World Travel On a Budget: a How-to Guide
Travelling can feel out of reach and off limits when your bank balance is running low. However, you shouldn’t take travel off your agenda solely through having limited funds. With a bit of graft, some slight mindset shifts and possible alterations to your aspirations, travelling 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.
I actually put together some of the best options I could find in this list here; equally, you can read about my own thoughts and ideas on money and travel and check out how to save money for your trip.
However, where there’s supply there’s demand, and so clearly a lot of people continue to wonder how they can travel on a budget.
And with this is mind, I thought I’d put together my own top tips to add to the pile and attempt to help!
These suggestions aren’t in order and won’t all be for everyone!
I always emphasise how travelling is an individual thing, which is about learning what works best for you. And, like anything that’s new, the little tricks that make travelling 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. It’s entirely normal and even incredibly experienced travellers 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:
Use a travellers 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 bad eggs) and slows spending (the more cash you have on you, the more you’ll spend!).
- Take note: certain banks will charge more than others for withdrawing foreign currency. Do some due diligence and find an alternate with the lowest rates wherever you’re travelling to! Travel guides and Google are your friends here.
- You can also get cards 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.
Be sensible with your stuff (don’t get it lost or stolen)
- Okay, this is obvious, but: take care of your money, passport and belongings! I know, you know. And, I’m not your mother. However, needless to say, when it comes to travelling on a budget losing your wallet or having money and costly items stolen, isn’t great.
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 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 here. If it happens, which it will, don’t get angry. Just learn and don’t let it happen again. Spend time learning about the favoured tricks of certain countries before you go so that you’re able to avoid them.
- 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 travelling 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; 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.
- Sounds obvious right? But I mean, actually budget. Travelling 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 incentivise greater frugality in future!
- This one’s a really simple but effective way of to a) pack lightly, but also b) to save money. Instead of taking a huge rucksack with tonnes of extra space, 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! 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.
Work, work, work
- How do you get rid of money issues? Make more money. When you’re away you might be surprised 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.
- Then there's the option to earn money online and on the move. Earning money while you travel is a hot topic these days and there are many ways do it, such as freelancing, affiliate marketing and, of course, blogging!
- However, it isn't without its challenges. Not only is it a lot of hard work to get set up to earn while you travel, but there are practical difficulties to consider too, such as finding internet connections and constant distraction from all the amazing things surrounding you (check out this great piece from Let's Get Jobless about how to avoid distractions while travelling)! Get it right though, and you're onto a winner.
- Equally, it’s worth noting quickly how working hard before you go travelling is hugely beneficial not just financially, but mentally too. Save up money by working hard and not only will you reduce the financial burden of travel, but you’ll value the experience more too. If you like, you can read more about the value of working for your trip.
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.
- Some things seem perplexingly expensive. For example, walking tours. Interested in learning more about a city, museum, or heritage site? Latch onto the back of one that’s running. It’s unlikely they’ll notice. If they do, just apologise and say you thought it was free. I’m sure there are other examples too.
- Other things charge for seemingly unreasonable thing. For instance, hikes, national parks, campsites etc. 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. Respect the land and your neighbours, 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 experiences of hitchhiking though, which have all been positive. I’ve met awesome people, experienced incredibly 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.
Find free accommodation
- This is one of the greatest expenses you’ll have while travelling. Seriously, paying for accommodation, especially in more built up areas can drain your funds. However, it’s absolutely possible to find it for free.
- Couchsurfing is one way of doing so. By signing up you can contact locals online who advertise a couch/ spare room for travellers 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. Check out the website here.
- 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, 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.
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 insanely sometimes cheap compared to trains or flights! Alter how long you plan to travel: less time equals less money as a loose rule of thumb. It’s important to remember that many of the incredible benefits of travel are entirely independent of things like location and duration. Where you go, whatever you do, it’s likely to be the best experience of your life.
- Another suggested alteration: try earning enough to save for a few days food and accommodation and a one way flight ticket, trusting you’ll get a job in country. This’ll depend entirely on the job options for where you want to go, but it’s absolutely do-able. Instead of saving thousands you can save hundreds and be on your trip in a fraction of the time.
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. However, succeed and cheap travel is just around the corner!
I hope these suggestions help everyone, but please let me know if you can think of any more! Drop a comment with your personal methods that you use, or plan to use, to save money while travelling.