I spent almost an entire year traveling through countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia as a student. I definitely did not have an unlimited budget so instead I learned how to travel for cheap. Sometimes, travel can be as inexpensive as one flight on a budget airline and next thing you know you’re spending four weeks in the French countryside, all other expenses paid. If you want to learn all the best ways to travel on a budget from someone who has actually done it, keep reading.
Don’t pay for a place to stay!
One of the first things people think about when planning a trip is lodging. This can also be one of the most expensive parts of travel as well. Though, there are many services out there that allow you to exchange a couple hours of work for food and lodging. Sites like WWOOF and Workaway are two that I used this past year. They allow you to search for families or organizations that need help with anything ranging from childcare, housework, gardening, or even developing a website. You are able to scroll through thousands of hosts located all over the globe. Agree on what hours you will be working and when you want to have time off to explore the area beforehand so you know what to expect. At many of these places you will be staying with people are also there to do work. So, you get to be part of a fun community of people coming from all over the world who could also share how they travel on a budget. I think that these services are really good for learning about the local culture of wherever you choose to visit. It is important to note that while all of the hosts have been screened and approved, staying with people you don’t know can always be risky. Always do your research beforehand and if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
…Or opt for cheap (but practical) lodging
Another way to save on lodging without sacrificing any of your time is to stay in hostels. Hostels provide travelers with inexpensive lodging in dormitory style rooms. Sometimes you might be staying with 9 other people in your room, which will be better for your wallet, but maybe not for your sleep schedule. There are always options to upgrade your hostel room so you can be a bit more comfortable, all the while staying in that budget price range. Another feature that I always make sure my hostel has is a community kitchen. Making your own meals in the hostel kitchen is probably one of the best ways to save money while traveling. Plus the kitchen brings people together, so it’s also a great way to find new travel buddies. Other features that I like to look for in my hostel are an included breakfast AND dinner, community hostel events, a central location, and clean, functional facilities. A great website to check the reputation of hostels or to find a place to stay is Hostel World. I also like to use Hostelling International. Their options tend to be a bit less expensive, but they don’t have as much feedback on each hostel.
Location, location, location
While Paris might sound like the most wonderful spring break you could imagine, it also has the potential to leave your bank account pretty unhappy. Many countries in Western Europe and Scandinavia are extremely appealing, but they also tend to be the most expensive. Meals, lodging, transportation, outings, and flights will all be more expensive. When I traveled to Thailand and Cambodia I came to realize how much further my money could take me. By choosing a cheaper country you have the ability to upgrade your lodging and other travel experiences, or you can choose to have the same experience as you would in Europe, just for a fraction of the price. I stayed in a stunning hotel for only $40 USD a night in Cambodia. I split the price with my friend so it came to a grand total of $20 USD a night. It ended up being less than the hostel I stayed in while in Paris. Pretty shocking. There are also many lodging options in Southeast Asia that charge less than $20 USD a night for all your usual comforts and breakfast. This blogger claims that they traveled through Southeast Asia for under $30 USD a day, but in my opinion, you could do it for less if you really budgeted. Though, $30 USD a day is pretty darn good.
Save on travel activities
There are so many options for things to do during the day that are free. In many cities across the globe, it is possible to find a free walking tour of the city. Of course, it is always courteous to leave a small donation for your tour guide, but it doesn’t have to be outrageous. Free Tour has a lot of options in locations all over. Look out for free festivals and events coming up in the places you plan to travel. Many public spaces like gardens and churches are free to enter as well. A quick google search for “Free things to do in…” will bring up plenty of sites that are overflowing with travel activities that won’t cost you a penny. If you are traveling with a big group, it is also possible to get discounted rates. Additionally, if you are a student, many places will have a special rate for you, provided you can show something like a student ID. If you’re an EU citizen, you’ve definitely got it the best. Most museums are free for people under a certain age.
Cut transportation costs
Depending on where you are in the world, there will always be a form of cheap transportation. Consider taking public transportation instead of taxis. Or, even better, walk or rent a bike for the week. Biking is probably the best way to discover a city because you can still move pretty quickly, but you also have the chance to do a bit more exploring at a nice sight-seeing pace. If you need to travel over long distances consider purchasing a Eurail pass, or any other equivalent. Buses are typically less expensive than any other form of transportation, and I actually really enjoy bus travel. If you find yourself in France, consider downloading the app BlaBla Car. Though I have never personally used it, so many people have raved to me about it. It works as an inexpensive rideshare service that allows travelers to pay a little bit to join along with someone who is already road tripping. Sometimes it won’t be able to take you to your exact destination like Uber, but it’s great for long trips that won’t break the bank.
Traveling on a tight budget might be a bit intimidating at first, but if you really plan out what you are going to be doing, and put a bit aside for emergencies, you can do it. Money shouldn’t be constantly on your mind while you are adventuring through foreign countries, so knowing that you’ve chosen an economic option will help to put you at ease.
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