HOW TO TRAVEL FOR CHEAP: 20 TIPS FROM A BUDGET TRAVELER
An article about how to travel longer for less.
20 money-saving tips to help learn how to travel for cheap.
1. Avoid overpriced hotspots
Love traveling and ready to explore any destination? How does Cambodia, Bolivia or India sound? Expect to find meals for a couple of dollars or less and accommodation for a week will be less than a day in most other major cities. Other countries known for being great budget travel locations are Vietnam, Hungary, Honduras, Bulgaria, Sri Lanka and Argentina. That is an exciting list of destinations and won’t cost you a year of savings!
2. Couchsurfing is awesome
Couchsurfing is essentially a generous host, opening up their home to you for anywhere from a few nights to a month depending on the agreement. It is an app that allows you to search for hosts in a destination and view their hosting history and bio. You might be offered the couch, a spare bed or even a spare bedroom. What do you need to give in return? Many thanks, cleanliness, a fun attitude and hopefully pay it forward when you are in a place of your own. Couchsurfing is global so it really opens the door to cheap worldwide travel and the opportunity to meet some generous local hosts.
3. Eat where the locals eat!
The best way to blow all your money is to go to a country with great local food like Indonesia and eat at western restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe. If you are willing to eat from street carts, local markets and small cafe’s you can stretch your budget much, much further. For example, a serving of nasi goreng with shrimp ( fried rice, vegetables, egg and shrimp) can cost 1-2 dollars in a local market. A hamburger, fries, and salad near the beach could set you back 10-15 dollars. Aside from focusing on the financial benefits of eating local, remember why you wanted to travel. There is nothing better than experiencing the culture and traditions of a meal that has been around for centuries. Even if every now and again you try something that is horrible or way too spicy, it is all part of your immersion into a foreign culture.
4. Sunrise and sunset are free
The first thing many people do when they arrive at their destination on a vacation is head to the tour booking office. Purchasing jet ski hire, jungle tours, day trips, snorkeling adventures and all kinds of fun activities. Most of which are luxury activities and are not necessary to have a good time. Every now and again an opportunity might come along too good to miss, like a bungee jump in New Zealand or scuba diving in The Gili Islands but for the most part the best activities are free. Think hiking, beaches, snorkeling, sunrise, sunset, visit temples, churches and other tourist attractions. Hiring a moped a splitting a car between friends will give you the access to most locations a tour guide can take you. Be responsible for organizing your own adventures and fun and you will discover more but also save a lot of money.
5. Luxury accommodation is the enemy
If you cannot deal without luxury most of this list is not for you. However, if you can, this is the best way to save a ton of money. Get onto sites like booking.com and see what properties are having a last minute sale or heavy discounts. Maybe it isn’t in the prime location or doesn’t have a swimming pool in the courtyard. Ask yourself how much time you are going to spend at your accommodation. If you are the type of person who is out all day adventuring and seeing the sights, book somewhere cheap, clean and with basic amenities. Most vacation destinations have accommodation ranging from $10 to $500. I personally search the location and then order the listings from cheapest to most expensive. I try not to scroll too far.
6. Low season is the best season
Each destination in the world has a low and a high season. Yes, even locations with year-round warm weather like Hawaii have low seasons. Plan your travel so that you are always visiting during the low season. This way there are no crowds and the accommodation has greater availability. Everything should be a little bit cheaper and much more relaxing than during the peak season.
7. Sober Savings
A total ban on alcohol? No this isn’t a rulebook. However, drinking a few beers every night soon adds up. Considering that in many locations around the world the price of dinner is not much more expensive than a beer, you could be saving a lot of cash by only drinking occasionally or not at all. For example in Vietnam, you can eat for $1-2 and a beer costs just over $1 in many bars and restaurants. Three beers at night might not seem like a big dent to your budget but you are essentially drinking away your dinner and lunch budget for the following day.
8. Flexible flying
While many people looking to go on vacation have a strict time period in which they can travel. For travelers without time restrictions, sites like Secret Flying offer error fares and heavily discounted fares at random times throughout the year. This is perfect if you have an open itinerary.
9. Don’t get caught in a tourist trap
Accommodation right next to the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal or on the shore in Hawaii is going to set you back a few hundred dollars a night. But what if you could stay 10 minutes down the road and walk to these sites at your leisure. Often removing yourself from the hotspot by less than a 10-minute walk can save you up to 50% on your accommodation. Restaurants and bars are also likely to be cheaper only a short distance from popular tourist districts. You will also get a greater sense of the day to day life of a local if you stay in a neighborhood Airbnb or homestay.
10. Uber is the king of transport
Uber is in many countries across the world now and can often be 3-4x cheaper than a taxi. The great thing about an Uber is that the price is set and you can’t be ripped off by an opportunistic driver who is well aware that you won’t know the proper price of a fare. For example, when staying in Bali a taxi can often by $10-15 from Kuta to the airport. With Uber, the same trip cost $3.50 in a comfortable, clean vehicle.
11. Calculated risk taking
One of the biggest ways to save money is to be willing to get it wrong to save some cash. Are you up for taking a long bus ride for half the price of a plane. What if you book a budget hotel and there is no warm water, towels or wifi even though it was promised. If you can be ready to roll with the punches you will be rewarded with huge savings and more often than not your risks will pay off as you get smarter about your choices. Research well but be ready to hope for the best when taking the cheaper alternative.
12. Slowly does it
Transport is one of the most expensive parts about travel. So don’t move around as much. Staying in a location for a month or more gives you a chance to do your normal daily tasks such as working out, catching up with friends, reading a book or doing some work. It means you can really get to know a place and visit lots of hidden spots you learn about along the way. Instead of trying three restaurants and visiting a few tourist attractions what if you could get to know some locals who will show you around and take you to the best spots. Many travelers will tell you that slow travel is much more rewarding and enjoyable than spending half of your time in transit.
13. Work while wandering
Be open minded about this. You don’t need to earn a normal salary if you are traveling on a budget. Even if you earned a few hundred dollars a month that might cover a third or more of your costs. Worldwide travel doesn’t have to be expensive but by working along the way you can save a lot of money. But where will you work and what will you do? There are many jobs you can do online these days. Depending on your skill set you can get creative and create a small income for yourself. If you are photographer, marketer, artist, graphic designer or writer it is definitely possible to get a few freelance gigs if you search hard enough for opportunities. It might not be as simple for people with jobs such as a lawyer, accountant or any other profession that is usually confined to an office and steady environment. However, these are all jobs that require a lot of intelligence, hard work and determination to forge a successful career so you will not find it hard to create a small stream of income once you put your mind to it.
14. Partner up
This doesn’t necessarily mean being romantically involved with your travel buddy, it could be your best friend or a co-worker. There are many moments of travel that are cheaper when the bill is split between two people. Think taxis, hotel rooms, car/moped hire, washing machines. Just make sure your travel partner is on the same page financially otherwise it may be hard to stick to your budget if they are out partying and splurging on fancy dinners each night while you are trying to stretch your dollars as far as possible.
15. Visit the unknown
There are many travel locations that are going to be a guaranteed winner such as Paris, Hawaii or New York. They are also a few of the more expensive places to vacation when considering worldwide travel. Often off the beaten path places are cheaper and more adventurous. When was the last time one of your friends visited Sri Lanka or Honduras?If you are like most of us, the answer to that is never. You know what you are going to get when you go to a place like New York but if you booked a trip to Honduras what an adventure that would be, full of new experiences and surprises. Get out of your comfort zone and visit countries you have never heard of.
16. Road trips and boat trips
Plane travel is getting cheaper and cheaper with a lot of budget airlines operating in Asia and Europe. However, there are times when a ferry, bus or train are going to be significantly cheaper. The journey may take you a lot longer or be more uncomfortable but it is often a good way to see more of the country you are visiting and meet new people.
17. Swap houses
You may be wondering how you can leave your house unattended and who will pay the rent or mortgage while you are off on your worldwide travel adventure. Why not house swap with someone on the other side of the world? There are many sites like homexchange.com that let you browse other people’s offers and find a place that you think would be a good destination for an overseas or interstate adventure.
18. Ride-share or hitchhike
Hitchhiking is a great way to get around but is more acceptable in some countries and regions than others so be sure to check what experiences others have had before you travel to your destination. Ride-sharing can be organized on sites like carpoolworld.com and are a great way for the driver to save gas and the passengers to save cash. If there is no rideshare or carpool available just go with the cheapest alternative you can find but always try and rideshare or carpool first.
19. The free rental car
Something not many people know about is that car rental companies need your help. Sites like imoova give you a number of offers such as Brisbane to Sydney for $1 including $100 for fuel with 7 days to complete the journey. If you plan trips out well enough you can make your way around the entire country, even one as big as Australia with a free rental car that would normally be $60-$100 per day.
Above all if you want to live a life of worldwide travel on a budget you need to be ready to get stuck in a bad situation and be okay with that. Whether it is your fault, your partner’s fault, the weather’s fault or the hotel’s fault bad things happen from time to time. Unlike at an expensive hotel, the manager at your hostel may not care as much that your room is above a nightclub even though the reviews said quiet and relaxing. The vendor at the local market probably won’t give you a refund on the food she assured you wouldn’t be TOO spicy but put a hole in your tongue. Your AirBnB host might laugh at you when you ask why there is no hot water in the shower. When these situations of misfortune arise, if you can hold back a grimace and force out a smile you will find that you can travel without a fortune at all.
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