Budget travel is possible. Times are changing and there is no longer a need to scrape the bottom of your bank account to pay for an “all-inclusive” holiday package that, let’s face it – you could probably organise on your own.
While some people still do like the idea of an organised, hassle-free holiday, there are many others who don’t mind the reward that hassle (or what we like to call adventure) can often bring. It’s that small bit of hassle that will end up saving you a large sum of money, money that you can use to extend your travels and make your adventures last.
Here are some budget travel tips that will help you to see the world for as little as the weekly rent of your inner-city condo.
Stay in hostels
The calibre of hostels around the world is more adequate than one might think. While your 3-star hotel is struggling to get Wi-Fi and a decent meal, the hostel around the corner is running free walking tours, fast Wi-Fi, cheap transport and complimentary breakfast, plus it’s a portion of the price.
Accommodation can take up the most part of your budget but, in 2004, a small group of individuals found a way to connect us using the one thing we all have in common, couches! It’s a service that allows members to stay in others’ homes around the world free of charge, with the agreement the couchsurfer would return the favour if the host were ever visiting their country.
Stay in close proximity to the sights
This will greatly reduce the amount of money you need to spend on public transport, which in some cities can be quite expensive. Research the main areas before you book your accommodation. Many hostels are located within walking distance to the sights. Booking.com has a great list of hotels that show where they are located in town. Read through reviews and find the best one for your budget.
Workaway / Help Ex
These brilliant platforms allow travellers to exchange work for accommodation and sometimes food. The rapidly growing site has now spread to a large number of countries worldwide and you can pick up some pretty simple jobs such as pet care or gardening. Work for a few hours a day and spend the rest of the time exploring the city. Find out more on how you can travel the world for free.
TrustedHousesitters is a global marketplace that connects home and pet owners with sitters, to solve a common two-sided problem – pet care and cost-effective travel.
The platform launched in 2010 with one simple mission: to create an innovative approach to facilitating high-quality pet care and ethical, authentic travel experiences at a minimal cost. Since then, they have grown into a global community connecting thousands of home and pet owners with care-orientated sitters, who will look after their home and pets in exchange for a place to stay.
Take overnight transport
If you’re travelling between cities try and look for the option of overnight transport. This will save you one night’s accommodation and maybe even a flight. Many countries run comfortable and efficient overnight bus and train services. Go to sleep and wake up in a new city.
Whether it’s long or short term, volunteering with an organisation can be a great way to save you money. Make sure you choose a cause that you care about and research the reputation of the organisation before you visit. Try and contact them directly and steer clear of companies monetising off volunteer opportunities. Try Grassroots Volunteering or GivingWay, databases of worldwide opportunities connecting travellers with the causes they care about. Read more about responsible volunteering here.
One of the best ways to see a city is by foot. While there may be an option to take a cab or other means of transport, instead spend the time walking through the city, exploring backstreets and unpacked routes. You never know what you might find around every corner.
Skip private tours
A tour company’s job is to entice you to see the sights in the city and lure you in with the words ‘free drinking water’ and ‘air-conditioned van’. Save yourself the money and visit the sites on your own and in your own time, or even with a local. There is enough information on the Internet for you to find your way.
Find free tours
So may cities offer free tours if you look hard enough. Scour the Internet for free tours of the city you are visiting. You’ll general find them run by community or government venues such as art galleries, hostels, and tourist centres. You can also use Pinterest to find free activities in the city you are visiting. Watch my video on how to plan your travels using Pinterest.
Book accommodation with breakfast included
Who wouldn’t pass up a free meal? Try and book your accommodation with breakfast included so that it saves you the price of one of your daily meals. You can even eat enough to fill you up until the afternoon, saving on lunch as well.
Visit free attractions
Entry fees can put a dent in your daily budget, especially the major tourist attractions. Try and see if there is a free alternative to seeing the sights e.g. having a picnic beside the Eiffel Tower instead of climbing it, or opting out of an audio guide and researching the facts on your own.
Take your student card with you
If you are a student, or former student, it is definitely worth keeping your student card on you while travelling. Many tourist attractions still offer discounts for students and sometimes even extra perks like free audio guides for educational purposes.
Don’t buy souvenirs
How often do the souvenirs you buy end up at the bottom of a box in your garage never to be seen again? It might seem like a good idea at the time but 99% of souvenir purchases are impulse buys. Take with you the experience, not the snow globe.
Related Reading: 5 Ways to Shop Fairly When You Travel
Don’t do unnecessary shopping
We often get excited about the bargains offered to us when travelling. The t-shirt that costs $3, the Kashmir scarves at 5 for $5, but the truth is we don’t really need to buy those things. The price tag may be enticing but, more than likely, the worker who made those clothes get paid less than the minimum wage, and in the end all you end up with is a wardrobe full of unethical clothes you don’t wear. Travelling is about seeing the world, not shopping the world. Read more about ethical shopping while travelling or watch my video talking about how to shop fairly when you travel.
Eat where the locals eat
In many countries, local food is always going to be cheaper. You’re in another country so why visit a Starbucks or McDonalds? Find where the locals are eating, try the cuisine, enjoy the tastes and spices of another culture. You could even take a cooking class with a local and learn about the cuisines.
Eat street food
If you’re travelling through Asia you can’t miss the street food. While some can be a bit daring, like fried crickets in Cambodia, others can be rather enticing, like $2 Pad Thai in Thailand. Street food is often cheap and often hearty. Don’t let food poisoning horror stories exhort your decision, as many places have upped their food safety standards since the influx of travellers arrived.
Instead of buying one meal each and then leaving some to go to waste, try and share meals. Your eyes can be bigger than your stomach and you often don’t need as much food as you think you do. Sharing meals can save you the price of one whole meal, or even two if you’re in a large group.
Sharing transport can significantly reduce the cost of your travels, especially when it comes to cabs. While this can be easy when you are travelling in a group, you can also benefit as a solo traveller if you aren’t too afraid to ask another lone backpacker, or group, if they’d like to share with you. If you’re heading on a long journey try Bla Bla Car, a ride sharing service connecting drivers with empty seats with people travelling the same route.
Apps like Australia’s Car Next Door allow you to borrow cars from real people in your community. Register for Car Next Door today and you will receive $15 credit when you take a trip or if you share your car within 30 days.
Do your research
Chances are someone has already walked the path before you. Take advantage of the overload of information we have about the places we travel to and research ways that you can save money at your destination. Pinterest is full of articles about things to do in almost every city. Start a board and keep an eye on travel blogs for extra money saving tips and tricks.
Take your time
If you rush through a city you’ll be more likely to cut corners and spend unnecessary money. Give yourself enough time to explore at ease and take longer, but cheaper, modes of transportation.
Take a reusable water bottle
A great way to not only save money on plastic water bottles but to also reduce your impact on the environment. Many hotels and hostels offer water refill, especially in the places where tap water isn’t safe to drink.
Save money on flights
Websites such as Kiwi.com offer visitors the chance to sort through hundreds of cheap flights. Sort via month or date range and filter through until you find the best deal. Insider tip – the best time to book flights is roughly 40 days from the day of travel, and flights are often cheaper on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Document your spending and budget
Whether it’s in a small notebook or via one of the many expense-tracker apps for travellers, writing down what you spend can be a good way to analyse where you can save a bit of extra money. Perhaps you are spending in an area where you don’t need to be. Having that information in front of you can help you plan your expenses at ease.
Buy a SIM card
Finding WI-FI is not always easy and can sometimes be expensive. It might save you money to purchase a SIM card in the country you are visiting. This will allow you to have access to maps, Internet and phone calls without having to pay extra fees.
Get in touch with the locals
Sites like Backstreet Academy connect travellers with locals wanting to show you their city and you can pick up some cheap tours on these sites. Alternatively, sites like Tinder and Facebook can help you connect with locals that would be willing to show you around for free. Voluntary organisations like Hanoi Kids also have these services and offer free tours to travellers in exchange for English skills. Read more about the rise of local impact travel here.
There are so many ways we can experience all this world has to offer without having to overspend on unnecessary things. Have you travelled on a budget? Have we missed any important tips? Leave your comment in the section below.