If you’re travelling on a budget you’re crazy to pay full price if there is a cheaper option. Armed with a wallet full of discount cards you should be able to drastically cut the cost of travel.
Discount cards come in two varieties – hostel cards and student/youth cards. Both types of cards are worth taking, particularly if you’re travelling for a while. Student cards are generally best for getting cut-price admission to museums and other attractions and often allow for cut-price transport; with hostel cards, the emphasis is on cheaper accommodation although these also give you excellent discounts on coach and train fares.
Student & youth cards
It’s worth bringing along several student cards if you’re a student, if you’re not a student but are aged under 26 you can get a youth discount card that gives you similar discounts.
Most sightseeing attractions including museums, wildlife parks and zoos allow substantial discounts for students. Many attractions throughout Australia refer to the discounted price as the concession rate. Some hostels will also extend the HI/YHA or VIP discount to you if you have a student card. In many cases just flashing the card issued by your university will get you these discounts, however some attractions require an internationally recognised card such as the ISIC or ISE card. This is a good reason why you should have at least two student cards.
Both ISIC and ISE publish a list of available discounts, however virtually all establishments that offer discounts will grant the discount for either card even if it that establishment is not listed in the card’s discount guide.
The concession rate on the public transport networks in most Australian cities is not available with these cards and in most cases it is restricted to students enrolled in local schools.
The International Student Exchange (ISE) card is a good option with loads of discounts. Although this card is not as established as the ISIC, many establishments that give discounts to the ISIC will also provide the same discounts to ISE cardholders. The ISE card costs USD $25 and you can order it online. See the ISE website for more information.
ISIC, IYTC & ITIC
The International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC) produces three discount cards that give discounts to students; teachers and travellers aged under 26. Some of these cards include basic travel insurance although this is dependant on where the card is issued. ISIC, IYTC and ITIC cards each cost USD $25 or £12.
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is the most widely accepted of the student cards. Many travellers buy fake ISIC cards while they’re travelling through Asia which means non-students can sometimes pick one up; because of this the cards aren’t quite as good for big discounts as they used to be and you may sometimes be asked for a secondary identification such as your student ID from your university at home. This is a good reason why you should have a couple of student ID cards.
The International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) is an alternative for travellers aged under 26 who do not qualify for an ISIC. There is a wide range of discounts, although it is not as good as a student card.
The International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC) is a good alternative if you are a full-time teacher. Like the IYTC this isn’t quite as good as a student card but it’s worthwhile if you don’t qualify for anything else.
Cards issued by the different hostelling organisations offer excellent discounts, particularly for transport and accommodation. Many travellers take along two cards, a YHA or Hostelling International card and one issued by an independent hostelling organisation such as VIP Backpackers Resorts or Nomads.
In the hostel accommodation listings at hostelcritic.com we list the price without a hostel card followed by the price charged if you have a card. Just because a hostel offers a discount to someone with a card from a particular hostel network does not mean that that hostel is part of the network.
Hostel cards are for more than just discounts on hostel accommodation and many of the biggest discounts apply to adventure activities, tours and transport. It is definitely worth asking for a YHA (or other hostel card) discount if you’re booking transport such as coach and rail tickets.