Traveling on a budget is a great way to explore the world for a bit longer. It does come with some restrictions though. To keep the travel costs low, you have to let go of some comforts and follow a few basic rules. This article presents my ten best tips on how to travel on a budget and spent less money while traveling!
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10 tips on how to keep travel costs low
In this article, I would like to address some general things you could do in order to keep your expenses low while traveling. I am listing everything that affected me in my personal trip and invite you to share your best tips in the comments as well!
Using these tips, I traveled the world spending 8,451.74 € on average per year!
#1 Stay with the locals using Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is probably the most efficient way to safe money on the road. I use it for over ten years now, have hosted more than 300 people myself and stayed with way more. I have made friends in the whole world and am still in touch with many of them. Not only is Couchsurfing free, but it will also allow you to get right into the life of a local. Leave your lonely planet book at home and go with the flow when your host suggests an activity. I have been invited to shoot shotguns on a farm in Canada, ride horses in Chile or drove around with a police man in the Canary islands! Just to mention a few examples… Everything happens spontaneous and you never know what you will run into. Combine it with the most amazing people and you will probably never check booking.com again to find a hotel! It will certainly be easier to find hosts if you have hosted before, so if you are considering Couchsurfing, better sign up for it now and start hosting while you still can!
UPDATE May 2020: Couchsurfing has decided to force every member to have them pay in order to get access to their Accounts. While the fee itself is very low ($2.39 per month, or $14.29 per year), the way how this was enforced without any prior warning deeply upset the community. We might see a big shift of users switching to the main Alternatives BeWelcome and Trustroots in the future – so keep an eye on them as well!
#2 Avoid taxis & try Hitchhiking
Of course, taking that taxi to the airport will be much more comfortable and time efficient, but if you can save 90% of the costs by taking a local bus that might consume twice of your time, wouldn’t be worth to get up an hour earlier to take that bus and save money? For me it would! My absolute favorite way of transportation remains Hitchhiking though. You meet the most amazing people that way and don’t pay anything. Show some appreciation to the person that picks you up and tell him a nice story. If you have safety concerns, try to convince a friend to join you and don’t Hitchhike in “dangerous” countries. For more tips, check out my How to hitchhike article!
#3 Avoid restaurants & clubs
Traveling on a budget will come with some restraints. Clubbing and expensive Restaurants for instance are out of the question, at least on a regular basis. It is of course not problem to treat yourself to a nicer meal every now and then! You just won’t be able to do it all the time. To reduce costs AND because it is usually really delicious, I absolutely love street food. Just bring some pills if you don’t have a strong stomach. Sharing and preparing meals at home is also great way to keep travel costs low in some cases, giving you a chance to meet your Couchsurfing host or some nice people from a hostel a bit better at the same time.
Tip: Sometimes it is actually cheaper to “eat out” than buying the ingredients to cook from a supermarket. It is worth comparing the prices in any case. Try to find local markets! Once home, you can even try to replicate some meals in Lonely Planet’ book World’s Best Street Food mini
#4 Book flights early
Traveling around in a fast pace like me will result in high costs for Transportation. It actually accounts for 46% of my total travel costs because I barely spent money on Accommodation. This is interesting considering the fact, that I always hitchhike. So most of the 46% are connected to flights. I have come home to Europe often for various reasons and never stayed too long in one place, explaining why I still paid so much money despite the fact that I always find the cheapest possible flight. You should try to do the same and make use of the flexibility you now have. Skyscanner is still the best site to check for the cheapest month and if you don’t know where you are going yet, you can make use of their “Everywhere” function, listing the cheapest options to fly from a specific airport. I will certainly write more about this in the future and a separate article, but for now make sure that you book early, find the best time out of peak seasons on your routes and you will already save a lot of money. Consider open jaw flights as well!
#5 Get rid of bad habits
Starting to travel full time and on a budget could give you a chance to get rid of bad habits you might have. Smoking for instance is immensely expensive and could be a great way to save money. The same applies to coffee or in my case, sweets! I don’t want to tell you not to consume anything you really love; and I know how hard it is to eat less candies in my case and fail on that regularly. However, I just wanted to put it out here as it could potentially save some money and even improve your health at the same time. Good luck on that one.. 😉
#6 Use a good credit card
I can only recommend to get a credit card that will not charge you to withdraw money and pay with. While those cards have been common in the past, I find it harder to get one nowadays and you might have to do some research on your end. Getting both withdrawals and payments completely free of charge for the correct conversion rate of the local currency will certainly come with some complications. I am using Advanzia bank from Germany for instance and while I can pay for free without any worries, I have to match the amount for any cash withdrawals immediately to avoid fees. I am really happy though and once you know about those little details, you can actually get around on the financial side without any fees and keep travel costs low that way.
Tip: Another great way to save money using Credit Cards is to use the Membership and Sign-up reward points that you can use to pay for flights. Especially American firms seem to love fishing for new customers this way! Worth checking out in detail, I personally never really done it though…
#7 Get a good travel insurance
Luckily, nothing serious ever happened to me since I started to travel about ten years ago. But even if it did, I would have been in good hands thanks the insurance I choose. While most companies offer the standard 56 day insurance that will cover you cheaply for a regular holiday, you will have to look for something else if you decide to travel full time. There is a special kind of insurances out there for this purpose, lasting up to five years. I choose the Allianz RKEXPS insurance which is available for people living in Germany. For all others, check for something similar in your country! Allianz not only covers for anything related to my health, it also pays for my glasses, contact lenses, orthopedic inlays, vaccinations and anything related to dental care! Everything is paid 100% except for very expensive dentist bills for implants and such. But even there, Allianz would cover 75% of the cost! I used to only pay 75€ for this service until the age of 30, now it sums up to 120€ a month. Still a great value!
#8 Get a good camera and sell your pictures
This one affects all of you who want to capture your travel moments and potentially make money with your pictures by selling them on stock photography pages. I always used Sony mirror less cameras because of their speed and quality. If you are on a budget, look into the Sony A6000, which I have used since it’s release in April 2014. A great lightweight camera and perfect for traveling, especially with the Sony SELP18105G lens that works in most situations. I never had to carry a second lens! Having some good pictures can safe money by trading them for free tours (see tip #10 in the end) and you can offer your pictures as a contributor on Shutterstock*! People can buy your pictures there and you will make some money off them, which eventually could be a good source of income while you travel. Just be aware that this takes time and a lot of pictures to be working.
*Feel free to use my Shutterstock affiliate link to sign up!
#9 Don’t have any running costs at home
If you want to travel for a longer time, you should not leave anything at home that costs you on a monthly basis. Cancel your phone at home and any other subscriptions that will reduce your available funds. It is best to move out entirely even, unless you are too attached with your current place. I went down that road and stored anything that I wanted to keep for later at my parents place; selling the TV, car and any other material object I possessed. Those can be easily replaced and the earlier you sell electronics for instance, the more money you will still get out of them. I ended up only with a big backpack, clothes, camping gear and my notebook and sold all the rest!
Tip: Sometimes you can even make a bit of profit by buying cheap on Classified ad websites such as Gumtree in the UK or eBay Kleinanzigen in Gerrmany and then selling it for a bit more. I was able to make over 1.500€ profit by buying and then selling my two Taylor Guitars in London for instance! You do need a bit of time for that and consider selling the more expensive items at least three months before you hit the road!
#10 Try to become an “influencer” if you have a blog
The last one is interesting. I had no idea about it actually and eventually found out that I also had become an “influencer” on my trip without even knowing about that term. It just means that you get a service for free in return for some pictures and social media exposure. So it only really works if you have a blog. Turns out you don’t need to be one of the big travel bloggers to get something done though, I had excellent feedback with my small private blog that barely generates any traffic! Especially in Australia and New Zealand, I could save about 1.000€ on tours by paying the companies back with my pictures and a small Facebook post. Nearly every company was interested, and I even got a helicopter ride for free that way, something I would have never imaged before!
Don’t just not try something new because you think it will fail or not work. Be curious. Be adventurous. And be brave! Asking does not cost you anything and you might be surprised, how friendly people are around the world! Hopefully my tips could give you a bit of a guidance on how to keep travel costs low and might even help you to make the decisions to take life into your own hands and go out to explore the world. You will probably not get rich at the same time, but at least you are paid in moments that you will never forget in your life. I can only recommend to do it as long as you can before going back to the “normal life” … Happy travels and all the best!