in Halifax.

Local oysters are a culinary delight to try in Halifax. Being so close to the source helps to ensure freshness. The shuckers really take their oysters pretty seriously around here. The quality and freshness is unparalleled.

Oyster Happy Hour at Five Fishermen Halifax Little Fish is a cheap seafood deal in Halifax

💡 Budget Tip: Oyster Happy Hours

Fresh oysters can be a pricey proposition in Halifax. But thankfully, there are happy hours for oysters too!

Our favorite oyster deal is the daily oyster happy hour at one of Halifax’s most highly regarded seafood restaurants, Five Fishermen. Go to the restaurant’s outdoor patio and oyster bar, known as the Little Fish.

From 3:00-6:00, the oyster happy hour now does oyster of the day for C$1 per oyster. Usually their oysters are around C$3/oyster. So by going during happy hour, you’ll save C$24 off a dozen oysters! In the past, Little Fish has been known to have co-occurring drink happy hours too, but this changes.

The only downside to this Halifax oyster deal is that after the first serving, you may want to stay for several more rounds! The latest info can be found on their website: here.


33) Try the “Best Fish & Chips in Canada!”

Halifax and many coastal communities throughout Nova Scotia have been based around fishing throughout the local waters. So a great way to try the local catch is with fish & chips!

Fish & chips are fairly commonplace on menus throughout Nova Scotia, a nod to the province’s British roots. You can find fish & chips shops across Halifax, which make for a casual and budget-friendly place to try the local fish.

The fish used around Halifax is local haddock, a type of cod, found locally in the cool & clean Atlantic waters offshore. The mild white fish makes for some particularly awesome fish & chips!

John's lunch Fish & chips Halifax

Across the Halifax Harbour in Dartmouth, you can find what Canadian Living deemed as the “best fish & chips in Canada.” It’s at a little unassuming place called John’s Lunch. This Halifax institution coats their haddock with a homemade batter, mixed fresh every morning, then fries the battered haddock to a crisp golden perfection. We must concur with Canadian Living, as it’s definitely the best fish & chips we’ve had during our summer in Canada!

Prices vary by the number of pieces: 1-piece (C$8.50), 2-piece (C$12.75), 3-piece ($15,75) meal. 💡 Budget tip: the 3-piece meal is plenty for couples to share, adding value to this delicious meal!

Official Website: John’s Lunch


34) Try Some Canadian Snacks at the Waterfront: 

There are some tasty treats and local snacks to try while wandering around the Halifax waterfront. Most of them are easy on the budget too! Here are some quintessential local snacks we suggest trying while visiting Halifax:

Ice Cream: Cows Creamery & Moon Mist

Cows Creamery is known to have the best ice cream in Canada and is often listed as having the best ice cream in the world. It’s a staple in the neighboring province of PEI, but two of Cows Creamery’s 12 locations are actually located directly on Halifax’s waterfront. Scoops for this primo ice cream start at C$4. We think it’s totally worth it and lives up to the hype!

And for a uniquely Nova Scotian treat, keep an eye out for “Moon Mist” ice cream at any of the ice cream joints along the waterfront. This colorful mix of grape, banana, and bubble gum ice cream is a Nova Scotia tradition that can only be found around these parts.

Cows Creamery ice cream cone Halifax

Eat a BeaverTail on the Halifax Waterfront

BeaverTails are a beloved Canadian snack food that originated in Ottawa and quickly spread across all of Canada. So you can now find this flattened fried dough at a kiosk along the Halifax boardwalk. They’re shaped like (you guessed it) beaver tails and covered with cinnamon & sugar. If that’s not sweet enough, you can choose to have it loaded up with an assortment of other sugary toppings, from a maple spread to Nutella. BeaverTails start at about C$5.

Enjoy Canada’s National Dish in Halifax – Poutine

If you’re visiting Halifax from outside the country, you must try Canada’s national dish – poutine. It’s an economical snack/meal/gut bomb. For the uninitiated, poutine is a delicious concoction of french fries covered in squeaky cheese curds and brown gravy.

Perhaps one of the most convenient places for poutine on the Waterfront is Smoke’s Poutinerie. It’s a poutine franchise that has a kiosk in a central location on the Halifax waterfront.

Yet locals in Halifax point to Willy’s Fresh Cut as the best poutine in town. We visited, devoured, and concur. Prices range from C$6.00 for a small to C$9.50 for a large. Willy’s is located at Pizza Corner, which is another eating thing to do in Halifax that’s further explained next.

Smokes Poutinerie is a great place to try poutine in Halifax


35) Stumble onto “Pizza Corner” for a Halifax Late-Night Tradition

The notable cross street, locally known as “Pizza Corner,” has gained landmark status in Halifax as an institution for a midnight snack. At the intersection of Blowers and Grafton Street is where you can find a wide assortment of pizza slices, donairs, and poutine among other artery-clogging cheap meals. Pizza Corner was the original location of the King of Donair, credited with creating what is now the official food of Halifax.

But really Pizza Corner is a place to stumble onto after a night of drinking in Halifax. It’s a fun scene in the late hours as the Halifax’s bars begin to empty out. Going to Pizza Corner a Halifax tradition to come for a slice after a long night at the pubs. Although most popular in the late-night hours, Pizza Corner can also make for some economical eating options at any time of the day.


💡 More Budget Tips While Eating in Halifax

Halifax has some world-class restaurants that also come with world-class prices. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still eat well in Halifax!

There are plenty of cheap eats to enjoy in Halifax! And you can even still patronize some of the finer places in Halifax too. Weekly restaurant specials and promotions provide for some very affordable options to sample Halifax’s local seafood. The following suggestions reviews a few of our favorite bargain spots in Halifax to chow down on the local fare.

Where to Have a Lobster Supper in Halifax for C$10

Yes, this really exists! For the past few years each summer, Casino Nova Scotia in downtown Halifax has offered an all-you-can-eat lobster and prime rib dinner for a mere C$10.

This meal deal goes on every Friday and Saturday from 5:00-10:00 pm. We were skeptical and went there to investigate “what’s the catch?”

Turns out, there isn’t too much of a catch at all. You must sign up for the casino’s “Player’s Club,” which is free and only takes about one minute to complete the paperwork. No gambling is required.

The only other catch is that with such a crazy promotion, there is quite a long wait to get a table. When we got there around 5:00 pm, wait times were already nearly two hours! You’re given a pager though, so you don’t have to queue up. Instead of waiting amongst the buzzing slot machines, we recommend using that time to take a stroll along the waterfront and perhaps having a pre-dinner drink along the harbor. Stone’s Throw happy hour is, well, just a stone’s throw away.

So if you have the patience for this deal, we found it to be worth the wait. Also, be aware they aren’t locally caught lobster. But, hey, at C$10 for all-you-can-eat lobster, who cares! They tasted great to us and the prime rib was good too.

All you can eat lobster and prime rib is a great dinner promotion at the Halifax casino

Note: The casino’s dining promotions are always changing. Check the casino’s promotions page to ensure this promotion is still going on.

Where to Get $3 Steak Dinners, $3 Mussels, and More!

For an inexpensive dinner out, Maxwell’s Plum is our go-to. Every night of the week, they have a different dinner special.

But without question, the best specials are
(1) the Tuesday night special – C$3.99 tavern steak dinner with fries
(2) every night – C$3.99 for 1 lb. of island blue mussels

Maxwell's Plum $3 island blue mussels Sunday dinner special

The only catch here is these deals require a drink purchase. No problem! Beers start at C$4.99 for a 12 oz. mug of Dos Equis.

So for C$9, you can have steak, fries, and a frosty mug of cerveza. And Maxwell’s Plum does have drink specials too. We highly recommend the local Boxing Rock Vicar’s Cross Double IPA to pair with your mussels on Sunday when the price for mugs drops to C$5.99.

Official Website: Maxwells Plum

More Dinner Specials in Halifax

We thought Maxwell’s Plum had the best dinner specials in all of Halifax. But there are many more out there for the taking, with dinner deals on different nights of the week.

We find this regularly updated list of Halifax dinner specials to have a great pulse on meal deals around town. Check it out and save!


Where to Stay in Halifax for All Budgets:

Accommodation in Halifax can get pricey. But this city still has some of the cheapest room rates among popular destinations in Canada. For perspective, take a look at average hotel rates for the top 15 most popular Canadian destinations and see how Halifax stacks up.

Canada hotel rate price comparison of top 15 most popular Canadian destinations

Chart ©Roaming Around the World, Source data: Hotel Price Index 2016

Halifax is among the lowest on the chart, with an average hotel rate of $184 for 2016.

To get the best rate on accommodation in Halifax, it’s very important to book as early as possible. During the popular summer season, hotels regularly sell out even months in advance. So book as soon as you can. Meanwhile, prices are often slashed in the off-season when hotels have an excess inventory of rooms. That’s when you can get the best hotel deals in Halifax.

But let’s focus on summer hotel rates since that’s when most people travel to Halifax. Below, we’ve listed our top Halifax hotel picks for each budget range!

To help you secure the best rates, we’ve included affiliate links to HotelsCombined, which automatically searches and compares the rates of all the major booking sites (Expedia,, Priceline, Booking, etc).

Go Back to School to Stay in Halifax for Cheap!

During the summer throughout the Maritimes, many of the universities here operate the empty dorm rooms as hotels. It makes for an interesting budget-option to consider. We stayed on a few different campuses while road tripping across Nova Scotia and had great experiences. It’s fun for short stays and it’s a good way to save your travel funds for more important things, like beer and lobster! Private rooms at Dalhousie University start at C$68 per night, which includes access to campus perks such as the swimming pool, kitchen, laundry facilities, and more.

Check Dalhousie University prices for your dates here.

Budget accommodation on a University in Nova Scotia


The Cheapest Hotel in Halifax?

The Commons Inn: If you’d prefer to stay in a hotel and have a private bathroom, the Commons Inn regularly has summertime rates under C$100 per night including breakfast. Don’t expect the Ritz when it comes to quality. This isn’t the nicest room in Halifax, but it’s often among the cheapest. And we think it’s perfectly adequate for a good night’s sleep.

Search your dates here to find the lowest price at Commons Inn.


Budget-Friendly Midrange Options

🏨 Garden South Park Inn: For a bit more comfort and an even more central location, near the Public Gardens, try the lovely rooms at the Garden South Park Inn.

Compare rates at Garden South Park Inn

🏨 Chebucto Inn: This traditional roadside motel is a good economical option only for those with their own vehicle, as it’s a bit far to walk to most of Halifax’s attractions from the North End location.

Compare rates Chebucto Inn


4-Star Hotels with Excellent Value!

If you desire a bit more luxury in Halifax, most 4-star hotels can easily run upwards of C$500 during peak summer months. But we found two 4-star hotels with summer rates regularly dipping below C$200!

🏨 The Atlantica Hotel is known for its large rooms and friendly staff. It’s located a bit of a walk (20 minutes) to the waterfront. Yet it’s a very pleasant stroll through downtown and is only steps from the Citadel and the Emera Oval.

Find the lowest rate at Atlantica for your travel dates

The Atlantica Hotel is an inexpensive 4-star hotel to stay at in Halifax Nova Scotia

🏨 The Lord Nelson Hotel & Suites has stylish rooms and a very central location that’s close to nearly all of Halifax’s main attractions.

Find the lowest rates at Lord Nelson for your travel dates


Or Stay Local with Airbnb 

Another option to consider for low-cost accommodation in Halifax is using Airbnb. You can rent out entire houses and apartments all to yourself. Or you can stay in someone’s spare room.

We particularly recommend Airbnb for lengthier stays in Halifax, as many hosts offer discounted rates when you stay 7-days or longer and even deeper discounts for 28+ day stays. That’s what we did, and we scored a fantastic basement apartment for what amounted to about US$42 per night! (Note: this exact apartment is no longer listed on Airbnb, but there are plenty of other great pads in the city.)

Halifax Airbnb apartment

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get $40-off your first stay by simply using this referral link!


More Halifax Travel Tips

Here are a few more travel tips to help you explore Halifax!

⚠ Not from Canada, eh? You need travel insurance!

While Halifax is a very safe travel destination, accidents can occur. If you’re visiting Canada from the US, be sure you have medical coverage while within the country.

If not, you won’t be covered by Canada’s health care system. Medical costs will be outrageous should an unforeseen accident occur. That medical coverage is an absolute must, but travel insurance will also cover other mishaps like trip cancelation and lost luggage, which can also be assuring to have. For Americans visiting Canada, we recommend RoamRight travel insurance which contains the medical coverage you need to have while traveling in Canada. Get a quick quote for your travel dates.


✈ Cheap Flights to Halifax

Halifax is well connected by flights into the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Air Canada and WestJet have numerous flights throughout Canada which make for convenient connections elsewhere. We’ve seen flights around $300 and less for roundtrip from US locations such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando. Search around.

We found some of the best fares into Halifax by using Skyscanner, which has some very flexible filters and search functionalities to play with. So get creative with your flight searches and be sure to book at least 3 weeks out (or more) to secure a low fare.


🚐 The Inexpensive Way to Get from the Airport to Downtown Halifax

The Halifax Airport is located 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from downtown, so it takes over a half hour to get into town. There’s no Uber or Lyft in Halifax, and a taxi will cost you a flat rate of C$63. Don’t do that!

Use the bus: Instead, there are direct buses that leave every 30-60 minutes and will drop you off in Scotia Square, right in the heart of downtown Halifax. The cost is only C$3.50, so it’s quite the savings over taking a taxi! It’s the #350 MetroX and you can find all the timetable and route info: Regional Express 320.

Cheap door-to-door car service: If your flight gets in late or you simply prefer direct door-to-door service, you can have a car waiting for you at about half the price of a taxi! Driver Dave’s will pick you up from the Halifax airport and drop you off downtown for $20-$35 per person, pending the number of people. After public transport, there is no cheaper way to get from the airport to Halifax. We personally used Driver Dave’s and our airport pick-up went off without a hitch. Rates and more info: Driver Dave’s.


🚶 Getting Around Halifax on a Budget

There is no Uber or Lyft in Halifax, so don’t come here expecting to rely on a rideshare app to get around. But thankfully, Halifax is a very walkable city. Most all the attractions, restaurants, and bars that we’ve mentioned throughout this guide can be walked to. Be sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes!

If your feet get tired while walking around downtown, consider taking Hali the Road Train. It’s a free (donation-based) trolley that makes a short loop around the Waterfront area, only during summer months. More: here.

Hali the Road Train is a red street trolley in Halifax Nova Scotia

Using Halifax’s buses is yet another inexpensive way to get around town. They’re frequent and easy-to-use. Yet we usually found the buses unnecessary simply because walking in the summer weather seemed to almost always make for a more pleasant alternative to sitting on a bus.

Public Transport website: Halifax Transit bus routes and maps


🚗 Use Cheap Rental Cars for Day Trips from Halifax

There’s no need to rent a car to get around Halifax itself. In fact, it may even be a burden to find parking. Yet Halifax makes a great central base to explore much of Nova Scotia.

We’ve found rental cars to be surprisingly inexpensive in Halifax, with rates as low as C$40 per day for an economy car. Most of the major car rental agencies have locations in downtown Halifax (Hertz, Avis, Budget, Alamo, etc.). Often rental car prices were cheaper from those downtown locations compared to picking up a rental car at the airport.

We scoured through all the main booking sites and even got quotes from agencies directly. In doing so, we noticed the best rental car rates in Halifax by searching on Priceline. Book your rental car as early as possible, because these also become sold out during popular summer days. Search rental cars for your travel dates.

Cheap rental car we got in Halifax


Best Things To Do in Halifax: Conclusion

We hope that this post has helped show that it is very possible to enjoy many things to do in Halifax, whatever the travel budget. Halifax is a wonderful city that has proven to be one of our favorite lengthy stays while traveling all over the world.

We absolutely fell in love with Halifax while roaming around the city over the summer.

Halifax Waterfront boardwalk chairs

If this travel guide has helped you plan your things to do in Halifax, please let us know in the comments below. Or if you have been to this fun Canadian city and have your own travel tips or suggestions for things to do in Halifax – let us know too!

Wait, don’t leave yet! Let’s stay connected. For a daily dose of travel tips and travel inspiration from wherever in the world we’re currently roaming around, be sure to follow our Facebook Page for all the latest.

Happy travels to beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia! 🇨🇦

Publishing note: This article about the Best Things to Do in Halifax on a Budget was originally published in November 2017. It was most recently updated June 11, 2020, in an effort to reflect current pricing and up-to-date info.

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How to Do Oktoberfest on a Budget: Travel Guide & Tips Wed, 20 May 2020 21:43:25 +0000 Oktoberfest is one of those quintessential travel experiences for anyone who enjoys a beer or ten. It is such a fun event that attracts partiers from around the globe who all descend onto Munich every year for the big event.

Yet this huge demand for Oktoberfest accommodation, beer, transportation, pretzels, and traditional Bavarian outfits all helps to significantly drive up Oktoberfest costs. It can all add up to become a very expensive celebration to attend. Oktoberfest expenses can easily exceed €1,000 for a few days of beer drinking in Munich.

But Oktoberfest doesn’t have to be costly if you plan carefully. There are plenty of ways to cut costs yet still fully enjoy Oktoberfest, for those who are trying to stretch their travel budget and not blow all their travel funds on this single event.

We advocate spending on the Oktoberfest beer itself. Sure, those beers may seem pricey in beer halls. But each delicious sip of those huge liters of beer is worth every cent. This is what you come to Oktoberfest for. Drink up, make new friends, and sing along to the oompah band!

Instead of being cheap at Oktoberfest with your beer consumption, you’ll make a much larger dent in your Oktoberfest budget by implementing some big adjustments to what you wear, how you get there, and finding cheap Oktoberfest accommodations. Those are the best areas where you can really cut back on Oktoberfest costs. Find an inexpensive place to stay and save your money for Oktoberfest beers instead!

Unfortunately, Oktoberfest 2020 has been canceled, given the current global situation. So let’s all now look forward to Oktoberfest 2021.

Next year, the three-week long event runs from September 18 through October 3, 2021. If you’re trying to do Oktoberfest on a budget, you can save a lot of money simply by securing reservations as early a possible. Now is the time to book! Those who wait until the summer to sort their plans always pay more.

So if you’re considering going to the big beer festival, these Oktoberfest Munich Tips & Travel Guide will show you exactly where to book for the best value Oktoberfest accommodation, how to dress for Oktoberfest on the cheap, free things to do at Oktoberfest, and how to get around Munich without blowing cash on expensive taxis.

Hacker beer hall in Munich has the least expensive liters of beer (10.10) allowing you to do Oktoberfest on a budget


Sample Oktoberfest Budget

During a typical three days at Oktoberfest, you could easily spend well over €1,000 per person. Yet by applying these cheap Oktoberfest tips, you can instead be guzzling beer during Munich’s biggest bash all for about €100 per day including your accommodation. And we even discovered a way to get unlimited free beer during Oktoberfest (yes really)which will really help to minimize your Oktoberfest costs!

How Much Does Oktoberfest Cost?

Oktoberfest itself is free to attend. There is no entrance fee. But there are a lot of other Oktoberfest expenses incurred in the way of travel expenses, accommodation, food, and beer.

Math isn’t fun. So let us help break down all the many other Oktoberfest prices for you, to provide two different examples showing how much Oktoberfest can cost.

The table below outlines an example of staying in Munich for 3 nights during Oktoberfest. Accommodation prices reflect double occupancy. Among these two examples, you’ll see a budget-friendly Oktoberfest on the left and what Oktoberfest could cost if you’re not careful, on the right. Obviously, we recommend the cheap Oktoberfest budget on the left side, showing how you can easily have a great time at Oktoberfest on a budget of about €300 or so, for a 3-day visit to Munich’s beer festival.

Sample Oktoberfest Budget per day detailing: Stoke all-inclusive camping € 180 3 Breakfasts included w/ Stoke € 0 3 Lunches: economical options € 20 3 Dinners included w/ Stoke € 0 3 liters at Oktoberfest x 3 days € 99 Unlimitted pre- and post- beers FREE € 0 Festive shirt (guys), bow & hairstyle (ladies) € 25 Group public transit pass split 5-ways € 6 Go to Oktoberfest! € 0 Free Walking Tour € 0 Party w/ new friends & free beer at camp € 0 Oktoberfest-on-a-Budget Total € 330 Split hotel room w/ friend € 400 3 light breakfasts w/ coffee € 30 3 sit-down lunches (e.g., roast chicken) € 70 3 dinners € 90 3 liters at Oktoberfest x 3 days € 99 Other drinks throughout Munich € 100 Authentic dirndl or liederhosen € 150 Use taxis € 200 Go to Oktoberfest! € 0 Segway Tour € 75 Go out to bars & night club(s) € 90 Don’t Do This Oktoberfest Total € 1,304

You can see from this sample Munich Oktoberfest budget just how easily Oktoberfest costs can exceed €1,000. Yet a little advanced research and planning will help you to save loads instead. We hope this post arms you with all the info you need to have a cheap Oktoberfest 2021.


Tips for Drinking at Oktoberfest on a Budget

Each of the beer halls at Oktoberfest are completely free to enter. There are no entrance fees, so don’t be scammed if you see something online advertising a ticket to get in. Just show up to Oktoberfest. Go to a beer hall. Find a seat. Buy a beer!

Munich Oktoberfest entrance costs nothing to get in. It's a free event.

You will definitely want to buy some Oktoberfest beers, of course. Expect to pay the beer server about €12-€13 for each beer. But understand that these are huge beers. Oktoberfest beers are served in those signature liter glasses called a “Maß” (pronounced: “mass”). Each of these liter glasses contains more than two pints of beer!

So consider that you’re getting two pints of delicious Bavarian brewed beer in arguably the most fun drinking setting in the world for a mere €12. When you look at it that way, this is actually great value.

This is what you came all the way to Oktoberfest for. Don’t worry too much about your Oktoberfest budget when it comes to the beer. Just drink up and have a blast!

And with most Oktoberfest beers clocking in around 6% alcohol, it only takes a few of those enormous beers to get you singing and dancing along to the traditional Bavarian tunes being played.

That said, there are a few things you can be aware of to help minimize your beer costs at Oktoberfest 2021.


Oktoberfest Beer Prices

How much does a beer cost at Oktoberfest?

During the last Oktoberfest, beer prices ranged from €11.40-€11.80 for a liter of beer at the main beer tents. Beer prices increase slightly each year, so a €12+ liter in 2021 is a realistic possibility. We’ll update this post accordingly when 2021 beer prices are announced.

Beer prices at Oktoberfest do vary, depending exactly which beer tent you drink in. With a price difference coming down to €0.40, we recommend not letting beer prices sway where you go to get your liters of beer. You will be rounding up to tip the servers anyway. So this small difference in Oktoberfest beer prices won’t play a major role in your overall Oktoberfest budget.

Liter of Augustiner oktoberfest beer prices are 10.30 euro

That said, the least expensive of the main Oktoberfest beers halls for Oktoberfest 2019 was: the Augustiner-Festhalle. They will be pouring Augustiner liters for €11.40. At 6.3% abv, liters of Augustiner’s Oktoberfest beer provides the best bang for your buck. So it’s Augustiner-Festhalle that will be providing the best value for Oktoberfest 2019.

The Augustiner Festhalle is a fun tent too. Augustiner is the only Munich brewery that pours their beer from traditional stags (wooden beer barrels) during Oktoberfest. But with the cheapest beer and all this added appeal, the Augustiner-Festhalle tent tends to fill to capacity quickly. So go here early and on a weekday to help ensure you get a seat at what is the cheapest main beer tent in Oktoberfest!

The next cheapest beer tent at Oktoberfest 2019 was Ochsenbraterei, which poured €11.50 liters of Spaten Oktoberfest beer (5.9% abv). All other major Oktoberfest beer tents had liters priced at €11.70 (3 tents), €11.75 (1 tent), and €11.80 (7 tents).

Consider the Smaller Tents for the Cheapest Oktoberfest Beer

There are also small tents at Oktoberfest that tend to have lower beer prices than the big major tents. The Oktoberfest beer prices at these small tents were as low as €10.80 during Oktoberfest 2019. Yet €11.30-€11.50 is a more common price, even at these smaller tents.

So where can you find the cheapest liter of beer at Oktoberfest?
During the 2019 event, the absolute cheapest beer within Oktoberfest was at the Museumszelt (Museum Tent), with liters of Spaten for €10.80! This small tent was the only place at Oktoberfest 2019 with liter beers for less than €11. This museum tent has historical memorabilia and children’s events. Note that it closes up early, with no beer sales after 9:30 pm. It’s also part of the Oide Wiesn, which charges at modest €1 admission.

But again, it’s really not worth planning your Oktoberfest drinking by the prices at each tent. Just go to whatever beer halls you want to go to. Perhaps more importantly, just go wherever you can find an open seat!


Keep Change Handy for Tipping at Oktoberfest

Should you tip at Oktoberfest in Munich?

Yes! Tipping at Oktoberfest is technically not required, but it is customary. You should indeed tip the beer servers who are schlepping those heavy steins by the handful through an insanely crowded beer hall. Don’t be cheap with this at Oktoberfest.

A €1 tip per liter is a good rule of thumb. Yet consider tipping more if the server is very attentive, fun, and/or you want to build rapport with them to help ensure good service throughout a prolonged drinking session. With beer prices at €11.40-€11.80, you may want to simply round up €13 per beer, allowing the server to keep the change. Or if purchasing two beers at a time (for couples), you could round to €25 for easy math. But a euro or two extra is always appreciated.

A beer server carrying liters is always someone you should be tipping at Oktoberfest in Munich

That said, be sure to bring small denominations of euros so that you can tip accordingly. Servers may not always have change ready, which could force you into an awkward situation of greatly over-tipping or under-tipping. Let’s say you buy a liter of beer for €11.70 and you only have a €20 to pay with. Now the beer server has to find a handful of small change for you unless you want to leave a huge tip.

You will also have to drunkenly fumble through all of those coins the server has handed back to you and figure out an appropriate tip. Instead, try to be prepared with €13, or €25 if ordering as a couple, tipping more if desired. Doing this may help to prolong your Oktoberfest budget.

The loud, busy, and drunken atmosphere doesn’t help this Oktoberfest tipping situation either. But having a pocket full of one and two euro pieces most certainly will.


Drink for Cheap (or free) Before You Go to Oktoberfest 2021

If you’re a seasoned drinker, you’ll definitely want to kick back at least two or three liters while at Oktoberfest, possibly much more. Being that these beers contain roughly 6% alcohol content, you’ll likely be fairly buzzed after downing a few. So there’s really no reason to show up to the Theresienwiese already plastered.

receiving a lowenbrau liter of beer, which costs 10.30 euro and is a great way to enjoy Oktoberfest on a budget

Yet if you have a high tolerance and you’re looking for ways to stretch your Oktoberfest budget, perhaps consider kicking back a few brews before or on the way to the big event.

Beers from convenience stores are cheap in Munich. You can find half-liter beers for less than €1. Additionally, it’s perfectly acceptable to drink in public with an open container in Munich, as long as you’re behaving. So if you want to warm-up for the big event, go ahead and have a few pre-game beers to get you started. They’ll be a fraction of the cost of those €12 liters once you’re inside Oktoberfest.

In fact, you’ll see plenty of local German guys and broke college students sitting in the grass on the outskirts of Oktoberfest doing just that: drinking cheap cans of beer before heading inside the fairgrounds. This is the “poor man’s Oktoberfest,” which is fine to do for a beer if you must. But you really must get inside those tents and pony up the funds for a few liters.

A better way to knock down a few brews before Oktoberfest is if you take our cheap Oktoberfest accommodation recommendation of Stoke Travel. Staying with them, you’ll have unlimited free beer there to get your party started if you follow our instructions for this special Oktoberfest deal. (Much more detail all about that in the Where to Stay section). Stoke starts popping bottles of German bier at 8:00 am in the morning! So if you stay with Stoke and get this insane unlimited free beer deal, go ahead and drink up a bit beforehand. Then pace yourself while at the Oktoberfest beer halls.


Half-Liter Beers Are Half the Cost

If you are inside one of Oktoberfest’s main beer halls, don’t even think about ordering a half-liter. You order full liters only in the main beer halls. Nothing else is acceptable nor is served in the main Oktoberfest beer tents.

But there are more places to drink at Oktoberfest than only inside the main beer halls. You can find beer gardens and tables that are set up outside of the halls, which sometimes aren’t very busy at all. When all the main beer tents get filled to capacity these less popular beer gardens can come as a relief to have a free table to sit at.

It can be perfectly suitable here to get a half-liter of beer at some of these outdoor tables. They’re called “Halben Liters.” If you happen to stumble across one of the places serving hefeweizen (wheat beer), those are actually traditionally served in half-liter hefeweizen glasses anyways. So there’s absolutely no shame there to order a “halben liter” of hefeweizen. If you’re unsure, check the menu card on the table and see if halben liters are listed.

Did you know that hefeweizen is traditionally drunk in Bavaria as a breakfast beer? It is! So if you get to the beer tents very early, you could also consider starting your drinking session with a halben liter of hefeweizen.

These half liters should cost around €6 at Oktoberfest 2021. They’re about half the cost of a liter. So ounce-per-ounce, there really isn’t any savings.

Yet there are occasions when the option of a half-liter does make sense to save some money instead of buying a full liter. For example, perhaps you’re just tired of walking around trying to find a seat in a main beer hall. Then you find some open seats at an outside table, but don’t want to commit to a full liter of beer. The half-liter option can be a nice way to take a beer break and help stretch your Oktoberfest budget.


Tips for Eating at Oktoberfest on a Budget

It definitely is worth it to eat at Oktoberfest, as there is lots of great traditional German food to devour. It’s also important to go to Oktoberfest with a solid base in your belly. You certainly don’t want to be downing liter after liter of Oktoberfest beer on an empty stomach. Thankfully, there are some great ways to eat at Oktoberfest on a budget.

You simply can’t bypass getting a giant brez’n (pretzel). But where you get them will make a big difference. We saw pretzels being sold in the beer halls for outrageous markups of €5-€10. Meanwhile, those same pretzels were priced around €2 right outside the beer hall doors. So at Oktoberfest 2021, be sure to get your pretzels outside the beer halls, not inside. You’ll stand to save about €5 for each delicious pretzel.

Pretzel prices at Oktoberfest are less expensive outside the beer halls

Expect to pay €15-€20 (or more) for a decent meal while sitting in an Oktoberfest beer hall. It can be a nice splurge, but you don’t have to. Instead, you can find a huge variety of traditional German food options outside the halls, throughout the Oktoberfest fairgrounds.

There are sandwiches, snacks, sausages, baked goods, and meats are priced around €5 each. Don’t think twice about chowing on a delicious schnitzel sandwich – so good! For the uninitiated, schnitzel sandwiches are deep-fried chicken cutlets in between fresh-baked German bread. It is pretty much the perfect hearty fare to chow down on after a few liters of Oktoberfest beer.

Yet at least once during Oktoberfest, you should consider ordering the traditional Oktoberfest meal of a “Wiesn-Hendl,” a grilled chicken, while sitting in the beer halls. A Wiensen-Hendl meal, including sides, runs around €15-€20. But that can be a lot of food for one person!

So for a budget-friendly Oktoberfest move, you can consider splitting this huge chicken meal with a friend. That way you’ll leave room in your stomach for more beer and extra cash in your wallet to buy that next beer.


Souvenirs at Oktoberfest on a Budget

There are a number of souvenirs to consider buying at Oktoberfest and you’ll certainly want to budget for that. Why not grab a few keepsakes to remember this once-in-a-lifetime party?

A good yet cheap Oktoberfest souvenir recommendation is to buy a traditional liter Maß stein. You can find them throughout the festival for about €10 per liter stein. Don’t even think about stealing one from a beer hall, as you’ll get a hefty fine in addition to an unpleasant run-in with security who is specifically watching for this.

Also, if you’re buying a few of these steins and you’re flying out of Munich, be sure to take note of your baggage weight allowance. Those steins are heavy and may cause you to pay for an overweight baggage fee if you’ve haven’t accounted for the added weight.

What shouldn’t you buy at Oktoberfest? It’s our opinion to not bother with the novelty felt hats. Those hats can be fun. But you’ll be spending your Oktoberfest funds to look like a tourist, as those hats are not traditional.

And definitely do not buy a cuckoo clock at Oktoberfest. This is not a good drunk purchase to make. Authentic cuckoo clocks will set you back hundreds (even thousands) of euro. Such fine craftsmanship is the last thing you’ll want to be carrying around millions of drunk people. You can find cheaper clocks being sold at Oktoberfest, but those are all made in China. So beware. If you buy one of these clocks during Oktoberfest, you’ll be the cuckoo!


Tips on How to Dress for Oktoberfest on a Budget

Buying a nice complete set of authentic lederhosen or dirndl can cost well into the €200 price range. Wearing the traditional outfit can be a lot of fun and something you should certainly consider splurging on. But if you’re really trying to do Oktoberfest on a budget, then forgoing the lederhosen and dirndl can also be a great way to cut costs. Here are some suggestions on what you can wear and how you can find authentic, yet cheap, Oktoberfest outfits.

People at Oktoberfest wearing traditional dirndl and lederhosen outfits

Don’t Buy Cheap Costumes for Oktoberfest in Munich

You can buy cheap costume-type dirndl and lederhosen online, but we absolutely recommend against it. No one wears that. If you do, you will get laughed out of Oktoberfest 2021. It may be okay for your Halloween costume back home, but not at Oktoberfest in Munich. Just don’t.

You either have to spend on the real authentic dirndl and lederhosen or come to terms with not wearing any at all. And that’s okay too.

How to Dress for Oktoberfest Without Dirndl and Lederhosen

If you don’t want to splurge on an authentic outfit that you’ll probably only wear once in your life, just know that it can be perfectly acceptable not wear the traditional German dirndl or lederhosen at Oktoberfest. Still, there are ways you can, and should, spruce up your style to help get into the Oktoberfest spirit.

What Guys Can Wear If Not Splurging on Lederhosen

For the fellas, wear a blue-checkered shirt. These are called trachten shirts. You’ll fit right in with the signature Bavarian colors of blue & white. Yet, unlike lederhosen, these blue-checkered shirts are something you can wear again for any occasion.

Amazon has nice trachten shirts for cheap, depending on where you’re searching from. Check sizes and availability for this blue checkered shirt.

Drinking liter beers at Oktoberfest in Munich while wearing a Bavarian blue checkered shirt

For the Ladies Who Aren’t Buying Dirndl

Girls, consider giving yourself a Bavarian hairstyle and tossing a light blue bow in your hair. While it’s fun to wear the dirndl if you can afford it, that extra €100 you’re saving will buy you a lot of liters during Oktoberfest. But if you do forgo the dirndl, just be sure to still show you have Oktoberfest spirit. Bavarian-style braids can be fun if you have long hair.

Yet if you’re single and wanting to find a nice German guy to gift you a gingerbread heart necklace, then you’ll need to splurge for the authentic dirndl! The suggestions below offer a few ways to get good yet cheap Oktoberfest outfits.

Rent Dirndl and Lederhosen for Oktoberfest

There are companies in Munich who provide daily rentals of both dirndl for women and complete lederhosen outfits for men. These Oktoberfest outfit rentals cost €40-€50 per day for high-quality authentic clothing. This may be an okay solution to avoid spending on an expensive get-up, but these rentals have their drawbacks too.

You do have to go through the hassle of picking up and then returning the clothing, which is not at the same location as Oktoberfest. You’ll also need to be extra careful while your drunk not to spill things like beer or mustard on your rental outfit. Otherwise, you may be forced to buy it. Also, know that these outfits get reserved well in advance. So your particular size may be sold out on the dates you’re looking to attend Oktoberfest 2021.

Despite this forethought, you may find Oktoberfest clothing rentals to be a good alternative to spending on dirndl or lederhosen. If so, Bavarian Outfitters is a reputable organization in Munich who offers this clothing rental service.

Where to Buy Inexpensive Dirndl and Lederhosen for Oktoberfest

While walking around Munich during Oktoberfest, the least expensive we ever see any decent dirndl (for girls) is in the low €100+ range. A good lederhosen outfit (for guys) will cost even more. Sorry lads!

Most of the department stores around Munich do sell a wide variety of different authentic Oktoberfest clothing options but most are not cheap at all, both in terms of quality and cost.

Instead of buying this clothing new, we recommend considering secondhand dirndl or lederhosen. Try checking on eBay prior to Oktoberfest 2021 in attempts to find a used outfit at a cost savings.

If you’re staying with Stoke Travel (see: Cheap Oktoberfest Accommodation section of this article), they sell dirndl for €70 and complete lederhosen sets for €90. It’s actually the least expensive dirndl and lederhosen we saw anywhere around Munich!


How to Find Cheap Accommodation for Oktoberfest in Munich 2021

If you’re looking for cheap places to stay during Oktoberfest 2021, here’s what you have to work with:

  • Self-camping
  • All-inclusive glamping or camping including meals & free beer (*our pick 👍)
  • Hostels
  • Apartment rentals
  • Hotel (expensive)

Sample accommodation prices during Oktoberfest compares hotels, hostels, airbnb apartment rentals, all-inclusive camping, and self-camping to show how to do Oktoberfest on a budget

If you’ve got money to burn (or hotel points), then you’ll definitely be most comfortable in a hotel room at Oktoberfest. But there are far more budget-friendly Oktoberfest options to crash in after a full day of drinking. Securing cheap Oktoberfest accommodation is one of the biggest and easiest ways to save on overall expenses.

When looking for a cheap place to stay at Oktoberfest, we found Stoke Travel to be the best option for its cost. That is exactly what we’ve used ourselves and we can now highly recommend this “experience.” The €60 per night not only gives you a place to crash, but it is also a festival within the festival that can include …all the free beer you can drink if you follow our instructions (no joke!)

More on how to get that free beer in a minute, but let’s take a closer look at each of these cheap Oktoberfest accommodation options (and expensive ones too). We’ll start with the most budget-friendly and work our way up.


Self-Camping at Oktoberfest

There are campgrounds within Munich where you can pitch your own tent for about €35 per night. This can be a cheap place to stay at Oktoberfest if you already have your own camping gear, you have a car to drive, and/or you happen to live in or around Germany.

If that doesn’t apply to you, the expenses involved with self-camping may end up actually costing even more than other accommodation options in Munich. If you have to buy camping gear, then this option isn’t worth bothering with at all.

Even with your own gear, you’ll have to consider the costs involved in transporting it all. If you are flying into Munich on a budget airline, you’ll likely end up spending hundreds of euro in baggage fees alone, just to get your tent and sleeping bag to the campground.

Then you’ll have to deal with securing a site among the city’s campgrounds that get swarmed during Oktoberfest dates. It ultimately can end up being more trouble than the savings are worth, depending on your individual circumstance.


All-Inclusive Oktoberfest Glamping & Camping (with Unlimited Free Beer)

Stoke Travel does an all-inclusive camping package that we experienced first-hand at Oktoberfest. It was such a blast and we now recommend it as the best option for value at Oktoberfest!

For as little as €60 per night, Stoke sets you up with everything you need at this “festival within a festival.” These €60/night Oktoberfest packages even include hot breakfasts, full dinners, and all the camping gear that is completely set up for you. If you’re not the camping type, they now have a super comfy glamping and teepee options for an added cost. Whichever option you choose, you’ll be staying right in the middle of one big awesome party that even includes unlimited free beer during your entire stay if you book using the link and info below.

Here are all the details…

Tents at Stoke Travel Oktoberfest camping which we give a good review

Stoke Travel Oktoberfest Reviews

When we were searching for affordable Oktoberfest accommodation, Stoke Travel seemed like a good option, but we couldn’t find many reviews. So here’s a brief Stoke Travel Oktoberfest review from our experience, which was a really fun time and we can now totally recommend. Just know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.

It is camping after all. So don’t expect the Ritz. But we found that camping with Stoke Travel is quite comfortable, crazy good fun, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Tents, sleeping bags, and air mattresses are all provided and set-up for you. Just show up and grab a welcome beer. Then a Stoke staff member will escort you to your tent.

The camping equipment they use was mostly of good quality. Sleeping bags were very clean (like new) and warm. Their tents completely kept the rain out during the one night we got rained on. The air mattresses were a bit leaky. But they had plenty and when we found that one of our air mattresses wasn’t holding its air, we were easily able to exchange it for a good air mattress that didn’t leak.

We found their camping set up to be comfortable for us. But they also now have a cool glamping option that is more luxurious and include a bunch of extra amenities, like an exclusive glamping retreat that’s made complete with hot chocolate and marshmallows.

The campground Stoke uses in Munich is a really nice setting, with lots of trees. It’s still within Munich’s Inner District, yet you don’t feel like you’re in the middle of the city at all. The campground has clean bathrooms, wifi near the front, and onsite food & drink options. There are even vending machines that will make you hot fries (which is all-to-convenient after a late night) and there’s a beer vending machine too! Stoke has a charging station for phones and other small electronics, which allowed us to keep our batteries powered up for when we went out to Oktoberfest.

Full hot breakfasts and big dinners are actually included in the price too! The camp food was surprisingly good and filling. Sometimes the breakfast lines got long, but there was never any wait to get a free beer. Never. Priorities!

Oh, so you want to know about the free beer?

💡 Big Tip: How to Get Unlimited FREE BEER during Oktoberfest 🍺

Stoke Travel offers a package that includes unlimited beer & sangria from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm every single day of Oktoberfest. Say goodbye to those expensive liters. Instead, drink as much as you want at the “festival within a festival” at the Stoke Travel campgrounds.

It really is unlimited beer. We never had to wait to get a beer and they kept it flowing all day long. Just give your cup to the friendly beertender, drink, and repeat. Stoke uses decent German beer too.

The unlimited beer & sangria is normally an extra cost of €10 per day. That’s a bargain in itself! But we contacted Stoke Travel to see if they would offer our readers any discounts. They actually decided to give you the unlimited beer & sangria package for free! To get the free beer included, just use this link and enter ROAMING during the checkout process and you’ll have unlimited beer to drink at the Stoke Travel campsite throughout all of Oktoberfest. Winning!

⚠ Book ahead! During the past few years, Stoke has sold out on certain days and certain packages.

Stoketoberfest – A Festival Within a Festival

Doing the all-inclusive camping with Stoke Travel is so much more than just a cheap place to stay at Oktoberfest. There are thousands of people who camp with Stoke to have fun at the festival they throw at camp each day. They called it Stoketoberfest. At the campground, there’s a big stage with a DJ and other live performances, and it doesn’t take long in the morning to get everybody dancing. The MCs and all the Stoke crew keep the party vibes going strong all day long.

Girls in from of tents at Stoke Oktoberfest camp grounds

Yet, thankfully, it’s all quieted down by around 10:00 or 11:00 at night, enabling you to get a night of good sleep to get ready and start the party all over again the next day.

What makes for a great experience here is the 65 different nationalities who all came together at this campground in Munich to get fueled up on the free beer before and after going to Oktoberfest. It’s a beautiful thing. And with enough beer and such an international crowd of fun-loving people, you can only imagine the hilarious conversations and situations that play out. It’s such a blast!

Arguably, the most fun was the infamous wheel of misfortune. What is this you ask? You’ll have to go to Stoketoberfest and give it a spin to find out! Expect lots of laughs, beer, and possibly some nakedness!

It’s really difficult to even attempt to describe it’s like to stay with Stoke for Oktoberfest. So take a look at their video from last year’s event, which helps to convey the fun and craziness you’re insured to experience if you go.

The Best Oktoberfest Value in Munich?

Stoke really does provide an all-inclusive experience. The only other thing you’ll need to spend money on at the Stoke campgrounds are the hot showers which run an extra €1 extra per shower. All other expenses are accounted for within the €60 per night price. The inclusion of your breakfasts, dinners, and the Stoketoberfest party with unlimited free beer (by entering ROAMING at checkout) makes the modest price point what we think is the best value for Oktoberfest in all of Munich. If you’re looking for cheap accommodation at Oktoberfest 2021, this is it.

Overall our Stoke Travel Oktoberfest review is definitely a good one! You can certainly find nicer places in Munich to stay at during Oktoberfest. But this is, by far, the best value. And it’s the most fun too.

We were actually explaining to some German guys at last year’s Oktoberfest how much fun we were having back at the Stoke campgrounds. They were staying at a hotel and they were almost ready to ditch their room to join the party back at the Stoke Travel campgrounds. We kept in touch with them after Oktoberfest and they emailed us to let us know they were already making their plans to stay with Stoke this year!

And for added value staying with Stoke, if you’re going to stay in Munich for at least four nights anyways, then be sure to book the Ultimate Oktoberfest Adventure option. It still comes out to €60 per night, but they also throw in freebies like a free boozy bike tour of Munich, lunch vouchers for every day, and 10% off swag like traditional German outfits. (Of course, there’s the still the unlimited free beer too, when entering ROAMING during the check-out process.)

How to Maximize Your Time & Money if Staying at Stoke All-Inclusive Camping

Getting from the campgrounds to Oktoberfest using public transportation was easy. Since the Stoke campground is located within the Inner District, the cheapest public transit ticket will cover you from the campgrounds to Oktoberfest. There are Stoke Travel “guides” that can show you the way to the Oktoberfest grounds. Yet you don’t really need any directions. Just follow a drunken guy in lederhosen. He knows.

To maximize your value and time, we’d recommend eating a good breakfast at camp and start your day of beer drinking there. Beers will be free for you at camp and they start flowing early there, so go ahead and take advantage of that before you’re paying €12 per beer at Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest Munich Ferris Wheel is a a budget-friendly Oktoberfest activity to do during the day

But don’t linger at the Stoke campground for too long. The actual Oktoberfest is what you came to Munich for, so go start making your way over there for a day session when seats are easier to come by. Eat some lunch too. After your fill of liters in the Oktoberfest beer halls, come back to the campsite in time for the included dinner. If you can still see straight, go ahead and have a few more of those unlimited free beers and take a spin at the wheel of misfortune.

Check out Stoke’s Oktoberfest page – Stoke Travel Oktoberfest Package – for full details and to check current dates and availability. And don’t forget to get yourself hooked up with the free beer by entering ROAMING at checkout. The campsite does tend to fill up, so be sure to make your reservations in advance.

Check up-to-date Stoke Travel camping and glamping availability here.


Hostels During Oktoberfest

Hostels are a logical choice to find cheap Oktoberfest accommodation. But you may be deceived. If you book super early, you may be able to find hostel beds starting around €80-€100 per night for a bed in a mixed dorm. But even if you’re lucky enough to find one, you have to consider the fact that you’ll be sharing a room with 10 drunken strangers. Just pray that the big guy in the top bunk doesn’t get sick.

You’ll find other hostels price gouging even further with rates at €140+ per night for a bunk bed in a shared room. We’ve even seen hostels charging over €300 per night just for a bed in a shared dorm. This is ridiculous! Don’t do it.

Oktoberfest Accommodation price gouging showing how a couple will pay $1400 for hostel beds

If you’re looking for a private room in a hostel, rates start closer to €200 per night, per person based on two people. So that comes out to about €1,200 for a three-night stay in Munich during Oktoberfest. At that price, you can likely find hotel rooms that are less expensive. In our opinion, it’s definitely not worth it to stay in a hostel for Oktoberfest with all of the price gouging going on.

You can take a look at to see if any affordable beds may be available during your travel dates to Munich. But ultimately, we suggest looking at other options that offer better value. Also, beware that there are many camping copycats that are now listed on hostelworld (with bad reviews too). If you’re going to do the camping thing, be sure to book directly through Stoke so you don’t get scammed with a poor experience.


Apartment Rentals and Airbnb at Oktoberfest

If you book early enough, you may be able to find a decent Airbnb room during Oktoberfest. It’ll be a step up above camping, but you’ll likely have to start splashing the cash for anything decent. At the last update to this article, the average price for a bedroom in central Munich was €140 per night and private apartments were averaging €280 per night.

Those are the price averages, so you will find some crash pads that are lower (and higher) than this. But be careful. All the best places were the first to be booked up, leaving some questionable, unverified, and extremely overpriced rooms left.

We’ve regularly found many hosts even being bold enough to list their spare rooms for over €300 and €400 per night, waiting to cash in on last-minute Oktoberfest bookings. And that’s just for a room, not the entire apartment. See the listings below for example. They look like super nice places to stay in Munich for Oktoberfest, but ouch, it’s way too much for crashing in someone’s spare bedroom!

Expensive Airbnb apartment rental availability for Oktoberfest 2015

If using Airbnb, be sure to check for three things:

  • a track record of good reviews,
  • a good location relative to public transportation in which you can easily get to Oktoberfest, and
  • read the complete description if there is one.

Some of the cheaper apartments are not within walking distance to a metro or bus route, which can become very problematic. Factor in expensive taxi fares into your budget. And rooms without any reviews or a lack of description can be a total gamble, even if they look pretty in the pictures. Trust us on that!

But if you are going to splurge on an Airbnb during Oktoberfest, be sure to read the fine print to know exactly what you’re getting into. We were considering using Airbnb for Oktoberfest and found a nice looking inexpensive room to stay in a great location, very close to Oktoberfest. But after reading the listing closely, we noticed it was actually just a room with a hard, oddly-shaped couch. You were required to bring your own sleeping bag, blankets, and pillows. At that point, for our euro, we the all-inclusive camping was a far better option.


Finding Cheap Oktoberfest Hotels in Munich

Hotels tend not to be a good cheap place to stay at Oktoberfest. There are some ways you can attempt to cut costs, but you’ll still have to pay a premium.

If you want to book a cheap hotel for Oktoberfest in Munich, the best strategy is redeeming hotel points that you may have accumulated from prior stays at popular hotel chains or by using a credit card linked to a hotel group (such as Starwood Amex card). Hotels obviously hike up their prices during Oktoberfest, but most hotel loyalty programs have no blackout dates or point increases during special events. So if you’ve built loyalty with any hotel group, Oktoberfest most definitely is the time to finally redeem those points for a free room!

But if you have no hotel loyalty points, be prepared to spend a lot on a hotel.

Consider these strategies to help lessen the financial hit of a hotel during Oktoberfest:

  • Book super early (one-year in advance, if possible)
  • Book a hotel on the outskirts of town (although ensure there are public transit options)
  • Avoid the first week of Oktoberfest
  • Avoid weekends

You’ll need to book a room early to find any rates that are reasonable. Booking one year in advance is best but you should definitely lock in a reservation before summer.

If you’re looking for a hotel anywhere near Munich City Center during Oktoberfest 2021, you’ll likely be shelling out at least €240 Euro per night. Although nightly rates soar well into €500 and beyond. If you’re okay with staying further away, if you’re lucky and book early, you may be able to find a few places in the €150-€200 range per night. Again, be sure to check that there are public transport options from the hotel to Oktoberfest. Also, the further out you stay, the more your public transit ticket will cost, so build that into your Oktoberfest budget too.

Hotels during the first week of Oktoberfest tend to sell out more quickly, so consider going during one of the latter weeks. Also, try to book during the weekdays if possible. You not only might find lower rates, but you’ll also have a less crowded experience at Oktoberfest.

But no matter what, a hotel in Munich during Oktoberfest 2021 is going to cost you a lot. You can take an up-to-date look at all the inflated room rates using the widget below, which searches all of the top booking sites (, Expedia,, Agoda, etc.) to find the lowest rates among whatever hotels may still have available rooms left in Munich.


Local Transportation to Get to Oktoberfest Grounds

Oktoberfest is located at the Theresienwiese, the Oktoberfest fairgrounds. Most accommodation within walking distance of Theresienwiese is crazy expensive, so you’ll likely need to figure out how to get to Oktoberfest on your own. Your options are:

  • Public Transit
  • Uber
  • Taxi
  • Horse and beer carriage (no, not really an option but you’ll see them trotting around.)

Spaten horses with wagon deliver wooden beer kegs to Oktoberfest

Using Public Transportation to Get to Oktoberfest on a Budget

German public transportation is notoriously efficient and the rails in Munich remain running frequently and on time during Oktoberfest. The only difference is that the buses and train cars become more crowded.

Munich’s public transport system works on the honor system. You buy a ticket and get on. Ticket-checkers do come by to ensure you’re not stealing a free ride, but it’s not a frequent practice. Still, we wouldn’t recommend risking a hefty fine if you were to get caught on Munich’s public transport without a ticket.

Single tickets for short trips in Munich are priced at €2.90 in 2021. But visitors can instead purchase discounted 3-day tickets which are good for all of Munich’s public transportation system (U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams, and busses).

Both single tickets and multi-day passes can be easily purchased at the ticket kiosks located at each station. You should just be informed in advance at which ticket to buy. Here’s all the info below to help find the cheapest ticket option for Oktoberfest 2021.

A 3-day ticket for a single person costs €16.80, which breaks down to €5.60 per day. But for additional savings, consider buying a group transit pass that’s good for up to 5 people and is priced at: €29.60.

So even if there is just two of you, it is more economical to buy this group pass for €29.60 than it is to buy two single tickets (which would total €33.60). If you can find friends to ride the rails with you, you can further split the cost of the group ticket 5-ways which will give you all three days of access to Munich’s public transport for only €5.92 per person. That’s only €1.97 per person, per day!

The prices mentioned above are for the Inner District. If you are staying on the outskirts of Munich, you’ll need to purchase either a Munich XXL ticket or an Entire Network ticket. Both of those are now only available for single day tickets and would cost up to €39 per person for three days worth of public transport. It’s for this reason, that you should consider staying within the Inner District when considering cheap accommodation in Munich for Oktoberfest. Doing so will save you both time and money.

For more information on these different public transport passes in Munich you can visit: the official Munich Traffic & Tariff department website, which provides all the fare and route information you’ll need to get around the city.

Yet of even more value than these transit passes is Munich’s City Tour Card. When buying in advance, it is the same price as the transit passes and also includes the same transit benefits to get around using Munich’s public transit system. But The City Tour Card further includes loads of discounts to attractions, stores, and restaurants all around Munich. It’s nice not having to queue up at the kiosks at the train stations to buy your ticket, which is confusing to navigate the automated system to find the exact ticket you’re trying to purchase. Instead, we suggest to simply buy the Munich City Tour Card on GetYourGuide and pick up the card once you arrive in Munich. Take a look at all the discounts it includes.


Consider Taking Uber in Munich during Oktoberfest 

Munich does have Uber, which will be significantly cheaper than a traditional taxi, but it likely won’t be as economical as using public transport. For example, an 8-kilometer uberX ride in Munich is estimated to be about €17. It’s not particularly cheap.

Beware: You also have to take into consideration that Munich’s roadways will likely be congested with traffic as you near the Oktoberfest grounds, which will add to the cost estimate and take longer. You must also consider Uber’s practice of surge pricing, which inflates rates during popular events such as Oktoberfest, based on the inevitable increased demand. See the Uber Munich site to get fare estimates, but know that those estimates will not account for the potential of surge pricing.

If you do use Uber during Oktoberfest 2021 and you notice that surge pricing is 2x or higher, it will likely be less expensive to take a taxi if you can find one.


Using a Taxi to Get to Oktoberfest

Taking a taxi in Munich is not a budget-friendly Oktoberfest means of transportation. Use it as a last resort to get to Oktoberfest. Expect to pay nearly twice as much as an Uber during non-surge-pricing times. And a taxi during Oktoberfest will cost way more than a ticket to use the public transit. But if you’re unable to use public transportation for some reason and if Uber has a heavy surge pricing (2x or more), then a taxi’s standard rates will be less. This page gives current fares for Munich taxis.


Budget-Friendly Sightseeing While in Munich During Oktoberfest

If you’re in Munich for a few days, you should take at least one day away from Oktoberfest to walk around and sightsee in this wonderful city. Thankfully, there are plenty of things to do in Munich on a budget.

Free Things to Do in Munich During Oktoberfest

If you don’t do anything else in Munich, we highly recommend taking the free walking tour. These tip-based tours will take you around all the main sights in the historic city center as you nurture your hangover with interesting facts about Munich. Meet at the Marienplatz in front of the large column at 10:45 and 2:00. More info here: Munich Free Walking Tour.

There are tons of free sights and attractions in Munich’s city centre. Be sure to check out the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel. While you’re there, go just a few blocks around the corner to Frauenkirche Cathedral where you can see the devil’s footprint inside the grand cathedral. The walking tour goes to both, but you can also go there on your own.

Going to Englischer Garten Munich is a free thing to do to in Munich to escape the Oktoberfest crowds and enjoy a beer at Chinesischer Turm instead

We also recommend a visit to Englischer Garten, a vast park in the city center. Here you can visit one of Munich’s most famous beer gardens for lunch or a beer. The Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) can be a great alternative place to go have a beer on days when the Oktoberfest grounds are packed. And with the Chinese Tower beer garden containing 7,000 seats, you may actually have an easy time finding a table to sit at (unlike Oktoberfest). If it’s a sunny day in Englischer Garten, you’ll also see the oddly intriguing sight of a bunch of old naked men strutting around the park grounds or sunning themselves. Another highlight to do within the park is watching the many people surfing on the stationary wave in the Eisbach River.

And no beer-centric trip to Munich is complete without an obligatory visit to the famed Hofbrauhaus. So be sure to drop in for a liter.

💡 Pro Tip to Avoid Saturday Crowds at Oktoberfest
Saturdays at Oktoberfest draw the biggest crowds and it becomes the most difficult day of the week to find a seat at any of the beer halls. So if you’ll be in Munich for a few days, consider NOT going to Oktoberfest on Saturday. Instead, use Saturday to check out all the other awesome sights of Munich that aren’t at Oktoberfest. This is a great time to go to the Hofbrauhaus and to the aforementioned beer gardens. Use the busy Saturday during Oktoberfest to sightsee around Munich since the festival grounds can be particularly crowded then. Escape the Oktoberfest crowds and enjoy your beer in these pleasant Munich settings instead.

Inexpensive Tours in Munich During Oktoberfest

From tours of Munich to day trips out into the Alps countryside, there are some great excursions you can take during your stay in Munich, while breaking up all the Oktoberfest fun. Taking such day trips during Oktoberfest dates is also a great idea to do on Saturday to avoid the heavier weekend crowds that will be swarming Oktoberfest. It’s a nice way to balance out a beer-filled trip by adding a bit of Bavarian culture and history into the mix. After all, when you’ve come all the way to Munich, you’ve got to consider further venturing into the Alps to see Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!

Many of the tours are quite costly, of course. So we suggest forgoing the expensive 1-hour segway tour to instead pedal your way across Munich on a 3-hour bike tour. That’ll help you work off some of those beer calories, will be way more fun, and way cheaper too!

We’ve hand-picked these well-priced tours and day trips that you can reserve in before you get to Munich. And you should definitely book such tours in advance, as they tend to book up completely full during the busy Oktoberfest dates:

  • Dachau Memorial Site – Take a somber break from Oktoberfest with this half-day tour of the notorious former concentration camp, including a visit to the crematorium and the gas chamber. Book on GetYour Guide for €26.
  • Munich Bike Tour – This is a great option to cover much more ground in Munich than the walking tour. Take to two wheels and pedal your way across town and through Munich’s parks and beer gardens. You can book this 3-hour bike tour for only €25 on GetYourGuide. But if you stay with Stoke Travel, they offer a similar bike tour for €21.
  • Bavarian Beer and Food Evening Tour – What better time and place to learn all about Bavarian beer and food (€39). This highly rated tour provides private access to the Oktoberfest museum, followed by generous amounts of beer and German food, to learn all about the local traditions all while enjoying the beer. No wonder it gets such great reviews. See latest reviews and check availability on Viator.
  • Neuschwanstein Castle – Take a ride into the Alps to see the famed castle that became the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty. This is arguably the best day trip you can take from Munich. There are many tours that go out to this scenic site, yet we found the most affordable option to be this €48 tour on GetYourGuide, which currently boasts over 1,000 excellent reviews!


Transportation to Oktoberfest on a Budget

To have some money left to spend on beer, you’ll need to find an affordable way to get to Oktoberfest 2021. Luckily if you’re already in Europe or the British Isles, there are plenty of cheap ways to get to Oktoberfest. If you’re coming from another continent, don’t worry, you may still be able to score a cheap flight to Oktoberfest too.

At Oktoberfest 2016 oompah bands will play for the beer drinking crowds

Getting from Elsewhere in Europe or UK to Oktoberfest on a Budget

Your main transportation options to get to Munich Oktoberfest 2021 include:

  • Bus, 🚌
  • train, 🚆
  • or flight. ✈

Bus Travel to Oktoberfest is Usually the Cheapest Way to Munich

You can arrive from virtually anywhere in Europe and get to Munich during Oktoberfest cheaply by bus. You can find bus tickets from many European destinations to Munich as low as €15-€50 Euro each way. We find bus travel throughout Europe to be a great travel bargain and an underrated way to buzz around the continent.

Here are five bussing options to consider to get to Oktoberfest on a budget:

  • Flixbus connects Munich to most of Europe.
  • Eurolines also connects Munich to most European countries.
  • Mienfernbus connects Munich throughout Germany and also to Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands.
  • Megabus connects Munich to France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • Stoke Travel Oktoberfest bus package: If you do the all-inclusive camping with Stoke Travel, they have buses (and now a party train) packages that go from Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Prague, London, and Italy directly to/from the Stoke campsite. Prices vary depending on which city you’re coming from but prices run from €210-€350 which includes round-trip transportation AND the all-inclusive camping experience with free beer (when you enter: ROAMING at checkout).

Train Travel to Oktoberfest Can Get Costly

Train travel to Oktoberfest can get pricey. You can find reasonable regional rail rates from nearby Austria and within Germany. But if coming Oktoberfest from further afield, you’ll be much better off using a bus to keep expenses low. If considering train travel to Munich, use the Bahn website to find timetables.

For more complicated routes, consult the Munich page from the Man in Seat 61.

You can also try searching rome2rio which will give you some good ideas and estimates across planes, trains, and automobiles.

🇬🇧 If you’re going to Oktoberfest from UK, be sure to check out the 10-hour party train from London to Oktoberfest. It looks like a particularly awesome way to roll over to Oktoberfest. 🇬🇧

For Cheap Flights to Munich for Oktoberfest: Book Super Early

Book far enough in advance and you may be able to snag a seat on a budget airline into Munich within €100 each way. If you search early enough, you can actually find sub-€100 tickets from Paris and other cities within Germany to Munich. A handful of other European locations also have sub-€200 tickets each way. But you’ll only find those low fares to Oktoberfest if you search very early. Realistically, you can expect to pay at least €400+ for roundtrip tickets into Munich during Oktoberfest time.

Check Skyscanner to seek out cheap airfares.


How to Get from the US to Oktoberfest on a Budget

You can find surprisingly cheap flights from the US to Oktoberfest if you:

  • book far enough in advance,
  • are flexible with your departure/arrival cities, and
  • can be flexible with your dates of travel.

Flight prices change constantly and it would be a nearly impossible task to keep track of all the different routes and prices.

We’re seeing the cheapest airfare from US to Munich is out of New York City to Munich for about $581 per person, on Aer Lingus with a short layover in Dublin. This is extremely cheap for an Oktoberfest flight from the US! This particular flight is for the final weekend of Oktoberfest and returns to the US the day after the event ends. Making small concessions, such as departing a day or two after the event ends will lend to finding more attractive airfares.

Cheap flight rate from US to Oktoberfest on Aer Lingus from NYC to Munich

If you really want to save some cash, have some extra time, and are willing to go through some extra hassle, then you can often find even cheaper flights into Dublin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and other cities within Germany. Fly to one of those cities and then use one of the methods discussed above to get to Munich. Doing this will add time to your trip but you stand to save hundreds of dollars and will get an opportunity to explore another city before or after your Oktoberfest trip. Dublin can often be the cheapest point of entry from the US, so why not go have a few pints of Guinness as a prelude to the big show in Munich. Or consider a flight to Frankfurt or Berlin, which have close and easy connections to Munich.

Some of the best rates directly into Munich are with Air Berlin, Norwegian, Eurowings, and Aer Lingus. But search across all airlines and sites to find your best price. Try search one-way flights too and mix-and-match airlines to score the cheapest rates. We’ve found some of the best airfare prices to Munich during Oktoberfest on Get creative with your searches and score an Oktoberfest flight deal!

Search SkyScanner now


Oktoberfest on a Budget Recap

Have a fun yet cheap Oktoberfest 2016 just like these people celebrating at last year's event

We hope this article is helpful to planning your epic yet cheap Oktoberfest trip. Maybe we’ll see you at Oktoberfest 2021! 😉 If this post was helpful or if you have your own Oktoberfest budget tips, let us know in the comments. Or if you have any questions, give us a shout!

Oktoberfest on a budgetWhatever method you use to get to Oktoberfest and wherever you stay, be sure to go and experience this awesome centuries-old Bavarian tradition! Don’t let your budget hold you back. If you can scrounge up three or four hundred euros, you’ll be in great shape to have an incredible three-day bender at Oktoberfest on a budget. Prost!

Want to save this post for later? Use the image on the right to pin it to your Pinterest travel board!


Publishing note: This travel guide to Oktoberfest on a Budget was originally written in March 2016 and is now regularly updated to reflect the latest information to help travelers plan their way to Oktoberfest. Last updated: May 2020.
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16 Fun Things Travelers Can Still Do from Home while Isolating Thu, 02 Apr 2020 19:26:17 +0000 This is an unprecedented time for travelers.

Borders have closed. Countries are locked own. Flights are canceled. Cruises have paused service. World landmarks are closed, from the Taj Mahal to the Colosseum to Machu Picchu. And on March 19, the US State Department issued the highest level advisory (level 4) – Do Not Travel – not for a specific country, but for the entire globe! This advices its citizens to avoid all international travel.

Travel is becoming an impossibility across the globe.

Amidst all the travel restrictions and shutdowns, strong government warnings have been issued from all around the world urging people against travel as a means to help curb the spread.

Governments worldwide are recommending its citizens to stay home, self-isolate, and observe social distancing. This list from the Guardian breaks down current travel restrictions by country. Here in the US, the official recommendation is to avoid discretionary travel and further heed the CDC’s travel recommendations by country.

It’s all a little scary for those in the travel industry and avid travelers alike. Yet we remain optimistic of a future when we’ll all be able to roam around the world again.

Until then, it is becoming increasingly evident of a moral and social responsibility to stay home for a little while. Yet for travel lovers who are self-isolating, all the doom and gloom on the news can become emotionally and mentally exhausting to watch. And it’s only a matter of time while self-isolating before travelers start to experience cabin fever.

So we wrote this post in an attempt to provide a happy distraction for travel lovers to partake in.

For travelers who can’t travel or are self-isolating, there are still plenty of fun travel-related activities to do at home to get through this strange time! We’re in this alone together!

Title Image reading: Fun Things Travelers Can Do from Home, showing map of the world with items such as lysol wipes, face masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, paper airplane, model cruise ship, camera, planner, and passport

So here are 16 fun homebound activities to spur travel inspiration and keep spirits up during this time of non-movement.


1) Check Out Webcams to Peek into the World’s Top Attractions

Many of the busiest tourist attractions all around the world are closed or shutdown at this time. And live webcams are capturing those moments. This allows viewers from all around the world to gain a glimpse at these attractions in real time, without the swarms of people usually crowding the world’s busiest landmarks.

Italy’s webcams are perhaps most eye-opening at the moment. For anyone who has ever visited the Coliseum in Rome, you know what a cluster it can be. So it’s a stark reality to peek at the Coliseum live cam and see how empty it is right now.

Coliseum webcam


Here are just a few live cams that will offer you a virtual travel experience during this time of shutdowns. It enables you to see these places empty, in real time from your couch. (*Note: Open each link separately, one-at-a-time. If opening several tabs, the all tabs will default to the last live cam opened.)


Trevi Fountain: There isn’t soul tossing coins into Rome’s famed fountain that’s usually filled with throngs of tourists.

Piazza San Marco: See Venice’s bustling plaza is shockingly empty.

Eiffel Tower: No one is going up Paris’s famous landmark right now.

Bruge Market Square: This busy and picturesque Belgian square is currently lightly trafficked.

Madrid’s Puerta del Sol: It’s a quiet sight of just a few police standing guard in the heart of Madrid.


New York City: This 42nd Street live cam shows a light flow of people still moving about.

Las Vegas: There’s still some vehicle traffic, but have never seen the Vegas strip so quiet.

Fort Myers Beach: Florida’s beaches have become an issue, with some opening, closing, and reopening. So see if people are distancing today on this popular FL beach.

Mexico City Zocalo: There is still activity taking place in the central plaza of North America’s largest city.

Cusco’s Plaza Mayor: This historic heritage city and tourism hub that’s used as a launch pad for Machu Picchu is now empty.


Shibuya Crossing – Cam is currently down right now, but worth checking back to see Tokyo’s busiest intersection at this time.

Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park – At last look, we spotted elephants playing in a watering hole!


2) Make a Dream List of Places You Want to Travel

You may call it a “bucket list.” We like to say a “travel to-do list.”

Whatever you call it, now is a perfect time to make that list!

This can really be a fun activity to get the whole family involved too.

Use this extra time of being holed up together with your spouse to start talking about your next trip. Mountains or beach? Thailand or France? Perhaps some closer domestic trips may be in order? Now is a great time to discuss it all and make that list!

Get the kids involved too! Talking about travel destinations can be a perfect geography lesson for the many parents who have just unexpectedly just become homeschool teachers.

Think about all the bucket list places you would like to travel to. Need inspiration?

Here’s our very aspirational travel list of places we’d love to go next!

paper list of places to travel to such as Norway, Guyana, ABC Islands, Newfoundland, Sumatra and more

Don’t stop with making your list. Go the extra mile and create a travel vision board!

Now that you have culled down and perfected your travel list, make a travel vision board.

Go through old travel magazines and cut out the destinations you want to travel to. For other places, find photos online and print them out. Pin them to a cork board or paste them to a poster board. Or just find a piece of paper to use as your canvas.

Leave space in the middle of your vision board to place a beautiful smiling picture of you and your family from your last trip.

This will give you all the inspiration you need to take those trips, when the time comes!

We’ll work on ours. But if you do make a travel vision board… please, please, please – send us a picture by posting to our Facebook or email us. It would make us so happy to see your creation! 😄


3) Binge All the Travel Shows

If you’re stuck at home, fuel your wanderlust by binging on travel shows you can stream.

#QuarantineAndChill is becoming a thing. And Netflix may be an obvious choice to do so.

But did you know there are loads of travel shows you can stream on for free? There is! (Results may vary, pending your location).

Heather binging Conan without borders

Here are a few shows to help satiate your wanderlust while keeping inside:

Stream Travel Shows on Netflix

Conan without Borders – In our opinion, this is the absolute funniest travel show you can stream right now. If you need some levity during these trying times, have a laugh by watching Late Night comedian/host Conan O’Brien goof off around the world. There are only six episodes (Cuba, Korea, Mexico, Israel, Haiti, Italy), making it easily to binge in a day or two.

Somebody Feed Phil – Travel friends have strongly recommended this to us, so we’ll be binging it ourselves soon. “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal travels the globe to take in the local cuisine and culture of Bangkok, Lisbon, Mexico City and more.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner – Chef David Chang joins notable celebrity friends, like Seth Rogan and Chrissy Teigen, on trips to destinations such as Vancouver, Morocco, LA, and Cambodia, with his insatiable curiosity about food, culture and identity. We’re fans of David Chang and this looks fun, so we look forward to watching this ourselves.

Our Planet – Looking for something to relax and view beauty scenes of nature all around the world? This is your ticket. For those familiar with BBC’s Planet Earth, this is essentially Netflix’s take on that.

Dark Tourist – Feeling dark right now? Watch journalist David Farrier visit unusual – and often macabre – tourism spots around the world.

Stream Travel Shows on (for free!)

Rick Steves’ Europe – Notable guidebook author has 10 seasons available to binge that cover locations all throughout Europe.

Expedition with Steve Backshall – Naturalist Steve Backshall journeys to the world’s last unexplored places and faces challenges around the globe.

No Passport Required – Chef Marcus Samuelsson journeys across the U.S. to explore the diversity of immigrant traditions and cuisine woven into American food and culture.

Travel Shows on Amazon Prime

If you have Amazon Prime already, we found some travel content tucked away in their free prime videos. If you don’t already have Prime, use this link to get a 30-day free trail to Amazon Prime. Then you can watch these shows for free and get groceries and supplies sent to your home for free. (Cancel within 30 days to avoid charges.)

Lost Sea Expedition – I just watched the first 10-minutes of this low-key self-produced documentary and am already hooked. It chronicle’s Bernie Harbert’s expedition across the Great Plains from Canada to Mexico, by mule and wagon.

The Grand Tour – This is somewhat of a successor to the popular Top Gear series, following Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May on their vehicular escapes all around the globe.

Around the Next Bend – Follows two adventures’ journey down India’s Ganges River.


4) Do a Video Chat with Relatives to Learn about their Last Trip

Many friends and relatives around the world are on self-isolation. And the world’s older and wiser population may be feeling particularly quarantined right now, since they’re even more restricted with greater risk.

So have a video call with grandma and grandpa, or mom and dad. Or if you are grandma or grandpa, give your kids a video call! But don’t call just to say hi. Ask them about their latest trip!

Perhaps travel runs in your family. This can be a great way to connect and bond!

Conversation gets stale when its limited to the current events of “How is your quarantine going?” or “What did you have for dinner tonight?” Instead, talk about something more fun, like travel!

Everyone loves to talk about their travels. So, if you’re a traveler, asking a relative about their travels can be a great conversation starter! You’ll likely learn a lot and perhaps have some laughs along the way.

Teach grandma and grandpa how to video chat, if they don’t already know how – they’ll love it!

On a laptop video chatting with Heather's dad using Facebook Messenger

If you’re the grandma or grandpa, give the kiddos a call and hear about their last trip, whether it was to Disney World or the rager they had during a full moon party in Thailand. Just let it be a fun conversation!

But don’t just restrict this video call activity to relatives. Call your friends who you haven’t caught up with in a while.

Did you swoon over you’re a friend’s Instagram feed on their trip to Bali six months ago? Call them and ask them about it! Trust me, they’re going to be happy to gush all about that trip. Let travel talk be a happy distraction from other concerning news.

Here are some questions you can ask to help spur conversation:

  • What was your favorite experience during your last trip?
  • What was the best thing you ate on that trip?
  • Did you encounter any difficult or funny cultural experiences during the trip?
  • What would you do differently if you took another trip there?
  • Where did you stay and what was the accommodation like?
  • What is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled? Why?
  • Is there anywhere you’re planning to travel next?

How to do a video chat:

If you’ve never done a video chat before, just know that it’s super easy and you probably have everything you need already on your phone or laptop. Here are five common ways:


5) Order International Food Delivery to Try Cuisine of the World

This is a great way to help support local restaurants during this time when we’re all supposed to stay home. So sort through the delivery apps and find a new-to-you cuisine you’ve never tried before.

Spend this time in isolation eating your way around the world, right from home. Have fun with it and make plans to order from a new international restaurant once per week for every week of isolation.

Of course, most of us are familiar with favorites such as Chinese, Italian, or Mexican cuisine. But have you ever tried Ethiopian or Peruvian? These are both delicious options. See if there are any near you!

Try to find authentic takes on cuisines around the world. Tex-Mex food can be delicious. But search around and see if you’re able to find any traditional Mexican cuisine. We recently found an awesome little joint near us that not only serves traditional Mexican cuisine, but they crank out regional cuisine to one of our favorites areas, Querétaro!

Or perhaps you’re familiar with Indian cuisine, but it can be very regional. See if you can find a place specializing in southern Indian food, which tends to be much different than what you may be accustomed to. You can even practice local eating habits and eat with your hands!

Japanese food is among our favorites, going well beyond sushi. Thai cuisine is always a go-to for us. We only recently fell in love with Russian food. Meanwhile, Greek cuisine always makes our mouths water. Arabic cuisine, particularly Lebanese food, is another international hit in our household. Try them!

If you happen to live in a decent-sized city, international food opportunities can be endless. And most are available for delivery and on delivery apps.

Ask your friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations. Have some fun with it and poll them on social media!

Just be sure to use proper safety protocol when ordering delivery during these times. See the video below demonstrating our overly-cautious approach.

And to save money off delivery, feel free to use our referral codes for the following apps. Enjoy and stay safe!
✅ UberEats: Get $7 off your first order. Use this code at checkout: eats-johnw52q4ue
✅ DoorDash: Get $15 off ($5 off each of your first 3 orders) when you sign up with this link.
✅ Postmates: No delivery fees – get $100 worth of delivery fee credits with this link.
✅ Grubhub: Get $5 off your first order with this link.


6) Learn a New Language for Your Next/Favorite Travel Destination

Being able to speak the local language always greatly enhances any travel experience. You don’t have to strive to be fluent. Knowing some basics can really go a long way.

With extra time at home, use this as an opportunity to learn a new language or brush up. Get better at Spanish, gain some proficiency of Italian, or discover a new-to-you language, like Japanese.

Learning a language can be a fun and practical way for travelers to use this period of down time. And when travel restrictions are lifted, you’ll be ready to show off your new language skills somewhere in the world!

As a fun and easy way to learn a new language, we like to use Babbel. Personally, we’ve improved our Spanish greatly by practicing with Babbel. And right now they’re offering 25%-off an annual subscription.


7) Explore Locally in Isolation: Go for a Scenic Drive

For those who are getting cabin fever under self-isolation, consider hitting the road to gratify your travel itch locally. It’s possible to remain self-isolated in your car. So why not go take a nice drive?

Check local advisories first. If your area is not under a lockdown or a strict stay at home order, a scenic drive may be a way to get out from the isolation of your home while still isolating yourself inside your car. Stay in your car and hit the road! Pack a lunch or consider supporting local restaurants to grab some take-out while you’re out.

driving across south africa in a rental

Research interesting backroads in your area. Drive somewhere you’ve never been. Avoid highways, just for fun. Literally take the road less traveled. There may be endless interesting driving options hiding in plain sight all around you.

Travelers like to explore. And it’s still possible to do so locally while remaining isolated in your vehicle. Drive to a scenic mountain, beach, desert, or lake. Sometimes natural beauty can be viewed right behind the wheel, as we recently experienced on a scenic drive through the Everglades.

An alligator, as viewed from the window of a car


8) Plan Your Next Trip Now
(and Help Save the Tourism Industry & Travel Bloggers!)

Did you narrow down your dream travel list, as suggested in our #1 of this list of travel-related things to do from home? Do you have a travel vision board? Okay, good. Now let’s plan!

It may not be physically possible to travel right now. But we can all still dream about and research destinations on your to-do list and travel vision boards. Plan a trip now while you have some extra time at home to do so!

Don’t worry if you’re not ready to book that flight today. Simply start doing the research phase of trip planning. Put together a loose itinerary or find a tour if you prefer.

If you’re both planner at heart and a travel fanatic, then you know the process of formulating and organizing a trip can be so extremely gratifying!

Personally, for me, planning a theoretical trip is so much fun. It’s an enjoyable outlet to get in the dream stage, pouring over guidebooks, blogs, and travel articles to research a destination. It’s enlightening to dive deep, learning all about the best places to go, things to do, and what to eat.

Get some of that excitement by planning a trip during this down time, even if you may not be able to take that trip anytime soon. Do loads of research and make notes. Then act on it whenever you’re ready. Or keep your plans on hand for a later time when you may be able to take a trip but no time to plan.

Heck, I once even planned an entire monthlong trip to Sumatra that we never took. Time constraints forced us to put that particular journey on the back burner. But it was still a fun exercise to go through. And we now have an entire itinerary ready to go for whenever we are able to dip into the Indonesian jungle.

On a laptop searching for Sumatra travel info

Meanwhile, tourism sectors around the world will be struggling for months to come. They are going to need our collective support.

Don’t cancel your travel plans. Postpone them.

And with extra time at home, you can use it to plan a trip now.

So get planning! And please be sure to use travel blogs while you’re at it!

There are some great informational travel blogs out there. Please use them.

As a side note, many of us bloggers make a living by producing those free travel guides (with advertisements throughout). As you can imagine, people are not visiting travel blogs at the moment and hence not viewing those ads we make a living off of. Search traffic is tanking 90%+ and some advertisers are even canceling on us. As a result, all of us solopreneur bloggers in this position are taking a very hard hit with a sudden stop of income.

So plan a trip. Do lots of Googling and click travel blogs as your resource. In doing so, you’ll inadvertently help us all just a little to get through this rough time.


9) Create a Photo Book from Your Last Trip

This is such a fun idea to do while self-isolating! We all have so many digital photos saved to our phones, posted on social media, or floating around somewhere in the cloud. But whatever happened to having hard-copy photo albums?

We absolutely love these hardcover books that you can make with your own travel photos!

We’ve made many ourselves over the years. For special segments of our travels around the world, we’ve created these hardbound books as a memento of the trip. It makes a fun gift idea for friends or family who have joined you on a trip. That’s what we usually do when making these hardcover photo books. They turn out so nice and professional!

It’s a super easy process to make them. But they do take a little bit of time to put together. Fortunately now, you may have time to organize your photos to create a physical album from your last trip! They make great coffee table books and conversation-starters when having guests over.

We create these photo books on Snapfish. For the month of March, you can use coupon code FRESHBOOKS to get a 8×10 hardcover book for only $9.99. (Reg. $39.99. Save $30. That’s 75% off!)

Better yet, snag the coupon code 70MH50 to get the (larger) 11 x 14 hardcover book for $69.99 now $21! That’s a $48.99 coupon!

We love the photo books. But you can also create all sorts of other things from your travel photos. Make canvas prints to decorate your home from a favorite trip. Check out all of Snapfish’s current coupons, deals, and promos.


10) Do Spring Cleaning with Your Travel Gear

When was the last time you went through all your travel gear? Now is a perfect time to assess what you have. Then donate and/or purge.

Channel your inner Marie Kondo. Do you really need the 10+ suitcases taking up space in your closet? Do they spark joy? If not, get rid of them!

5 pieces of luggage spilling out of a closet

Do you have kids who have outgrown their travel gear? Toss it! (Or ship it to your favorite expecting travel bloggers, hehe.)

If you have camping gear, is it still in good condition? Consider breaking it out right now to repair it. Waterproof the tent that was leaking on your last camping trip.

For those of us whose paychecks or income is taking a major hit right now, consider selling any high-ticket items that could bring you a few bucks during these tough times.

Maybe you bought a fancy camera for a trip that you never use. List it on eBay! Ask yourself how frequently do you actually use that drone you bought. If you’re not using it, it may be time to sell it!

Consider parting with old tech gear too. Maybe that GoPro you bought in 2012 seemed like the coolest travel gear purchase ever. But it’s likely obsolete by now. Technology has come a long way to offer far better offerings at cheaper prices.

Do you need new travel gear? Check out our entire Packing List of Travel Gear we’ve been roaming around the world with during the past six years!


11) Go on a Secluded Stroll & Get Outside

Travelers are accustomed to movement; not this current state of being confined.

But is it possible to go outside while practicing social distancing? Let’s turn to the experts to answer that. Here’s what a neurohospitalist and professor of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology had to say about that in a article:

“If you stay about 6 feet away from people, then it’s fine to go for a walk or hike or play on the lawn.”

So are you getting restless yet? Get outside! Just continue to practice social distancing while enjoying the outdoors.

Check local advisories, take your own health into consideration, and follow social distancing advice from medical experts. If all is good, consider taking a secluded stroll to re-discover your neighborhood or an adjacent neighborhood that’s not busy with people. Or take things one step further (pun intended) by driving to a rural park for an isolated amble or hike.

For those of you reading this from the US, know that trails and outdoor spaces in some National Parks have remained open. In fact, a March 18 news release announced US National Park entrance fees are suspended until further notice.

Since this was first announced, there have been news reports of crowding at popular national parks. Many of the most visited parks have made the decision to close due to park-goers ignoring social distancing. As reported in the news, America’s most popular parks such as Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, Yosemite NP, Rocky Mountain NP, and most of Great Smokey Mountain NP have since shutdown. So check the official NPS Health Update page for closures & up-to-date info, consider a lesser-visited park, and keep your space.

For National Parks that remain open, expect facilities such as visitor centers to be closed and ranger programs to be canceled.

Heather takes a walk by herself in the Everglades

Better yet, consider some of the lesser-visited local parks in your area. If walking around a local park, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recommends these guidelines:

  • “Do not use parks and trails if you are exhibiting symptoms.
  • Follow the CDC’s guidelines on personal hygiene prior to visiting parks or trails.
  • Be prepared for limited access to public restrooms or water fountains.
  • Share the trail and warn other trail users of your presence and as you pass.
  • Observe CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6′ from other persons at all times.”

Great advice! So follow those guidelines and we’d further add to consider exploring less popular trails to best be able to maintain distance from other potential walkers or hikers.

Most importantly, take some time out to get some fresh air, physical exercise, and mental clarity. Get outside and stretch your legs, all while maintaining social distancing. Do so even if it’s simply stepping outside in your backyard or walking down a quiet street.


12) Take a Travel Photography Course

Photography and travel go hand-in-hand. But so many of us are taking subpar photos and may not know how to use our camera’s full potential.

Perhaps most of all, you may not have the knowledge of how a quick 5-second edit can turn a mediocre travel memory into a NatGeo-quality photograph that’ll get all the likes on Instagram.

Use that extra time at home to take a photography course! While we’re all self-isolating, this is a great time for self-improvement. So let’s all step-up our photography game!

You can even practice your newfound photography skills by practicing taking photos around the house.

Where can you learn photography at home? Right now, the popular online learning site – Skillshare – is offering free 2-month trial for all their courses, which includes dozens related to photography. This is the perfect time to cash-in on that offer (then cancel before the two months is up). Or keep the membership – there are so many great courses!

Skillshare teaches other courses that may be useful to travelers, from minimalism to mindfulness to money management and travel journaling. Browse Skillshare to see what may be of interest to you. And they’re all free with the two-month trial membership!

Back to photography, search for these courses that may be useful:

  • Travel Photography, by Dan Rubin
  • Fundamentals of DSLR Photography, by Justin Bridges
  • iPhone Photography: How to Take Pro Photos, by Dale McManus
  • How to Make Exciting Travel Videos for Beginners, by Randy Alan

Search Skillshare now and redeem your 2-month trail.


13) Create or Update Your Travel Map & Stats

If you’re an avid traveler, it can be fun to visualize the countries you’ve visited and get the stats behind them. The website we like to use to track this is and it’s totally free!

Once you take the time to input the places you’ve been to, it’ll create maps for you and generate many travel stats that you can then compare with others. Here’s our map of countries visited!

A world map of countries we've visited in 2020

It does take some time to input all the info. But that info saves for you to update later, after subsequent travel.

And once the info is in there, you can easily create different map views.

For example, personally I think the map view below is a much more accurate reflection of our travel, as it fills in specific regions, rather than filling in the entire country. (Just because we spent a few days in St Petersburg, shouldn’t justify coloring in all of Russia green.) But I digress.

map of regions visited in our travels 2020

What’s really fun for any other traveling data junkies out there, is all the stats they give you from the info you’ve input.

For example, go to ‘Rankings,’ then ‘Slice & Dice.’ There, you can compare yourself with other registered travels and compare the rankings of countries and regions visited.

MTP stands for Most Travel People, after all. And we’ve found that most of the very well-traveled people in the world are registered on this site. So it can be fun to compare yourself to see where you rank and give something to boast about. For example, we just found out that Heather is the third most traveled American female in her age group, registered on the site. Pretty cool!

The MTP website also produces scorecards for users that reveal their most difficult locations they’ve traveled in comparison to the lack of users haven’t visited. For us, the least common country we’ve visited is Malawi and the least common places include Dry Tortugas (USA), Colima (MX), and Entre Rios (Ar).

Conversely, it reveals the most popular destinations you’ve not yet traveled to. For us, that’s Denmark. And the most common regions we’ve yet to travel to include Berlin, and Veneto (Venice). It’s kinda crazy we still haven’t made it there!

It’s all pretty interesting to see about your own travels and a fun thing to do at home while we’re currently stationary. So register, input your data, and have fun viewing your own map and stats. Visit


14) Take a Virtual Tour of a Landmark or Museum with Street View

Google has a very interesting and little-known function that’s part of its Street View project. You can virtually tour many landmarks and museums all around the world!

Start browsing the all famous sites and landmarks here.

Here are some fun sites we just virtual toured around:

  • Great Pyramids of Giza – There’s lots of virtual exploring to do around Egypt’s world wonder.
  • Palace of Versailles – Virtual stroll through the ornate halls of this historic and royal French palace.
  • Sydney Opera House – Movement is restricted here, but it’s a beautiful 360-view of the harbour and Sydney’s famed landmark.
  • Taj Majal – Soak in the views from atop India’s famed mausoleum.
  • Hollywood Boulevard – Start off at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and walk down LA’s famous star-lined blvd.
  • Machu Picchu – You don’t have to hike the Inca Jungle Trek to virtually tour Peru’s famous ruins.
  • Stonehenge – Have an up-close view around England’s mysterious stone structures.
  • Tikal – Virtually climb all around what’s been our favorite Mayan site we’ve ever visited in person.
  • International Space Station – Wow, how cool is that?

Take a virtual tour through those famed sights and so many more!


15) Uncover a Travel Deal for the Future!

Because traveling has taken such a harsh hit, there are some super cheap flights on sale right now alongside other intriguing deals. It’s an attempt by airlines and travel companies to get people to book. But should you book a cheap flight right now?

The main sentiment coming from the travel industry is to postpone travel, don’t cancel. To quote the World Tourism Organization, they suggest “Stay home – but travel tomorrow!” (Full statement here.)

It’s in an effort to stop the spread now so we can all get back to traveling again. Not literally tomorrow, but eventually. So this means don’t book a cheap flight to fly somewhere next week. However, it could prove smart to secure a super low fare now for later in the year.

That said, it is getting increasingly tricky to plan international travel for the future, not knowing how long travel restrictions and advisories may be in place.

Search for Cheap Flight Deals for Travel Later this Year

So is it worthwhile to score a cheap flight deal now? It may be a bit of a gamble, given the uncertainty of everything going on. But it’s a gamble that could really pay-off.

It would be irresponsible and go against government advisories to book a last-minute deal for discretionary travel in the very near future. We must all consider the health risks involved as we try to collectively attempt to flatten the curve during this uncertain situation.

Instead, consider booking that cheap flight for later. Airfares for a trip next week may be amazingly low, but fares are only negligibly higher later in the summer and fall months, when it could potentially be okay to travel again. Hence, it may prove worthwhile to lock in these super low fares now.

By sleuthing for low fares from our local airport (FLL) during that time frame, we sniffed out a $21 flight to Chicago, a $49 flight to Denver, and a $50 flight to LA.

Right now, buying flights is the last thing on everyones mind. Yet those who are proactive can score these super cheap fares while they last, in hopes on taking a trip later this year.

Of course, no one knows exactly when this may all blow over. So before you buy, just be sure you understand the refund and cancelation policies. To help, here is a refund tracker for airlines and other travel companies, keeping track of updated policy changes. There’s also a risk of airlines defaulting, so that’s something else to consider.

It’s a natural instinct not to purchase flights now while we all take a wait-and-see approach to travel. And it could be wise to wait amidst concerns. But realize that once there is more certainty and travel restrictions begin to ease, airfare prices will rise.

Now is not the time for international travel. But it could be a smart move to book now, particularly so for those budget-minded travelers out there. At the very least, travel deal-seeking during this time of self-isolation may be a fun way for thrifty travelers to keep busy dreaming about travel again. It certainly doesn’t hurt anything to window shop and see what flight deals are out there.

So where can you find these super low flight deals? Our go-to for sniffing out these low fares is doing open-end searches on Google Flights and Skyscanner. Using Skyscanner, enter your home airport in the ‘From’ field, “Everywhere” in the ‘To’ field, and be flexible by selecting an entire month for the date. Search here.

View of Galapagos from plane window on our cheap flight to the Galapagos

Find an Inexpensive Cruise Deal Now for Later Sailings

The deals aren’t just for flights though. The hard-hit cruise industry may have some of the most amazing deals awaiting travelers once cruising resumes again.

Don’t only look for last-minute cruise deals! As you may know, most cruises around the world are currently not sailing as of late March. The CDC currently recommends against cruise travel and there is a pause in cruising, with most lines extending it into June and possibly beyond.

Canada has deferred large cruise ships in the country until July 1, which effectively postpones the Alaska season at least until July. And many other world cruise ports are closed. So cruising during Spring 2020 and into the summer may prove impossible. But you can still book a deal for the future!

Of course, the future is uncertain on when cruising will resume. So what happens if you book a cruise and it cancels on you? In previous cancelations most cruise lines have offered a choice of a full refund or a generous future cruise credit (fcc).

For example, lines such as Norwegian and Celebrity offered either a full refund or a future cruise credit of 125% during the already announced cancelations. (This article has a good round-up of cruise cancelations, refunds, and fcc offers.) So those who book a cruise in the next few months and get canceled upon, you may be able to extend your cruise budget and extra 25% for a later cruise, assuming the suspension is extended and the fcc offers continue.

And there are some excellent cruise deals out there. Look for cruise deals later in 2020, particularly if there’s a cruise port near where you live (not requiring flights). Take a look at these Caribbean cruise deals departing US ports from July and beyond.

Celebrity Millennium cruise ship docked


16) Keep Abreast of How Travel is Changing Around the World

Things are changing so quickly, and the news is coming in fast. Much of the mass media we’ve been watching has been glossing over some big travel stories that are not only affecting the travel industry, but also travelers.

For that, we turn to Skift. Since its 2012 inception, Skift aims to be the home page of the global travel industry. And they’ve been doing a great job covering up-to-date travel news during this time of so much changes.

While much of this coverage is geared towards people working within the travel industry, the travel news they’re reporting on should certainly be of interest to all travelers. So whether you’re in the industry or simply a travel-lover who wants to be in-the-know, we’ve found Skift to be a good and reliable source of travel news amidst the travel shutdowns and changes.

We’ve been regularly checking this Skift Liveblog that’s tracking all the latest breaking travel news happening since our world began to change.

Also be sure to monitor these reliable and official sources for travel advise during these times:


More positive things you can do from home while travel is restricted

We hope this post has given a few fun ideas of things travelers can do to keep busy while self-isolating.

Do you have any other ideas? Please let us know in the comments. If this article gains traction, we may continue to expand and update it with reader suggestions! After all, we’re in this #AloneTogether.

And once we’re on the other side of these travel restrictions and quarantines, we look forward to seeing you back out there roaming around the world!

Until then, here are just a few more positive things we can do while we’re stuck inside:

🧼 Wash those hands! This likely doesn’t need to be repeated, but let’s all continue to practice good hygiene!

💁🏽Reach out to friends and neighbors to offer any help. They may need it or just someone to chat with.

😤Pause and take a deep breath. It works.

🎨 Create something to make someone smile. Create art, make a video, do a dance, whatever.

👍 Share this post! Maybe your friends & family would like to read it. Plus, doing so helps us. We thank you for that!

⚕ Most of all, stay healthy travel lovers! Let’s get back out roaming whenever the world is ready!

Travel bloggers John & Heather staying at home while self-isolating, Heather is holding a paper airplane while John sanitizes her hands

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Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls: All You Need To Know (And How To Survive!) Thu, 02 Apr 2020 19:06:29 +0000 Map of Africa with location of Devil's Pool Victoria FallsDevil’s Pool is a natural pool of water that’s situated atop of Victoria Falls, renown for being among the largest waterfalls in the world. Right on the edge of this massive waterfall, a calm pool of water forms. This is known as the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls. And daring visitors can actually swim in this pool straddling the edge of Victoria Falls!

Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls is located in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s in the Zambezi River, along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border.

Devil’s Pool is a death-defying feat that even the most casual of thrill seekers must add to their travel bucket list.

When visiting Devil’s Pool, it’s even possible to lean over the edge of Africa’s Victoria Falls! This breath-taking experience in Devil’s Pool is every bit as mind-boggling as it looks. Visitors can literally get right up to the edge of what amounts more than a 100-meter waterfall drop.

It’s absolutely insane! Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls is the world’s ultimate infinity pool.

During our journey across Africa, as we neared Victoria Falls, we had so many questions about the unique experience of actually swimming in Devil’s Pool. Although we had viewed some videos showing off this unfathomable adventure, there otherwise wasn’t much info detailing exactly how to visit Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls.

It turns out there is a lot that you should know to prepare for a visit to Devil’s Pool Zambia. So in an effort to give back to the travel community, this post was written in a grand attempt to answer all your questions about Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls, so you can better plan your visit to this astonishing place in the world.

Swimming on the edge of one of earth’s largest waterfalls was one of the most thrilling, insane, and awesome experiences we’ve ever embarked on during our Oasis Overland trip across Africa, and perhaps all of our travels around the world.

Be sure to view the Devil’s Pool video, below, to get an idea of what this crazy thrill is like. Then read on for all the details you need to know!

Devil’s Pool Safety

Is Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Safe?

Questions about Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls deaths and safety is usually the first thing everyone asks about this crazy adventure.

So is Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls safe? The answer is a matter of opinion. It is our opinion that Devil’s Pool is a relatively safe experience. But it is not without some significant risks that adventure-seekers should be aware of.

Is Devil's Pool Safe? It sure felt scary being so close to the edge but we thought Devil's Pool was relatively safe

In Devil’s Pool itself, there is a rock lip that protrudes upward which keeps you from falling over the edge. Under the low water conditions that you’re permitted to enter Devil’s Pool, you would have to make a concerted effort to actually go up and over that rock that’s naturally keeping you in. This rock lip seemed thick and sturdy to us.

Could that rock potentially give way one day? Perhaps. But that seemed very unlikely in our opinion. Still, like everything in life, there’s definitely some risk here.

Before getting to Devil’s Pool Zambia, you must take a short swim in the Zambezi River right above Victoria Falls, from Livingston Island to Devil’s Pool. Many people don’t realize this.

You cross a portion of the Zambezi River by swimming partially up-current for the first half of the swim. For the latter half, you transition to swimming across and down current. There are guides that will instruct you. The current wasn’t strong at all, but there was a current nonetheless. This swim through the Zambezi takes place in what we estimate to be about 50 to 100 meters from the edge of Victoria Falls.

Weaker swimmers are accommodated by wading through the water. Here, the water is about stomach-deep, depending on the water levels. Guides assist by holding hands, only if needed.

Swimming in the Zambezi River to Get to Devil's Pool

So has there been any Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls accidents?


The guides told us that most Devil’s Pool accidents have been from people slipping on wet rocks, causing minor injuries. Be careful on these rocks! Don’t let your guard down just because you’re not right on the edge of the waterfall.

As if the threat of falling off this enormous waterfall wasn’t enough, you also must consider the risk of running into a hippo or crocodile in Devil’s Pool. Yes, there are also hippos and crocodiles in the waters atop Victoria Falls.

Guides do check for crocodiles before entering the water. Our guide told us he’s never seen any crocodiles in Devil’s Pool itself, but the Zambezi most definitely is their habitat. The waters here are fairly shallow and I’d like to think that such a large creature like a croc or hippo would be clearly evident. So we don’t view this as too big of a risk. Yet it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. We did spot some hippos during the short boat ride to Devil’s Pool.

So is Devil’s Pool completely safe? No, of course not. Just look at it. You’re hanging off the edge of one of the largest waterfalls in the world and sharing the water with nearby crocs and hippos!

As with anything in life, there are definitely risks involved. You must weigh out the risks for yourself based on your personal comfort level.

That said, we felt safe during our Devi’s Pool trip and felt to be in good hands with the competent guides. At the time of writing this article, there has never been any major incidents, drownings, croc attacks, or anything like that. That at least gave us some comfort in taking the plunge. You’ll need to decide for yourself.


Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Deaths – Has Anyone Died Going Over Victoria Falls?

According to the tour guides that operate this experience, there have never been any Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls deaths during the Livingstone Island tour, which is the only tour that includes a swim in Devil’s Pool. We’ve done some lengthy Internet research and couldn’t find any incidents to prove the guides’ claim to be incorrect.

You may come across a report online about a Victoria Falls death in 2009 from a tour guide going over the edge of while trying to save a tourist. But that story is inaccurate, as that particular Victoria Falls death wasn’t actually at Devil’s Pool. Rather, that death occurred in a different location atop Victoria Falls. So even though that unfortunate 2009 death did indeed occur at Victoria Falls, it was not a Devil’s Pool death.

Furthermore, that 2009 Victoria Falls death happened before they even began running official tours to Devil’s Pool. There are also other occasional Victoria Falls deaths, but there are no casualties on record of people plunging to their deaths at Devil’s Pool during the Livingstone Island tour, which remains the only tour to access Devil’s Pool.

Guide hangs over the edge of Devil's Pool Victoria Falls but there has been no Devil's Pools deaths at Victoria Falls, maintaining a good safety record

Also, be sure that you don’t confuse this Devil’s Pool in Africa with a different Devil’s Pool in Australia, in which there have, in fact, been numerous deaths.

So, no, there haven’t been any documented Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls deaths here in Zambia, Africa.

Is there potential for Devil’s Pool deaths? Of course there is!

You’re swimming on the top of an enormous waterfall. If someone were to somehow be completely careless and go over the edge, they would almost certainly die. So we would be remiss to completely dismiss the possibility of such a tragedy happening.

That said, you would have to really do something stupid or try hard to go over the edge. It would be very difficult and improbable to naturally be carried over the edge by the water. That rock lip holds you in.

Still, we wouldn’t be totally shocked if there were to be a major Devil’s Pool accident one day. So just be cautious, careful, and alert when swimming there and help maintain the Devil’s Pool safety record of no deaths so far.


Is Devil’s Pool Scary?

You’re literally on the edge of one of the largest waterfalls in the world. So, no, Devil’s Pool is not scary – it’s absolutely terrifying! But it’s still an exhilarating thrill that is a lot of fun.

Scared in Devil's Pool Victoria Falls

If the fear of going over the edge and the thought of crocs in the water aren’t enough to completely freak you out, there’s also another unexpected surprise in Devil’s Pool. There are fish that bite you during your dip in Devil’s Pool. It’s not enough to draw blood, but it will definitely make you jump a bit. So just be forewarned and don’t be startled enough to jump over the edge.

But yes, Devil’s Pool is indeed scary. Or, at least we thought so. Everyone judges the fear factor of this experience different from one another, but I think most sane people would agree that Devil’s Pool is a frightening experience. But it’s also a pretty awesome thrill!


What Happens If You Chicken Out of Devil’s Pool?

Swimming in Devil’s Pool is actually just one part of what is called “The Livingstone Island Tour.” You can join this tour and not actually go in Devil’s Pool at all.

Actually, over half the people during our tour opted to do just that. They didn’t chicken out though. They didn’t go into Devil’s Pool simply because they never intended to in the first place. The tour involves taking a boat across the Zambezi, walking around Livingstone Island, watching those of us daring enough to swim in Devil’s Pool, and enjoying a meal on Livingstone Island.

Many people come just to do those things and have no intention on swimming in Devil’s Pool. Going into Devil’s Pool is an optional component of the tour. You can decide if you actually want to go into Devil’s Pool once you get there. And it’s okay if you do chicken out.

So if you’re not sure, we’d suggest to still take the tour. Then arrive to Livingstone Island to assess the situation first-hand before making a decision whether or not to pursue a swim in Devil’s Pool. Even after swimming across the Zambezi River to get to Devil’s Pool, there is dry land to stand on in the instance that you’re too nervous to actually swim in Devil’s Pool Zambia.

Swimming in Devil's Pool Victoria Falls Zambia with rainbow


Do You Have To Jump In or Hang Over the Edge of Devil’s Pool?

No, you can test your limits as little or as far as you want to.

You can find many images online of people diving into Devil’s Pool and other mind-boggling poses hanging off the edge of this massive waterfall.

But you don’t have to jump in the pool (although it does make a cool photo!) You can instead carefully step down some rocks and wade into Devil’s Pool.

Jumping into Devil's Pool Victoria Falls

If the water levels are particularly low, some braves souls will lean out over the edge of the Victoria Falls as a guide holds onto their feet. Lean over Devil’s Pool if you dare, but only if you wish. This is your experience and you can decide to go as far over the edge as you feel comfortable doing. Or don’t peer over the edge at all.


How Fit Do You Need To Be to Swim In Devil’s Pool?

You must swim or wade across a portion of the Zambezi River to get from Livingstone Island to Devil’s Pool, so you need to be fit enough to do that. There is no rope to hold onto, so you will need to be able to get across the Zambezi River while the current is flowing.

Although there is no rope, most of the water is shallow enough to stand up in and still keep your head above the water. So if you were to panic for some reason during the swim, you should be able to stand up, which would prevent you from being carried downstream and getting swept away over the Falls.

Still, I wouldn’t recommend a visit to Devil’s Pool Zambia for anyone who can’t swim. Is it possible? Perhaps. But, I wouldn’t.

If you’re not a strong swimmer, that’s fine. You can wade across the Zambezi to get to Devil’s Pool depending on water levels. Just let the guides know. But if you’re unable to swim at all, Devil’s Pool probably isn’t an excursion for you.

Older people in Devil's Pool Victoria Falls

During our visit, there were older folks, heavier people, and weak swimmers who all accomplished the Zambezi River crossing without incident. Two guides are close by to instruct you and help ensure safety.

You are the best judge of your own fitness and capabilities. But most people should be able to make it across.

The challenge of Devil’s Pool is more mental than it is physical. You must overcome the fear of swimming in this death-defying pool.

Is There an Age Limit to Devil’s Pool?

Children must be at least 12 years old to go into Devil’s Pool. Children age 8 years old and up can go on the Livingstone Island Tour. But kids must be 12 years old to actually swim in Devil’s Pool.


Do You Need Travel Insurance for Devil’s Pool?

Travel insurance is not required but is strongly recommended. Devil’s Pool accidents can happen and the tour operator assumes no liability. You must sign a waiver to ensure this at the beginning of the Livingstone Island tour.

So before embarking on your trip to Africa, ensure that you have travel insurance. That way, if there is any unforeseen incident that occurs at Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls (or anywhere during an Africa trip), you should be covered.

We use World Nomads, as we have found they have what we find to be the best combination of cost and coverage provided. If you are pursuing other extreme sports while in Africa, consider their “Explorer” coverage, which includes coverage for additional adventurous activities beyond their Standard coverage.

It only takes about one minute to get a quote, so go here and enter the dates of your trip to get a quick estimate.


Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Booking, Price, and Costs

How Much Does Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Cost?

The price of the Devil’s Pool tour varies, pending whether you do the Livingstone Island Tour as part of their breakfast, lunch, or high tea package.

Current (2020) Devil’s Pool prices are:

  • Breakfast (7:30, 9:00, 10:30) costs $110
  • Lunch (12:30) costs $175
  • High Tea (15:30) costs $150

You must choose one of these tours that include a meal. There is no tour available only to Devil’s Pool, without a meal and visit to Livingstone Island. For the cheapest way to swim in Devil’s Pool Zambia, we recommend one of the breakfast tours, of course.

Most booking agents for this tour accept payment in US Dollars. They may or may not accept credit card.

This is the edge of Victoria Falls which is not possible to go to Devil's Pool Victoria Falls


What’s Included in the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Tour Price?

The Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls tour (AKA Livingstone Island tour) includes the following:

  • A five-minute boat ride from the Launch Site to Livingstone Island.
  • A complimentary welcome drink.
  • A brief tour of Livingstone Island
  • Swimming in Devil’s Pool
  • Two guides for the entire group (one who takes photos, another who assists in the pool).
  • Towels are provided for you upon getting out of Devil’s Pool.
  • A meal – breakfast, lunch, or high tea, depending on what Devil’s Pool tour you booked.
  • Drinks are also provided during the meal.
    Note: No alcoholic drinks are available during breakfast (not complimentary nor for purchase), but an assortment of wine and beer is included with the lunch and high tea tours. Interestingly, no tea is available during the “high tea” tour.
Breakfast on Livingstone Island Tour Victoria Falls

Breakfast consisted of a delicious eggs benedict, scones, muffins, and coffee.

Not Included in Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Price:

  • Tips for the guides
  • Transportation to/from the Launch Site
  • Camera – Although photography is included, you must bring your own camera. (More on that in the What To Bring section of this post).
  • Visa fees for those who are arriving from Zimbabwe

Not Needed To Pay:

You do NOT need to pay any admission fees for the Victoria Falls World Heritage National Monument Site, part of Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Livingstone Island and Devil’s Pool is not part of the National Park, so no admission fee is required.


Is Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Worth It?


With a price over $100, Devil’s Pool is an expensive excursion for backpackers and those traveling on a budget. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to do in Africa that we say is 100% worth every penny.

We’re traveling around the world on a budget, but sometimes you’ve got to splurge. We firmly believe that this is one of those experiences to splurge on. Victoria Falls is one of the three largest waterfalls in the world (Niagara & Iguazu being the others) and this is the only one of the trio that you can swim on the lip of.

We’ve talked to dozens of people that have splurged on the Devil’s Pool tour and we haven’t met anyone who regretted spending the cash on this unique trip. Yes, it is scary. But no one we spoke with has regretted it.

It’s our opinion that Devil’s Pool is absolutely worth it. And when you compare this to other adrenaline activities in Victoria Falls such as bungee jumping ($160), you’ll often find that the Devil’s Pool trip costs less.

You should also consider this experience includes a very nice meal too! So if you’ve traveled all the way to Victoria Falls, it’s our recommendation that Devil’s Pool is absolutely worth pursuing.

Couple sitting in Devil's Pool Victoria Falls with rainbow contemplating is Devil's Pool worth it


Can You Get to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls on Your Own?

No, there’s no way to get to Devil’s Pool independently.

You must visit Devil’s Pool as part of the Livingstone Island tour, which you obviously must pay for. In the earlier days of Devil’s Pool, it was less regulated, and you could find unofficial “tour guides” that would take you out there for a fraction of the high price that is charged today.

Those days are over. Today, the only way to go to Devil’s Pool Zambia is to fork over the cash for the official Livingstone Island tour, ran by Tongabezi.

Besides, would you really want to risk your life with an unofficial tour guide, even if it did exist? There isn’t any way to get here on your own. You can see the picture below that shows the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls location in respect to Livingstone Island.

Areal shot of Victoria Falls showing Livingstone Island and Devil's Pool Victoria Falls location

A boat is needed simply to get to Livingstone Island. So it would be virtually impossible to get to Devil’s Pool on your own.

If the thought of plunging over the falls to your death isn’t enough to scare you, you could also face being thrown in a Zimbabwean or Zambian jail cell since you are potentially making an illegal border crossing. Don’t even think about it.


How and Where to Book a Devil’s Pool Tour at Victoria Falls?

Most travel agencies on both the Zimbabwe or Zambia side of Victoria Falls can book a Devil’s Pool tour for you.

The Devil’s Pool tour (AKA Livingstone Island tour) is run by Tongabezi, a tour operator that also runs a luxury lodge on the Zambia side upstream from Victoria Falls. If you want to book directly with Tongabezi, they now accept bookings that can be made online directly on their website. You can also use that site to see up-to-date availability for the dates you’re traveling to Victoria Falls.

Otherwise, you can also book this trip through your hotel, hostel, tour company, or any travel agency in Victoria Falls. (That’s what we did.) The price should be the same whoever you book with. If it’s not, then book your Devil’s Pool excursion with someone else. Whoever you book with, just be sure to try to book at least a week or more in advance, as Devil’s Pool is becoming very popular and regularly sells out.

We traveled to Victoria Falls as part of an Oasis Overland tour across Africa, and Devil’s Pool was an optional excursion during our 56-Day Coast-to-Coast Trip. So our tour leader booked the trip on our behalf, which made it very easy. You can visit Oasis Overland to find out info about their Africa trips and we definitely recommend them. (You can read all about our detailed review of our 56-Day Oasis Overland Africa trip here.)


Very Important – Book in Advance!

This is perhaps the most important piece of advice we can offer. There are only five Devil’s Pool tours per day and they are composed of small groups of sixteen people. The Devil’s Pool tours sell out almost every day.

So if you want to visit Devil’s Pool, be sure to book it in advance or you will likely arrive to Victoria Falls disappointed that you can’t get a spot. We’ve already suggested to book at least a week before the date that you want to go. But booking a month or more in advance would be best.


Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls – When to Go

What Times Are the Tours to Devil’s Pool?

Currently, the Devil’s Pool tour (AKA Livingstone Island Tour) is operated 5 times per day at the following times:

  • 7:30-9:00 (Breakfast)
  • 9:00-10:30 (Breakfast)
  • 10:30-12:00 (Breakfast)
  • 12:30-3:00 (Lunch)
  • 3:30-5:30 (High tea)


Best Time to Visit Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls?

October and November can be an ideal time to plan a visit Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls, as those months provide the best odds for water levels being lower, which is necessary.

Visitors must plan a trip to Devil’s Pool based upon lower water levels in the Zambezi River. Typically, it is possible to swim in the Devil’s Pool from around mid-August to late-December. But it’s the water levels themselves, that are the true determination of whether or not it’s possible. So it all really depends on the climate and weather during your exact visit.

Even though the Livingstone Island tours operate year round, it is not possible to actually go into Devil’s Pool all year long.

The Livingstone Island tours do not include Devil’s Pool during the wet season (usually January to June), when higher water levels make it unsafe to enter Devil’s Pool. During that time, the Zambezi River waters are too strong to attempt a swim in Devil’s Pool. Hence you cannot go in when water levels rise.

Showing how to visit Devil's Pool Victoria Falls - lay right down on the edge of the waterfall!

There are some time periods on the cusp, where an area known as “Angel’s Armchair” is substituted for Devil’s Pool. Angel’s Armchair is another pool of water very close to the edge of Victoria Falls. But Angel’s Armchair is safer during higher water levels, when Devil’s Pool is not possible. With Angel’s Armchair, visitors don’t get quite as close to the edge.

During a few weeks of the year (usually around early August and again in January) when the water levels are just a bit too high to pursue Devil’s Pool, the Livingstone Island tour may instead visit Angel’s Armchair instead of Devil’s Pool.

Still, with high water levels during the wet season, the Livingstone Island tour doesn’t go to either Devil’s Pool or Angel’s Armchair, as both pools are unsafe during such times.


When’s the Best Time of Day to Visit Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls?

The best time of day to visit Devil’s Pool should be based upon your availability and your budget. Although, personally, we favor morning visits.

If you go to Devil’s Pool during one of the morning tours, you have the opportunity to swim in Devil’s Pool while the rainbows are showing from the Zambia side. The morning tours also are the least expensive times to visit Devil’s Pool. So the morning Devil’s Pool tours are a better deal.

So for the possibility of rainbows and it being cheaper, we suggest the morning as the best time of day to visit Victoria Falls.

What's the best time to go to Devil's Pool Victoria Falls? In the morning with rainbows!

But don’t dismiss the lunch or high tea tours. There are some interesting benefits to the afternoon tours that you most definitely should consider. Afternoon Devil’s Pool tours:

  1. last longer, and
  2. include beer & wine!

So if you want to indulge in a few drinks after the harrowing experience of visiting Devil’s Pool, those tours can provide value.

Regarding the longer times of the afternoon tours, you’ll have roughly the same time in Devil’s Pool as the morning tours. But the afternoon tours include more time on Livingstone Island to eat and drink.

The High Tea tour goes on for two hours, while the Lunch Tour is 2 hours, 30 minutes in total. Compare that to the 90-minute morning Devil’s Pool tour, which felt slightly rushed. So the afternoon High Tea tour gives you an entire extra hour!


Where Is Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls? Location & Directions:

To get to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls, first you must get to this area in Southern Africa. To get to Victoria Falls in Africa, you can either fly into:

  • Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone, Zambia, or
  • Victoria Falls Airport, on the Zimbabwe side

Devil’s Pool is located in the Zambezi River, which also acts as the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Devil’s Pool lies in the middle, but it approached from the Zambia side. Yet it can be easily reached from the Zimbabwe side of the river by taking a day trip into Zambia side of the falls.


Where Does the Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls Tour Start?

The Devil’s Pool begins on the Zambezi side of Victoria Falls, from the a place known as the “Launch Site.” This is located along the banks of the Zambezi River, between the Royal Livingstone Hotel and the town of Livingstone.

Note: the meeting point was formerly at the Royal Livingstone Hotel. But this is a change, as of 2019.

Also, we suggest arriving to the Launch Site at least a half-hour early. The Devil’s Pool tours depart strictly on time, so you don’t want to risk missing it.

Deck of Royal Livingstone Hotel on Zambezi River is the meeting point for the Devil's Pool Tour (Livingstone Island Tour)


How to Visit Devil’s Pool from the Zimbabwe Side of Victoria Falls? 

Access to Devil’s Pool is only from the Zambia side of Victoria Falls. However, if staying in Zimbabwe, it is easy to enter Zambia for the day to visit Devil’s Pool.

Just be aware of the visa fees associated with going back and forth between Zimbabwe and Zambia, which vary based upon your nationality. Most nationalities will need $20 for a Zambia day tripper visa (on arrival) when crossing the border from Zimbabwe to Zambia.

"You Are Now Entering Zambia" sign on the Zimbabwe to Zambia Victoria Falls Bridge border crossing

Also, when initially arriving into Zimbabwe, you will want to ensure that you get at least a double-entry visa (on arrival). This double-entry visa to Zimbabwe costs $45, which is $15 more than the $30 single-entry for most nationalities. (Canadians can only obtain $70 single entry visas – sorry!)

Failing to obtain the double-entry visa when first arriving to Zimbabwe will result in having to purchase two single entry visas which will be more costly since you’ll have to pay for two $30 single-entry visas ($60).

The $45 double-entry Zimbabwe visa + the $20 Zambia day trip visa = $65 in visa costs if you are traveling in Zimbabwe and making a day trip to Zambia for Devil’s Pool.

Check if the $50 KAZA Uni-Visa is Available: There is a $50 visa that allows you to travel between Zimbabwe and Zambia for 30 days with the single visa. This is a great option if it’s available. This KAZA Uni-Visa seems to be available at times but then runs out. If it’s available during your trip, we recommend getting that instead. This page provides updates on the visa’s availability.

A reader confirmed that the Kaza Uni-Visa was indeed available at the Zimbabwe-Zambia border, as of November 2018. It’s also been suggested that the KAZA Uni-Visa is available if flying into Harare, but may not be found at other airports or border crossings. If the KAZA Uni-Visa is available when entering Zimbabwe, it is advisable to get it if planning to pop over into Zambia for Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls.


How to Get From Zimbabwe Side of Victoria Falls to Devil’s Pool?

There are a few different methods to get from Zimbabwe to the Launch Site where the Devil’s Pool tour departs from. You can get to Devil’s Pool by either:

  1. walking,
  2. shuttle,
  3. taxis, or
  4. any combination of these.
Directions How to Get to Devil's Pool from Zimbabwe

Image courtesy of Google Maps

1) Walking from Zimbabwe to the Devil’s Pool Launch Site

This takes the most time to get there. It’s best for independent travelers on a tight budget who want to save $15 on the shuttle cost.

From the tourist area of Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side to the Royal Livingstone Hotel is a 5 km walk. The Launch Site is about another 1-km beyond the hotel.

If you were able to walk straight through, it would take about an hour and fifteen minutes. But we recommend to give yourself at least two hours for this walk from Zimbabwe to the Launch Site beyond the Royal Livingstone Hotel.

You need to budget time for border crossing procedures, pausing on the bridge to enjoy the views, take photos, watch the bungee jumpers, account for touts that may slow you down along the way, pause to admire wildlife you may spot, and/or any other unforeseen detours.

The route from Zimbabwe to the Royal Livingstone Hotel is easy to follow and well marked. We walked it ourselves without any problems.

Simply follow the main road, T1, to the Victoria Falls Bridge. Get your passport stamped out of Zimbabwe and proceed over the bridge. Once on the Zambia side, pay your $20 entry fee and get stamped into the country. Continue on the main road for nearly another 1-2 km and you’ll see the sign to The Royal Livingstone Hotel on the left side of the road. The Launch Site is another kilometer or so beyond the hotel, also on the left side of the road, with a sign indicating “Launch Site.”

It’s nice walk if you’re up for it. Check the weather though. It tends to get pretty hot in the dry season during the midday. So if you’re going on an afternoon tour, it may be uncomfortable to walk in the heat.

2) Taking the Shuttle from Zimbabwe to Devil’s Pool Launch Site

There is a shuttle that departs from the Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) to the Launch Site, located beyond the Royal Livingstone Hotel (Zambia). This is the easiest way and the nominal cost is worth it.

The shuttle departs from the Kingdom Hotel on the Zimbabwe side, located here, right near the Zim-Zam border. This shuttle from Zimbabwe to the Devil’s Pool launch site costs $15 per person for the round-trip transfer. No discount is provided for one-way transfers. A reader comment has indicated that if you are the only person on the shuttle, the cost will be a $30 minimum.

This shuttle from Victoria Falls Zimbabwe is timed to coincide with the Devil’s Pool tours. You need to arrive at the Kingdom Hotel 15 minutes prior to the shuttle departure times, as they leave promptly. Departure timetable is as followed:

  • 6:15 for 7:30 tour
  • 8:15 for 9:00 tour
  • 9:30 for 10:30 tour
  • 11:30 for 12:30 tour
  • 14:30 for 15:30 tour

It is recommend to notify the tour operator that you want to take the shuttle. And be sure verify the aforementioned shuttle times when booking your Devil’s Pool tour.

3) Taxis from Vic Falls Zimbabwe to Devil’s Pool Launch Site

It is possible, but not recommended, to take taxis from Zimbabwe to the Devil’s Pool Launch Site. If you attempt this, you will need three separate taxis, which makes it complicated and costly.

A single taxi cannot bring you the entire way crossing the border due to regulations. Instead, you will need to take a taxi a few kilometers on the Zimbabwe side to the border. There are taxis on the bridge to take you the 1.5 kms to the Zambia border. Finally, you need a third taxi for the last few kilometers to the Launch Site.

If you’re not keen on walking, we recommend taking the shuttle instead of this series of taxis. Alternatively, you could walk part of the way and take a taxi for one of the segments. Expect to negotiate prices.


What to Bring to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls

What to Wear to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls

Wear light, comfortable clothes or wear a bathing suit. There are bathrooms on Livingstone Island to change, if you’d like. But you may find it more convenient to show up wearing a swim suit, so you’re ready to go.

Ladies, be sure to have a tight-fitting bathing suit so that you prevent an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction in the event that the current grabs hold of your top.


What to Bring To Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls 

👖 A change of clothes – you’ll want something dry to change into once you get out of Devil’s Pool.

👟 Water shoes – bring or wear a pair of water shoes like these men’s water shoes or these women’s water shoes. Or at the very least, wear some old sneakers you don’t care about getting wet. Although you can go to Devil’s Pool barefoot, we wouldn’t recommend it due to submerged rocks that can be sharp and slippery.

💵 Money – You’ll want to have some cash on hand to tip the guides. If coming from Zimbabwe, you also need $20 for the Zambia day tripper visa. Bring extra cash for incidentals, a drink, or anything else you may want to buy.

🆔 Passport – If you are arriving from the Zimbabwe side, don’t forget to grab your passport. If you’re staying on the Zambia side, a passport isn’t needed.

📷 Phone and/or Camera – If you’re going to Devil’s Pool, be sure you have a way to document it. Bring a waterproof camera like a GoPro. But be sure that it has a floating handle attachment like this.

📱 Waterproof Phone Case – If you’re bringing your mobile phone, consider protecting it with a waterproof case like this one. These inexpensive protective cases are so worth the minimal cost, just in the instance there’s a splash or a drop in the Zambezi.

☀ Sunblock – Prevent sunburn under the hot Africa sun. And remember to apply 30 minutes prior to entering the water or else it may wash off.

🕷 Non-DEET Insect Repellent – Victoria Falls is still considered a malaria zone, so mosquito repellent is important. But consider not bringing your strong DEET repellent, as it will wash off and harm the ecology of the Zambezi River, killing fish and other flora/fauna. Instead, consider natural mosquito repellent like this before any water-based activities.

🎒 Small Bag or Backpack – Simply to carry the aforementioned items.

😱 Courage – Be sure to pack some courage with you to Devil’s Pool. This is absolutely necessary when swimming on the edge of this enormous waterfall.

What Not To Bring to Devil’s Pool

  • A towel – You won’t need to pack a towel since one is provided for you.


Are There Any Lockers or Storage at Devil’s Pool?

No, there are not any lockers or storage facilities at Devil’s Pool, but it’s not at all necessary. You can take a backpack or small bag with you on the boat to Livingstone Island. You can safely leave this bag on Livingstone Island while you’re swimming in Devil’s Pool.


What Types of Cameras Can You Bring to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls? 

You can bring whatever cameras you want with you onto Livingstone Island. But once you begin your swim to Devil’s Pool, only mobile phones, handheld digital cameras, and GoPros are permitted.

You give your phone or handheld camera to your guide, who puts them safely in his dry bag. The guide will bring your devices to Devil’s Pool for you while you swim. You can take waterproof cameras, like GoPros, with you in the water during the swim if you wish.

Using a GoPro Camera to capture photos and video at Devil's Pool Victoria Falls

Bulky cameras with changeable lenses are NOT permitted at Devil’s Pool. You may leave bigger cameras safely on Livingstone Island while you take your swim in Devil’s Pool.


How Can I Capture Photos and Video in Devil’s Pool?

There are two guides that will help ease you into Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls. One guide comes in the water with you while another guide balances on the edge of Devil’s Pool to take video and pictures. It all sounds pretty crazy, but somehow it works. The camera-holding guide really does a good job and holds tightly on to the devices with two hands.

He takes loads of pictures – usually at least 50+. So be sure to free up your storage on your phone or camera before going to Devil’s Pool. His photography on your device is included in the cost of the tour But you should consider a tip if you’re happy with the epic photos he captures.


Also, Go See Devil’s Pool from Above! 🚁

For the ultimate adrenaline combination while at Victoria Falls, also consider a helicopter ride to get a birds-eye view of Devil’s Pool! That is how we were able to capture the aerial shots of Devil’s Pool that we’ve included throughout this post.

Soaring above Victoria Falls is a magical experience. The video below captures our flight. You can book this amazing helicopter flight over Victoria Falls on Viator, which departs on the Zimbabwe side of the Falls.

It is easily possible to do Devil’s Pool in the morning and a Victoria Falls helicopter flight in the afternoon. That is exactly what we did and it made for an awesome action-packed day. Just be sure to leave yourself enough time between activities to get from one side of the Falls to the other.

Like Devil’s Pool itself, the helicopter ride is simply amazing – once in a lifetime!

🚁 Check Victoria Falls helicopter flight reviews, prices, and availability for your dates here.


If You Go to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls

We hope this guide to Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls has helped to plan your trip. If you have any other questions about Devil’s Pool, please let us know in the comment field below and we’ll try our best to answer them.

Also, if you’ve been to Devil’s Pool, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments! Did you also love it? Do you have any other tips or advice about Devil’s Pool? Has anything changed?

Feel free to leave a review of Devil’s Pool Victoria Falls, below in the comments.

Want to save this post for later? Feel free to bookmark this page or pin either of the images below to your Pinterest travel Pinterest boards to save as inspiration.

How to Visit Devils Pool Victoria Falls Zambia How To Visit Devils Pool Victoria Falls Africa

Publishing note: This article was initially posted November 2016 and is periodically updated in an effort to keep logistical information up-to-date. It was last updated April 2020.

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20 Best Things to Do in Ecuador & Incredible Places to Visit Thu, 02 Apr 2020 16:25:08 +0000 Ecuador may be a relatively small country, but it holds loads of amazing experiences for travelers to enjoy. There are so many awesome things to do in Ecuador to fill weeks or even months of travel! The vast diversity of landscapes lends to so many different places to visit all throughout the country.

Map of South America with location of Ecuador pointed outSerene beaches line Ecuador’s coastline.

The glacier-capped Andes loom over the country.

A lush jungle environment thrives in both the Amazon basin and Ecuador’s cloud forests.

Then toss in the many charming colonial cities dotting the natural landscapes.

And let’s not forget about the incredible underwater world of the Galapagos!

It’s this vast diversity that supports the long-held tourism slogan “All you need is Ecuador.” Each different environment holds so many intriguing things to do in Ecuador. Yet with this abundance of recreation and culture to explore, it can be difficult to narrow down exactly what to do in Ecuador.

So we’ve now spent a total of six months traveling across the country to seek the very best places to visit in Ecuador. This article was written from that experience to offer travel ideas and suggestions for those who may be considering a trip to Ecuador.

The best things to do in Ecuador will vary to each person, depending on interests. Some may have a penchant for cultural exploration. Whereas others may be more interested in Ecuador’s nature. Some may favor relaxing at Ecuador’s beaches or luxury spas. Others may prefer climbing a volcano or mountain biking down it!

There’s something for everyone! We wrote this roundup of what to do in Ecuador to highlight the best travel experiences Ecuador has to offer across each of those spectrums. It’s our hope that this list of the best places to visit in Ecuador will provide travel inspiration for a trip to this awesome country.

4 different areas of Ecuador: view of church & cityscape, Andes mountains, beach, and Amazon rainforest


20 Best Things to Do in Ecuador

This guide focuses on the things to do that make Ecuador special. You’ll also see exactly where to go in Ecuador to find the country’s best attractions.

Here is an interactive map that pinpoints each of the best places to travel in mainland Ecuador mentioned in this guide.


1) Seek Wildlife Encounters in the Galapagos Islands

Lying off Ecuador’s coast, the Galapagos Islands are like nowhere else on earth. This island chain has been untouched for centuries. Visitors will now find it teeming with unique wildlife and endemic species, not found anywhere else. Nature abounds both above and below the ocean’s surface throughout the Galapagos!

Galapagos marine iguana with sea lions are some of the wildlife you can see for free in the Galapagos

A visit to Galapagos National Park can be like wandering through a living museum. Visitors regularly encounter sea lions and iguanas by simply walking around the port or beaches. But that’s not all. Some common Galapagos wildlife encounters include:

  • Gazing upon wild flamingos,
  • Swimming with sea lions,
  • Watching wild penguins frolicking in a bay,
  • Stumbling across both marine iguanas & land iguanas,
  • Snorkeling with sharks, including hammerheads,
  • Gliding past dozens of sea turtles,
  • Visiting wild Galapagos tortoises,
  • Diving with giant manta rays,
  • Coming face-to-face with blue-footed boobies,
  • Spotting Galapagos hawks, finches, frigate birds, among other endemic bird species,
  • and possibly even having a rare encounter with a whale shark!

They’re all here in the Galapagos.

Wildlife you can see in the Galapagos on DIY island hopping trip includes: blue-footed boobie, tortoise, sea turtle, flamingo, marine iguana, and sharks

The Galapagos Islands are undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Ecuador for nature. And the famed islands are now more accessible for travelers than ever. Even those who are traveling on a budget can make a Galapagos trip a reality.

Four of the Galapagos Islands boast affordable hotels. So visitors can plan out their own daily adventures around these inhabited islands. Many of the aforementioned wildlife encounters are easily possible to do for free. Yet those who splurge for day tours or cruise packages can reach further-flung locations where more wildlife awaits.

For in-depth information on planning a Galapagos adventure, be sure to read our detailed travel guide to the islands. It reveals

  • where to find the Galapagos’s most famous wildlife residents (for free!),
  • where to find seafood dinners for less than $5 and hotels for $35,
  • how to visit the islands independently,
  • how to organize a cheap liveaboard Galapagos cruise, and
  • how much a Galapagos trip can cost.

Open in a separate tab to read later: How to Travel the Galapagos on a Budget.


2) Climb a Volcano in Ecuador

There are dozens of volcanos throughout the country. And those who are fit for the challenge should definitely put summiting a volcano on their list of things to do in Ecuador.

Some of Ecuador’s volcanos are fairly accessible for a day hike, while others require technical climbing skills. The following are some of Ecuador’s most notable volcanos to consider a trek up.

Volcán Chimborazo: Summiting Ecuador’s Highest Point

Mount Chimborazo Ecuador

Rising 6,263 meters (nearly 4 miles high), Volcán Chimborazo isn’t just the tallest mountain in Ecuador. This inactive stratovolcano is the furthest point on Earth’s surface from the center of Earth. When measuring the height from the earth’s center, rather than sea level, Chimborazo clocks in even higher than Everest.

This happens because there is something known as the equatorial bulge. The earth is actually a bit wider around its midsection, caused by Earth’s rotation. Because of this, Volcan Chimborazo to be the closest point on planet earth to outer space.

Summiting Chimborazo is a challenging high-altitude ascent requiring technical ice-climbing gear. Adventurers will also need at least two days to complete the overnight summit. The town of Riobamba acts as the staging ground for this climb. It’s here that adventure operators are able to assist and guide climbers.

For a less extreme challenge on Chimborazo, it’s also possible to take a short day hike towards the summit. Whether hiking independently or as part of a tour, visitors can ascend to a small pond at an elevation of 5,100 meters high (16,732 feet). For more info about hiking Volcan Chimborazo, read the Chimborazo section of our Riobamba Travel Guide.

Hiking Volcán Sierra Negra: Most Active Volcano in the Galapagos

Wide crater of Sierra Negra in Galapagos

Volcanos aren’t only limited to the Andes of Ecuador. The Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island is the most active volcano in the island chain. And this volcano can make for a convenient day hike in the Galapagos! Well, that is, when this volcano is not erupting. Sierra Negra is quite active, having last erupted in the summer of 2018.

Sierra Negra is actually one of the widest active volcanos on earth! The caldera stretches out 9.3 kilometers wide at one point, making it the largest of all Galapagos volcanos. It’s so wide that it’s virtually impossible to photograph the entire volcano.

This 16 km (10-mile) hike up and around a portion of Sierra Negra’s rim is an awe-inspiring thing to do in Ecuador! Trekking across the black volcanic rock feels like walking on another planet. The otherworldly views that hikers are rewarded with from the top make the sweat-inducing trek totally worth it.

Hiking Volcan Sierra Negra can be included as part of multi-day Galapagos tours. Yet those traveling the islands independently can find half-day hiking tours of Sierra Negra in the town of Puerto Villamil. It’s $35 per person, including a guide and transportation to the trailhead.

Trek to the Glaciers of the Cotopaxi Volcano

Three people hike of the Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador

This glacier-capped Volcán Cotopaxi is one of the tallest active volcanoes in the world! It’s also the 2nd highest point in Ecuador, with a summit is 5,897 meters high. That’s an elevation of about 3.6 miles in altitude!

To reach the summit of Cotopaxi, it takes a grueling overnight ascent. Sometimes it’s even off-limits due to heightened volcanic activity.

But a day trek to Cotopaxi’s base camp is a more accessible consideration. Hikers can reach an elevation of 4,864 meters, which is around the snowline and where the glaciers begin. Such Cotopaxi day trips can be organized from the town of Latacunga or Quito. For more info on reaching this volcano from Quito, check out the Cotopaxi section of our Quito Travel Guide.


3) Explore Ecuador’s UNESCO-listed Historic Centers: Quito & Cuenca

Ecuador has two historic centers recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites for their long-standing cultural value. Roaming around the ornate buildings of the centuries-old streets can make visitors feel like they’ve gone back to a different era. 

Explore Quito’s Historic Center

Things To Do in Quito Old Town

Quito is said to have the best-preserved, least altered historic center in all of Latin America. It’s this recognition that led Quito to become one of the first cities in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, back in 1978. (Read full UNESCO description: here.)

The historic center of Quito delivers not only cultural significance, but also lots of charm. Despite earthquakes and modernization, the baroque buildings in Quito’s Old Town remain largely intact. It’s enchanting to wander through bustling South American capital amongst the beautiful architecture that’s remained here for nearly a half-millennium!

Grand plazas open up to historic churches while quaint cafes line the streets to museums that further detail the history of the city. Quito’s historic center is a fascinating place to wander around and deserves being firmly placed on any Ecuador itinerary. Read more about Quito’s Old Town in our 20 Best Things to Quito Travel Guide.

Explore the Historic Center of Cuenca

red Cuenca sign in Plaza de San Fransisco

Cuenca’s charming colonial streets exude European flair. Its nickname as the “Athens of Ecuador” is not just a reflection of Cuenca’s architecture, cathedrals, and ruins. It’s also a reference to Cuenca being a long-held hub of culture, art, and artisanry.

It’s this history and traditions that lend to Cuenca’s UNESCO designated status. Cuenca’s historic center is recognized for its centuries-old colonial architecture. The city planning outlined for Cuenca has been respected and followed for more than 400 years!

Read further about all there is to do in Cuenca’s historic center and beyond within our full travel guide about the 20 Best Things to do in Cuenca.


4) Float through the Amazon Jungle

Yasuni National Park excursion from Nuevo Rocafuerte

Eastern Ecuador covers a wide swath of the Amazon Rainforest and holds many tributaries to the Amazon River. It takes some effort to reach this remote jungle environment. Yet those who do so are rewarded with awesome Amazonian experiences.

Within the Ecuadorian Amazon, it’s possible to go fishing for piranhas, spot pink river dolphins, meet with a local shaman, and search for anacondas.

In addition to common reptilian life throughout the jungle, visitors can also find monkeys, tapirs, or even an elusive jaguar. This is all set amongst the lush rainforest setting with its enormous tree canopies. The Ecuadorian Amazon is also home to remote native tribes, which makes for interesting visits and cultural exchange.

It’s possible to explore Ecuador’s Amazon on your own. Yet the Amazon can be best approached as part of a tour and a lodge stay experience. Reserva de Cuyabeno is one of the best areas to see wildlife.

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve has an assortment of jungle lodges for all budgets. Such tours of Cuyabeno depart from Lago Agrio, accessible from Quito by bus or flight. Expect to pay about $100 per day for such tours, inclusive of meals and accommodation. For example, check out this highly-rated 4-Day Stay at the Cuyabeno Dolphin Lodge or this 5-Day Cuyabeno Eco-Lodge Adventure.

Boat in front of huts on the Napo River in the Ecuadorian Amazon
A DIY trip to Yasuni National Park can be attempted by intrepid travelers. But doing so requires time, a sense of adventure, and comfortability with remote independent travel. Yasuni National Park is located along the Napo River, in a remote location way out towards the Peruvian border.

It can take a few days of busing and boat rides to reach the isolated village of Nuevo Rocafuerte. From there, guides are available to delve further into the National Park.

You can read more about our Amazon journey to Yasuni National Park and beyond here: An Adventure Down the Napo River. Yet ultimately we suggest a Cuyabeno lodge stay as a much more complete experience in the Amazon.


5) Take a Scenic Rail Journey through the Andes

Tren de Hielo Ecuador in front of Mount Chimborazo

Ecuador must have some of the most beautiful rail routes in the world. There are currently six different scenic train journeys to embark on throughout the country. To be clear, these train trips are not used for transportation, but rather as a day excursions that are a journey unto themselves.

Each of these train day trips take passengers on a scenic ride to an interesting destination, then return back to the starting point. There is some stunning vistas all along these routes, as the trains chug along through the Valley of Volcanos, past farmland, or down into canyons.

And these rail trips are all very affordable too, ranging from $25-$33. We suggest the following two routes as the best of Ecuador’s train rides.

Ride the Devil’s Nose: The Most Difficult Railway Ever Built

Devils Nose Train traveling on railroad tracks on the edge of a cliff

The most famous of Ecuador’s train routes is the Nariz del Diablo, or Devil’s Nose. It has been dubbed the “most difficult railway ever built!”

This was a critical section of Ecuador’s railway constructed over a hundred years ago to connect the coast with Quito. Yet the engineering challenge faced was to somehow lay tracks up a vertical cliff measuring 765-meter (2,500-foot) high.

Thousands of laborers died during the rail line’s construction. Hence, the pointy mountain taunting building efforts became known as the Devil’s Nose. The engineering feat was finally pulled off by developing a series of switchbacks. The train actually overshoots the tracks, then reverses to zigzag up the side of the mountain cliff.

This was once a rugged rail journey through Ecuador in which passengers were permitted to sit atop the train cars until an unfortunate head-loss incident occurred (yikes!). So now passengers are only permitted inside the train.

It’s a fascinating look into Ecuador’s rail history, rolling across this engineering feat. But this scenic trip through the Andes is also an exhilarating ride. Grab a seat on the right side of the train to look out the window, straight down that sheer cliff.

The Devil’s Nose train journey can be accessed from the town of Alausi and costs $33 for the half-day trip. For more information, schedule, and booking, see TrenEcuador.

Ride the Ice Train around Chimborazo to Meet a Living Legend

Collage of the Tren de Hielo I: scenes of the Ice Train with Chimborazo in the background

The Tren de Hielo I, or the Ice Train, is another fascinating rail journey to embark on in Ecuador. Winding through the Ecuadorian Andes, the train’s windows offer sweeping views of Volcán Chimborazo. On a clear day, passengers are able to gaze upon Ecuador’s highest mountain throughout the ride.

But the highlight of the Tren de Hielo is the stop in Urbina. It’s Ecuador’s highest train station, at 3,609 meters in altitude. The real treasure here isn’t its high elevation. It’s for the rare opportunity to meet Baltazar Ushca.

The 76-year-old (in 2020) man is known as the last ice merchant. For the past 60+ years, he’s been climbing up to the “ice mine” on Chimborazo every week to harvest glacier ice that he then sells to the markets in Riobamba.

Ushca is the last person known in Ecuador to continue practicing this lost trade of ice harvesting. It’s so fascinating that global documentaries have been made about him. So Ushca has now garnered local celebrity status. And he still makes the rigorous trek up the side of Chimborazo.

The Ice Train is priced at $25 for the day trip, plus lunch at your own expense. For more about this local legend and other stops on the Ice Train route, browse the Ice Train section of our Riobamba Travel Guide.

Ecuador’s Other Scenic Rail Trips

In addition to the Devil’s Nose and the Ice Train, there are currently four more rail excursions to take in Ecuador.

  • Tren de la Libertad: Journey from Ibarra through many tunnels to reach Salinas. Here, Afro-Ecuadorian culture is explored.
  • Tren de Hielo 2: The bus-like train travels from Ambato to Urbina to meet Baltazar Uscha. There’s also stops at farming communities for shopping and lunch.
  • Tren de los Volcanos: This train from Quito heads to the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano for a short walk. Many other volcanos are passed during the scenic route.
  • Tren de la Dulzura: This train from the outskirts of Guayaquil focuses on the farming of cocoa and sugarcane. After reaching Naranjito, there’s an optional trek to in the cloud forest to a waterfall.


6) Admire Ecuador’s Best Waterfalls

Given the many rivers flowing from the Andes, there are thousands of gorgeous waterfalls spilling their waters across Ecuador.

In March 2020, it was reported that Ecuador’s highest waterfall, San Rafael, has seemingly vanished after a sinkhole swallowed part of its source waters. The once-notable waterfall in Ecuador is currently closed to tourism.

Thankfully, there are still thousands more raging waterfalls to check out, scattered all throughout Ecuador.

Visit Palion del Diablo Waterfall: Among Ecuador’s Most Popular and Beautiful

An overhead view of Devil's Cauldron waterfall alongside stairs of the trail

Translated as the Devil’s Cauldron, Palion del Diablo is likely the most popular waterfall to visit in Ecuador and arguably the most scenic!

The short trail to the waterfall includes lots of stairs and fun suspension bridges to traverse over. This adds to the adventure through a narrow canyon leading to the waterfall’s viewpoint. Yet soon enough, the 80-meter waterfall comes into view, along with the misty spray that regularly soaks visitors.

This waterfall is easily accessed from Baños by bus, taxi, or cycling. And only a $2 entry fee to enter.

Visit Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary

Heather stands in awe at the large Cascada Reina (Queen Waterfall)

This waterfall sanctuary in the Mindo Cloud Forest holds one of the greatest concentration of waterfalls in Ecuador. There are at least fifteen different waterfalls found throughout the Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary! The largest waterfall is the 50-meter (164 foot) Cascada Reina (Queen Waterfall).

Continuing onward, hikers will encounter a series of a half-dozen more falls, each within a 10-minute walk of each other. To cool off after all that hiking, wear a bathing suit to soak in the natural pools that form below the falls. Entrance to the Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary is $5, which includes a thrilling ride on a tarabita cableway to access the hiking trails. More information can be found in the Nambillo section of our Mindo Travel Guide.

El Chorro de Girón Waterfall

El Chorro de Giron Waterfall near Cuenca

This 70-meter (230-foot) high waterfall dramatically plummets down from the Andes into a cloud forest environment. Known as Cascada El Chorro or the Giron Waterfall, it’s takes just a short hike of less than a kilometer to access on trails draped floras.

This lesser-visited beauty can be accessed from the city of Cuenca. It’s about a 1.5-hour trip and the entrance will set you back $2.

You can find more info in the Giron waterfall section of our Cuenca Travel Guide


7) Discover Ecuador’s Ancient Inca Ruins 

Pumapungo Ruins in Cuenca Ecuador

Ecuador holds many Inca ruins scattered across the country. One such archeological site can be found from right within the colonial city of Cuenca. The Pumapungo ruins in Cuenca are believed to be a part of the ancient city of Tomebamba that was first inhabited by the Cañari people before the Incas overtook it for use as a fort. It’s easily accessed in town and is free to enter.

Part of the ancient Inca Trail (a popular pursuit in Peru to Machu Picchu) also runs through Ecuador. A 40-kilometer section of the UNESCO-listed Camino de Inca (Inca Trail) can be traversed from Alchupallas to Ingapirca. Ancient bridges, crumbling structures, and former Incan towns are passed along the way across this centuries-old trail through the Andes. Experienced trekkers with gear and navigation can give it a go on their own. But Ecuador’s Inca Trail is best approached as a guided trek, like this one.

Ecuador’s Inca Trail ultimately leads to the ruins of Ingapirca, which can also be accessed by roadway. Ingapirca is the best-preserved and largest Inca ruin site in Ecuador. The stone terraces, walkways, and buildings at Ingapirca are punctuated by the impressive Sun Temple. Slits in the temple align perfectly with the sun on solstice days.

Ingapirca Sun Temple

Entrance to the Ingapirca is just $2 and the ruin site is located about a 2-hour drive from Cuenca, accessible by public bus or small-group tour. Regardless of how you arrive at Ingapirca, a short guided tour of the ruins is included upon a visit. Afterward, visitors can walk down a portion of an Inca trail and visit the onsite museum.

For more info on getting to these ruins, see the Ingapirca section of our Cuenca Travel Guide.


8) Relax among Ecuador’s Best Beaches

Ecuador has some world-class beaches, along its Pacific coastline and even throughout the Galapagos Islands. Sunbathers and surfers can both have fun in the sun across Ecuador’s many picturesque playas.

From natural beaches, to resort beaches, to party beaches and laidback surf towns, there’s a beach for everyone in Ecuador.

A beer on the beach in the Galapagos is a relaxing way to drink for cheap in the Galapagos

Laidback Surf Beaches in Ecuador

Montañita is a fun-loving surfing town full of reggae vibes. It’s a party spot too and a popular stopover on Ecuador’s backpacking trail. Canoa is another chilled-out town along the coast with great surf. It also boasts one of the longest beaches in Ecuador and is scenically backed by looming cliffs.

Resort Beach Living in Ecuador

Salinas is Ecuador’s premier beach resort town. This beachside city often receives comparisons to Miami. It boasts five-star hotels, various tourist attractions, and vibrant clubs. Within easy reach of Guayaquil, Salinas can be a great escape from the city or to warm up after an Andes adventure. It’s also a good place to go whale watching!

Best Natural Beaches

Tortuga Bay beach is a beach you can walk to for free within Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island

The beaches throughout the Galapagos comprise the best natural beaches in Ecuador. There are many of them, all with a different flair. From Playa Mann on Isla Cristobal to Puerto Villamil Beach on Isla Isabela.

Yet it’s Tortuga Bay that made Tripadvisor’s list for Top 10 Beaches in the World, and deservedly so! This scenic stretch of coastline can be found on Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands. It’s never very crowded. At least not by humans. Sea lions and iguanas usually outnumber people here. There’s can be decent surf here too!


9) Hike to one of Ecuador’s Spectacular Crater Lakes

Ecuador boasts three massively impressive crater lakes! Each one is a visual spectacle, special in its own merits. The Quilotoa Crater, El Altar, and Laguna Cuicocha should each be considered based upon location and the effort involved to reach.

The Quilotoa Crater and Laguna Cuicocha can be accessed by bus or tour. But trekking around the craters is highly recommended. Meanwhile, El Altar is more remote and can only be reached by hiking in.

Hike Ecuador’s Most Popular Trekking Route: Quilotoa Loop

Heather sits on crater rim of Laguna Quilotoa

Quilotoa’s gorgeous three-kilometer wide caldera is a spectacular sight to see. This former volcano collapsed from an eruption, estimated to have occurred about 600 years ago. It now lays filled with water, transformed as a deep crater lake. It’s easily possible to trek down into the Quilotoa crater as a day trip from Quito. To approach Quilotoa Crater this way, read this day trips section to our Quito Travel Guide.

But for a more complete trek around the Quilotoa Crater, consider embarking on the 3-day Quilotoa Loop trek. This 34-kilometer trek is along a well-worn trail that connects farming communities. It’s in these Andean villages where hostels are found, offering comfy places to sleep and homecooked meals to eat. So packs can stay light!

This is Ecuador’s most popular trekking route and one of the most enjoyable multi-day treks we’ve completed in South America. If interested, be sure to read our detailed instructions and Guide to Trekking the Quilotoa Loop: The Cheap & Easy Way.

Climb to the Rim of El Altar for High Andes Adventure

Sitting atop El Altar looking down into Laguna Amarilla

El Altar is a collapsed volcano near Riobamba that now contains a beautiful crater lake known as Laguna Amarilla. The El Altar Crater is also part of Sangay National Park. That’s recognized as Ecuador’s only other natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, right alongside the Galapagos Islands.

The trek to El Altar takes 2-3 days to complete the 35-kilometers roundtrip hike. But beware that it is more challenging than the aforementioned Quilotoa Loop. The trek to El Altar is more remote, more grueling, often muddy, more planning is involved, and hikers must pack in all of their food and supplies. Yet the payoff for this extra effort is very rewarding.

For more about the trekking here, check out the El Altar section of our Riobamba Travel Guide.

Trek around this Gorgeous “Guinea Pig” Lake: Laguna Cuicocha

Laguna Cuicocha crater lake with islands that look like guinea pigs in blue lake

This stunning slice of nature is the result of yet another exploded volcano, occurring over 3,000 years ago. Although the two islands scenically popping out from the middle of the lake were formed during subsequent eruptions. Those islands are thought to resemble the backs of two guinea pigs. Hence the name of this lake, Cuicocha, which means “guinea pig lake” in the indigenous Kichwa language.

This impressive crater lake is impossibly blue on a clear day. Laguna Cuicocha is accessible as a day excursion from Quito that also includes a visit to the Otavalo markets.

Yet those who visit by day trip may only have enough time to gaze out upon the crater lake. If staying in nearby Otavalo or Cotacachi, it’s possible to reach the crater lake by public bus and taxi. That will provide visitors enough time to trek the entire 14-km perimeter of the crater lake and even take a boat ride around the namesake islands.


10) Go Birdwatching in one of the Best Birding Destinations in the World: Mindo

Birdwatching in Mindo, spotting a motmot

Ecuador holds so many awesome birdwatching opportunities throughout the country.

In the Galapagos, birders can find blue-footed boobies, endemic Galapagos hawks, finches, frigate birds, and more. In the Andes, some travelers are lucky enough to spot an Andean Condor. In the Amazon, toucans and colorful parrots thrive. Yet there’s another destination that is renown across the world for its vast birding opportunities.

The Mindo Cloud Forest is one of the premier birding destinations on earth!

More than 500 different types of birds have been spotted in Mindo. In fact, Mindo regularly holds the annual world record for the most bird species counted within a 24-hour period. Birders travel to Mindo specifically searching for varieties of toucans, parrots, quetzals, and even umbrellabirds!

Yet one of the most sought-after birds to spot in Mindo is the Andean cock-of-the-rock, also known locally as gallo de la peña. This elusive red bird is known for its early-morning lek. That’s a song-and-dance males perform as a competitive courting ritual to impress the females.

Even for those not into birding, Mindo can be a perfect place for beginners to give it a try. Grab a pair of binoculars and set off on one of the many birding tours that are offered through the area. Yet it’s also possible to go hiking through the cloud forest on your own in an attempt to spot some of Mindo’s avian life. And it takes no effort at all to spot the many hummingbirds buzzing around.

For more info about birding in Mindo, be sure to check out our complete Mindo Travel Guide to the Cloud Forest.


11) Mountain Bike Down the Andes Mountains

Ecuador has some awesome downhill bike rides for adventure-seekers who want to fly down the Andes on two wheels! There are great opportunities to rent bikes in Ecuador or join a cycling day tour through some of the most scenic locations. (1) Mountain biking down Chimborazo, (2) though the Waterfall Route from Baños, and (3) down the Cotapaxi Volcano round out our top three suggestions for biking adventures in Ecuador.

Mountain Biking Down Chimborazo: Ecuador’s Tallest Mountain

Collage showing mountain biking down Chimborazo: bikes being transported atop SUV, handlebars, and two mountain bikers riding down

Trekking up Chimborazo can be a fun thing to do in Ecuador. Yet we’d argue that an even bigger thrill is to go mountain biking down this famous volcano.

The 40-km route is almost entirely downhill. Little peddling is required. Along the gravity-driven descent down the single-track, riders pass by a scenic canyon, and ancient Inca barracks. Bikers also glide by friendly vicuñas, a relative to llamas and alpacas. It’s an awesome thrill that we recommend as the best of Ecuador’s many downhill mountain biking descents.

Expect to spend about $65 for this all-day adventure from Riobamba. For more info, browse through the Chimborazo section of our Riobamba Travel Guide and check out the video, above.

The Waterfall Route from Baños to Puyo

Heather mountain biking down a side road of the Ruta de las Cascadas (Waterfall Route) from Baños Ecuador

Setting off from the town of Baños is a scenic yet harrowing downhill road known as the Ruta de las Cascadas, or Waterfall Route. It plummets down the Andes and into the Amazon.

It’s a thrilling ride and passes by numerous canyon, cliffs, and waterfalls as the landscape transitions from mountains to jungle. There are many stops along the way, with viewpoints, waterfalls, ziplines, and other adventure pursuits. The most notable attraction is the Palion del Diablo waterfall, mentioned earlier in this list of things to do in Ecuador.

The Waterfall Route mountain biking trip can be done independently using bikes rented in Baños ($5-$10). Just be careful, as bikes share the road with cars most of the way down this well-trafficked route. The entire way to Puyo is 61 kilometers, resulting in an all-day affair. Yet it’s possible to go as far as desired before flagging down a bus to carry you back to Baños ($1-$2).

Biking Down Volcán Cotopaxi

Many of the day trips to the Cotopaxi Volcano also include what is yet another thrilling descent on a mountain bike. The ride down the side of Cotopaxi is a jaw-rattling plunge down a gravel road. Amidst the Andean scenery, wild horses are often spotted along the way down.

These mountain biking tours down Cotopaxi are often referred to as “hike & bike” since they include a short hike up to the Cotapaxi refugio before plunging down the volcano. They’re priced around $50-$75 and can be arranged from Quito. Details and tour operators can be found in the Cotopaxi section of our Quito Travel Guide.


12) Shop for One-of-a-Kind Artisan Crafts in Ecuador

Those who enjoy shopping for handmade keepsakes and unique crafts will find an abundance of textiles, clothing, jewelry, carvings, painting, and souvenirs at the many markets all throughout Ecuador.

There are some great artisanal markets in each of Ecuador’s three biggest cities. Quito has its popular Mercado Artesanal la Mariscal. Guayaquil has its own Mercado Artesanal on the southern end of the Malecon 2000. And local handicrafts can be found throughout Cuenca’s Plaza de San Francisco and Mercado de Artesanias Rotary.

leather belts, bags, backpacks, wallets, and other leather goods for sale at the leather goods at the Cotacachi Sunday market

Yet shoppers can dive deeper into Ecuador’s communities to uncover thriving weekly markets and other interesting shopping opportunities. The bustling Thursday market in Saquisilí can be a dazzling cultural experience to witness the local trading taking place. Riobamba’s Saturday market is another fascinating look into the local wares. And anyone looking for leather goods should not pass up the shops in Cotacachi and its Sunday market day (pictured above).

Yet it’s the following three notable shopping opportunities that we find to be the best in Ecuador.

Shop at One of the Largest Markets in South America: Otavalo

Otavalo craft market in Ecuador

Otavalo is home to Ecuador’s most famous local market, which is one of the largest and most renown markets in all of South America. The Otavalo market tradition goes back hundreds of years, all the way to pre-Incan times!

And Otavalo’s artisan market is still going strong today. It’s best to go on Wednesdays and Saturdays. That’s when the market expands with hundreds of additional stalls sprawling across dozens of blocks of the Andean city.

Otavalo can be visited as an overnight stay or as a day trip from Quito, as it’s located about two hours away from the capital. It’s accessible by bus or day tours that occur during Otavalo’s market days (Wed & Sat). Additional logistical info can be found in the Otavalo section of our Quito Travel Guide.

Shop for a Panama Hat Sombrero de Paja Toquilla: Ecuador’s Famous Hats

Trying on Panama Hat in Cuenca Ecuador

Ecuador, not Panama, is the origin and production center to what is well-known around the world as the “Panama Hat.” There’s an explanation behind this confusing name. It’s because these Ecuadorian hats were being exported to Panama while the Panama Canal was being built in the early 1900s. That’s when US President Roosevelt visited the construction site and was photographed wearing the hat in Panama. The name “Panama Hat” has stuck ever since.

But make no mistake, this is purely an Ecuadorian product and they are known locally as sombreros de paja toquilla. The town of Montecristi lays claim to the birthplace of Panama hats. Today, its streets are lined with shops selling Ecuador’s famous hat. You can make a pilgrimage to the town to buy one at some of the best prices in Ecuador, and the world. A high quality, tightly woven hat will still cost $100 and upwards, while more affordable options also exist.

Yet it’s Cuenca that has become the largest producer of these hats. Throughout Cuenca, there are Panama Hat factories and museums to tour, with adjacent shops to purchase their wares. The Homero Ortega Museum is one of them, as they claim to be the oldest and most experienced Panama hat producer in Ecuador. For more about Cuenca’s Panama Hat production, take a look at the Panama Hat section of our Cuenca Travel Guide.

Artisan Towns of Azuay Province

Street in Chordeleg Ecuador with shops

About an hour’s drive north of Cuenca lies a trio of towns that are highly regarded for their artisan products. Gualaceo, Chordeleg, and Sigsig each offer intimate shopping experiences. Here, shoppers can hunt down local crafts from right within the charming Andean communities that produce them.

Perhaps most notable is Chordeleg, where dozens of jewelry and craft shops line the towns pretty streets. Go during the mornings on a weekend, when vendors fill its Plaza Artesanal selling their wares. More about what to do in Chordeleg and it’s two neighboring villages can be found in the Artisan Towns section in the Cuenca Travel Guide.


13) Swing off the End of the World!

Ecuador has a love affair with large crazy swings that fly high over cliffsides. The swing at Casa de Arbol in Baños is thought to be the original and has become the most popular of Ecuador’s high-flying swings. But other imitators have since popped up in additional places throughout the country that we’d dare say may be even better than the original!

So here are a few of the best swings to check out in Ecuador.

The Original Swing at the End of the World: Casa del Arbol

This famous treehouse near Baños is the swing that started it all. It’s often known as the “swing at the end of the world” and it’s a must-do activity in this adventure hub town in Ecuador.

The Casa del Arbol swing costs $1 and is accessible by bus ($1), shuttle van ($5), or even a 3-hour hike from Baños. Given the swing’s rise to fame, there is often a queue of people waiting to get their Instagram pic.

Swing High over Ecuador’s Capital

Swing over Quito Ecuador

This swing recently sprung up on the side of the Pichincha Volcano, looming over Quito. Adventurous souls can now soar high above Ecuador’s capital city on this swing while nervously enjoying views of the metropolis down below.

As of last visit (2019), the swing is free. This awesome swing is accessible by the TeleferiQo cable car ($8.50) from Quito, which is really one of the best things to do in Ecuador on its own merits. The 18-minute cable car ride is one of the highest in the world, as it whisks passengers up from the city to an altitude of 4,000 meters (about 2.5 miles high). That’s where this swing above Quito awaits. Read more info in the TeleferiQo section of our Quito Travel Guide.

Swing over the Quilotoa Crater

The Quilotoa Crater boasts an absolutely stunning natural setting to swing over. This crazy swing soars out over a crater lake! The Quilotoa Crater swing is reached via a short hike down into the crater and costs $1 for a few minutes of awe-inducing swing action! You can get to this crater swing during a Quilotoa day trip from Quito or while trekking the Quilotoa Loop.


14) Stretch Yourself Across the Equator Line

A pathway leads to the Mitad del Mundo equator monument

Did you know the country of “Ecuador” literally translates to “equator?” The equator is a pretty big deal in Ecuador. This line dividing the north and south hemispheres slices right through Ecuador and even the Galapagos Islands too.

A visit to the equator line is a major tourist attraction and point of interest in Ecuador. It’s a fun novelty to hover over both sides of the earth at once. If you’re coming to the country named after the equator, you kinda have to take a trip to the famous line!

There are many different places to cross the equator in Ecuador. The most popular of the bunch is known as Mitad del Mundo, (Middle of the World), easily accessible from Quito. This is where visitors will find the main equator monument and that big yellow equator line to snap an equator selfie on top of.

The neighboring Museo Solar Intiñan is another interesting equatorial attraction. Here, visitors can perform some suspicious experiments along the line.

Does draining water really change directions on each side of the equator? You’ll have to go and judge for yourself. We question the validity of such experiments, even though we clearly had trouble walking a straight line on the equator. It’s claimed that the hemisphere’s forces tug at you.

For more about these equator sites, which ones to visit, whether it’s really worth going to, and how to get to the equator from Quito, all the info is included here in the equator section of our big Travel Guide to Quito.


15) Take a Dip in Ecuador’s Volcanic Thermal Pools

Piedra de Agua Spa Circuit in Baños near Cuenca

Given the volcanic origins to Ecuador’s Andes, it should come as no surprise that hot springs abound throughout the country’s midsection. After a grueling trek through the Andes or during a particularly chilly day, indulging in a visit to Ecuador’s many thermal pools can feel downright heavenly.

The thermal baths of Papallacta are a popular escape from Quito and boast volcano views among the more than dozen of pools to soak in there. The town of Baños, Ecuador, is appropriately named as it translates to “bathing” and offers a number of thermal pools and spas to bathe in. Take a long soak in one of the many pools at the large Las Piscinas de la Virgen complex.

Yet a personal favorite thermal spa in Ecuador can be found at a different municipality also named Baños. It’s in the Baños of Azuay province, on the outskirts of Cuenca, where you can find Piedra de Agua. Their 3-hour “spa circuit” includes eight different treatments. This ranges from Turkish baths to steam baths to subterranean contrast pools. Perhaps most interesting is the volcanic mud exfoliation treatment, involving two different mud baths!

Sipping a daquiri in a thermal pool

At the conclusion of the spa circuit, guests can spend as much time as they’d like relaxing in the three warm outdoor mineral pools. And they’ll even deliver drinks to you on a little boat that floats with you in the warm waters! It’s all a great experience and economical too. Go during the 2×1 deal, on Monday, Wednesdays, & Fridays, which drops the price of the spa circuit down to only $17.50. More logistical info for this affordable luxury experience is covered in the spa section of our Cuenca Travel Guide.


16) Go Ziplining through the Cloud Forest

Collage of Heather & John Ziplining in the Mindo Cloud Forest, a ziplining selfie, and Heather hanging upside down

There are a number of great ziplining runs throughout Ecuador. You can find ziplines in the Andes surrounding Cuenca and others soaring over canyons near Baños. Yet we suggest the best ziplining opportunity in Ecuador is the canopy tours offered through the lush Mindo Cloud Forest.

Mindo may be best known for birding. Yet it is also becoming an awesome hub for adventure pursuits in this unique cloud forest environment. There are some serious ziplining routes in Mindo to soar amongst the toucans.

We’ve been ziplining all around the world, but Mindo’s canopy tours really stick out for the length of their runs, the cloud forest environment, and what we’ve found to be the best value zipline tour in the world.

It takes more than an hour to complete all ten zip-lines that add up to a 3,640-meter long course (nearly 12,000 feet). Yet it only costs $20 USD for the entire length of this awesome canopy tour. Find more about this adventure in the Ziplining section of our Mindo Travel Guide. It’s not only one of Mindo’s best activities. Their ziplining courses are firmly one of the best things to do in Ecuador!


17) Don’t Only Admire Ecuador’s Churches, Experience Them

Ecuador boasts a handful of impressive churches and cathedrals scattered about the country. Even those who may not be fascinated by these religious structures should find appeal with the experiences that can be had throughout Ecuador’s churches.

It’s not only about the artwork, architecture, history, and religious significance. Many of Ecuador’s cathedrals can be climbed for their spectacular surrounding views, among other interesting experiences.

Climb the Basilica del Voto Nacional for Views & Maybe a Cerveza

Clock towers of Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito Ecuador

Quito’s Basilica del Voto Nacional is a prime example of an incredible experience that can be had in an Ecuadorian church. This basilica includes a rickety climb up many stairs, ladders, and even a walkway across the roof of the church. Ultimately you’ll reach the top of a spire that affords awesome views of Quito.

Oh, and you can also drink a beer from high up within one of the basilica’s towers. It’s in a semi-hidden little cafe. You can see exactly where to find it and all the logistical info in the Basilica section of the Quito Guide.

Ascend the Spiral Staircase of Cuenca’s New Cathedral to a Bell Tower with No Bells

Cuenca New Cathedral with school girls walking by

Cuenca’s Cathedral de la Inmaculada, AKA the New Cathedral, took nearly a hundred years to complete. Construction finally wrapped up in 1975. The result is now one of the largest churches in South America.

Visitors can climb the bell towers for views of the city and take an up-close look at the Cathedral’s signature blue domes. While atop the cathedral you can also learn about why the bell towers don’t have bells. Learn more in the New Cathedral section of this Guide to Cuenca.

Unlock Ecuador’s Oldest Catholic Church: Iglesia de Balbanera

Balbanera church collage: pews, unlocking door with key, Virgin Mary relic

While this modest church pales in comparison to the grandiosity mentioned above, it’s no less impressive to visit what is recognized as the oldest catholic church in Ecuador. It dates all the way back to 1534! Many people make pilgrimages here for the ancient Virgin of Balbanera. The very old relic from Spain is on display near the church’s altar.

Yet what we found to be impressive is the experience of using the original keys to lock the church’s half-millennia-old door! The Balbanera Church is easily visited from the town of Riobamba. Directions can be found in the La Colta section of our full Riobamba Travel Guide.


18) Go Whitewater Rafting from the Mountains to the Jungle

With fast-moving rivers flowing down the Andes mountains, there are some excellent whitewater rafting opportunities in Ecuador!

Down towards the Amazon basin, the town of Tena is a main base for whitewater rafting activity in Ecuador. The Jatunyacu River, which flows into the Napo River, is a major tributary to the Amazon. And it makes for some fine whitewater rafting. It’s not every day you can have the opportunity to go whitewater rafting in the Amazon basin.

The Jatunyacu River is the most popular whitewater run in the area, with class III+ rapids in a picturesque jungle setting. The rapids are mild enough for beginners, yet still offer some bouncy thrills across swift moving waves. Trips down the Jatunyacu are priced from $50 – $85 and many reputable operators can be found in Tena.

Whitewater rafting down rapids of the Pastaza River in Ecuador

Moving further up in the Andes, the adventure hub of Baños offers some more whitewater action down the rushing Pastaza River. The dips and spills on class III & IV rapids can really add a jolt of adrenaline to any Ecuador trip! It’s a pretty setting too, given the river flows down amidst towering canyon walls in some sections.

With prices set around $30 for the 5-hour rafting tour from Baños, it’s one of the most economical whitewater rafting trips we’ve encountered anywhere in the world. There’s no shortage of rafting operators around town offering the trip daily within this price range.

Lastly, in Mindo, there is an exhilarating tube-rafting experience unlike we’ve seen anywhere else in the world. The rivers around Mindo are too shallow for true river rafts. Yet the river can be way too intense to float down on an innertube. So rafting is accomplished by roping several tubes together to form a makeshift raft. It’s then used for a thrilling ride through the cloud forest, while a tubing guide navigates the rock-strewn river!

It’s all quite the experience. And this tube rafting in Mindo is yet another adventure bargain. If you can round up a few friends to go together, the price can be as low as $6 per person. That gets you an exciting run that lasting about a half-hour, depending on how fast the water is flowing. You can read more about this cloud forest tube-rafting in our Mindo Travel Guide.


19) Stroll Guayaquil’s Impressive Malecon

People walking on the Malecon 2000 along the Guayas River in Guayaquil Ecuador

While many of Ecuador’s beaches boast pleasant seaside malecons (waterfront boardwalks), we’d argue that the riverfront walkway of Guayaquil’s Malecon 2000 reigns supreme. The 2.5- kilometer promenade boasts excellent views of the River Guayas. It meanders past gardens, monuments, museums, restaurants, artisanal markets, shopping malls, and other fun attractions.

Perhaps most notable is the La Perla! Soaring 57 meters high above Guayaquil, La Perla is touted as the largest ferris wheel in South America. Wander further down the malecon to hop aboard the Barco Morgan. This pirate ship takes passengers up the Guayas River for views of the expansive malecon. For added fun, there’s an unlimited drink option!

Guayaquil Attractions on Malecon 2000

Taking just a short jaunt off Malecon 2000 will bring you to one of the Guayaquil’s most beloved attractions, the Iguana Park. That’s where you can always find the namesake reptiles roaming freely. Meanwhile, the other end of the malecon stretches towards the colorful and historic Santa Ana neighborhood.

For more on all of these attractions, on and off Malecon 2000, browse through our complete travel guide of the 15 Best Things to Do in Guayaquil.


20) Eat Delicious Local Ecuadorian Cuisine throughout the Country

Ecuador has some interesting local cuisine to try while traveling throughout the country. The food across Ecuador varies regionally. Local specialties can be as diverse as Ecuador’s landscapes. Seafood reigns king along the coast. Meanwhile, warm comfort foods are found in abundance across the Andean highlands.

Yet regardless of location, eating is a thing to do in Ecuador! And it should be noted to seek out some of the delicious local specialties throughout the country. So here are just a few notable dishes to look for:

Eat Ecuadorian Ceviche along the Coast

Ceviche is included on the Santa Fe Galapagos day tour

Ceviche is a national dish in Ecuador and this country has a different take on the marinated seafood dish, compared to other Latin American nations. Ecuadorian ceviche tends to be very saucy and soupy. The ceviche here is always served with a spoon in a bowl that is so very full of all the tangy citrus juices the seafood was marinated in.

We’ve eaten ceviche in just about every country that serves it across the Americas. Personally, we find Ecuadorian ceviche to be the best in the world. (Shh… don’t tell Peru we said so.)

Ceviches of fish, shrimp, and octopus are all popular. These many forms of ceviche are common along Ecuador’s coast and the Galapagos. But you can also find ceviche inland too. One local Ecuadorian ceviche chain that we frequent and recommend is Los Cebiches de la Ruminahui, with nearly 50 locations including in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato, Ibarra, Manta and more.

Be Charmed by Hornado in the Highlands

Hornado stands with women offering samples at at local market in Riobamba

Hornado is whole roasted pig and is found in just about every Andean market in Ecuador. It’s a local favorite. The resulting pork is extremely tender, well-seasoned, and salty. A plate comes with some crispy skin along with traditional sides like mote (hominy), llapingachos (thick potato pancakes), and veggies.

Yet the experience of getting hornado at the market is nearly as satisfying as the dish itself. The women selling their hornado are charmingly aggressive to get you to choose their particular stall. These hornado vendors always hold out samples of their best cuts for potential customers to try. This happens all while lapping on the praise, telling passersby how good looking they are to woo them for a purchase. Markets in Cuenca, Gualaceo, and Riobamba are just a few cities that are particularly known for their hornado.

Adventurous Eaters Can Try Cuy

A quarter cuy meal in Cuenca

Yes, it’s guinea pig.

Guinea pig, known here as cuy, is indeed a local specialty in the southern highlands of Ecuador. A whole-roasted guinea pig is something for adventurous eaters to try. Look for it around here in Cuenca and the town of Loja too.

More Local Ecuadorian Cuisine to Try

This all just scratches the surface on local specialties to eat while in Ecuador. Yet here are a few more favorites to keep an eye out for during meal times:

  • Fritada – A national dish of well-seasoned fried chunks of pork. Look for it in Quito, Otavalo, Gualaceo, and Latacunga, among other highland locations.
  • Locro de Papa – A hearty potato soup that’s made complete with cheese and avocado. Find it throughout the highlands, particularly around Quito.
  • Churrasco – Ecuadorian steak & eggs. It’s a favorite found throughout the highlands.
  • Bolon – Fried ball of plantains and cheese. Eat Ecuador’s most delicious breakfast along the coast or Galapagos. Order with a cafecito.
  • Encebollado – Fish stew that is a national dish. It’s found along the coast, is often eaten in mornings, and helps cure hangovers.
  • Cangrejo criollo – Creole crab is a local specialty to Guayaquil that’s as fun to eat as it is delicious.


Best Places to Visit in Ecuador

Reading through this article, you’ve likely noticed a few destinations that have been repeatedly mentioned. Cities such as Quito and Cuenca can make excellent travel hubs to stay in to pursue further adventures. Yet there are many more places to consider traveling, beyond those two cities.

So the following offers advice on an Ecuador itinerary, travel routes, and how much time to spend in each location.

How Much Time to Spend in Ecuador & Where to Travel

If planning a trip to Ecuador, the following can be used as a rough itinerary suggestion for what we’d advise as the minimum time to spend in each location.

Tailor an Ecuador itinerary that best matches your interests and time constraints. Do note that the amount of time suggested for each destination (above) is on the low side. This is so travelers can attempt to maximize a trip to Ecuador. Those who have more time should definitely consider staying in each location for far longer than the above suggestions.

Spend as much time in Ecuador as you possibly can! A two-week trip to Ecuador can be nice. But more time is needed to venture to each of the highlights suggested within this guide.

Exactly where to travel in Ecuador depends greatly on the amount of time you have and personal interests. For example, those who have no interest in adventure activities can easily skip Baños. Not into trekking? Then definitively cut out the Quilotoa Loop entirely and consider a visit to the crater as a day trip from Quito instead.

Short on time? It would be a shame to miss the Amazon. But making the concession of axing the Amazon from your Ecuador itinerary is perhaps the best way to save on time that can instead be allocated to other locations throughout Ecuador. It can also extend your travel budget.

Meanwhile, many people regularly skip over Riobamba. It could make sense to follow suit. But those who want to see Ecuador’s highest mountain must keep the oft-overlooked town firmly on their itinerary. Guayaquil is another city that’s regularly passed. But if transiting through Guayaquil anyways, we find it to be well worth spending a day or two.

Colorful dwellings on riverside hill in Guayaquil Ecuador


Ecuador Travel Itinerary

The map below illustrates a proposed Ecuador itinerary that can be a logical route in attempting to visit many of the best places in mainland Ecuador. You can use this as a rough outline, while cutting and adding based on our interest, budget, and time constraints.

Also, add on a trip to the Galapagos, which is easily possible from start/ending points of Quito or Guayaquil.


How to Travel Around Ecuador

Getting from place to place can be accomplished in a variety of ways depending on preferences and budget. Consider:

  • Public buses
  • Shuttle buses
  • Hop-on-hop-off tour buses
  • Guided tours
  • Flights

Bus Travel in Ecuador

Ecuador’s public buses can be a great way to travel around Ecuador for those who are comfortable with independent travel. Buses in Ecuador are frequent, reliable, comfy, and inexpensive. Expect to pay roughly $1 for each hour traveled. Buses in Ecuador are best for backpackers and seasoned budget travelers.

There are some safety concerns to be aware of when using buses to get around Ecuador. The mountain roads are precarious and bus drivers have been known to drive faster than they should. Accidents are rare. But they do indeed occur and can be deadly. We suggest avoiding night buses, which tend to have a greater frequency of accidents. And, always, always buckle up!

Also, know there have been reports of petty theft on buses in Ecuador. Travelers should keep valuables secure and close while on public buses. Personally, we’ve taken over 100 different buses throughout Ecuador and have never experienced or seen theft on buses. But it can happen to unsuspecting passengers.

Lastly, know that most public buses do not have restrooms onboard. Plan accordingly.

Each city in Ecuador has a bus station, often called Terminal Terrestre. There, visitors can find up-to-date timetables and purchase bus tickets.

Flor del Valle bus from Quito to Mindo

Shuttle buses can be an alternate consideration to buses. These are full-sized vans that ply popular routes in Ecuador, such as between Cuenca and Guayaquil. They cost slightly more than a regular bus. Shuttle buses can sometimes be found at bus stations. Or inquire at a tourism agency within the city you’re traveling from.

Hop-on-hop-off buses can provide a more comfortable and safe bus option for traveling Ecuador. They’re also significantly more costly compared to public buses. Companies like EcuadorHop and Wanderbus have set itineraries with departures on certain days. Passengers can choose to stay in each destination as long as they desire and then hop back on the bus for the next segment. There are different itineraries to choose.

Ecuador Tours

Guided tours of Ecuador can be a great option for the most convenience. Professional travel guides help navigate the country as they effortlessly whisk travelers to all the best spots. Leave all the planning and logistics to the tour company. Just show up and enjoy Ecuador. Tours of Ecuador can also be the best way to learn about the country, as local guides are usually employed.

Many Ecuador tours also include the domestic flights to the Galapagos and even cruises throughout the islands. We’ve found some of the best Ecuador tours and prices through Gadventures. Browse through each of their listings and travel dates to find an Ecuador tour that best fits your interests and travel style.

Flights within Ecuador

Even though Ecuador is a small country, travel times on those winding mountain roads can be notoriously lengthy.

So if covering long distances, it can sometimes make sense to consider a domestic flights within Ecuador. For example, the bus from Quito to Lago Agrio (for Amazon tours) takes more than eight hours. A flight will save precious time by getting to the Amazon in less than an hour.

Flights between Quito and Cuenca or between Quito and Guayaquil can often make sense too. But just know that flying between these major cities bypasses many of the best places to visit in Ecuador that can be visited using land transport.

Of course, going to the Galapagos can only be accomplished by plane. Flights to the Galapagos depart from both Quito and Guayaquil.

View of Galapagos from plane window on our cheap flight to the Galapagos

There are three main domestic airlines in Ecuador:

  • Avianca
  • LATAM (formerly LAN)
  • TAME

All three are fairly comparable in terms of quality of service. We suggest choosing whichever airline has the best price and/or schedule for your trip. Yet if prices are similar across the board, we suggest Avianca and LATAM over TAME, based on our experience flying with these airlines. TAME has been known to unexpectedly cancel flights.


Happy Travels in Ecuador!

We hope this Ecuador travel guide has helped to provide trip ideas and travel inspiration. Ecuador is such a fascinating country to explore. Ecuador holds a beautiful culture. The diversity of landscapes is unparalleled. The nature is incredible. The cuisine delivers interesting dishes to try. Plus, it’s a country that delivers excellent value.

And we hope that we’ve been able to show that there are so many fun things to do in Ecuador!

If this guide has been helpful, please let us know in the comments. Or give us a shout with any questions. And if you’ve traveled to Ecuador and you have your own favorite things to do, share them! 🙂

Above all else, have a great trip to Ecuador. Or as they say here, ¡buen viaje!

Publishing note: this travel guide about the Best Things to Do in Ecuador was originally written in August 2019 and is regularly updated to keep info up-to-date. Most recently updated April 2020.

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20 Tips: How to Get Cheap & Free Drinks on a Cruise Ship Mon, 10 Feb 2020 17:11:15 +0000 Indulging in many beverages can be so much fun when cruising. But as drink prices on cruises hover around $10, those poolside piña coladas will add up before you know it. Splurging every night on costly cruise cocktails can be a blast. But it’ll also blast your onboard account before you can even say “mar-ga-rita.”

During the past six years, we’ve been using budget travel tactics to cruise entirely around the world. So during all this time as passengers on cruise ships, we’ve been figuring out ways to keep our bar bill extremely low while aboard dozens of cruise ships. As such, we’ve developed a variety of alcohol hacks, tips, and tricks on how to get cheap drinks on a cruise. Part of this strategy includes getting free drinks on cruises!

As an example of our cheap cruise drink strategy, during a 14-day sailing on the Celebrity, we managed to keep our bar tab under $75 per person. That’s less than $6 per day and we still drank quite well …and a lot! During a transatlantic repositioning cruise with Royal Caribbean, we solely used a $100 onboard credit to drink throughout the cruise (for free) and we again drank very well during that 13-day voyage.

Pina colada on the pool deck of the Norwegian Star cruise ship to show how to get cheap drinks on a cruise

Meanwhile during a recent cruise, sailing on the NCL Bliss, we didn’t drop a dime on alcohol and still drank heavily most nights. But it was on a two week Norwegian Star cruise, that we scored unlimited drinks for free the entire cruise! How did we pull that off?

This post details tactics like how to get hooked up with a free beverage package and the the truth about sneaking booze onto a cruise. But lets play by the rules. As such, happy hours can make for happy cruisers! And knowing when the free cocktails are served is even better! Yes, many cruises regularly give passengers unlimited free drinks for short periods for those in-the-know. Cheers to that! 🍻

Creating your own mini-bar is another fun drinking cruise hack we regularly employ. And those who want better coffee without paying for inflated specialty coffee prices, we show how to be-your-own barista! Actually, there are plenty of free non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy on a cruise. Yet cruisers looking for booze, will find lots of alcohol hacks to get cheap cruise drinks all throughout this post.

That because we’re divulging our best tips to get free & cheap cruise drinks. So without further ado, here are 20 cruise tips to get cheap (and free) drinks on a cruise. Let the party begin! 🍹

champagne and other free drinks on a cruise


1) Exploit Cruise Ship Happy Hours

Celebrity Cruises Social Hour has 3 dollar draft beer, 4 dollar wine, and 5 dollar cocktails and can be a great way to get cheap drinks on a cruise shipMany cruise lines offer a happy hour at certain bars, at certain times, with reduced priced drinks. Sometimes these happy hours are planned and stated in the daily newsletter. Other instances they’ll be listed on the bar menus themselves.

Often such drink deals are only subtly advertised. So passengers must be observant and seek out these drink deals. Keep your eyes peeled for happy hour promotions on table-top signs at cruise bars. And do know that cruise happy hours vary by cruise line, ship, and even each sailing. Cruise happy hours change constantly.

Cruise happy hours even change from from bar to bar on the same ship. On some Celebrity cruise sailings, we’ve found $3 draft beers and $4 wine pours at most bars during their happy hour. But this Celebrity happy hour does not extend to every bar on the ship. Meanwhile, their martini bar can have an entirely different happy hour with select martinis at half price. Yet the martini bar doesn’t honor the beer & wine happy hour. So be sure to check around all the bars and find a happy hour that is best for you!

During a sailing on Royal Caribbean, we noticed that most bars actually do not have a happy hour at all. But the somewhat hidden On The Air Club had BOGO margaritas, daiquiris, and long island iced teas during their late afternoon happy hour that was exclusive to that bar only. Passengers never seemed to venture there from 4:00-6:00. So usually we were the only ones sipping on strong long island iced teas that came out to only $4. Now that’s a great bang for your buck!

Also, some cruises will have two happy hour periods: one before dinner and another into the late night. Princess happy hour had formally done this. Although in recent years happy hour has seemed to disappear from Princess ships.

Happy hour on Holland America is still doing it two times a day on most sailings, with a happy hour promotion usually running from 4:00-5:00 at one bar, then again from 10:00 at another. Holland America’s happy hour provides thrifty drinkers with a cheap drink deal of buying one drink and getting a second for $2. Celebrity Cruises does also does this dual happy hour on some ships, first from 4:00-6:00 and again at 10:00-midnight. 

With two happy hours, if you can time your drinks right, you’ll be sipping on cocktails for about the same price as your local watering hole back home. Use cruise happy hours in combination with other strategies listed here during the non-happy hour periods.

And while most cruise happy hours are planned, some lines such as Carnival Cruises have been known to just announce drink deals spontaneously on party nights. Listen up and you may hear the DJ announce $1 beers! It’s happened to us before when sailing with Carnival and we stocked up.

💡 Pro tip: Stock Up During the Best Drink Promos

If beer prices are slashed for happy hour or during a promotion, consider ordering a round of unopened beers to stock up your mini fridge while prices are low. Then take those inexpensive beers back to your cabin, only to enjoy them poolside during the following day.

Occasionally a bartender will insist on opening the beer. If that’s so, order a 16 oz. aluminum bottles with twist off caps. Those bottles can be easily resealed!

But often bartenders have no issue with passengers buying several unopened beers during a promotion. In fact, on a Holland America cruise when a 2-for-1 craft beer promotion came up, a bartender offered to send an entire case of discounted beers to our stateroom! We did. This brought the price-per-beer down to $2.98, which is even cheaper than buying those same beers at a bar on land!

Holland America happy hour beer promotion 2-for-1 craft beers


2) Attend Cruise Drink Tasting Events

Wine tastings, cocktail tastings, martini tastings, and even beer tastings can be some of the best drink deals at sea. Personally, it’s our favorite tip to partake in for cheap drinks on a cruise.

Specialty drinks, like fine martinis, typically cost $10-$15 (or more), plus gratuity. Five fancy cocktails could easily cost a cruiser $75. But when you attend a tasting event, you often get five full-sized drinks for $25 per person. These tasting events can be incredible drinks bargains on a cruise. Plus you get to try a variety of different cocktails you may have never thought to try before.

Drink flight sampler celebrity eclipse molecular bar demonstrating how tasting events can be a great way to get cheap drinks on a cruise ship

During some cruise tasting events that we’ve attended, the drinks are smaller portions coming in at about 4-6 ounces. Yet other tasting events, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by full-sized drinks!

We’ve found that drinks tastings on NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line) to be of particularly good value, as they’ve poured some large and strong drinks during their tastings. Norwegian usually does a martini tasting, margarita tasting, a beer tasting, and a wine tasting during their regular cruises. If you don’t want to drink all five drinks, consider attending with a partner/friend and sharing the experience.

Drink tasting events are a lot of fun and a great way to make friends during a cruise. We’ve learned some drink recipes that we now use back home. Keep an eye out for alcohol tastings in the daily itineraries. When you see them, reserve a spot and you may discover your favorite new libation, all while being mindful of your drink budget.

💡 Tip: If you ever happen to cruise on the Norwegian Bliss, be sure to go the show “Happy Hour Prohibition – The Musical”. It costs $25, but that fee includes five prohibition-era cocktails throughout the entire performance. It’s great fun and great value!Prohibition drink menu on Norwegian Bliss


3) Why to Never Order Wine By the Glass

Never ever order by the glass on a cruise, even if you’re only going to have one glass of wine with dinner. Here’s why: if you order a bottle of wine and don’t finish it, your server will gladly re-cork it for you so that you can enjoy the rest of that bottle on another night, at no additional charge. Also, most cruise ships even permit the server to send what’s left of the bottle to another bar or even to your stateroom.

As is the case with any land-based restaurant, wine by the bottle on cruise ships offers significant savings compared to ordering by the glass. So as long as you’re able to finish an entire bottle during the length of your entire cruise, there’s really no reason to ever order by the glass.

Those $7 glasses of wine may seem like a good deal, but it’ll add up to $42 (plus gratuities) over the course of six glasses. That’s over $50! On our last cruise the $7-per-glass wine was priced at $29-per-bottle. So ordering the bottle will ultimately get you that same wine for far less money. Just finish the bottle another night or whenever you’re ready.

Drinking wine on Norwegian Bliss cruise from wine package

💡Pro Tip: By a Wine Package Instead

Most all cruise lines offer wine packages in which you commit to a certain number of bottles throughout your sailing, at a reduced price. Typically the more wine you commit to, the greater the price reduction. So try to estimate how much wine you’ll go through on the front end of the cruise, which will lessen the blow to your onboard account by departure day.

You can often purchase these wine packages before you set sail which may provide even a little bit more of a discount. For example, Celebrity offers a Taste of the Vineyards package online with either 3, 5, or 7 bottles. The 3-bottle package starts at $109. Take a look online or ask your booking agent. Otherwise, once you’re on the ship, inquire about these wine packages at the ship’s wine bar.

If you’re going on a 7-day cruise and you think you may share one bottle of wine each night for dinner, then it would make perfect sense to order a 7-bottle package, for a nice savings!

Below is an example of the Holland America wine packages we found during a recent cruise. Packages start at $119 for a four bottle package, which saves about $30 in total if you were to buy those same four bottles separately, not as part of the wine package.

wine packages on a holland America cruise


Strongback Stout in the Bahamas is a decent beer you can find that's inexpensive in the popular port of Nassau

4) Find Cheap Drinks in Port

If you have an extra hour or two to burn while in port, skip the sugary overpriced drinks at Señor Frog’s and Fat Tuesday’s. Instead, find a cozy local bar a little further away from the port to throw back a few. Not only will you have a more authentic travel experience with local flavor, but you also may find local prices!

Drink your Buds, Millers, Coors, Coronas, and Heinekens once you’re back on the ship. Instead, take the opportunity on shore to explore a local beer or spirit. We’ve found there to be some surprisingly tasty brews popping up all around the world. Many popular Caribbean and Central American cruise destinations even have local brewpubs near cruise ports.

Also, be aware that many places around the world don’t have open container laws like in the US. This means you can go into a local convenience store, and get a cold beer to enjoy while relaxing on the beach, touring the city streets, or simply walking back to the ship while you sip.

Many countries officially do have open container laws, but they are completely unenforced in popular cruise ports. The easiest way to know whether drinking alcohol in public is tolerated is this: if the cashier of a convenience store has a bottle opener at the counter, then that’s a clear indication it’s acceptable to drink on the streets while in port. You may even be offered a cup! The best part is that all of these local beers while in port will be at a fraction of the cost compared to the cruise ship’s pricey drinks.

But go beyond the beer while ashore. Get to know the local drinks in an area you’re visiting! Local wine found ashore throughout a Mediterranean cruise is not only delicious but can be surprisingly cheap. That’s the same for rum throughout the Caribbean. And let’s not forget about all the yummy tropical cocktails found all throughout many of the world’s most popular island cruise ports. Our favorite is painkillers in the Virgin Islands!

enjoying a painkiller drink while in port in the Virgin Islands


💡 Pro Tip: Go on Inexpensive Shore Excursions that Include All Your Alcohol!

Instead of necking a bottle of beer in the streets, book a tasting tour, a booze cruise, or an all-inclusive beach pass while in port. Use a tour agency independent from the cruise line save money on shore excursions.

We always use and recommend Viator shore excursions since they tend to be nearly half the cost of the cruise line’s excursions. Their ports of call tours include a worry-free guarantee promise to get you back to the ship. And if your cruise has to cancel a port for any reason, it’s nice to know that they automatically provide a full refund.

Where are you cruising to? Here are just a few booze-filled shore excursions in some of the most popular Caribbean cruise ports:

🇲🇽 Cozumel, Mexico Drinking Excursions:

  • Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club is the hottest drink ticket in Cozumel and is such incredible value! For the price of about five drinks on a cruise ship, this ticket gets you an all-day pass to this white-sand beach resort that includes a full open bar with unlimited drinks! The day pass also includes a complete lunch menu, beach loungers, and even ocean kayaking along Cozumel’s coastline! But best of all, there’s a swim-up bar, so you don’t even have to leave the pool to get your next margarita. Drink up!
    ⚠ Beware: this one regularly sells out in advance. Check availability now for your travel dates.
  • Catamaran Sail & Snorkel: After snorkeling on Cozumel’s reef, you’ll be treated to cervezas, rum punch, and even tequila shots as you sail around the island.
  • Jose Cuervo Tequila Tasting: While docked in this Mexican port, you can become a certified tequila connoisseur during a 3-tequila tasting, then learn how to make a margarita the authentic way!

🇧🇸 Nassau, Bahamas Drinking Excursions:

  • Rum & Food Walking Tour is our top pick for Nassau, as it includes 6 rum tastings, 2 cocktails, and more. The distillery visit is interesting and the rum produced is so good that we bought a bottle ourselves! See the latest reviews.
  • Rum Reggae and Rhythms Tour looks like so much fun and has so many excellent reviews to vouch for it. This tour the also the least expensive booze-filled tour we’ve seen in the Bahamas, and you’ll have to “sip slow” while venturing out to a number of local Nassau drinking spots. Check availability.

🇧🇸 Freeport, Bahamas Drinking Excursions:

  • Bahamian Brewery Tour: This $29 shore excursion may be the cheapest way to drink a lot while docked in the Bahamas. Why? Because the brewery is known to leave their taps open at the end of the brewery tour until you get your fill. More info.

🇰🇾 Cayman Islands Drinking Excursions:

  • Distillery & Brewery Tour Plus Beach: This is our top pick for the Cayman Islands, as this 4-hour tour packs in a distillery, rum factory, craft brewery, and even time on the famous Seven Mile beach. The tour includes loads of rum, vodka, and beer along the way. It’s only the price of a few cruise drinks. But you definitely won’t return to the ship sober. Book now.

🇻🇮 St Thomas, US Virgin Islands Drinking Excursions

  • Rum & Food Tour: This tour explores St Thomas’s rum history, as it includes two rum drinks, but also puts focus on the island’s local food scene. Perhaps best of all, you’ll learn how to make the signature drink of the Virgin Islands – the Pain Killer. And than drink it, of course. Sooo good! Check prices.

🇸🇽 St Maarten Drinking Excursions

  • Topper Rhum Distillery Tour: After touring this famed distillery, you visit the tasting bar for unlimited rum samples and even the opportunity to bottle your own rum!

Other Boozy Shore Excursions Around the World

The above-listed shore excursions are only a few of the vast variety of excursions Viator has available on their tour booking site. You can find these boozy shore excursions all over the world, from a whale watching & brewery tour in Alaska to a vineyard excursion in Northern Italy. Search Viator excursions for your ports of call.


5) How To Get Cheap Booze Delivered To Your Cabin on the Final Night

At some point during your cruise, go to the duty-free liquor store onboard and buy a bottle. This tax-free liquor is well-priced and you may even catch an additional sale on alcohol from time to time. Unfortunately, the duty-free shop will not allow you to take those bottles back to your cabin …that is, until the last night. On the final afternoon of your cruise, any bottles that you purchased will be delivered directly to your stateroom.

Also on the final evening of the cruise, the duty-free store will, in fact, allow you to walk out of the shop with any liquor you purchase. On one cruise, we noticed that an entire liter bottle of vodka at the duty-free shop was actually priced less than two shots of the exact same vodka if you were to purchase it at the bar.

Additionally, any alcohol purchased while in port will also be delivered to your stateroom on the final day of your cruise. So don’t hesitate to buy that delicious Jamaican rum or snag that bottle of tequila while docked in Cozumel. When you return to the cruise ship, you can easily check the bottle with security. Then once the last night of your cruise rolls around, any bottles that you’ve purchased ashore will be delivered to your room.

Also, if you happen to be in port on the final day of a cruise itinerary, most cruise ships will actually permit you to bring any liquor purchases right back on board with you. No sneaky tactics are required. Just walk right on and put that bottle through the x-ray machine. But again, this tends to only be allowed when bringing liquor back aboard a cruise that has a port call on the final day of a cruise itinerary.

So on your last night of a cruise, have a party in your stateroom and enjoy! Just be sure to schedule a late disembarkation time the next day. 🤪


6) Ordering Bottle Service in Your Stateroom is a Good Deal!

The previous cruise alcohol tip is great for a cheap bottle on the last cruise night. But what about the rest of the cruise?

Most cruise lines offer standard 750-ml bottles of liquor that they’ll send to your room for a modest price. They’ll set it all up nicely with glasses and ice for you to use throughout your cruise. Sometimes, they’ll even throw in some free mixers too! The price of these liquor bottles with set-up ranges around $40-$60, depending on the cruise line and your liquor preference.

While $50 for a bottle of liquor is much more than you’d pay for it at your local liquor store, the cost still comes out to being much less expensive than you would pay for several drinks at the bar on a cruise.

tequila bottle in cruise was set up as bottle service as a way to get cheap drinks on a cruise

Let’s do the math on bottle service using a real-life example:

On a recent cruise aboard the Holland America Koningsdam, the cruise offered a Gin & Tonic package that includes a bottle of Bombay gin and three cans of tonic water for $46.25 + 15% service charge for a grand total of $53.19.

That $53 will yield at least 16 delicious gin & tonics that can be made and enjoyed right from the comfort of the stateroom throughout the entire cruise. This comes out to about $3.31 per drink.

Meanwhile at the Koningsdam’s bars, that same Bombay gin and tonic comes to $8.34, after the 15% service fee. So it would cost over $133 at the bar for 16 gin & tonics. So buying the bottle set-up for your stateroom ultimately results in a massive $80 savings! Here’s the breakdown:

$133 for 16 gin & tonics at the bar
-$53 for 16 gin & tonics with bottle service in stateroom
=$80 in savings

Best of all, this bottle set-up is a totally legal and acceptable way to have booze in your stateroom without having to sneak it on the ship! And with bottles starting at $40, it’s still semi-affordable too. If you’re a heavy cocktail drinker, it can really make financial sense to purchase a bottle of liquor for your room to help ease your onboard account, in between drinks at the bar.

Additionally, most cruise lines, aside from Carnival and NCL, do permit you to bring your own soda on board. So if you plan ahead, you can buy a $40 bottle of liquor on the ship and then use your own mixers that you’ve brought. There’s certainly no need to tap into the expensive minibar sodas!


7) Legally Bring Your Own Wine

Most cruise lines actually permit you to bring your own wine and champagne aboard the cruise ship. Usually, the wine allowance is one 750 ml bottles per person or two 750 ml bottles per stateroom. This wine that you can legally bring aboard the cruise must be placed in your carry-on luggage only and is only limited to bringing on embarkation day.

Each cruise line’s wine allowance policy is slightly different. So we outlined the alcohol policies of the most popular cruise lines below. As these beverage policies do change, be sure to check the up-to-date policy directly with the cruise line, which we’ve linked to in the chart.

CruiseWine AllowancePolicy
Norwegian❌ Not allowed. $15 per bottle.NCL Beverage Policy
Carnival🍾 1 bottle per personCarnival help (see Liquor & Beverage Policy)
Holland America🍾 1 bottle per personHAL Brochure (see page 6)
Princess🍾 1 bottle per personAlcohol Onboard Princess
Celebrity🍾 2 bottles per stateroomCelebrity Alcohol Policy
Royal Caribbean 🍾 2 bottles per stateroomRCI Onboard Alcohol Policy
Disney🍾 2 bottles per personCarrying Alcohol Onboard Disney

A bottle of champagne was wine allowed onboard a Celebrity cruise, as permitted through the cruise alcohol policy

Here’s 4 more tips when bringing your own wine!

💡 7.1) How to Avoid the Corkage Fee in the Main Dining Room

You will be charged a corkage fee if pouring the wine you brought in the main dining room. These corkage fees vary by cruise line, but typically range between $15-$25 per bottle.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy your own wine from your cabin at no charge whatsoever. Your stateroom attendant will happily deliver wine glasses to your room and will even deliver an ice bucket to chill champagne or white wine. This is complimentary, with no corkage fee.

But what if you want to have that glass of wine with your dinner without the expensive corkage fee? Then you can simply pour a glass of wine in your cabin and then enjoy it anywhere else on the ship.

Usually, the wine glasses delivered to your room are the same glasses being used in the bars and dining room. As such, no one will know (or care) that you poured your own glass of wine. So fill up your wine glass in your cabin and then take it to dinner, thereby avoiding a corkage fee. Often the maître d’ will even carry your glass of wine for you as you’re walked to your table.

Go ahead and make it a big pour. You may even be able to make one big glass last all the way until the dessert course.

Wine in the dining room can be brought for free when poured in your room to avoid the corkage fee

💡7.2) Bring strong wine

If you’re really trying to get the most bang for your buck, bring some strong wine on your cruise. Many popular wines have a lower alcohol percentage of 11%-12%. For example, one of our favorite wines, Pinot Grigio, tends to have an alcohol content of about 11.5%, which is fairly low.

Champagnes and sparkling wines often aren’t much higher. Those are traditionally great to sip while cruising, but they would be a bad choice to bring on a cruise if you’re trying to get your money’s worth in the few bottles of wine that you’re legally allowed to bring aboard the cruise.

Shiraz or Zinfandel is a better option for wine to bring on a cruise, as they are stronger wines, clocking in around 15% alcohol. Better yet, consider a dessert wine like port wine or sherry, each of which can run as high as about 20% alcohol by volume!

If you’re trying to drink cheap on a cruise, bringing these stronger wines will certainly help to stretch that precious alcohol further.

bring your own wine on a cruise

💡7.3) Bring even more wine!

While the official policies limit cruisers to two bottles per stateroom, we’ve found it can be possible to slip in an extra bottle. If divided into separate luggage, cruises might not to add up wine bottles that are in different bags being delivered to the same stateroom. So putting two bottles in one suitcase and two bottles in another could get four bottles of wine to slipped through to a stateroom undetected.

Just know this is officially against the rules. But it regularly works.

BYOB beer and wine can be one legal way to drink cheap on a cruise ship💡 7.4 Bring Your Own Beer Instead of Wine

If you’re beer drinkers (like us), you may want to know how you can legally bring beer on a cruise instead of wine. A few cruise lines actually do permit you to bring your own beer onboard, although it is rare. Disney is one of the only major cruise lines that allow beer. Disney cruises official policy permits passengers to carry on six beers per person. Thanks Mickey!

For cruise lines that allow you to bring wine only, you can instead consider bringing a 750 ml bottle of craft beer on board. Such bottles often have the appearance of wine or champagne. So that has worked for us to bring a nice beer instead of an allowed wine bottle. (See image to the right: the bottle on the left is beer). It has always been allowed for us, even though beer is technically against the official alcohol policy for most cruise lines.


8) Cruise Drink Packages Can Be Worth It

Most cruise lines now offer all-you-can-drink beverages packages. These unlimited drink packages can seem expensive on the surface, but all-you-care-to-drink alcohol packages can actually be fantastic value for those who tend to tip back a few while cruising. Cruise drink packages are a trend in the cruising industry that began a bit more than five years ago. Now Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, most Norwegian ships, and many Carnival ships offer some sort of alcohol drink package.

Each cruise drink package varies on exactly what alcohol included. But most of these cruise drink packages tend to be generous in their offerings, even including top shelf liquors. Some of the cruise drink packages further include specialty coffees, soft drinks, and other non-alcoholic drinks to help you recover the next day.

Cruise beverage packages range in price from about $50-$100, per day, depending on the cruise line and the specific package. For example, Carnival currently promotes its CHEERS drink package for $51.95 per day + 15% gratuities. So for a 7-day Carnival cruise, such a package would add up to a total of $418.20. Again, this seems very pricey, but we’ll further show you how it might be worth it.

All the different cruise lines’ beverage packages differ in price and inclusions. Some are truly unlimited, where as others impose daily limits. So below is a comparison chart with prices for some of the most popular cruise lines for 2020. Also, cruise drink package policies and prices do change, so be sure to confirm details before your cruise.

CruisePrice per night + GratuitiesInclusions & LimitsMore info:
Royal Caribbean $63-$89Unlimited, drinks up to $12Deluxe Beverage Package
Holland America$51/$63 + 15%15 drinks per day, drinks up to $9/$15Login to HAL to view Signature / Elite
Celebrity$59/$69 + 20%Unlimited, drinks up to $9/$15Standard / Classic / Premium Packages
Carnival$51.95 + 18%15 drinks w/in 24 hrs, drinks, up to $20CHEERS! Package
Princess$60 + 18%15 drinks per day, up to $12Premier Beverage Package
Norwegian$99/ + 20%Unlimited, drinks up to $15Premium Beverage Package

💡 Pro tip: Buy your beverage package online in advance. Most cruise lines offer a discounted rate, usually saving cruisers $5-$10 per day when the beverage package is purchased in advance. So buy online in advance of your cruise, or expect to pay a bit more if purchased once on the ship.

drinks at cruise bar using the unlimited beverage package on a cruise to for cheap drinks


Is a cruise drink package worth it?

That depends on a variety of factors, such as

  • how much you drink on vacation
  • what you drink,
  • how much time you’ll be on the ship (is the itinerary port-intensive or all sea days), and
  • the price of the beverage package on the cruise you’re taking.

For some cruisers, beverage packages can be totally worth it. For others, it’s not at all.

Simply do the math. Take those considerations into account to determine if the cruise beverage package is worth it for you personally.

Typically those who may drink an average of at least 6 drinks or so each day, cruise beverage packages will likely save you. It’s also nice to not have to be concerned about your growing bar tab on a cruise.

If you don’t think you’ll be drinking an average of six drinks per day, then usually the beverage package is not worth purchasing.

Six drinks in a day may seem excessive. But these cruise beverage packages can pay for themselves many times over. Consider that you may enjoy a few beers by the pool, then a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, a cocktail at the show, and perhaps a nightcap at the bar. You’re in vacation! The many cruise bars are all-too-convenient, and there’s a party atmosphere. You may be surprised how quickly all those wonderful cruise drinks flow onto your onboard account.

Sharing a cruise drink package is not allowed. And all adults in the same stateroom must all be on the same drink package, so it’s not allowed for couples to share in one drink package. It may be possible to discretely slip a friend a drink. But if you cheat the drink package, it violates the terms and risks your beverage package being revoked.

Drink packages can provide even greater value on cruises with more sea days compared to cruises that are more port intensive. When you have many full days on the ship, you’ll have more opportunities and time to hit the bars. If you’re on an itinerary that calls on a port every day, with long hours, you’ll have less time at the ship’s bar to take advantage of a drink package.

Yet if cruising is just one big party to you, the investment of a beverage package can pay dividends. Just drink responsibly and stay afloat!

drinking in hot tub on Carnival cruise while on the Cheers drink package

💡 Pro tip: Get a Cruise Beverage Package Included for Free!

Sometimes cruise lines will run special deals and offer these all you can drink packages for free as an incentive for you to book the cruise. That is how we drank for free when we sailed on aNorwegian cruise. It was fantastic! It was open bar the entire cruise and nearly the entire drink menu was included, even most top-shelf brands!

Also, there are a few cruise ships that are all-inclusive and even include unlimited alcohol. One cruise line that does this is Pullmantur, a Spanish cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean. When we cruised on the Pullmantur Monarch, it included a full open bar during the two-week sailing. (Read our full Pullmantur Review of a $159 Cruise).

Search around to find cruise deals that include the unlimited beverage package. We tend to see such promos offered by Norwegian and Celebrity the most. Call a good travel agent who can let you know which cruise lines may be currently running such a beverage package promotion.

Just beware that these “free drink packages” require passengers to pay an extra gratuity charge for the bar service. Depending on the cruise line, this may cost range from $9 (Carnival) to $20 (Norwegian) per person, per day. Even if paying an $20 per day for the gratuities on a “free” drink package, that’s still a heck of a deal for all-you-can-drink top shelf alcohol!

9) BYOB – Bring Your Own Booze: the Sneaky Way

Cruise passengers have been known to sneak their own booze aboard cruises. We like to play by the rules and don’t particularly recommend this. But we’d be remiss not mention this as a strategy for cheap drinks on a cruise. There are often-tried cruise alcohol tricks like putting liquor in mouthwash containers and using green or blue food coloring in attempts to hide that it’s actually alcohol.

Such tricks are well-known by security and you likely won’t be fooling anyone by pouring some blue colored vodka into a Listerine bottle. Plus, that vodka will probably end up with a faint minty taste that’s unavoidable.

If you are going to smuggle some liquor aboard your next sailing, consider a cruise ship flask kit that is specifically made for the purpose of being undetected when going through security. These nonmetallic pouches are purposely designed to let no air bubbles when pouring liquor into the devices, making it undetectable.

Many of these cruise flask kits have a good track record of success. For example, this Concealable and Reusable Cruise Flask Kit is currently the most popular alcohol smuggling device on Amazon and receives overwhelmingly positive reviews, with about 90%+ of reviewers, indicating it got past security. Check the most recent reviews.

So what happens if you get caught sneaking alcohol onto a cruise ship?

The biggest consequence is embarrassment and potential confiscation of your booze.

If you don’t buy a kit and do get caught sneaking booze onto the cruise, typically security will just remove the liquor and may even offer to hold it for you until the end of the cruise. If you’ve put a bottle of booze into your suitcase that security finds, the likely outcome is that they’ll hold it for you until the final night, although it does run the risk of being confiscated. If you took sneaky tactics like putting alcohol in a mouthwash bottle, security will almost certainly confiscate it.

Many cruise lines’ official policies do indicate that passengers can actually be removed from the ship for bringing aboard your own booze. But that never actually happens in practice. Realistically, the biggest risk is having the booze confiscated. Well, that and your luggage not arriving to your cabin on Day 1 of the cruise and hence having to get the “issue” straightened out.


10) Captain’s Toast = Free Drinks

If you notice any event in the daily itinerary titled something like “Captain’s Toast” or “Captain’s Reception,” this always means there will be servers running around with trays full of complimentary cocktails, wine, and/or champagne. Don’t miss it!

For longer soirées you may even be able to snag several gratis beverages. So hang out, find a nice cozy spot where the drink servers are coming out of, and then cheers to the captain with that Greek name you can’t pronounce.

Heather getting free champagne from a server

11) Play to Win Free Alcohol on a Cruise

There are always a number of contests and competitions held on board cruise ships. You’ll find anything from karaoke to the newlywed game to craft competitions. Smaller activities like daily trivia may only reward winners with a trinket like a keychain. But the larger game-show style events dole out much better prizes, and almost always give away free bottles of champagne!

For example, the Newlywed gameshow (AKA, Love & Marriage) always rewards participants a free bottle of bubbly. This game is played across every cruise we’ve been on and even the losers have been rewarded with champagne. Really, they’re rewarding participants for embarrassing themselves on stage. And what better reward than a bottle of bubbly!

We’ve also seen champagne be rewarded for progressive trivia competitions and virtually every gameshow style event requiring participants to get up on stage. So participate, bring your A-game, and you just might get rewarded with oh-so-precious free booze on a cruise!

Once you’re gifted a bottle of sparkling wine from the cruise, you’re welcome to drink it anywhere on the ship without a corkage fee. Personally, we’ve won a few times and have brought our free bottles, into the main dining room and to drink poolside.

Drinking free champagne won during a game on a cruise


12) Be a Loyal Cruiser to Get Rewarded with Free Drinks

If you’ve come back on the same cruise line for a second cruise, you may be rewarded for your loyalty with a bottle of champagne, a few drink tickets, and perhaps a cocktail party. Cruise a few more times on that same cruise line and you may find complimentary happy hours every single night!

Cruise lines are quite fond of treating their loyal patrons with booze. Even if you’ve only cruised once prior with the ship, there is usually a loyalty party event that includes complimentary drinks. So if this is your second or greater instance of cruising with the same cruise line, then be sure to check what alcohol perks you may be entitled to.

Free champagne during captains club reception on Celebrity cruise ship

We’ve found that Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have some particularly enticing loyalty perks for cruisers who enjoy free drinks! In addition to exclusive parties with free drinks, Celebrity rewards their Elite Captain Club members with a daily cocktail hour with unlimited free drinks from 5:00-7:00 at most bars and lounges. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean rewards Diamond members of the Crown & Anchor society by loading free drink tickets onto their SeaPass card.

So it can really pay off for drinkers to be loyal to those lines!

Don’t have loyalty status? Make friends! Not everyone onboard the cruise may be as big of a drinker as you are. Some high-ranking loyalty members may have leftover drink tickets they’re just going to let go to waste. So they are often happy to give them away to anyone who can use them. Sometimes these drink tickets are non-transferable, but this tends to be widely unenforced on cruise line we’ve sailed on.


13) Free Liquor Tastings!

Most all cruises have a duty free liquor store. On at least one night (often multiple nights), the liquor store will sample some of their best liquors as a way to entice you to buy a bottle while on board.

Usually, these free liquor tastings tend to occur earlier on a cruise’s itinerary, such as the first or second night. Check the daily guide for times, then stroll on by for your free shot (err, I mean a sample of liquor).

Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas advertisement for free liquor tasting


14) Enjoy Free Champagne at the Art Auction

If you’d like to sip on a complimentary glass of champagne, then head on over to the art gallery. Nearly all ships will have multiple art auctions during the cruise, which usually extends a free glass of sparkling wine. You’re not required to bid. So just sit back, learn something about the art, and watch others fight for those limited release prints.

It can be an entertaining experience. But if you get bored, there’s no shame in making a quiet exit. So perhaps be sure to pick an aisle seat in case you do want to leave early.

Drinking a glass of free champagne from cruise art auction


bucket of beer on a Holland America Alaska cruise

15) Beer Drinkers Should Buy Buckets of Beer to Save

Are you heading to the pool and want to kick back a few beers? Buy a bucket of five beers, which most cruises usually offer for the cost of four. It’s a win-win by saving the server a few trips to deliver your beer while saving you a few bucks.

Beer buckets may not be the best drink deal out on the high seas, but it still saves the $6-$7 cost of a bottle of beer. Even if you’re not planning to drink all of those beers in one sitting, it can be worth buying the bucket and bring whatever is left back to your cabin to put on ice or in the mini fridge.


16) Order the Drink of the Day

A Pina Colada on a cruise ship

Many cruise lines have a specialty “drink of the day” which will usually save you $1-$3 off the regular price. An additional bonus to the daily drink specials is that you may even get a souvenir cup which can entail even further discounts when getting a refill. The drink of the day is usually outlined in the daily cruise newsletter.

Waking up to find out the “daily drink” happens to be your favorite is like a Christmas morning surprise.


17) Enjoy Free Non-Alcoholic Drinks on a Cruise

Often the only free beverage offered in the main dining room is tap water. Non-alcoholic drinks, such as sodas or specialty coffees, come with an added expense on most cruise lines. Yet those who know to ask, or know where to look, can get more than just a glass of ice water!

So what drinks are free on a cruise? It should be obvious at the buffets that juices and other flat drinks are provided complimentary. But many cruisers don’t realize that they can also go to the main dining room and order complementary iced-tea and lemonade with their meals. It’s never offered. But unsweetened iced tea and lemonade is available for free in the main dining room on nearly all the major cruise lines.

Coffee, hot chocolate, and (hot) tea are also free drinks available on most cruise ships. In fact, cruises tend to have a very nice assortment of complimentary teas. They’re all there – Earl grey, English, herbal varieties, and more. Personally, we’ve found that an after dinner mint tea pairs quite nicely with decadent chocolate desserts. Also, we love sipping on some chamomile tea before bedtime.

So be sure to enjoy some of these non-alcoholic drinks for free.

Also, tap water is always free onboard cruises and is completely fine to drink. But some people complain about the taste. So bring flavored water drops such as Mio Water Enhancement to turn that water into a flavorful drink. A 4-pack that has enough for 96 uses will cost less than buying 6 sodas on a cruise. So bring some flavored drops to add a little squirt to your water during lunchtime or at the pool.


18) Be Your Own Barista!

Specialty coffee cruise hack: how to make your own cafe mocha for free by using hot chocolate packet, creamers, and coffee from the buffet

Don’t want to splurge the $5 on specialty coffee, but still looking for a little more flavor? Here’s our recipe to make a delicious cafe mocha:

  1. Empty approximately ¾ packet of hot chocolate mix to a coffee mug.
  2. Add 2 creamers.
  3. Fill mug with coffee.
  4. Stir.
  5. Enjoy an instant café mocha!

Sure, it may not be quite as good as a barista-made espresso-based drink. But this simple little cruise hack can save coffee drinkers about $35 over the course of a weeklong cruise, while still jazzing up a boring cuppa joe.


19) Bring Your Own Drinks to Stock Your Minibar

Most cruise lines permit you to bring your own sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages. Beverage policies vary by cruise line on what drinks are permitted onboard. The chart below summarizes the onboard beverage allowances of the major cruise lines, as of Feb 2020.

CruiseWine Allowance
Carnival⚠ Cans only. No bottles. 12 per person.
Celebrity⚠ Celebrity officially says don't pack non-alcoholic beverages. (We've found this isn't enforced).
Disney✅ Non-alcoholic drinks allowed, no limit.
Holland America✅Non-alcoholic drinks allowed, no limit.
Norwegian❌ No outside beverages allowed.
Princess✅Non-alcoholic drinks allowed, no limit.
Royal Caribbean ⚠ 12 cans or bottles per person.

So bring aboard some sodas or whatever you prefer. Then just ask your friendly stateroom attendant to empty out all of those expensive minibar drinks so that you can make use of the fridge. Once the fridge is clear, you’re free to chill down all of the beverages that you’ve brought onboard. And if your cruise cabin isn’t equipped with a mini-fridge, just ask your stateroom attendant for an ice bucket to chill your drinks.

empty mini fridge on cruise ship


20) Attempt Bringing Beer Back while in Port

Most cruise line policies strictly forbid passengers from bringing any alcohol back to the ship from port. That means beer is not allowed back onboard, of course. But we’ve found that security on many ships will often overlook passengers bringing beer back onboard. To find out, we typically experiment with attempting to bring on a few cans during the first port day.

We’re never sneaky and don’t attempt to hide the beer. Rather, we run it through the x-ray machine in plain sight. Sometimes the beer will be flagged by security and stored until the final night of the cruise. In that case, we know it’s probably not worth attempting to bring beer back aboard when in subsequent ports.

But in many instances, security actually allows the beer to be carried on the cruise, no questions asked. For whatever reason, we’ve had more success with beer cans being accepted, rather than bottles.

So go ahead and give it a try! The worst case outcome is that security will hold onto your beers for you until the final night of the cruise. And you can still drink those beers on the final night. So you really don’t have anything to lose by attempting to bring a few beers back aboard the ship with you. And you don’t have to be sneaky about it.

During our last Caribbean cruise, security was lenient enough to allow us to bring beer back onto the ship from every port we visited. We gladly brought back our hauls to chill in our mini-fridge and hence have inexpensive local beers to enjoy back on the cruise ship.

cruise mini fridge stocked with local beers smuggled aboard the ship


Have Cheap Drinks on a Cruise but Don’t Miss Out on the Fun

Part of the fun of drinking on a cruise is the social element, hanging out the numerous bars, lounges, and clubs on these awesome ships. The nightly parties can be a blast. Drunken karaoke sessions are hilarious.

Yet some of the aforementioned cruise tips for cheap drinks may confine passengers to drinking in their staterooms. That’s boring. You’re on a cruise – go out and have fun!

So be sure to utilize those cruise happy hours, daily drink specials, tasting activities, and beverage package deals in order to truly make the most of your vacation, as you drink your way across the open seas!

having fun by taking shots at the cruise bar


Even More Ways to Save Before You Cruise

Bon voyage! We sure hope this post has giving you lots of ways to save money on drinks during your next cruise. But before you go, here are a few more links to our other money-saving cruise articles and to our travel affiliate partners that you may find helpful:

🚢 Be sure to check out our huge list of cruise tips here:

🏨 If you need a hotel before or after your cruise, be sure to book early. All the best hotels in port cities tend to get reserved by cruise passengers in advance. We like using to compare all the top hotel sites and score the best deal before it’s too late.

⚠ Never go on an international cruise without travel insurance. Avoid having to shell out for medical emergencies, flight delays, trip cancelation, or lost baggage by getting a quick quote from RoamRight, which we’ve found to offer the best coverage for the price during our cruises. Enter your dates for a quick quote to protect your trip.

👍 Lastly, to receive our latest travel tips and inspiration, as we continue this journey around the world, join us and the thousands of other drink-loving travelers over on our Roaming Around the World Facebook Page. Every #ThirstyThursday, we post about what we’re drinking from wherever in the world we currently are. So check out where in the world we are this week and what’s on the drink menu!

Drinking free champagne on a cruise

This guide offers several different ways how to get inexpensive drinks while on a cruise ship.Do you want to save this article about Cheap Drinks on a Cruise Ship for later?

Then be sure to bookmark this page or pin image to your right onto your travel Pinterest boards.

Publishing note: This article with tips on How to Get Cheap Drinks on a Cruise Ship was first written in June 2014 and is continually updated, most recently in January 2019 with the latest information and prices.



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50 Best Cruise Hacks: Tips to Save Money, WiFi, Weight & Hassle in 2020 Fri, 07 Feb 2020 09:10:41 +0000 Cruises can be costly, full of hassles and ridden with hidden expenses. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

During the past few years of traveling the world, we’ve now spent more than a half year as passengers on cruise ships. With all that time out at sea, we’ve learned so many great cruise hacks and cruise tips.

Having spent eight months on eighteen different cruise ships, across eleven different cruise lines, we’ve become expert cruisers. In the process, we’ve uncovered all the best cruise hacks to save money and avoid the many excess costs so often incurred while cruising.

We even pulled off the ultimate cruise hack by achieving what only seems impossible: an affordable world cruise. We used a series of budget travel tactics in combination with many of the cruise hacks laid out in this article to cruise entirely around the globe on a budget of $60 per day (more on how we accomplished that is revealed at the end of this post).

During all this time as cruise passengers, we’ve developed an arsenal of cruise hacks in addition to collecting many cruise tips that other savvy cruisers have passed on to us. From cruise wifi hacks to cruise packing hacks, we’re now happy to share these secrets of the sea with you!

Whether you’re about to embark on your first cruise or are a seasoned cruising veteran looking for a few new cruise tips, we hope these cruise hacks help you to save hassle and money on your next cruise. Or maybe even help you to save a few pounds too!

Man using wifi on laptop from a cruise ship balcony


Cruise Booking Hacks – Buy a Cruise for Less!

As we’re always looking for the best values around the world, one of the questions we receive most about cruising is when to book a cruise to get the lowest price possible. Like airfare prices, cruise prices tend to fluctuate greatly and there’s no surefire way to guess exactly how those cruise fares may change. But based on past booking patterns, it is possible to have a good idea of the direction that cruise prices may be trending.

Often booking a cruise very early is the best advice. In other instances, last-minute cruise deals are a way to achieve rock bottom cruise prices. Follow these tips when booking your next cruise and you’ll be sailing into an awesome deal.

1) Hack the Cruise Prices – Book Against the Grain

Always consider shoulder seasons and off-peak cruise times to secure the best cruise prices. Definitely avoid Spring Break sailings, if feasible. You’ll not only save money but will also save yourself sanity, as it helps to avoid a cruise full of unruly kids or drunk college-age partiers.

Similarly, it can be a wise call to avoid winter holiday sailings and peak summer sailings. A simple rule of thumb is to book cruises when school is in session, if possible.

Some great cruise bargains can often be found in Fall, soon after kids go back to school. During the early autumn time frame, weather tends to remain moderate in most cruise destinations throughout the world. Even with nice temperatures, prices tend to drop low during this time when a lull in vacation travel occur.

Late Spring brings another dip in cruise travel that tends to usher in attractive pricing, but not necessarily for Caribbean cruises. Instead look for some ultra low-priced deals on Mediterranean and Alaska cruises in May, before Labor Day.

Cruise hack – Where & when to find lowest cruise rates:

  • Caribbean cruises – Sept, Oct, and into early Nov. Also early Dec.
  • Alaska cruises – Before Memorial Day (May) and after Labor Day (Sept)
  • Mediterranean cruises – April and into early May. Late Sept and Oct.

Not only will rates drop during these off-peak time periods. Cruise lines will further offer enticing incentives to attract customers to come aboard during these less desirable times of year.

We recently used this strategy to snag an awesome two-week Eastern Caribbean cruise deal with Holland America during the early December period. They enticed us with prepaid gratuities, a $100 onboard credit, free beverage cards, and even reimbursement on travel expenses to get to the port. It all totaled about $700 of value. And that was on top of a highly-discounted off-season cruise deal listed at $500/pp. So it was almost like they were paying us to take this off-season cruise! We essentially cruise hacked our way into an almost-free two-week Caribbean cruise. And that’s what booking during the off-season is all about!

Holland America Koningsdam cruise docked in St Thomas with an iguana in front


2) Book Early but Monitor Prices

It can be a safe bet to book a cruise as early as possible to lock in a low rate. Booking a cruise more than a year or two in advance of the sailing often yields attractive prices. But when booking early, it’s extremely worthwhile to continue monitoring fares.

If the price of a cruise changes, then you can usually change your booking to take advantage of the new pricing. Unlike when booking airfare, most cruise fares are cancelable and changeable up until a month or so before the sailing date. So after booking a cruise, keep a watchful eye on those prices. If you find a more attractive offer to the cruise you’ve booked, call your booking agent immediately to have them either change your reservation or to cancel the old reservation and rebook the better deal.

But don’t only monitor cruise price itself. Although you may see prices are remaining the same, there could be attractive promotions making it worthwhile to alter a cruise reservation. It could make sense to rebook your cruise if you later notice valuable promos being offered. Cruise lines love to entice passengers with offers such as complimentary beverage packages, onboard credit, or free cruise wifi minutes.

Cruises usually offer free cancelation as long as you do so before the cancelation period, which varies by cruise line and itinerary. Typically the cancelation period for a cruise is a month or two before the sailing date, so you can usually cancel without penalty anytime before then to rebook the better deal you’ve found. (Note: there are certain early booking fares like Carnival’s Super Saver, that are non-refundable. So when booking, verify that your deposit is indeed refundable.) 

Be diligent to check the price often or consider paying for a service to alert you of price drops. Whenever we book a cruise, we simply bookmark the cruise listing and check it regularly for price changes. If you have a really good travel agent, that’s something they can keep an eye on for you.

There are also cruise fare monitoring services can alert you to a change in prices for a fee. But those services are unable to track and compare all the different promotions that may be on offer. Hence, tracking prices manually can be a be a worthwhile effort.

langkawi Malaysia from cruise ship


3) Or Book a Last-Minute Cruise Deal Under the Right Circumstances

If all of the following circumstances apply, you can usually find the best cruise deals ever by booking last-minute:

  1. You don’t have a strong preference as to a specific itinerary, cruise line, or ship
  2. You are considering a cruise not during a location’s peak cruise season
  3. You are comfortable booking a non-refundable cruise within a month or so from departure
  4. You live within driving distance of the departure port or within a cheap flight away

Getting last minute cruise deals can be tricky and a bit of a gamble. But that gamble often pays off with slashed prices on undersold itineraries. If you don’t have a strong preference on a particular ship and just want to go cruising at a very low price, booking last-minute can be a great cruise hack to accomplish that.

The timing of the cruise will help to increase your odds of securing an incredible cruise deal. These last-minute bargains aren’t available during the height of a cruising high season. For example, don’t dare wait to book and expect a last-minute deal on an Alaskan cruise during the middle of summer or a Caribbean cruise during the height of Spring Break. Prices will likely rise or sell-out closer to the sail date.

Instead, wait for last-minute rates during those unpopular times we mentioned earlier. We’ve seen weeklong last-minute Caribbean itineraries out of Florida in the Fall months for as low as $199! We’ve similarly seen last-minute Mediterranean and Alaska cruise deals drop below rates of $50/night during late Spring. So if you can hold out, try waiting about 45 days prior to the cruise in order to book a fantastic last-minute cruise bargain at a non-cancelable rate.

Cruise ship deck while docked in Alaska


4) Consider Repositioning Cruises for the Lowest Deals

Repositioning cruises occur when cruise lines relocate their ships from one region of the world to another, based on seasonal changes and travel trends. And we firmly believe they are the best travel value in the world.

Here’s an example of how repositioning cruises work. Once it starts to cool off in Europe in the Fall, many cruise lines tend to reposition their ships across the Atlantic, towards Florida ports for the winter high season serving the Caribbean. As a result, the cruise lines form a repositioning cruise across the Atlantic, often stopping at interesting far-flung islands and unusual ports along the way. It’s a full-service cruise and usually they’ll even bring on extra entertainment to account for an influx in sea days.

But transatlantic repositioning cruises are just one example. These seasonal one-way cruises operate all around the world. You can find them voyaging across the Pacific, between Asia & Europe, between the Americas, and even down to Africa. And they’re all exceptional deals!

Despite exotic ports and extra onboard activities, prices for repositioning cruises tend to be super low due to supply and demand. That’s because people tend to avoid repositioning cruises for practical reasons since they are lengthy voyages (usually 2 weeks or more), tend to have an abundance of sea days, are one-way (requiring return transport), and these unique cruises simply aren’t promoted.

So prices drop, sometimes dramatically. We once even scored a two-week repositioning cruise across the Atlantic for only $159. That breaks down to about $12/day for a luxury cruise across the Atlantic!

If intrigued, be sure to read our separate post about:

Pullmantur Monarch bow of ship


5) Why Use a Travel Agent or Third Party

With most things travel-related, we often advocate booking directly with the travel company to get the best price. Middlemen can take a cut and inflate travel prices. But this is absolutely NOT the case when booking a cruise. We always suggest booking with a third-party instead of the cruise line directly. In doing so, cruise agencies can frequently find perks, promotions, and occasionally even lower prices.

Sometimes 3rd party travel agencies buy a block of cabins that they resell. If the agencies feel the need to unload them, they can be aggressive with pricing and promotions that can beat what the cruise line is directly offering.

For example, we regularly book our cruises on CruiseDirect and score some great perks with them. Most of the deals we previously mentioned were booked with them. Usually, they have the lowest prices, which can be comparable across other agencies or booking directly with the cruise line. But they regularly throw in additional perks that we rarely see when booking directly with the cruise line.

On our last cruise, we simply got a $100 onboard credit that the cruise line and no other agencies were offering. Another revent cruise, we received an included drink package and wifi package. Whatever the case, these promos were only available through the third party and not offered directly with the cruise line, even though the price was the same.

Search CruiseDirect for Latest Deals & Promos.

Celebrity Millennium cruise ship docked


6) Book a “Guaranteed Stateroom”

We’re big proponents of booking what’s called a “guaranteed stateroom” to get the absolute lowest price on whichever cabin type you’re interested in (inside, outside, balcony, suite). With a “guaranteed” cabin, you are guaranteed a room within that particular type of stateroom range or higher. You simply do not get to choose the cabin’s exact location on the ship. The cabin location will be assigned to you prior to your cruise departure.

Booking a guaranteed cabin can perhaps be a slight risk. Naysayers will cite the potential of being placed in undesirable areas such as under a nightclub, galley, or in the ship’s bow. We always book “guaranteed” and have never been assigned one of those undesirable locations of a ship.

Quite the contrary, actually. It’s always been better! We once even booked a guaranteed inside cabin and ended up in an awesome balcony stateroom. We believe that you stand a much greater chance to be placed in one of the many great locations on the ship, rather than a bad one. And you could even score an elusive free balcony upgrade, as we did once when simply booking an interior guaranteed stateroom.

Cruise hack: A guaranteed stateroom on a cruise can sometimes even yield a great balcony upgrade that this one on the Norwegian Bliss

The one thing to keep in mind is that these guaranteed cabins always have the absolute lowest price for their category. So if you’re a price-sensitive cruiser like us, and simply looking for the best cruise deal, then booking a guaranteed cabin is the cruise hack to help accomplish that.

For more on how to get those upgrades, Read: 10 Secrets on How To Get a Free Balcony Upgrade on a Cruise Ship


Cruise Hacks for Electronics

In today’s digital age, there are many tech-savvy cruise hacks to stay abreast of before your sailing. These cruise hacks and tips will help you avoid drained batteries, make the most of cruise wifi, and keep you connected while out at sea.

7) Pack This Handy Device To Keep All Your Gadgets Charged

With only one or two electrical outlets in most cruise staterooms, this poses a problem to keep all those cameras, phones, tablets, and laptops charged. It can be very wise to pack a compact travel adapter in order to charge multiple devices and avoid drained batteries.

But power strips with surge protectors are actually banned from cruise ships, as they pose an electrical hazard. If you bring one, they will get confiscated from your luggage and returned at the end of a cruise.

Yet this special Cruise Power Strip solves that issue, as it is a power strip that was designed specifically to be compliant with all the major cruise lines. Power strips with built surge protectors or extension cords are what poses an issue. When such power strips are found in luggage by security, they get confiscated during the cruise. So this Ship-Approved Power Strip excludes extension cords and a surge protector to become a completely permissible devise to plug into the outlets of all the major cruise lines.

This cruise-approved power strip turns one outlet into three, plus two USB ports! So it gives the ability to charge five gadgets at once. We never cruise without a portable power adapter like this.

Check the 5-star Amazon reviews here.

Buy this Cruise-Approved Power Strip


8) Use the Shipboard App

Most cruise lines now have their own app you can use onboard the ship, complimentary. Simply connect your phone to the ship’s wifi network and you’ll be able to use this app without incurring any wifi charges.

These cruise apps are free to use for tasks such as checking your onboard account balance, browsing the day’s up-to-date activities, reading up on your next port, checking menus, accessing a ship map, or even making dinner reservations.

Be sure to download the app prior to your voyage so that you don’t incur wifi fees or roaming charges that you’ll otherwise get hit with if you wait to download the app while at sea.

Here’s a listing of the major cruise line’s app to download before you embark.

Cruise lineiPhoneAndroid
CarnivalCarnival HUBCarnival HUB
CelebrityCelebrity CruisesCelebrity Cruises
DisneyDisney Cruise Line NavigatorDisney Cruise Line Navigator
Holland AmericaHolland America Line NavigatorHolland America Line Navigator
NorwegianCruise NorwegianCruise Norwegian
Royal CaribbeanRoyal Caribbean InternationalRoyal Caribbean International


9) Ditch the Walkie-Talkies and Instead Chat with the App

It has been a long-used cruise tip to bring walkie-talkies like these onboard cruises to be able to communicate with your cruise mates during the voyage. It makes it easy to meet your friends or family members while going separate ways on these massive ships.

But you can now forgo using this dated technology and instead communicate using the cruise line’s app. This capability often comes with a fee, but that fee will likely cost far less than the price of a pair of walkie-talkies. And the messaging app will work better too.

So how much do these cruise messaging services cost? It can vary by ship and even by each individual cruise itinerary. But to give some indication of costs during a recent sailing, Norwegian’s app – Cruise Norwegian – offered messaging service for a one-time fee of $9.95. This allowed for voice calls and text, through the app, to fellow passengers during the entire cruise. It was a 13-day cruise, so that came out to less than a dollar per day. We find it to be a very fair price for this messaging service.

Norwegian cruise app allows you sot stay connected onboard with Norwegian iConcierge. Make calls and send texts to other mobile devices registered to your stateroom and to other passengers using the app. Make unlimited onboard calls and send unlimited onboard text messages for one flat rate for the entire voyage.


Cruise Wifi Hacks

Wifi can be extremely expensive onboard cruise ships and it is notoriously slow. We found rates as hight as $0.95 per minute and the least expensive package was $9.95 for 15 minutes of wifi. Eek! Wifi prices and speeds are improving into 2020, but they’re still a very costly add-on to any cruise vacation.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to hack the cruise wifi network to get free wifi on a cruise. But there are easy ways to exploit cruise wifi, extend it, connect multiple devices to the same account, and even get a wee bit of free wifi on certain cruise lines.

So here are some tried and true cruise wifi hacks to minimize your cruise wifi expenses and maximize your time online during your cruise.

Laptop on a cruise balcony with screen reading "I need Wifi"

10) Always Buy Wifi Before You Embark on Your Cruise

You can find nominal savings on a wifi package if purchasing it before your cruise. Typically most cruise lines give a 10%-15% discount if you book a wifi package before you get on the ship. You can find these discounted wifi packages by logging in to your online account directly with the cruise line, before your embarkation day. It’s there where you browse the different wifi packages the cruise line offers for your specific itinerary.

Also, before booking a cruise, keep an eye out for promotions that may even include a free wifi package. Free wifi on cruises is becoming a more common promotion that cruise lines are offering to tempt you to book.

wifi computer station on a cruise

11) Get Free Push Notifications on Your Phone

Be sure to enable the wifi on your phone even if you don’t intend to purchase a wifi package. On some cruise lines’ wifi networks, push notifications and messaging apps been known to slip through for free! We have regularly experienced this cruise wifi hack firsthand on Celebrity and also on Royal Caribbean.

Without purchasing a wifi package, we were able to receive notifications to our phone when simply connecting to the ship’s wifi package while on airplane mode. When this occurs you may not be able to respond to any notifications, without an internet package. But it can still be a nice albeit tiny perk to be able to receive push notifications on your phone, free of charge.

Other Royal Caribbean cruisers have reported messaging apps, such as Google Hangouts, working in full function throughout their entire cruise, despite not purchasing a wifi package.

So put your phone on airplane mode, then enable your wifi to see if you may be able to potentially receive push notifications or even get free messaging on your phone during your cruise.

12) How to Get Free Wifi on Cruise Ships: Use 29 Seconds Per Session

Some cruise ships’ wifi will only deduct usage from your account if you’ve been logged onto the wifi for 30 seconds or more.

We first discovered this when logging on to Celebrity’s wifi for 29 seconds or less and noticed it didn’t deduct any minutes from our usage. So you can use the wifi for free if you’re able to keep your session under a half-minute! Just be careful to watch the time ticker and act quickly!

When using Holland America wifi, it also didn’t deduct any usage from our account when using it for less than a half-minute. Not all cruise lines use this practice though, as we discovered using Norwegian’s wifi for even a second deducts an entire minute. But this cruise wifi hack is definitely worth testing out on your next cruise to see if you can use 29 seconds of wifi for free.

While you admittedly can’t do much browsing in that very short amount of time, it is a great way to quickly pull in new emails or send out a prewritten email. Similarly, you can pull up a webpage within those 29 seconds, then log off and read the content after you’re logged out. This can be a great cruise wifi hack if you only need to occasionally check or send emails.

cruise wifi at sea

13) Use Wifi During Off-Peak Hours for Maximum Speed

If you did purchase a cruise wifi plan, use those minutes at times such as late at night or early in the morning. Or consider using them during peak meal times and during a popular show. You’ll find the speed to be blazing fast compared to other periods. These off-peak times may vary by ship and itinerary. Ask the Internet Desk Manager for the best times to log on.

💡 Pro-tip to test wifi speed on a cruise: Use a cruise’s complementary sites to assess how quickly the free pages load.

For example, on Holland America, they provide complimentary access to So we use the ship’s online portal to browse the news site for free. We’re doing so not to actually read the news, but rather to simply to gauge how quickly those NY Times pages are loading. When they load fast, we know this is a good time to actually log on to our paid wifi plan to get more efficient use of our limited wifi minutes on the cruise.

14) Get Your Minutes Refunded

If the Internet is painfully slow (as it can be), do inform the Internet Desk Manager of your troubles. He or she will almost always reinstate the minutes used during your sluggish wifi session(s), no questions asked.

Sometimes cruise ship’s wifi systems become overloaded or have outages, leaving passengers to squander those expensive wifi minutes they’ve paid for. If the Internet is really bad and you find yourself waiting five minutes for a page to load, it is unfair to be charged for that when wifi minutes on a cruise are so costly. If you do have a legitimate wifi problem on your cruise, don’t hesitate to visit the Internet Desk Manager to get it fixed and have those cruise wifi minutes refunded.

For example, during a transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Bliss, I once logged in and pages didn’t load after several minutes. After trying many times, it unnecessarily burned through the precious small allotment of wifi minutes. When I addressed this with the Internet Desk Manager, he confirmed that there was a satellite outage. So he credited the lost wifi minutes from those sessions back to our account.

Such instances are usually only credited if you are proactive in requesting them, never automatically. So if you experience a session in which pages aren’t loading, be sure to speak up.

15) Use Free Wifi in Port and Find the Best Locations

Wifi on a cruise can be pricey, but you can always wait until you’re in port to connect for free. There’s almost always a place to connect to wifi right at the cruise terminal where you’re docked. However, those in-port terminals are often for a fee and can be expensive. Occasionally they’ll have free wifi, but such connections will be painfully slow since many passengers and crew will all be trying to log on at the same time, clogging the network.

Instead, walk a few blocks away from the cruise terminal to find free wifi with better speed. Go to a local cafe, a bar, or even a fast-food restaurant. Even some malls or town plazas will have free wifi.

Sometimes the port maps you can get from guest relations on the cruise will have such free wifi spots marked. If not, ask your favorite crew member where he/she goes to use the wifi. If you’re on a ship with a regular itinerary, crew members will know all the best places in port with free wifi and fast speed.

16) Use Phone’s Data on the Cruise to Access Internet When Near Land

computer search on cruise

Whenever in port or even near land, consider using the data plan on your mobile phone to connect to the Internet. Before you cruise, be sure to check your phone carrier’s international roaming coverage. Some carriers, such as T-mobile or Google Fi, provide free data and texting in over 170 countries. That’s exactly what we use and it has worked very well for us all over the world.

But using your phone data plan is not just limited to being in port. When we’re cruising through areas within a few miles of the coastline, it’s possible to connect phones to have Internet access through mobile data while on the cruise.

When on the cruise, take a look at the route map to note if you’ll be passing by any islands or coastline where you may have data coverage. For example, during a sea day on a recent Caribbean cruise, we noticed that we were passing within close proximately to a Bahamian island. So we strategically checked our phone’s data signal when the island was near. Turns out, we were indeed able to access the Internet for nearly an hour since Google Fi’s coverage covers the Bahamas.

In addition to always having data while in port, we often had data on our phone while cruising through the Panama Canal, in Alaska’s inside passage, cruising along the coastline of SE Asia, and even while cruising through the Suez Canal in Egypt. If you already have an international roaming plan, this is a great free way to access the Internet on a cruise. Whenever land is near, connect your phone to access the data network!

You can even tether your phone data to a laptop or other device while cruising near land. Just be sure that when you’re attempting to access land-based mobile data, that you do so outside on your balcony or on deck. We’ve found the cruise ship walls can sometimes block data signals to interior spaces of a cruise.


17) Cruise Hack to Connect Multiple Devices Using Only One Wifi Package

When purchasing a cruise wifi package, passengers are only permitted to connect one device at a time. So when there are two (or more) people in the same cabin, they cannot be logged in at the same time. Similarly, if you want to connect your mobile phone and your laptop at the same time, this cannot be done simultaneously. For either of these scenarios of connecting multiple devices, you would need to purchase multiple wifi packages on the cruise.

But there is a way that you can easily bridge the cruise’s wifi network to create your very own wifi network right from within your stateroom. Shh… this is a cruise wifi hack the cruise lines don’t want you to know about. Here’s how it works:

All you need to do is pack a wireless travel router, like this one. Once on the ship, set the device to “bridge mode.” Then it can be paired to the cruise wifi network to create a new mini wireless network right within your cruise stateroom. Essentially it acts as a wifi repeater, allowing you to connect all your devices using only one wifi package.

Doing this cruise wifi hack works particularly well if you have an unlimited wifi package during your cruise. Set up your own localized network in your cabin and just let it run during the entire length of your cruise. Then you can connect as many phones, tablets, and laptops as you’d like. All of those devices will remain connected whenever you’re in your stateroom.

It’s super easy to use and this device tends to be prices under $50. Meanwhile, if you were to purchase a second unlimited wifi package, it would cost hundreds of dollars! So a wireless travel router easily pays for itself and it can be used similarly in hotels that charge for wifi, per device. An added bonus is that this particular wireless router also functions as a backup battery that fits in your pocket. So it can serve a secondary function of keeping your mobile devices charged while ashore. This travel router has additional vacation uses too, such as allowing you to share photos & files between connected devices.

Check prices and reviews for the HooToo Wireless Router on Amazon.


Cruise Hacks to Avoid Getting Sick

If the motion of the ocean has you feeling ill, try some natural seasickness remedies. Seasickness medication, while usually effective, will often make you drowsy. So instead of spending your entire cruise in a Dramamine-induced coma, use these natural methods to improve your state of being and enjoy the ride!

While the well-known tactic of staring at the horizon can be effective, here are other ways to avoid seasickness on a cruise that you may not have known about.

Furthermore cruises are an environment where viruses, colds, flus, and other illnesses can easily spread. But we have one simple little trick to help thwart illness from ruining your cruise vacation.

18) The Best Stateroom Location to Avoid Motion Sickness

If you’re prone to seasickness, consider booking a lower stateroom, midship. You’ll find the motion is much more subdued on the lower, central areas of the ship.

To further help with sea sickness, keep your air-conditioner on iced-cold. Experts have suggested that cold air is known to help fight off motion sickness.

It’s worked for us! We once sailed through the remnants of a hurricane in 20-foot (6-meter) seas when crossing the Atlantic. Nearly everyone on the ship, including the crew, were plagued by seasickness. Yet we had a cool, lower midship cabin and felt just fine!

Holland America Volendam cruise crossing Pacific in ocean swells and waves

19) Go To these Unintuitive Spots on a Cruise if Feeling Queasy

Not in lower mid-ship stateroom? Then head to the casino. Yes, the casino!

On nearly every cruise ship, the casino is conveniently located in the lower mid-ship. This is the sweet spot on a cruise to avoid motion. Cruise lines don’t want their gamblers becoming ill.

Cruises also don’t want poker chips and dice sliding around. But they do want a central location to tempt people to stop in for a slot pull. So casinos are always central and tend to be low to. If feeling nauseous, go there. Or find a pleasant interior space near the ship’s casino.

slot machines in a casino on a cruise ship

Another unconventional place to retreat if you’re just feeling mildly queasy is the ship’s pool! Here you’ll get a double-whammy of help.

First, the pool water itself will feel refreshing and cool. Secondly, you’ll move with the water in the pool rather than with the ship, which can with the disagreement your inner ear is having that’s causing the sea-sickness in the first place!

Just don’t go to the pool if you’re ready to blow. Your fellow pool-goers certainly won’t appreciate that.

20) Natural Sea Sickness Remedies that Are Free on a Cruise

Green apples can be a natural seasickness remedy you can find aboard cruise ships

We recommend green apples and saltine crackers as natural seasickness remedies that are totally free on a cruise ship. All the crew members strongly advocate these tried-and-trusted natural remedies. You may even notice cruises more prominently offering green apples and saltines during any particularly rough days.

Also, try ginger pills or buy a can of ginger ale as a tried-and-true natural remedy.

Did you forget to pack medicine or didn’t expect to get seasick? All ships sell seasickness medication at the gift shops. Instead, simply ask Guest Services, the clinic, or even your stateroom attendant for some seasickness medication. They’ll provide it free of charge. Even though it’s sold in the cruise gift shops at outrageous prices, all cruises will actually provide some sort of seasickness medicine entirely gratis. Just ask.

We have received ginger pills on some lines. Other cruises, ships have provided Meclizine Hydrochloride (generic Bonine). 

We recommend bringing ginger pills on board with you to use as a natural remedy. They’re also super cheap online, so order a bottle on Amazon before you depart and there will be no need to approach the customer service desk with a green face.

free sea sickness medicine on cruise - Meclizine Hydrochloride

21) Tip to Avoid Catching a Virus while Cruising

While most cruise lines take very good cleanliness and sanitary measures to prevent the spread of illnesses (and increasingly so, these days), much of the responsibility remains on fellow passengers. Of course, you already know to wash your hands often with hot soapy water when cruising. But there’s another simple little trick that we always employ that’s helped us to never get sick during our many months on cruises.

The buffets are arguably one of the easiest places to spread germs on a cruise and hence the place to be most vigilant in prevention. At the entrance to buffets, cruises have hand sanitizing stations for passengers to clean their germ-ridden hands before reaching for the tongs. The problem is that hand sanitizer only lasts for a minute or two. So all the passengers who touch their hands to their face or cough, then return to the buffet for seconds, are infecting the entire buffet line.

Unfortunately you can’t rely on other passengers’ hygiene to keep the germs away.

So here’s the tip! Use that hand sanitizer a second time after you’ve touched all the potentially infected buffet tongs. Most passengers only sanitize before visiting the buffet, which protects other passengers from your germs. But almost no one sanitizes after, which protects YOU from other passengers’ germs. So protect yourself!

This double-sanitization technique may seem like an over-cautionary step to take. But it’s so important.

We’ve now been on three cruises where a virus spread and we were among the minority that never succumbed to illness. During our last cruise, there were so many passengers with a nasty cold, as coughing was rampant. Yet we were careful to always sanitize immediately after retrieving our food from the buffet and before eating. No sickness for us. Ever.

Bathroom sinks on cruise ship


The Trip Insurance Cruise Hack You Need to Know

22) Here’s Why to Always Book Travel Insurance with a Third-Party

When booking a cruise, most cruise lines or agencies will offer you something called “trip insurance” or “travel insurance.” It’s very important to have travel insurance on a cruise, but NEVER book travel insurance with the cruise line directly. The cruise hack is to book with a third party travel insurance agency instead.

First, why do you even need travel insurance for a cruise? There are endless reasons to protect yourself. But here’s just a sampling of why you need travel insurance: trip cancelation, medical coverage on a cruise, lost baggage, flight delays, etc.

  • If you get sick during the voyage and need treatment, you’ll be stuck with an extremely expensive medical bill when visiting the ship’s doctor. But travel insurance covers such exorbitant expenses, should they arise.
  • What if there’s an extreme health emergency, in which you’re in need of a medical evacuation? That’ll cost somewhere in the ballpark of $50,000-$100,000 (or more) for those without the proper travel insurance.
  • If your flight is delayed to your cruise port causing you to miss the ship, travel insurance would fly you to the ship’s first port or could cover the costs of the having to cancel your cruise.
  • If your luggage goes missing, travel insurance will reimburse you for new clothes and other essentials. (we’ve actually used this one and got to go on a shopping spree that netted $800 worth of new clothes!)
  • If you got sick before the cruise or something unfathomable like a death in the family prevents you from going, travel insurance would cover all or a portion of your otherwise non-refundable cancelation.

Why not book trip insurance with the cruise line: Policies from cruise lines often contain minimal coverage at inflated costs. And we’ve found it to be painstaking to track down specifics of what their coverage includes. Also, these policies often cover only the cruise itself. That means if you’re staying in the port city of embarkation before or after your cruise, you may not be covered during your pre- and post-cruise travels. Furthermore, your flights to the cruise port probably aren’t covered either unless you booked them as part of a package with the cruise. And if for some reason the cruise line financially defaults, the cruise line’s own insurance policy won’t be able to help you out at all. For all of these reasons, it is important to instead book a separate policy with a third party travel insurance company rather than with the cruise line itself.

Be careful when booking your cruise: Many cruise lines and online booking agencies will try to pull the deceptive tactic of automatically including trip insurance with your cruise package. When booking a cruise, be sure to specifically ask that they do not include travel insurance. If they do add this expense to your booking, insist that you’d like it removed.

Where to book travel insurance for a cruise: There are many third-party travel insurance companies and we’ve carefully scrutinized all the top ones, comparing the costs and coverage to uncover which ones have the best value. For travels that are less than a month in length and coverage specific to cruising, we’ve found the best value for the coverage offered to be with travel insurance provider Arch RoamRight Travel Insurance. Hence we personally use and recommend it for cruise travel. Policy costs will differ based upon the length of cruise and price paid, but you can expect to pay about $50 per person (maybe less) for a weeklong cruise. Simply enter your dates and costs to get a quick trip insurance pricing estimate. (Takes about 1 minute.) This small expense is well worth the peace of mind to protect yourself against unexpected travel mishaps that would potentially ruin a cruise vacation and cost thousands of dollars.

Helipad on bow of cruise ship


Food Cruise Hacks

With so much deliciousness on a cruise, it can often be a happy problem to navigate all of those delectable culinary treats. So here are a few cruise hacks to help you maximize your intake of all those tasty dishes!

23) Order Two Main Courses

two main courses at a cruise dinner: lobster on one plate, beef wellington on another

Can’t decide between the steak and the lobster? Get both!

Your waiter will gladly oblige with your request for two main courses if there are two options that both look enticing. This also applies to starters and desserts. Hope you’re hungry!

24) Request a Main Course for Your Appetizer

Despite wanting two mouthwatering main courses, you may not have the appetite to eat both. The solution: order one of the mains as an appetizer instead. Personally, we find that vegetarian main courses can make for particularly awesome starters.

Sometimes you can even request smaller appetizer-sized portions of main course dishes. Ask and you shall receive!

25) Eat Free Dessert in the Cruise’s Coffee Shop

Cruise hack: Eat free desserts in the coffee shop

The specialty coffee shops on board cruise ships are revenue centers where passengers can spend money on expensive cappuccinos and lattes. But what many cruise passengers don’t realize is that you can also find beautiful desserts at the ship’s coffee shops that are all complimentary.

Those wonderful cheesecakes, cookies, and pies won’t cost you a dime. No coffee purchase is required to indulge in them. So if dinner is running long and you need to make it to a show, skip dessert in the main dining room and instead enjoy an alternate sweet treat later at the coffee shop.

26) Get Free Room Service on a Cruise

room service on cruise: chicken skewers and salad

Room service is often associated with high fees in hotels. Yet unbeknownst to some passengers is that many cruises offer room service complimentary to guests.

As of 2020, Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, and Disney all still offer a nice room service menu that is free. After briefly disappearing in 2019, even Carnival has brought back free room service to passengers now in 2020. Throughout each of these cruise lines, some premium items (perhaps a steak) may have a small charge. But menu items like sandwiches, salads, burgers, pizza, etc are often available free of charge. Desserts too!

Personally, we like ordering a cheese plate to snack on while getting ready. Celebrity’s grilled chicken skewer’s with yogurt sauce is a particular favorite for a tasty snack. How about late-night cookies & milk? Yes, please!

Do check to confirm if your cruise has complimentary room service. Or just look for the menu in your stateroom. Note that Royal Caribbean and Norwegian do not offer free room service on their cruises. Yet even those two cruise lines still offer some limited cold breakfast offerings and coffee as a complimentary room service options in the morning hours.

Cruise LineRoom Service Fees
Holland AmericaFree
Royal Caribbean$7.95 per order + 18% gratuity
Norwegian$9.95 per order

27) How to Get Free Candy on a Cruise

Cruise hack: get free candy from the ice cream station on a cruise ship

Have a sweet tooth? Don’t buy the overpriced bag of M&Ms for $5 in the ship’s duty-free shop.

Instead, simply head to the ice cream stand and ask the scooper for a cup of toppings of your choice. We’ve noticed that Celebrity’s ships tend to have a particularly nice range of candy to choose from. You can often get a cup of M&Ms for free, so there’s no need to pay for overpriced candy in the cruise gift shop. Personally, we go for the Sour Patch Kids to chew on by the poolside – yum!

28) Why Go to a Specialty Restaurant on the First Night and Never Formal Night

Filet Mignon and wine at Cagney's Steakhouse, a specialty restaurant on the Norwegian Star, which may offer a discount on the first night

If you want to try out one of the ship’s specialty restaurants, do this on the very first night of your cruise. On the first night, passengers tend to choose dining in the Main Dining Room. This leaves the specialty restaurants with several open tables. Therefor cruises will have special offers on these specialty restaurants during the first night of the itinerary.

So consider going to the steakhouse on the very first night and you may find such deals like a 50% discount and a free bottle of wine! Check the Day 1 itinerary for such a promotion after embarking, or enquire directly at the premium restaurant. If there’s a good offer, go for it! That promotion likely won’t come back again later in the cruise. The specialty dining deals on Day 1 are usually the most generous of every cruise.

Meanwhile, those who choose to go to the specialty restaurant later in the cruise, will not only pay full price, but they may also miss out on a great complimentary meal in the main dining room.

Some cruisers like to splurge on a specialty restaurant during formal night. But that is the worst possible time to do so. We suggest to always eat in the main dining room on formal night! That’s when cruises tend to serve the best complimentary dishes, such as lobster and chateaubriand, for example. You don’t want to miss these amazing complimentary meals by paying for an alternative at a specialty restaurant! So dine at the specialty restaurant on the first night instead.

29) Skip the Buffet on First Day

It is usually a complete cluster at the buffet during lunch on the first day abroad a cruise ship. Passengers have just gotten on the ship and are starving. The buffet is the most logical place to flock to. But don’t follow this herd mentality once you board the ship! There are usually a few other complimentary dining options available during lunch that most passengers haven’t taken the time to scout out. So there’s no need to wait in a long buffet line to fight for the salad tongs.

Instead, start your cruise off right and find out what other complimentary restaurants may be open for lunch. You’ll eat better, avoid the crowds, and have a much more enjoyable beginning to your trip. Again, check your Day 1 itinerary once you embark which will clearly detail what other dining options are open.

During a recent voyage on the Norwegian Bliss, everyone crowded the buffet. We instead sat right down at the Local Pub, which was virtually empty, as most people just boarding the ship had yet to figure out that this complimentary restaurant served lunch. So while everyone else flocked to the buffet, we enjoyed table service at the pub’s casual and crowd-free setting, with an order of fish & chips and a fantastic Reuben sandwich.


Health and Weight Gain Cruise Tips

cruise gym

With all that eating, it may be worth watching your weight and burning a few calories. Between those decadent desserts and the midnight buffet, you may worry about your waistline expanding during all those wonderfully gluttonous meals at sea.

But you’re on vacation. It can be fun to indulge! So use these simple cruise hacks to enjoy all of that fantastic cuisine, without disembarking ten pounds heavier.


30) Why Weighing Yourself on Day 1 May Give You an Excuse to Gorge

woman standing on scale in cruise ship gym

Yes, really. Just do it.

You can always find a scale in the cruise ship’s gym or the medical office. Find that scale to weigh yourself, even if you have no intentions of using the gym during the rest of your voyage.

Weigh yourself as soon as you get on board so you can keep tabs of any weight gain during the cruise. This a particularly good idea if you’re on a longer cruise itinerary.

After your initial weigh-in, weigh yourself periodically throughout the remainder of your cruise. By doing so, you may actually find that you’re not packing on the pounds as much as you feared. Many people are more active on cruises, burning calories while ashore or on the ship. So this can give you a well-deserved excuse to have a cheat day of gluttony.


31) No Need for the Gym When You Can Use Stairs!

Using the stairs on a cruise ship will burn 5 calories per flight, making for a good cruise hack to not gain weight

You’re on vacation. There’s no need to spend it at the gym unless you really love a good workout.

Instead, simply hold firm on always using the stairs. Most large cruise ships have a minimum of 10 passenger floors (often more). Set a firm rule to never use the elevator and you’ll end up burning lots of calories simply by trying to get from one place to another on these megaships. Often, you’ll get there faster too. That holds particularly true if your cruise ship has many aging passengers who must use elevators or kids who like to press elevator buttons.

If your cabin happens to be on a lower level, simply taking the stairs up to the upper deck for lunch and back down will burn approximately 100 calories, based on the estimate of 5 calories burned per flight of stairs. Considering that you’ll likely be making multiple trips up and down the ship’s stairs throughout the day, you can realistically burn several hundred calories just by going about your normal day aboard the ship. Do so. Then don’t feel bad about getting the chocolate lava cake later in the night.

Take your FitBit or bring along an inexpensive pedometer like this which will track all your steps and calories burned too. You may be surprised at just how much walking you can inadvertently do on a big ship!


32) Have Bread WITH Your Meal, Never Before

Dinner bread basket on cruise

A lovely basket of bread is always immediately delivered to your table upon getting seated for dinner on a cruise. It’s so easy to butter up those tasty rolls and load up on all those carbs before your appetizer has even hit the linen.

As a result of eating all the pre-dinner bread, you may even find yourself too full to finish whatever delicious main course you’ve chosen to dine on for the night.

To avoid that fate, make a special request for your server to only bring out the bread basket when your main course is served. Remove that carbtastic temptation from the table prior to your main course.

If you’re still hungry while eating your meal, enjoy some of that tasty bread. You won’t gorge yourself with this filler as you may have prior to your meal’s arrival. Save your appetite for the main course and forgo the seduction of all of those unnecessary carbs, before your meal.


Cruise Tips for Drinking on the Ship

Drinking on cruises can be notoriously expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Use these cruise hacks to quench your thirst without breaking the bank!

33) Drink for Free and Cheap on a Cruise

drinks at cruise bar

We have so many drink-related cruise hacks to share, so we’ve actually detailed them all in a separate posts detailing all the different tips to get free & cheap alcohol on a cruise.

We show how to get hooked up with a beverage package and what the the truth about sneaking booze onto a cruise. Happy hours can make for happy cruisers. But knowing when the free cocktails are served is even better! Yes, many cruises regularly give passengers unlimited free drinks for short periods for those in-the-know. Cheers to that!

Creating your own mini-bar is another fun drinking cruise hack we regularly employ. And those who want better coffee without paying for inflated specialty coffee prices, we show how to be-your-own barista!

Be sure to check out these two articles where we reveal all of our secrets for more economical boozing on the high seas:


Shore Excursion Cruise Hacks

Shore excursions can be tricky beasts, particularly if you’re new to cruising and don’t want to pay for the often exorbitant fees charged by the cruise lines. Booking excursions through the cruise line can be very convenient and offers a hassle-free experience, but you’ll pay a hefty premium to do so. These cruise tips should help get you on shore with some spare cash to spend while you’re there.

34) The Best Wake-Up Call on a Cruise

Cruise hack: wake-up call of free coffee room service

Instead of setting an annoying alarm clock or getting a wake-up call on your stateroom phone, just preschedule complimentary room service breakfast to be delivered to your cabin at whatever time you’d like to be woken up. Instead of a buzzing alarm or a loud phone ring, you’ll wake up to a soft knock on your door and have a cup of coffee in your hand within minutes of waking. Then enjoy a leisure breakfast-in-bed as you pull into port.

If you’d prefer to eat a more proper breakfast, then just schedule a pot of coffee or tea to be delivered to your room. Once you’re done sipping and the caffeine has you moving, head up to the main dining room or buffet for a full breakfast. Continental breakfast items and coffee is almost always complimentary on any cruise, even when room service is not. Check your specific ship to be certain.

35) Do-It-Yourself Cruise Excursions Will Save Big

Cruise docked in the Azore islands where there are lots of options for a DIY shore excursion which is a cruise hack you can use in any port to save you money

Go out on your own or book excursions directly with local companies operating in the area, which will undoubtedly save you hundreds of dollars across multiple ports. Just be absolutely sure that you get back on the ship before the “all-aboard,” because late passengers not on the cruises’ excursion can get left behind.

In some ports, do-it-yourself sightseeing is easily accomplished independently. Do some port research in advance to see what’s near the port before you arrive. Do some Googling about the ports, read travel blogs, and/or buy a travel guide. Once you have a solid game plan, then you can simply hop off the ship and sightsee on your own.

In some locations, a rental car can be the way to go for those comfortable with driving internationally. Popular rental car agencies often have locations directly at cruise ports. This helps to make rental cars a convenient and economical option to cover a lot of ground during the short time you have on land.

Not comfortable with driving? Then consider a taxi tour. There’s usually no shortage of taxis waiting around for some cruise passenger dollars. But taxis at many cruise ports are notorious for overcharging unsuspecting cruise passengers. Be sure to know the going rate in advance. Also, we’ve found that taxis often cost less (and are more pleasant) when catching them from town, rather than directly from the cruise port.

In most popular cruise ports, it can be easy to find an independent local tour just as you walk off the ship. Those prices are sometimes negotiable too, so don’t be afraid to haggle or ask for a deal.

But if you do want to do a tour while in port, it’s wise to plan and book a tour in advance. That way you won’t end up wasting what little time you have on land to seek out an excursion that may become sold-out, or not available. You can sometimes find tour operators by Googling or searching through Tripadvisor, which then results in a back & forth email exchange to actually book the tour and possibly the unnerving task of sending funds as a deposit. Instead, we recommend this next tip…

36) Use Viator as a Safe Way To Save Money on Ports of Call Tours

Viator can be a great website to book cheap shore excursions on
We’ve found the best website to book a good value shore excursion is: They have the lowest prices and tend to have the largest inventory of excursions available in all the popular cruise ports. This makes booking an independent shore excursion so easy. You can quickly browse through and reserve a variety of day tours, which pick you up right from the ship. We’ve found that many of the shore excursions offered on Viator are the same or similar to those offered through the cruise line directly. Yet Viator often has them at a fraction of the cost!

We love booking shore excursions through Viator because they have a low price guarantee. This protects you from getting into the port and finding the same excursion at a lower price. Yet we further appreciate that Viator has 24-hour live phone support and their tours are usually fully refundable if canceled at least 24-hours in advance (for those who may be indecisive like us). But best of all, Viator has tours specifically for cruise passengers with dates & times that align with your cruise ships’ itinerary.

These Viator shore excursions also include what they call a “Worry-free Shore Excursion” policy, which will ensure your timely return to the port for each activity. In the extremely rare instance (if ever) that some freak occurrence causes you to miss the ship, Viator will actually arrange and pay for transportation to the next port-of-call.

Also if your cruise happens to get delayed or diverted arriving to a port altogether, making it impossible to attend a shore excursion you booked, then your money gets automatically refunded in full. All of these assurances give us the confidence to book with Viator. We’ve done this for so many shore excursions now that it has probably saved us hundreds, or thousands, of dollars during the past few years of cruising.

You can start searching for shore excursions directly from the Viator homepage. Or below are some links to Viator shore excursions for some of the most popular cruise ports. Of course, it’s best to book these excursions as far in advance as possible. Popular excursions do get booked full since many savvy cruisers are now using Viator to book their shore excursions at a discount. So get saving!

37) Why It’s Worth Actually Attending Port Lectures on a Cruise

cruise shore excursion lecture

The port talks are sometimes designed to sell you the ship’s shore excursions, so you may want to skip them in favor of other more fun shipboard activities. But port lectures can sometimes be non-excursion related and very helpful even for those who don’t intend to purchase a shore excursion through the ship.

Even if the port talk is based upon all of the excursions the cruise is attempting to sell, the lecturer will still highlight and show pictures of popular things to do in port on these tours. For those comfortable with independent travel, use this info to help decide which sights you may be able to see on your own.

Yet these excursion-related talks tend to have further benefits to entice and reward your attendance. Often at the lectures, they give away money-saving coupons to use onshore or other shipboard freebees too. If so, that will be listed in the ship’s daily program. So check it and you may find what they’re giving away something that’s worthwhile to attend.

38) Where To Find A Super-Helpful Port Map

There are some very informative port maps and mini-guides available for every port of call, but for some strange reason these maps are typically not distributed out to all passengers. Sometimes they’re handed out at the port lecture, so you may find them there.

But not to worry if you’re unable to get to the lecture. Just ask guest relations for a port map to get the scoop on where everything is once you get off the ship. These maps tend to contain a plethora of helpful information such as sample taxi fares, ATM locations, and wifi hotspots. Be sure to grab one the day before you get into port! These port maps are always available but never pushed out.

39) Use Water Bottles on Shore

Filling a water bottle onboard a cruise ship will save you money from buying expensive bottled water onshore and will also help the environment

It’s important to keep hydrated while on shore. Yet in some of the more touristic ports, bottled water can often be outrageously priced. In a scorching hot situation, you may be thirsty enough to pay it. Instead, be prepared and bring a water bottle filled with the ship’s drinkable tap water to bring on land with you. You’ll be saving a few bucks with this environmentally friendly alternative to buying expensive bottled water on shore.

Pack a refillable lightweight water bottle like this CamelBack.

40) Stop Paying for Expensive Rentals: Bring Your Own Beach Gear

beach rental prices in cruise port of Key West

At nearly every cruise port where there are beaches, you can guarantee that there will be no shortage of vendors offering pricey beach chair rentals and snorkeling gear. Many ports (particularly cruise lines’ private islands) have beautiful reefs that you can swim to from shore. We love snorkeling while in port as a DIY activity ashore.

Yet it can be a little gross to think about the dozens of people who put that snorkel in their mouths before you and the sanitary conditions of such island gear. And mask & snorkel rentals are way overpriced.

The funny thing is that if you plan in advance, you can buy some nice mask and snorkel sets for about the same cost as renting it once you’re on the island. Often cruises will rent out snorkeling equipment for $15-$30, or even more. This popular Mask & Snorkel Set is a great mask that’s often on sale for the less than it would cost to rent it when you reach the islands. Or consider these full face snorkel masks have become all the rage.


Meanwhile, at the beach, you’ll certainly want to stay out of the sun and have a place to relax. A pair of beach chairs with umbrella regularly start at $30 and higher throughout most Caribbean ports. For nearly the same price as those one-time rentals, you can buy a pop-up beach shade tent like this to use over and over again.

And don’t forget the sunscreen either! We’ve seen astronomical prices for sunscreen throughout the islands and in the cruise ship gift shop, well in excess of $20 for a small bottle. Meanwhile, Amazon has great prices on BananaBoat. So be sure to add a few bottles to your Prime order, to ensure you’re well-stocked before your next cruise.


The Cruise Hacks to Get Cash

41) How to Turn Onboard Credit into Cash Money

If you have onboard credit and you don’t spend it, you will lose it. You cannot simply go to guest relations and ask for this onboard credit in cash. As its name suggests, this is a credit to spend onboard. So they won’t ever give you cash.

Instead of blowing your onboard credit on overpriced souvenirs that you didn’t really want to buy anyways, this simple cruise hack will allow you to transform your credit into cash money. Just head over to the casino!

The cruise casino, like this one on the Norwegian Bliss, is where you can turn onboard credit into cash

Here’s how to turn onboard credit into cash: Insert your cruise card into the slot machine. Add whatever is left of your onboard credit to the slot machine. Although you don’t technically have to gamble at all, consider betting a nickel or so on a slot pull just for fun. (Don’t get carried away though. The slot odds are pretty bad!)

Now that your funds are loaded as gambling credits, you can simply cash out those casino funds with the casino purser. You will have just turned your onboard credit into cold hard cash. Jackpot!

Be sure to do this while in international waters. If not, the casino will be closed once it nears port, and you will have lost the ability to cash out your onboard credit.

Note for 2020: Although we have successfully used this casino cruise hack many times and on many cruise lines to turn onboard credit into cash, some cruises are beginning to catch onto this trick. During our last Holland America cruise, our onboard credit was marked as not usable in the casino. So just be forewarned that while this can indeed be an effective tactic, it may not always be possible.

Whatever you do, just don’t let your onboard credit go to waste! Either retrieve it as cash using this cruise hack or spend it on something before you get off the ship.


42) Use This Cruise Hack to Avoid Expensive ATM Fees

ATM machine on a cruise ship

Cruise ships have notoriously high ATM fees onboard. We’ve seen transactions come with an ATM withdrawal fee as high as $15! So we always recommend bringing cash, should you need it ashore, during or after your cruise.

But if you need more cash while on the cruise, you could incur that outrageous ATM fee simply by using the shipboard ATM. Instead, you can use a similar method, as described in the cruise hack above, to get cash from your onboard account.

Simply go to the casino and buy chips of casino credit as if you were to use them in the casino. You can use a credit or debit card to do this. It makes no difference. After you buy your chips, don’t actually gamble away your casino credit. Just cash out at the purser’s desk!

Some cruise lines will charge a small fee to get casino chips using your credit card and they may impose a minimum threshold to withdraw. For example, on a recent Norwegian cruise, they charged a $3 fee and there was a $100 withdrawal minimum. Still, the $3 fee is significantly less than the $15 fee that the shipboard ATM would have charged. So there’s absolutely no need to visit the ship’s expensive ATM with this nice little casino loophole to access cash! Just buy some casino credit for a $3 fee and then cash it out immediately.


Cruise Hacks Around the Ship

One of the best cruise tips there is, is to simply get to know your ship. Check out the ship’s deck plans before you get onboard and use these hacks to help make the most of the ship itself. Avoid the crowds and enjoy the cruise to the fullest!

43) Get a Free Balcony Upgrade

Achieving a free balcony upgrade can be more difficult than ever these days. But we’ve actually managed to score a free balcony on three of our past four cruises. It can be very tricky to actually land these free stateroom upgrades, so we’ve actually detailed a very informative guide on exactly how to do so.

See post:

veranda stateroom on a cruise with woman looking out at volcano

44) If Booking a Balcony Cabin, Know the Best Side of the Ship to Book: Port vs Starboard

If booking a balcony stateroom, take a moment to research whether the starboard or port side of the ship will have a more scenic view. Really, it depends on your specific cruise’s itinerary on whether to book a port or starboard cabin.

If your ship’s itinerary is going in a closed-loop and visiting mostly mainland ports, book a port (left) side stateroom for a clockwise route. Book a starboard (right) side for a counter-clockwise route. In doing so you’ll be treated to better views when cruising in and out of ports.

If your itinerary is taking you in a circle visiting islands, the best views can be a little more uncertain, as it will depend on which side of the island each specific port is on. If splurging on a balcony it can be worthwhile to take a closer look at the route map for your cruise itinerary. In doing so, you can determine whether the port or starboard side of the ship will be facing land more frequently, providing you with more scenic views.

45) Get the Good Seats at the Theatre

good seats at the theatre aboard the Norwegian Star cruise ship

Most big cruise ships will have at least four entrances to the main theatre (upper starboard, upper port, lower starboard, and lower port). On some ships, one of those theatre entrances may be accessed at a non-thru corridor. This means there isn’t a hallway extending throughout the length of the ship to the main dining room, where many passengers will be coming from.

If your specific cruise has a theatre entrance with this configuration, that is the entrance you should always use to get the best seats in the house, particularly if you’re arriving just minutes before the show.

You may be surprised to find many empty seats right in the front in this particular corner of the theatre. During sailings on the Norwegian Star and the Holland American Volendam, the non-thru lower port-side theatre entrance was a sure bet every single time! While the starboard side was packed full every night, we’d easily slip into a front-row seat within minutes of the start of the show.


46) Tips to Avoid the Crowds while Cruising

Cruises tend to get a bad wrap when it comes to crowds. It’s not entirely unjustified, as crowded spaces most certainly do exist on cruises. Yet it’s so easy to avoid the crowds on these enormous ships with some minimal efforts.

For a quiet space during the day, go to this unlikely area: the club. Yes, the club!

The cruise’s disco may be rocking at night and into the wee morning hours. But during the day, it usually sits empty. While cruise spaces like the library can sometimes become full of people during the day, there’s usually not a soul in the club. That’s where we go for quiet time and never disappoints!

Empty chairs in club on cruise ship

Typically, the most crowded area we find on a cruise is the buffet during lunch on a sea day. Any crowd-averse cruisers should make a point to avoid the buffet from Noon-1:30. Simply get a seat in a restaurant instead to avoid the midday cluster and enjoy a crowd-free environment. Or go to the buffet outside of those hours.

Catch some rays on the pool deck in the morning. The cruise’s lido deck can get crowded during the mid-afternoon hours. Instead, simply enjoy the pool before lunch. The morning is always our favorite time to head to the lido deck. As other cruisers nurse their hangovers or head to a late breakfast, the pool decks can be unusually empty in the morning hours, making for a much more enjoyable experience.

pool deck with no crowds

Find Your Secret Spot on a Cruise

When a ship is filled to capacity, it’s nice to have a pleasant place to retreat to for some serenity. Yet with a finite amount of public passenger space, this can often be challenging. But if you thoroughly explore all the out-of-the-way ship locations, you can be rewarded with your private area of zen.

We suggest to stroll all around the ship on embarkation day to discover such hidden nooks.

Empty tables on back of ship

On the upper decks, take some time out the day to see what is at the very aft of the ship.

Then go all the way forward towards the bow. Since all the action tends to center on the middle of the ship, the aft and bow tend to be two very overlooked places to relax onboard. They also tend to come with excellent views!

secret empty space on Holland America cruise away from any crowds

Try this: On the main pool deck (lido deck) go to both ends of the ship, then check both up and down a few decks deck. You may have just found your secret tranquil oasis and escape the crowds!

47) When it Rains: Use the Pool, Hot Tub, and Slides

Norwegian Bliss empty pool deck on rainy day

If you don’t feel like squeezing into a cramped hot tub with a dozen other strangers, simply go when it rains. You’re getting wet anyway and the pool deck will be completely empty. Unless it’s a really bad storm or lightning is in the area, the pool facilities will remain open and functioning. You’ll also find no lines at the waterslide or at the bar. Enjoy!


48) Use Limited Spa Amenities for Free

spa shower on a cruise

Even if you aren’t planning to splurge on that massage, don’t be a stranger to the spa, which may also have some minimal complimentary facilities.

If nothing else, the spa can provide an alternative place to shower. So if there are two people in the same cabin who need to get ready quickly for formal night, the spa’s shower facilities can allow for someone to shower up there. You’ll find towels, hairdryers, and everything. Also, some cruise spa showers are known to have some nice complimentary soaps and shampoos available too!

So if you have a spouse that takes ages getting ready in the bathroom, take it upon yourself to use the spa’s shower facilities for free.

49) Magnets Keep You Organized on Cruises

magnet hooks used on cruise ships

Did you know that your cabin’s walls are actually made of metal? They are! So before boarding your cruise, grab your favorite magnets from your fridge at home. Or, better yet, buy these cool heavy-duty magnet hooks which hold up to 22 pounds and will really help to avoid clutter in your small cabin!

You can repurpose the magnets onboard the ship to keep track of daily guides, receipts, and other pieces of paper that may otherwise start cluttering up your room. It’s a great way to stay organized and create additional storage space.

You can also have fun with magnets on the exterior of your cabin by decorating your door or leaving notes for fellow cruisers to let them know your whereabouts. We see lots of people having fun with these magnets on the exterior of their staterooms. Hanging something on the outside of the door makes for an easy way to identify your room.

Buy Magnetic Hooks on Amazon


50) Shop ’til You Drop on the Last Day of the Cruise

If you’re planning to do any onboard shopping, consider waiting ’til the last full day of the cruise. Often the ship will have a big sale on the last day of a cruise. There will be greater odds of this happening and better deals if you happen to be on a repositioning cruise or if the ship you’re on is about to change itineraries.

Check the daily program on the final full day of your cruise to see if there will be a big sale. Towards the last day of a cruise, we regularly see sales in which all items in a certain store are priced at $10 or $5 and below.

Also, if you purchase alcohol from the duty-free store on the afternoon or evening on the last day of a cruise, they’ll usually allow you to bring the bottle back to your cabin. If bought any other day, it’s held until the end of the cruise.

cruise shop

✅ Bonus: Cruise Packing Hacks & Checklist To Save

Besides your usual clothing and toiletries, here’s a checklist of cruise specific items to remember to pack:

  • Waterproof Your Phone – If you don’t have a waterproof phone, you’ll want to make sure your phone doesn’t become victim to pool splashes or ocean sprays. You also may not be comfortable leaving your phone unattended on a lounge chair. So with this Phone Dry Pouch, you can bring it in the pool with you and even dunk it in the water or bring snorkeling when ashore! It’s also a convenient place to keep your cruise keycard. It’s usually priced under $10 too, so it’s a great buy. Check colors available and prices here.
  • Bottle of wine – Most cruise lines (not Norwegian, but most all others) allow you to bring aboard 1 bottle of wine per person. Be sure to take advantage of that. You must pack it in your carryon luggage and you must open it in your stateroom to avoid a corkage fee in the dining room.
  • Use an over-the-door organizer for the bathroom – It seems there’s never enough space in cruise cabin bathrooms. We love this skinny and compact travel organizer that conveniently hangs from the back of the bathroom door to hold everything we need.
  • Binoculars – If you’re going to be cruising around scenic coastal stretches, like Alaska’s Inside Passage (See: Glacier Bay Photo Essay), then don’t forget a pair of binoculars. Big cruise ships can’t get too close to shore, so if you want to see towns, glaciers, or have a closer look at a wayward whale – be sure pack a pair. These Bushnell Falcon binoculars are great quality and the price is pretty incredible. Check prices and recent reviews.
  • BYO Collapsible Travel Straw – Did you know that most cruise ships slowly phased out straws during the past year? The straw-free movement is an environmentally friendly initiative currently sweeping the world. Some cruises have switched to paper or provide them by request. Yet these reusable travel straw so that you’ll be able to sip your piña colada the way it was intended but without that harmful plastic.
  • Sunscreen – Of course you want to protect your skin. But if you use all of your sunscreen and need to buy more on the ship, expect to pay upwards of $20 for a small tube in the ship’s overpriced gift shop. Instead, stock up before you go. Amazon has great prices on BananaBoat.
  • Mask & Snorkel – Don’t pay the inflated prices to rent a nasty used snorkel. Buy one in advance, instead. This popular traditional Mask & Snorkel Set is a great mask that’s often on sale for the less than it would cost to rent it when you reach the islands. Or consider these full face snorkel masks that people rave about.
  • Seasickness Prevention – If you don’t have your sea legs, come prepared with a plan. We find Bonine works well and has less drowsiness effect than the popular Dramamine. Alternatively, go natural and try ginger pills, which tend to calm nausea associated with seasickness without any side effects.
  • Prevent a Stinky Bathroom – When sharing a bathroom with loved ones in the close quarters of a cruise cabin, sometimes “ship happens.” 💩 Things can get smelly. But that can be easily prevented. Use this Pou-Pourri before-you-go toilet spray and no one will ever know it happened.
  • Stay organized with magnets – Yeah, we just mentioned this in cruise tip #49, but it’s such a fun item to bring aboard. Plus these magnet hooks are inexpensive, so it’s worth repeating here in this cruise pack list.
  • Travel scale – If you’re flying home after a cruise, this tactic will help to ensure that you’ll be under the weight restrictions imposed by airlines. We use a little travel luggage scale to keep tabs on our bags’ weight.
  • Backup Battery – If you’re going to be out on all-day shore excursions and have a mobile phone or camera that won’t hold a charge with all the pictures you’ll be taking, then be sure to pack a backup battery. We personally use (and love) this Anker PowerCore Backup Battery that is very lightweight, yet will recharge your cell phone many times over.
  • Cruise-Approved Power Strip to keep all your electronics charged with a single outlet. We never travel anywhere in the world without one!
  • Passport – Very important, don’t forget! (An ID + original birth certificate may suffice with some cruise lines/itineraries. Check before you depart.)

Speaking of packing… After constantly traveling around the world for the past five years on cruise ships and other forms of transportation, we’ve finally developed the perfect packing list. We have meticulously detailed all of our travel gear recommendations. So for a more all-encompassing pack list, see our big Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist & Tips to ensure you don’t forget to pack anything important for your next trip.

The ultimate travel packing Checklist


Bon Voyage!

cruise ship cruising over the Atlantic Ocean

We hope these cruise hacks have been helpful and that you’re now all ready to set sail!

Wait, don’t leave us just yet. If you liked these cruise hacks, let’s stay connected!

If you’d like to receive more travel tips and inspiration, the best place to continue receiving updates from us is over on Facebook.

Be sure to follow Roaming Around The World on Facebook to see where in the world we are today and receive updates about future blog posts. We also use Facebook to post daily travel tips or travel inspiration from where in the world we’re currently roaming

Also, if you cruising and would like to read more of our blog, check this post out. We recently completed cruising entirely around the world without using a single flight. We accomplished this ultimate world cruise using 4 different ships and on a super low budget around $60 per day! We basically spent a year living on cruise ships and it actually cost us less than our former working lives back on land. See this video we made of all the highlights.

50 cruise hacksLastly, with so many cruise tips in this post to remember, be sure to bookmark this page or “pin” the image to the right to your Pinterest boards to save for later.

Happy cruising everyone!

Publishing note: This Cruise Hacks post is continually updated, most recently in January 2020 after our latest series of cruising around the world.

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Wine Tasting in Bordeaux on a Budget: Travel Guide Tue, 04 Feb 2020 15:00:27 +0000 Bordeaux, France is an exciting European city to indulge in the region’s delicious namesake wine. Yet frugal travelers may be leery of the ability to experience Bordeaux on a budget.

So is Bordeaux expensive? Whether talking about Bordeaux wine itself or a trip to this fascinating city, yes Bordeaux certainly can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be!

After thorough firsthand research, we discovered that with some sensible spending and budget travel techniques, there is plenty of value to be found in Bordeaux, France. Wine tasting in Bordeaux is, in fact, possible on a budget. There are cheap wine tours on offer. Plus there’s a fantastic Bordeaux wine tasting experience, where visitors pay only a few Euro per glass.

But even while employing budget-friendly travel strategies, Bordeaux is not a particularly cheap place to roam around. Still, we if you make the right moves to your travel budget, you can stand to save over a thousand euro during a weekend trip to Bordeaux and the famed vineyards that surround.

Bordeaux Street with clock tower

In addition to inexpensive wine tasting in Bordeaux, you’ll need to know where the cheap eats in Bordeaux are and where to stay on a budget. So this guide to Bordeaux on a Budget covers all of that.

Don’t let finances prevent you from taking a trip to this wonderful wine city. We’ll show how it’s possible to experience all the quintessential Bordeaux activities in this historic French town, while still having enough euros leftover to splurge on that vintage Grand Cru wine bottle you’ve been drooling over.

Bordeaux Travel Budgets: Do This! Not That!

The table below shows how you can save nearly a thousand euro by being strategic with your trip planning during a three-night stay. None of these less expensive recommended options sacrifices much quality compared to the more expensively priced alternative. This article provides all the details you’ll need to do “this” and not “that” to have a blast in Bordeaux without emptying your wallet.

Note: prices reflect the cost for two people and are in the local currency, euro.

Half day winery tour via group bus: €68 Self-Guided Tour of Bordeaux: €0 Do-it-yourself St Emilion: €90 Moules frites w/ wine: €20 Oysters w/ wine @ market : €14 3 course meal & wine at Le Cheverus Cafe: €24 4 glasses of wine at bar a vin ecole du vin x 2: €16 2 happy hour pints at Frog & Rosbif x 2: €18 3 nights 3-star boutique hotel, train station: €150 Total: €399Full day vineyard minivan tour: €310 Tour of Bordeaux: €30 St Emilion Tour from Bordeaux €290 Midrange restaurant w/ wine €65 Oysters and wine at restaurant €36 3 course dinner at restaurant: €120 4 Glasses at a wine bar x 2: €64 2 pints of decent beer at bar x 2 €26 3 nights 3-star chain hotel, center: €450 Total: €1,391

While €400 Euro may be a lot to spend on just a 3 night /4-day trip, you must keep in mind that Bordeaux (and much of France) is simply a relatively expensive place to travel to. There’s no way to avoid dishing out the cash entirely if you really want to experience what you came here for (the wine, amiright). So this sample Bordeaux budget of about €50 per person, per day is filled with nice meals, plentiful drinks, and even a few tours. You can use that amount as a good spending budget for a long weekend visit to Bordeaux.

While Bordeaux may not be entirely budget-friendly as a whole, there is some great value to be found here.


5 Best Things To Do in Bordeaux on a Budget

You don’t have to break the bank to experience the best of Bordeaux. The following are our top five recommendations for things to do in Bordeaux on a budget.


1) Take a Medoc Vineyard Wine Tasting Tour: the Inexpensive Way

Visitors absolutely must go on a vineyard wine tasting trip while visiting Bordeaux. But doing so often involves a very expensive day tour from Bordeaux.

Even half day-minibus tours from Bordeaux to two wineries can cost between €70-€99 per person. Meanwhile, full day tours can be as much as €160 and higher, per person. That’s about €320 for a couple for a day of touring Bordeaux’s vineyards – ouch!

Wine tasting in Medoc

Pass on all those pricey Bordeaux vineyard wine tasting tours. Because you can actually book a Medoc vineyard bus tour for only €45! During these Bordeaux wine tasting tours, a large coach carries up to 53 people to the area’s vineyards. So do understand that it’s a less intimate experience than riding in a small private van. But in our opinion, the savings of €200+ per couple is absolutely worth it!

The bus itself is nice and very comfortable. And it’s the least expensive vineyard tour in Bordeaux. But there are only one of these inexpensive 5-hour bus tours each day. So be sure to book in advance in order to secure your spots.

people touring vineyards in the Medoc wine region of France

The area and chateaus visited during the vineyard tour vary each day. So be sure to reserve your preferred day of the week according to whichever surrounding Bordeaux wine region you’re most interested in going to. Among the most famed regions is Medoc, which is what we opted for during our visit.

During summer 2020, Medoc trips are running every Thursdays and Saturday.

This inexpensive wine tasting vineyard tour is run directly by the Bordeaux Tourist Office, which is where the tour departs from every day at 1:30 pm. You can book this Bordeaux Vineyards bus tour on Viator and advanced bookings are strongly recommended during the summer high season months. Being that this is the most economical vineyard tour available from Bordeaux, it does sell out in full, every day during the summer months.

And to reiterate, although this half-day bus vineyards tour can be booked for €45 every day of the week, only the Thursday and Saturday tours will take you to Medoc chateaus. Tours on the other days of the week can be very worthwhile too, and you may even want to consider taking this vineyard tour on multiple days, since it is different every day. Below is the complete schedule for Summer 2020 of these economical Bordeaux vineyards tours:

  • Sunday: Saint-Emilion
  • Monday: Côtes Bourg & Blaye
  • Tuesday: Bordeaux & Entre-deux-Mers
  • Wednesday: Saint-Emilion
  • Thursday: Medoc
  • Friday: Graves & Sauternais
  • Saturday: Medoc

Chateau D’Arsac with big red dog

Any of those daily vineyard wine tasting trips would be great, yet we stick with our recommendation with the famed Medoc vineyards on Thursday and Saturdays.

But don’t come on this wine tasting tour looking to drink copious amounts of wine by the glass. You’ll have ample tastings, which is excellent quality, but you won’t be drinking wine by the glasses.

Also, be aware that there is a bit of a drive outside of Bordeaux to reach the Medoc wine region. Expect about an hour drive each way. But the French countryside makes for a nice and scenic drive, while passing chateaus. Yet it’s the Medoc chateaus themselves that are a true highlight of the half-day wine tour, making it worth the trip alone, in our opinion.

The exact wineries visited on the aforementioned wine tour change and rotate. Yet our Medoc vineyard tour included Chateau D’Arsac as one of the stops. The artist installations throughout Chateau D’Arsac were just awesome and we’d argue it’s among the best wineries to visit around Bordeaux. Just take a look, below, at what we stumbled upon in their cellar – so cool!

Chateau D’Arsac wine cellar with dresses hanging above the cellar

Again, be sure to reserve in advance. Check availability on your travel dates for Bordeaux Vineyards Half-day Trip.

🚐 Alternatively – take a small group Medoc tour

If you want to visit the famed Medoc vineyards and the above €45 bus tour is sold out, you’d just like to go to Medoc on a day other than Thursday or Saturday, or prefer a smaller group – then consider this €86 minivan tour instead: Medoc Half-Day Wine Tour from Bordeaux.

It’ll cost €30 euros more per person, but you’ll have a much more intimate experience and it goes to Medoc every day of the week. Plus, check out the excellent customer reviews.

🚗 Alternatively – tour wineries on your own:

If you have your own car and a designated driver, then touring Bordeaux’s vineyards on your own can be a budget-friendly way to go. But you can’t just show up to these estates. Visitors are often required to have advanced reservations. We recommend using the website Rue des Vignerons to easily book wine tasting and wine tours in many chateaus around Bordeaux. Search all the Bourdeaux wineries now.


2) Explore the Historic City Center of Bordeaux

The UNESCO-listed city of Bordeaux is known for its architectural ensemble, created in the age of Enlightenment. While you may have been attracted to Bordeaux for its wine, you should really take some time out to explore this fascinating and beautiful city. Visitors will find loads of historic landmarks and local culture by simply roaming around Bordeaux’s historic city center.

(You can read more about Bordeaux’s Unesco status, its criteria and universal value.)

Those visiting Bordeaux on a budget can pick up some complimentary literature and maps at the tourism office to create your own DIY walking tour of the city’s famed monuments and sites.

Bordeaux fountain

🚶 Inexpensive Walking Tour: To get a more formal background about the city, take this informative Bordeaux Walking Tour, which is only €12 per person. The tour departs each day at 10:00 am and lasts about two hours.

🚲 Budget-friendly Cycling Tour: Or for a little more speed and fun, you can take to two wheels to cover more ground. This highly rated 3-hour bike tour of Bordeaux is a fantastic introduction to the city’s architectural treasures. And at a mere €29 it’s yet another great budget-friendly option for touring the city. There are morning (9:30 am) and afternoon (2:30 pm) cycling tours available. Check availability.

In addition to sightseeing around Bordeaux during the day, also consider wandering around Bordeaux’s historic center after the sun goes down. Not only is it nice and cool, but many of the monuments and historic buildings are lit up in the evenings!

Bordeaux sites lit up at night

Must-See Bordeaux Attractions on a Budget:

Whether on your own or as part of a tour, we would suggest planning to spend at least one full day exploring the historic city center of Bordeaux. Make sure you don’t miss some of Bordeaux’s most famous landmarks and monuments that are free or inexpensive:

  • Place de la Bourse and the Water Mirror – This is one of Bordeaux’s signature sights and is something you likely won’t miss. Any tour of the city will most certainly include this as a stop or you can easily wander there on your own. Come back at night to see it lit up.
    💲 Cost: It’s free to view.

  • Bordeaux Cathedral (St Andrew Cathedral) – The French National Monument constructed mainly in the 14th-15th century is a grand church and still acts as the seat of the Archbishop today.
    💲Cost: It’s free to go inside, but you should consider leaving a donation.

  • Pey-Berland Tower – Climb the 233 spiral stairs to get a birds-eye view of Bordeaux. With all those steps, be sure to do this before you begin drinking wine. 😉
    💲Cost: €6 admission. Included with Bordeaux City Pass (see boxed text below).

  • La Cite Du Vin – Bordeaux’s new wine museum is full of technology-enabled exhibits to give you a flashy education about the history of wine. You can easily spend a few hours here and your admission also includes a glass of Bordeaux wine to sip while enjoying panoramic views of Bordeaux at the 8th-floor wine bar.
    💲Cost: €20 admission. Note: Buy your ticket now thru GetYourGuide to skip the line! The cost is still the same; you’ll just be able to print out your ticket or show it on your mobile phone to skip the queue that everyone else will be waiting in, giving you more time to explore. Admission is included with Bordeaux City Pass for entries before Noon (see boxed text below).

Bordeaux Money-Saving Tip: Get The Bordeaux CityPass

If you are planning to pursue some of the activities suggested above, then you should also consider the Bordeaux CityPass. This CityPass provides access to nearly all of Bordeaux’s museums, including the €20 admission to La Cite Du Vin if you go before Noon. The CityPass also includes the €12 walking tour, a €13.50 bus tour of Bordeaux, and the €6 Pey-Berland Tower admission. The pass further includes free access to all of Bordeaux’s public transport network, which is a huge cost savings to not have to spend on pricey Ubers or taxis.

There are 48-hour and 72-hour CityPasses. Either of which should enable you do take the tours, climb the tour, and visit the Cite Du Vin, all at significant cost savings.

Just those activities and attractions mentioned above would add up to €56 on their own. And we’ve only scratched the surface on all the entries and discounts it includes. See here for a full list. Even if you only went to the Cite Du Vin and one tour of Bordeaux, and did nothing else, the CityPass can still completely pays for itself. So go save yourself some euros and snag this pass if you’ll be doing multiple activities within the city.


3) Take a Day Trip to Saint Emilion

The medieval village of St Emilion is another must-do location that lies just outside of Bordeaux. It’s a perfect full day trip from Bordeaux and only takes about a half-hour to get there by rail. When arriving to St Emilion, visitors will gaze upon the stunning compact town towering up from a sea of vineyards.

The main highlights of this awesome village are:

  • touring the famed “underground,”
  • visiting a winery & cellar, and
  • exploring the historic sites above ground in St Emilion’s centre, where quaint shops and cafes dot the narrow streets alongside magnificent churches and towers.

To save travel funds, you don’t necessarily need to book a tour to visit this impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s possible to have a similar experience taking an independent day trip to Saint Emilion on your own. To do so, you can check out our separate post with all the details on a DIY Day Trip from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion. And for a total price of about €45 per person, this suggestion has a cost savings of €200 for two people when compared to pricey group tours that visit the same locations.

Saint Emilion behind vineyards

A DIY day trip to St Emilion is a great idea for those who are comfortable with independent travel. Yet we’d be remiss to mention one other affordable option to get there.

🚌 There is a €45 coach tour that goes from Bordeaux to St Emilion, which includes a stop at one winery with tastings and also a tour of the St Emilion underground. Advance bookings are highly recommended during the summer months. However, know that this €45 tour to St Emilion only goes there on Wednesdays (Mar 15 – Nov 15) and Sundays (year round). Important note: although this tour appears to be offered every day of the week, it actually only goes to St Emilion on those two days of the week.
Reserve this Sunday/Wednesday tour on Viator here: Bordeaux Vineyards Wine Half-Day Trip to St Emilion

🚐 Alternatively, if you prefer to take a small-group tour from Bordeaux to St Emilion on other days of the week, then consider the following St Emilion tour It departs from Bordeaux every day and is reasonably priced at €75.
Check availability & recent reviews: St Emilion Half-Day Trip from Bordeaux.

However you get to St Emilion, just be sure not to miss this lovely village and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is just a stone’s throw from Bordeaux.


4) Eat Your Way Across Bordeaux on the Cheap

In France, eating is a thing to do. And if you can’t afford a table at Michelin-starred Le Gabriel (€240 menu per couple), don’t fret. There are still plenty of other reasonable options around town.

Cheap Eats in Bordeaux, France

When in such a culinary capital, it can be worthwhile to spend a bit more to try the excellent local cuisine that Bordeaux has to offer. While there are much more economical options (kebabs, fast food, etc) to really eat on the cheap in Bordeaux, we instead suggest the following quality-to-price (value) recommendations, unique to Bordeaux.

Try Local Oysters at Chez Jean Mi at Marché des Capucins Market

Blend in with the local crowd and head down to the market known locally as Marché des Capucins. Wade past the produce and seafood vendors and you’ll find a few casual eateries serving up fresh seafood directly from the nearby Atlantic Coast. One that stood out to us during a morning visit was Chez Jean Mi eatery.

It was at Chez Jean Mi where everyone seemed to be slurping raw oysters and sipping on white wine as a mid-morning treat. Who are we to argue with this French tradition?

An order of a half dozen raw oysters with fresh bread and a glass of wine runs €7. For comparison, we found other restaurants in Bordeaux listing a half dozen oysters for €10+ without any wine. So Chez Jean Mi definitely holds fantastic value.

Oysters, wine, and bread at Marché des Capucins

The oysters are fresh and tasty. They carry a heavy brine flavor, which the accompanying lemon cuts through nicely. It all pairs excellently with the generous white wine pours. You should also consider ordering the “assortment of fruits of the sea.” It’s meant for two people, which is an artfully crafted tower of crabs, shellfish, mollusks and other oceanic indulgences for €21. This is an incredible value, considering the amount of seafood that is brought to the table.

And if that doesn’t fill you up, there are many more budget-friendly snacks and goodies to munch on throughout the entire Capucins Market. Explore and find an economical eatery that suits you. Or grab a refreshment to-go.

people dining at Marché des Capucins market in Bordeaux

Moules Frites in Bordeaux

People often tout the mussels from Brussels are the best in Europe. While we found plenty to love about Belgium, we prefer the mussels in France (gasp!), particularly those in Bordeaux. Mussels are one of the few menu items that we found to be more affordable in France compared to Belgium, actually!

You can find what’s known as moules frites throughout many restaurants in Bordeaux. It is a giant pot of steamed mussles, accompanied with frites (chips/fries). This delicious and filling meal is actually one of the more economical dining options to be had in the city. Plus, Bordeaux’s status of a port town only adds to the likelihood of freshness when it comes to seafood like mussels.

There are several Bordeaux cafes and restaurants with moules frites on the menu for as little as €10. Some of these cafes will even include a glass of wine along with the moules frites! These meal deals are often advertised on the chalkboards outside of restaurants, so keep your eyes out. Even if you can’t read French, the phrase “Moules Frites“ should be easily decipherable.

Be forewarned that in Bordeaux you may be prompted with a choice of “moules marinières” or “moules à la crème.” The moules marinières is a white wine sauce, while the moules à la crème come in a richer, buttery & creamy white wine sauce.

While many midrange set menus in the city run upwards of €25 without wine, Moules Frites can be a true bargain since they can regularly be found for less than half that. In doing so, an uncharacteristically gut-busting pot of mussels will likely be delivered to your table. It may even be enough to share between two people. If ordering your own moules frites, ensure that you’re hungry.

Look for this meal deal at the eateries near the train station and even in the more touristic areas in the heart of town (although perhaps €1-€2 more in the centre).

For a delicious pot of mussels with fries, try Bistro Poulette, where a big order of moules frites will set you back €10 and you can add a glass of wine for as little as €3.

Have Bordeaux’s Best Value Lunch at Le Cheverus Cafe

This busy café must have the best value set lunch menu in the city center. For just €14, you can treat yourself to a set menu of the day that includes a starter, main course, dessert, coffee, and even a glass of wine! During our visit, the main course was a delicious stewed beef. And if the main course option doesn’t appeal to you, there are other set menus available that range around €15-€25.

If going for this great value set lunch, just be sure to go there for an early, as the place gets packed later in the afternoon. They frequently run out of their daily special during those later hours. And be prepared to give your French a try, or put your translator to work, as there’s not much English writing or speaking going on at Le Cheverus. You’ll be rewarded with one of the best value meals in Bordeaux.

Enjoy Steak Frites on the Cheap

While steak is often an expensive meal around the world, in France steak frites (AKA steak & chips, or steak & fries) is actually a fairly reasonable meal option in Bordeaux. Similar to moules frites, as already mentioned, steak frites can be found at many bistros around Bordeaux for around €12-€15. Again, check chalkboards for the best deals.

Or spend just a bit more and try what has become a Bordeaux institution for this classic and economical French meal: Le Entrecote. The original location is in the city of Toulouse, but the restaurant’s popularity has led them to open a few additional locations, including here in Bordeaux.

The €19 price includes a 170-gram sirloin served in their signature sauce, alongside a mound of their famous frites, and even a salad with walnuts. This price already includes service, so no surprise addition to the bill or tip is necessary. Glasses of wine start a modest €4. And what better to accompany a good steak, than a nice glass of Bordeaux wine!

💡 Tip: If coming for dinner, arrive early. This popular restaurant in Bordeaux is known to have a queue. A line-up typical has already formed by diners waiting to get in when it opens at 7:00 pm.

Crepes – A Great Cheap Eat in Bordeaux

Crepes are a great budget meal in Bordeaux FranceThis classic French staple may have originated in the Brittany region, but there are plenty of delicious creperies that have found their way down to Bordeaux. Crepes make for a great economical in Bordeaux and can be surprisingly filling. Crepe prices in Bordeaux’s historic center tend to range from about €8 for a simple ham & cheese crepe to about €14 or so for crepes with high-quality fillings.

If wanting to fulfill a crepe craving while roaming around central Bordeaux, try the widely popular Nom d’Une Crepe or the highly regarded Sel & Sucre.


Eating in Bordeaux on a Shoestring

For those really on the cheap, try the following options for meals closer to €5 and less.

Boulangeries: That is the French word for “bakeries.” And boulangeries can be absolute bargain meals in Bordeaux. Come in the mornings for some fantastic pastries. Of course, don’t miss out on the croissants. A freshly-baked still-warm chocolate croissant is like biting into a bit of heaven, and even more heavenly is the price – about €1. But don’t just think of boulangeries for breakfast. They also tend to make excellent sandwiches on fresh-baked French baguettes, a fantastic lunch option on a budget in Bordeaux. If looking for a boulangerie in Bordeaux’s historic centre, we can recommend: La Boulangerie or Le Boulanger de l’Hôtel de Ville.

Rue Ste Catherine: You can find a number of quick-serve restaurants and cafes with decent French lunch meals of salads and sandwiches in the €5+ range on Rue Ste Catherine. These are great for a quick mid-day bite. And if that’s too much, there’s always the ubiquitous Turkish doner kebab shops for even less. But you’re in France, so we always encourage exploring the local cuisine instead.

Picnic on the Garonne: Another consideration is to head to the supermarket and pack a picnic lunch to enjoy while sitting on the Garonne River, as we saw many locals doing. The Monoprix supermarket in town, located here, has a great selection of all sorts of delicious French staples and even some pre-made items like sandwiches and salads, all at pretty good prices.


5) Drink Wine in Bordeaux

Ok, so you’ve visited some of the Bordeaux wineries, had your wine tastings, and now it’s time to drink more of the varieties you’ve enjoyed. Unfortunately for those on a budget, most restaurants and cafes in Bordeaux tend to offer wines only by the bottle. And ordering wine by the bottle in Bordeaux can get very expensive.

Even if you do find a cafe with wines by the glass, you’re often looking at about €8 per glass for anything decent. That’ll add up real quick. Go as a couple, sip on three glasses of wine and next thing you know there’s a €50 check waiting to be paid. Yikes!

Instead, we highly recommend a place where wine by the glass starts at only €2. Yes, €2!

That’s essentially four glasses of wine for the price of one! We’re not just talking about wine tastings. These €2 glasses are full pours. View our “Where to drink” recommendations in the subsequent section to see where you can relish in these amazingly affordable €2 glasses of Bordeaux’s finest!

wine tasting Chateau D’Arsac wine cellar


Where to Drink in Bordeaux on a Budget

In addition to the aforementioned cheap wine tasting tours to Medoc and Saint Emilion, you may want to sip on some vin right within Bordeaux itself.

There actually aren’t too many proper bars in Bordeaux. Much of the drinking instead occurs in restaurants or cafes. These restaurants throughout Bordeaux tend to offer wines by the bottle, not the glass. So go here for wine tasting drinking instead:

Bar a Vin Ecole du Vin Bordeaux = €2 Glasses of Wine!

For those touring Bordeaux on budget, we strongly recommend a visit to the Bar a Vin Ecole du Vin Bordeaux.

This is where you’ll find glasses of Bordeaux wine starting at €2 a pop! It may possibly be the best value for wine in all of France. The steep discount is thanks in part to the Bordeaux Wine Council, whose mission is to promote the wine producers of the region.

Bar a Vin Ecole du Vin Bordeaux is also known as Maison du Vin and is easy to find, as it’s located directly across the street from the tourism office in the city center. Here’s the location on Google Maps.

Maison du Vin offers a few dozen wines by the glass each day with generous full-glass pours starting at a mere €2! Better bottles and vintages can also be found for steals in the €5-€10 per glass range. Those same glassed would likely set you back triple that amount elsewhere. Yet about half of their selections are priced below €5 per glass.

We stuck almost entirely to these more economical glasses and there wasn’t a selection we didn’t like. The wines are cheap in price, but not on taste and quality.

wine and cheese at Bar a Vin Ecole du Vin Bordeaux

The servers are properly trained sommeliers. They are friendly, unpretentious, and quick with helpful recommendations even for the uninitiated and novice wine drinkers.

This wine bar also has a few different reasonably-priced cheese boards to compliment all those glasses of wine you may consume while here. We strongly recommend the Gruyere cheese plate, but you probably can’t go wrong with any of them.

💡Tip: Arrive early. It does tend to fill up to capacity in the late afternoon and evening during summer high season.

If you want to try a number of different wines while in Bordeaux, this place is a “must-do!” You could really spend a good few hours here determining what you like and don’t like. And with the money you save, you’ll now be able to consider spending on a few bottles of your favorites to bring back home with you.

🍷 Formal cheese & wine tasting in Bordeaux on a budget

The aforementioned Bar a Vin Ecole is the best bet for inexpensive wine drinking in Bordeaux. However, it can often prove problematic to get a seat during busier times. And it’s guests won’t gain the in-depth knowledge that comes with a proper tasting course. This 1.5-hour wine & cheese tasting can be a convenient and budget-friendly way to ensure a positive wine-tasting experience while in Bordeaux.

It samples 9 AOC French cheeses accompanied by 3 Bordeaux wines. At €39, it’s a well-priced intro to Bordeaux’s wines and cheeses. Check availability.


Frog & Rosbif Bordeaux Happy Hour

If you follow our blog, then you know we have a love affair with craft beer. So when we discovered there was a brewpub in this wine-centric region, we just had to give Bordeaux’s Frog & Rosbit a try. The verdict: meh, the beer is okay (not great, not bad at all either). But it’s one of the few places in Bordeaux with a happy hour, which makes it a good bet if you want to enjoy a pint of decent beer at a decent price.

The brewpub is centrally located, has attentive service, and a great place to watch a game. During happy hour, which runs Monday-Friday from 5:30-8:00 pm and all day Tuesday, pint prices drop to €4.50. They have six different beers on tap, which are heavy on English styles. We tried all six and I’d recommend their stout, Dark De Triomphe, above the others. Yet if in the mood for something lighter, try their Belgian-style witbier, Froegaarden.

brew (beer) tanks at Frog & Rosbif Bordeaux brewery


Where to Stay in Bordeaux on a Budget

Bordeaux is a very popular summer tourist destination, so booking as early as possible will yield much better room rates and a greater selection. Rooms tend to book up very quickly here!

The city center is a good choice to stay in for obvious reasons. But it’s also a popular choice and prices will reflect that. If you have the budget for it and you find availability, then it may be a nice and centrally located place to stay.

Yet our Bordeaux on a Budget recommendation is to stay near the train station. Here you have easy access to the city center via the inexpensive and futuristic-looking tram line and a convenient point to get in & out of the city (and to Saint Emilion). Accommodation near the train station tends to offer much better value than around the city center.

Bordeaux futuristic tram

Hostels in Bordeaux France

If you are a solo traveler, one of Bordeaux’s two hostels may be your best bet. But if you are traveling as a couple, you can likely find other budget-friendly accommodation in Bordeaux for around the same price point (for two people) or perhaps only few euros more.

Until recently, there was surprisingly only one hostel in Bordeaux. The Auberge Jeunese Bordeaux (Bordeaux Youth Hostel) is a bit more than a half kilometer walk from the train station and has beds in shared dorms starting at €24.50.

Hostel 20 is now a second hostel in Bordeaux, which enjoys a much better location in the city center, about a 10-15 minute walk north of where all Bordeaux’s main attractions and restaurants are. Shared dorms start at about €27 per night for a bed in this 18th-century building. Unlike Auberge Jeanese, you can book a bed at Hostel 20 online using Hostelworld.

Budget-Friendly Bordeaux Hotel Recommendations

Here are some budget-friendly hotel recommendations in Bordeaux that meet the following three criteria:

  • Within a two-minute walk of the Bordeaux train station,
  • Have a consistent record of good reviews, and
  • Summer rates start at less than €75 per night.

Don’t expect the Ritz luxury with any of these recommendations. But if you’re looking for a budget-friendly private room to stay in Bordeaux with convenient access to the train station & tram line, these are a few suggestions that will suffice. Note: Each of these links will open in a separate window and conveniently take you to the associated page for the hotel. There, you can enter your dates and it will automatically search all the top booking websites (e.g., Expedia,,, Agoda, etc.) to find out which site offers you the best price for your specific dates.

  • Hotel du Faisan: fairly basic (no air-con) yet good-enough 2-star hotel with summer rates starting at €50
  • Ibis Bordeaux Centre Gare Saint Jean: standard Ibis-brand hotel with summer rates starting at €60 – a fantastic value if you can find a room near that rate!
  • Hotel California: A decent budget-friendly hotel with super friendly staff and summer rates starting at €55. (We’ve stayed here and found it to be good for the price.)
  • Ibis Styles Bordeaux Gare Saint Jean: standard Ibis Styles hotel with summer rates starting at €60 including breakfast.
  • Hotel Mercure Bordeaux Centre Gare Saint Jean: Probably the nicest hotel to make it on our budget-friendly list, this 4-star property has rooms with summer rates starting at €75, an absolute steal if you can score a rate that low.

If you’ve clicked on the links and found that each of these hotels is already booked up for your dates or that the rates far exceed what we have listed, then you may want to broaden your search. Hotels book up very quickly in Bordeaux over the summer, so it is important to reserve a room as soon as possible. Try using (or use the widget below) to search all of the top booking websites for a budget-friendly room in Bordeaux.

Apartment Rentals and Boutique Hotels

Smaller hotels and B&Bs are also a great choice in Bordeaux and there are plenty of them if you book early enough. Apartment rentals are another fantastic option to consider in Bordeaux for budget-friendly accommodation. This is an exceptionally great option if traveling in August when many Bordeaux residents are vacationing elsewhere and hence will list their apartment as a short-term rental while they’re away. And what better way to live like a local! has a great selection of apartment rentals in some wonderful locations throughout the city. Most are really good value and you can find some great deals if there is a group of you to share the cost of an apartment with multiple bedrooms. If you’ve never tried Airbnb before, you can use our referral link to save up to $40 off your first booking.


More Bordeaux Budget Tips:

📅 Travel during Bordeaux’s off-season. Summer is a great time to visit Bordeaux, given the pleasant weather. But consider a visit from September to April to take advantage of significantly lower hotel rates and avoid the crowds.

🚆 Book your train ticket in advance. Like airfare, train tickets around Europe tend to rise the closer to the departure date. Reserving your train ticket to Bordeaux at least a few weeks in advance will save a lot. For example, the train from Paris to Bordeaux cost well over €100 if booked the day before. But you can get that same ticket for less than €50 if booked several weeks in advance.

🚌 Consider a bus to Bordeaux instead. Buses in France tend to be a very comfortable and more economical alternative to train travel in France. Many buses have spacious reclining seats and wifi. Ouibus tends to have some of the best fares to Bordeaux. For example, there are regularly €5 fares from Paris to Bordeaux. Try Eurolines and Flixbus too, which both also call on Bordeaux with attractive rates.

🚝Use the Bordeaux tramway to save on taxis & Ubers. The historic center of Bordeaux is easily walkable and pedestrian-friendly. But some locations are a bit too far for walking, such as the train station, airport, and other locations spread across this broad city. Taxis or Ubers can fill in the gaps, but that gets expensive. Thankfully, there’s a well-connected, frequent, and easy-to-use tramway. Best of all, the Bordeaux tramway fare is only €1.50 for a one-hour pass. And all tramway rides are included for those who opt for the Bordeaux CityPass.

🚗 Self-drive to Bordeaux vineyards. If you have a car, don’t hesitate to form your own wine route. It will be much cheaper than with a wine tour. But you can’t just show up to these estates. Visitors are often required to have advanced reservations. We recommend using the website Rue des Vignerons to easily book wine tasting and wine tours in many chateaux around Bordeaux. It has instant confirmation, user reviews, prices, and you can filter vineyards that offer tastings and tours in your language. Try Château Haut Lagrange in Pessac Leognan, Château Clarisse in Saint Emilion, Château d’Arsac in Medoc, Château des Annereaux in Pomerol. But there are so many more. Or search all the Bourdeaux wineries.

🤝 Make a local friend. Before your trip to Bordeaux, consider reaching out to the Bordeaux Greeters. This organization of volunteers shows visitors around Bordeaux free of charge. It’s best to give them plenty of advance notice (perhaps months) in order to get matched up with someone. Send an email to to organize. Be sure to let them know a little bit about yourself, hobbies, and if you have any specific interests while in Bordeaux. They’ll use this information in order to find a greeter that best matches your interests.

🚶Or hire an inexpensive private guide. If you weren’t able to to get paired up with a Bordeaux greeter, and are still looking to have a personal tour around town, then consider booking this: private customized walking tour of Bordeaux. It starts at only €30 and can be a great introduction to Bordeaux.

⌛ Don’t forget to book tours in advance during the busy summer months! The €45 daily vineyard tour is the cheapest wine tasting Bordeaux vineyard tour and sells out every day. Book it now.

Also, consider these other very economical tour ideas in Bordeaux:
🛥 This one-hour Bordeaux river cruise is a bargain for €12.50.
🚢 Or for €28, this 1.5-hour evening aperitif cruise enjoys sunsets on the riverfront while wine tasting.
🚲 Active travelers on a budget should consider this 3-hour bike tour along the riverfront for only €25.


Have Fun in Bordeaux, Fra