Traveling can feel out of reach and off-limits when your bank balance is dwindling. However, limited funds don’t have to mean that travel’s off the agenda. Learning how to travel cheap is not easy and can take some time to master but it is possible.
With a bit of graft, some slight mindset shifts and possible alterations to your aspirations, traveling on a budget is absolutely possible.
Now, there’s an abundance of tips, tricks and advice out there on this subject. Just Google ‘budget travel’ and you’re bound to come across a million and one blog articles telling you how it’s done.
However, where there’s supply there’s demand! Clearly, a lot of people continue to wonder how to save money while traveling. With this in mind, I thought I’d put together my own top tips to add to the pile and attempt to help.
I hope they will provide you with some novel ideas and food for thought when you’re considering the best way to travel with little money.
How to Travel Cheap: 12 Tips That Will Save You Money
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Like anything that’s new, the little tricks that make traveling easier will take time to pick up.
It’s the same with managing a budget. As a first time traveller, expect to spend more money than you’d like to initially.
Even incredibly experienced travelers struggle with their budget in new places. It’s just part of the learning process!
Anyway, here we go. My top tips for budget travel:
1. Use a Travelers Bank Card
Thankfully, in most places where there’s a city you’ll find an ATM, which is actually a great way of withdrawing money abroad.
It’s relatively cheap (exchange rates are up there with the best you’ll find) and means you don’t have to carry tonnes of cash with you at all times.
This is good practice as it’s safer (less money to attract potential wrong-doers) and slows your spending (the more you have, the more you’ll spend!).
Be careful, though. Certain banks charge more than others for withdrawing foreign currency.
Do some due diligence and find the card with the lowest rates wherever you’re traveling to! Travel guides and Google are your friends here.
You can also get cards (such as Revolut) especially for withdrawing money abroad. This can save a lot of money in the long run as you won’t lose as much money in exchanges rates and withdrawal fees.
2. Be Sensible With Your Stuff
Know where your stuff is so that you don’t get it lost or stolen while traveling. Okay, this one’s obvious, but take care of your money, passport and belongings, etc.
I know, you know. And, I’m not your mother. However, needless to say, when it comes to traveling on a budget, losing your wallet or having money and costly items stolen, isn’t great.
Sadly, it happens more than you would think. Be diligent and be smart.
3. Be Wary of Tricksters
Regardless of where you are in the world, there are going to be people who will try to fleece you.
It’s always going to happen. Whether you get sold a ‘genuine gold bracelet’ at a market stall in Marrakech, or overcharged for a tuk-tuk ride in Thailand, it’s easy to lose money through ignorance.
If it happens, which it will, don’t get angry! Just learn and don’t let it happen again. Spend time learning about the favored tricks of certain countries so that you’re able to avoid them.
4. Make Sacrifices
I haven’t put these budgeting tips in order, but this should probably be number one. Sacrifice is a key way to save money when traveling on a budget. It applies to saving up before your trip as much as spending on it.
It’s simple: do what you can to avoid expenditure.
Buy from supermarkets instead of going out to restaurants; watch a movie on someone’s laptop instead of the cinema; make packed lunches; sleep in cheap accommodation; sleep in your car; camp (in the best waterproof tent possible) instead of the hostel; take the local bus instead of the fancy tourist one.
Whatever it takes, putting up with discomfort can save a lot of money and actually, ironically, enhance the experience too. It’ll put you in all manner of interesting situations.
5. Set A Budget and Follow It
Sounds obvious, right? But I mean, actually budget.
Traveling cheaply is great, but there’s no substitute for planning ahead of time and working out an actual budget for daily expenditure, alongside a record of what you spend and when.
Little things all stack up and there’s nothing like seeing your total expenses at the end of the day (normally far more than you’d expect) to incentivize greater frugality in the future!
Be sure to also check out How to Save Money for Travel: A Step by Step Guide
6. Travel Light
Instead of a huge rucksack with tonnes of extra space, pack an ultralight bag instead.
Take a small bag that you can get nothing else into. If you can’t carry it, you can’t (or really shouldn’t) buy it!
This tip’s a little out of left field, but where there are so many tempting souvenirs to purchase around every corner, your bank balance might thank you for it.
Not sure which backpack to take? Check out my post on the different types of backpacks and their pros and cons.
7. Work, work, work
How do you get rid of money issues? Make more money!
When you’re on the road you might be surprised at how simple it is to get a job. If you’re somewhere for any period of time, look into job adverts in hostels, in the local community, talk to local bars and restaurants, or check out farm work available.
Visa issues may apply here so be sensible, but it seems a logical step if you have the time.
Equally, it’s also worth noting quickly how working hard before you go traveling is hugely beneficial.
Not just financially, but mentally too. Save up money by working hard and not only will you reduce financial burden of travel, but you’ll value the experience more too.
8. Break the Rules
I always tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to rules. Frankly, I’m a bit of a wuss! However, when you travel there’s undoubtedly room for a ‘slight bending’ of them, if you don’t wish to break them entirely.
For instance, stealing. I hate it. Please don’t do it.
But it’ll definitely save you money if you do. I have friends who stole food here and there (which we all enjoyed eating…) during our travels, but only from huge companies where it felt less personal and wouldn’t have much of an impact.
Again, I wouldn’t recommend and definitely don’t encourage it.
Another example comes from paid walking tours. Interested in learning more about a city, museum, or heritage site?
Just latch onto the back of one that’s already running. It’s unlikely they’ll notice. And, if they do, just apologise and say you thought it was free.
Other things charge for seemingly unreasonable things. For instance, hikes, national parks, and campsites can all charge large sums of cash to use or enter them.
It depends on your values, but sometimes paying to pitch a tent on a piece of grass with no toilets, cooking facilities or running water seems steep to me!
Sometimes, you might be able to get away without handing over any cash. Respect the land and your neighbors, stick a bit of money in an honesty box if there is one and make sure you tidy up behind you.
Hitchhiking has a bad rep thanks to horror stories about unlucky individuals who get picked up by the wrong people.
I can only talk about my own personal experiences of hitchhiking, though, which have all been positive. I’ve met awesome people, experienced incredible hospitality and been driven around the country for free.
If you want to save money on transport costs, don’t mind a little risk and like the thought of meeting strangers, hitchhiking is a good bet.
10. Find Free Accommodation
This is one of the greatest expenses you’ll have while traveling. Seriously, paying for accommodation, especially in more built-up areas, can drain your funds. It’s absolutely possible to find it for free though.
Here are a few ways to do it:
- Couchsurfing is one way of doing so: By signing up you can contact locals online who advertise a couch/ spare room for travelers to sleep in. It’s a great way of meeting people, learning about your destination from locals and obviously saves a pretty penny too.
- Work for accommodation: Essentially, do a little work (generally menial work such as cleaning or gardening) in exchange for a bed and sometimes food. Hostels are often looking for people to do this and it’s a great way of staying somewhere for longer, without paying!
- Wwoofing: WWOOF stands for world-wide opportunities on organic farms and is similar to working for accommodation. It’s often mistakenly called the same thing, but Wwoofing actually means to do farmwork (on organic farms) in exchange for accommodation and food.
- Squat: You can genuinely find incredible places to stay if you’re willing to squat. In lots of places, there’s a squatting culture, where abandoned homes are inhabited (usually illegally) by people looking for a roof over their head.
- Rough it: Again, this comes down to sacrifice. But, sometimes you genuinely don’t need to pay for a room. If the weather and country (in terms of safety and opportunity) allow it, sleeping under the stars is a great alternative. This doesn’t necessarily mean being on a Greek Island or some other beautiful sandy beach- sometimes a city park is absolutely fine.
11. Alter Your Plans
This is a big one as well. If you don’t have much money but can’t wait to travel, alter your plans.
It could be anything!
Change your destination of choice: closer to home generally equals lower price of flights. Change the time of year you want to go: peak season sees prices climb dramatically.
Change how you get there: intercontinental buses are sometimes insanely cheap compared to trains or flights!
Alter how long you plan to travel as well. After all, less time away equals less money spent.
It’s important to remember that many of the incredible benefits of travel are entirely independent of things like location and duration too. Wherever you go and whatever you do, it’s likely to be the best experience of your life.
Want another suggested alteration?
Try earning enough to cover for a few days/weeks of food and accommodation and a one-way flight ticket. And then trust you’ll get a job in the country you’re traveling around!
This’ll depend entirely on the job options for where you want to go, of course, but it’s absolutely do-able.
It also means that, instead of saving thousands, you can save hundreds and be on your trip in a fraction of the time as a result.
12. Alter Your Mindset
Mindset is big when it comes to budget travel. Being flexible, open minded and willing to try new things and ways of life are crucial abilities when it comes to saving money.
Again, a lot of this comes down to sacrifice.
Unfortunately, we can’t have everything and generally speaking, when you only have a little money for travel it means sacrificing either time and/or comfort!
Many of the options I’ve listed above require a slight mindset shift in order to make them work. Successful and cheap travel is just around the corner.
I hope these suggestions help everyone. Drop a comment with any new and novel ways you use or plan to use, in the constant struggle to save money while traveling! Good luck!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danny Newman is currently writing and traveling his way around the world in a bid to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. He’d love you to follow along with his journey over at What’s Danny Doing.
More on Travel Planning:
- 17 Cheap Places to Travel Around the World
- 10 Cheapest Places to Travel in Europe
- 13 Stunning Cheap Islands to Visit Around the World
- How to Plan a Travel Budget: Step by Step Guide
- 10 Killer Tips on How to Find Cheap Flights
- 11 Easy Tips on How to Find Cheap Accommodation
- Doing Laundry While Traveling: Essential Step by Step Guide