Do you want to travel more, have more adventures, and live your best life? I will teach you how to travel cheap and give you my unique budget hacks!
You can travel on a low income, travel for cheap, you can go for low budget travel, and you can even travel the world with no money. You can even have the best time while you’re at it!
I just came back from my mini-retirement, where I traveled through Central America for four months. Two years ago, I traveled through South America for four months and took another four months before going to work.
Many people ask me how I do it. Well, the ask specifically how I finance it.
They are always surprised how much I spent throughout 2019 while I was on vacation for four months and didn’t work during that time.
They tell me that they don’t have enough money to travel. I want to let you know that you don’t need to have a lot of money to travel. You just need to get creative when you want to travel the world with little money.
It’s really not that complicated and I want to teach you what I know.
This advice doesn’t only hold up for long travel, also when you’re going for a few days or weeks it is possible to travel on a budget.
Let go of the thinking that you need thousands of dollars to have a good vacation, it is not true at all!
Let’s dive straight into how to travel cheap and still have the best time. I want you to realize that you can easily travel stress-free and not think about money the whole way.
How To Travel Cheap
Here are 15 tips and tricks that I used for my long-term and short-term travel. With these tips, travel on a budget becomes easy and effortless.
1. Get A Job While You’re Abroad
The simplest thing to do when you want to travel on a budget is to make some money abroad.
Here are some first options:
- Waiter or waitress – there are more than enough restaurants in every place you visit. Check out if they need some help.
- Hostel work – while traveling I met a lot of people working in hostels to make some money to continue traveling. If you’re looking for free accommodation, this is also the way to go.
- Dive instructor – every diving spot we visited had people working there. Mostly they fell in love with the place and decided to stay a bit longer. The spots where you can dive are amazing and often you will be on a tropical paradise. Not too bad! Note: you have to have your certification for this one.
- Au pair – friends of mine have been an au-pair while traveling. That means you’re a caregiver who lives together with the host family. You’re mostly looking after their children and playing with them. You get housing, food, and a small salary.
It is entirely up to you if you want to do one of these options while you’re traveling.
Just know that it’s not hard to find these jobs. Just ask around in the local community and there will be something for you to do.
Do you know the amazing website Couchsurfing? This is a website where people are offering their couches to strangers. You can send the people who are offering a couch (or another space in their home) a message, meaning that you can chat before you come by.
Both Couchsurfing hosts and the couch surfers have a profile where they tell something about themselves.
You get a rating from the people who have stayed with you or the people who have hosted you.
I really enjoyed using Couchsurfing as a way to get to know the locals and stay at different places for a longer time.
For example, I stayed two weeks in a lovely city in Peru, one week in Lima, and another week in another great city in Peru. It was really cool and I can recommend it to anyone.
I did Couchsurfing as a solo female traveler and everything was fine.
I recommend you read the profile of your host before you go. It’s important to have a good feeling about the person you are staying at.
You don’t want to end up leaving right when you arrive, right?
One time I stayed at an entire family, another time I stayed with a 60+ man, and another time I stayed with a 30+ guy. As long as they have good ratings and reviews it’s all fine.
Their accommodations were amazing! Twice I had my own room, once I slept on an air mattress.
The one with the air mattress did have a pool and a gym though, so that was fun!
When you want to travel on a budget and meet locals, Couchsurfing is a great way to go!
3. Stay In Hostels
Another great way to travel on a budget is to stay in hostels.
While hotels are amazing at times, they’re not the way to go if you want to travel on a budget.
If you really want to save money while traveling hostels are the way to go.
I absolutely love hostels for what they are. You can make friends very easily, there are many people around with whom you can do activities, and it is very cheap overall.
When I was traveling with my partner, I even noticed that in many hostels the prices of getting a dorm bed versus getting a twin room where about the same.
This is a great hack to still have your privacy and have cheap accommodation as well.
4. Fly With Cheap Airlines
When you are flying with cheap airlines, this can save you a LOT of money on airfare.
What do you need for that?
You need to fly with cheap airlines!
A couple of tips include:
- Compare flights – on sites like Kayak or Skyscanner.
- Be aware of additional fees – that’s how the cheap airlines get ya!
- Bring your own snacks & drinks – it’s less fun, but it will save you a shitton of money.
- Check where your airport is – I once booked a ticket to Milan for $20 and the ticket for the bus to the city center (over 1 hr) was around $30.
For other tips and more details, check 9 Tips For Flying On A Budget.
5. Be Flexible With Your Departure & Return Date
In addition to flying with cheap airlines, there are other ways to save money on your flights.
When you are flexible with your departure and return date, you can save a lot of money.
How do you check that?
Simply go to the website and check when the cheapest fares are.
Most of the time, traveling in the middle of the week will be the cheapest option. There are simply more people who want to fly on the weekends.
6. Travel During Low Season
Depending on the place you’re going to, avoid high season.
Low season is a much more relaxed time to travel.
There is more room in the hostels so you don’t need to book them in advance. Besides that, the prices are much lower as the demand is simply lower.
Be aware that you’re not traveling during the rainy season or hurricane season, it would be a waste if part of your holiday would be sitting inside because the weather outside is terrible.
Travel during the shoulder season.
The shoulder season is the season in between the high and the low season. You will still have great weather, but it isn’t as hot and the prices overall are much cheaper.
I noticed that when the high season came, it was impossible to negotiate. We even had to leave the hostel a couple of times because we couldn’t book another night.
That’s not something I would recommend.
7. Housesit During Vacation To Save Money
Want to travel even more low budget during your vacation?
Watch someone’s house while they are away!
The concept of house sitting is that you watch their homes, their pets (if they have any), and you get access to free accommodation and a kitchen where you can cook!
Why should I be excited about a kitchen?
Because that way you can save even more money!
All platforms have verified accounts so that everything is safe and secured.
If you’re going on long-term travel, housesitting can be a great way to travel on a budget.
The best housesitting platforms to check are:
8. Stay In Airbnbs
Of course, I couldn’t let Airbnb miss in this story. I love staying at Airbnbs.
Many countries have a great Airbnb network. We noticed that traveling with three people, Airbnbs were often cheaper compared to hostels and hotels.
How developed the Airbnb network is, depends highly on the country.
While we were in Mexico we had no trouble finding an Airbnb, while in Guatemala we couldn’t find anything that had a decent price.
I enjoy Airbnbs a lot, as the hosts are often very nice and they are telling you everything about the place you are staying at.
9. Ask For A Discount
The easiest way to get a discount is to just ask for it. When you’re traveling to Central America, Asia, of Africa, negotiating is very normal.
My tactic is simple.
I check the hostels that are available online, choose one that fits my needs, and go there without booking anything.
If the price they mention is higher than the price I saw online, I show them a screenshot and ask for a lower price than that.
This is the easiest way to save some money.
I have to tell you that I love doing it as well.
Another thing that works perfectly, is talking about your friends or other situations.
You can tell them: my friend got it at a cheaper price yesterday.
Or: the other shop is offering it for $X, can you do that?
When the locals are paying $1 it feels unfair to pay $5 just because you’re a tourist. I will tip if I receive great service or deal with friendly people.
Important: if you’re traveling in the high season, it can be harder to get a discount at tourist attractions or hostels.
10. Find Cheap Ways To Get Around
When you are traveling on a budget, buses and trains are the way to go. Please avoid airplanes if you can, they are costly both for the environment and your wallet.
Besides, if you’re traveling on an overnight bus or train, you do not need to pay for accommodation. Win-win!
When I was traveling I traveled mostly with the local busses. Little countries in the Americas have a great train connection, so taking the bus is often the cheapest and fastest way to go.
When you’re taking the local bus, be prepared to connect with the locals and have the local experience. I highly recommend it!
If you want to continue the frugal fun in your travels, here are 105 fun things you can do without spending money!
What is even cheaper than taking the bus or the train?
Hitchhiking is a great free way to go around.
It is a relatively safe and common way to go around. In Central America, South America, Australia, and Eastern Europe it is very common.
It is not dangerous when you use common sense. The only thing is that you’re often in the back of a pickup truck and you need to hold on tights on the highways.
I have a couple of great hitchhiking stories. I will just tell you one.
We missed our bus in Nicaragua and the bus only went 2x per day. We decided to walk back to the town until we found someone that could take us. The fourth car that we saw already stopped. Yay!
BUT, wait… when we got in we saw something in the back of the pickup. It was a pig and it was HUGE.
We squeezed in next to the pig and enjoyed our quality time together.
Okay okay, one more story!
When we were in Guatemala, we hitched and the military took us. There were a couple of military guys in the back of the pickup and we were sitting casually next to them. That was quite cool.
So there you go.
Besides cheap travel, you get great stories as well!
12. Take Your Student ID
If you’re recently graduated or your student card doesn’t have an expiration date on it, take it with you!
You will get discounts in many places and you will save a ton of cash along the way.
13. Check Out The Free Walking Tours
In every major city in Europe, Central America, South America, and Australia they are offering free walking tours.
These free walking tours are a great way to meet fellow travelers, make friends, and learn something about the country you’re currently visiting. You will get to the majority of the sights in just 2-3 hours.
That’s something that I like a lot!
How do you find them?
- Ask your hostel
- Ask your friend Google – type in ‘free walking tour [city name]’
One thing is that these tours are tip-based, so don’t forget to tip at the end!
14. Do Groceries And Eat Out Less
One of the best money saving tips is about going to the grocery store and not eating away everything.
I am all about spending your money where you want to spend it.
If you do enjoy eating great food, it’s possible to still do that while you’re traveling and not spend as much.
We made sure that we ate out a maximum of once per day.
That way, we could still have great snacks (snacks are the best) and try out all the foods that we wanted to try.
Go to the local market and get all the different fruits, vegetables, and snacks that you want to try.
15. Make Money While You Travel
Ultimately what makes you able to travel on a budget is the choices that you make.
If you choose to spend a little time each day building up active income, managing your passive income, or doing some side hustles, you can make your travel last much longer.
A couple of these things include:
- Starting With Peer-to-Peer Lending
- Starting With Investing
- Check Out These 15 Incredible Passive Income Ideas
- Check Out These 23 Simple Side Hustle Ideas
- Starting A Money Making Blog
What is your best tip to travel on a budget? How do you travel cheap?
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Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
- Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
- Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
- Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.