1. Choose a Travel Card (to avoid fees)
An excellent way to help you travel cheap is by using a travel card or opening an account with an online bank, such as Wise (formerly Transferwise). With most normal banks you will be charged to withdraw money at ATMs in foreign countries and offered a poor exchange rate.
Online banks like Wise let you withdraw money without fees, pay in local currency, have a better exchange rate, and usually come with handy ‘in-app’ features too. For example, pots to save your money, and easy ways to block your card if it’s lost or stolen on your trip. Having used it ourselves for over 5 years, we saved it loads on fees.
2. Travel Cheap by Comparing Flights
When trying to travel on a budget, don’t book the first flight you see. Instead, use comparison websites to check that you’re getting the best deal. For example, both Skyscanner and Kiwi provide a flexible date option, as well as the option to add stopovers. This way, you can easily compare which airlines are traveling for the cheapest price.
After checking the price on comparison websites, make sure to also go directly to the airline webpage, as the price might be even cheaper on there. Don’t forget to use an incognito window so that cookies don’t increase the price.
3. Avoid Booking Organized Tours
Although it can seem like the easiest/safest option, booking an organized tour is one of the most expensive ways to travel. Quite often, by doing the research yourself, you can enjoy the exact same holiday for a fraction of the price!
Entrance Fees & Attractions
When visiting cities, where there are lots of entrance fees for sightseeing, buy a city ticket (normally they combine lots of attractions for a discounted price). This is a lot cheaper than buying each attraction individually. Sometimes you will also get discounts for other members of your party too.
Additionally, think about free attractions. For example, how important is it for you to go up the Eiffel Tower? Is there a way you can see it for free, which is just as good? Ask around for the best viewpoints, free walking tours, and free exhibitions.
4. Think Carefully About Accommodation
If you’re looking for a luxury holiday, then chances are a hotel is what you need. However, for those who want to travel cheap, staying in a hotel is a travel cost that adds up very quickly.
Apartments at Booking.com
Some great options to really travel on a budget are by using platforms like Airbnb or Booking.com. Booking.com is a great comparison site for a range of guesthouses, apartments, and hostels. Their apartments are the perfect option if you’re planning on staying in a place for a longer amount of time or you’re traveling in a group. Splitting the cost of a house between 5 people can massively cut costs and make you a huge saving! See booking.com apartments.
Housesitting and Home Exchange
Home Exchange, TrustedHousesitters, and Couchsurfing are all amazing ways of exploring countries while staying totally free!
Housesitting: a great way to travel cheap
Housesitting for someone means you can stay in their home (with a kitchen and other facilities) for free! This is normally in return for some light housework. For example, watering their plants or walking their dog.
Home exchange is a great way to simultaneously swap houses with another traveler elsewhere in the world. This way, you both get free accommodation, and you have the added benefits of insider tips from a local.
Couchsurfing is an amazing community where locals offer you a place to stay for free. Normally, they love to travel too, or simply want to help other travelers out. It’s a way to meet new people, make friends, and explore a new place with the help of a local.
5. Budget for Food and Drink
Eating out every meal, sadly, will not help you to travel on a budget. However, there are ways to still try the local cuisine and save money. Firstly, shop at local markets for seasonal produce that you can take back to your hostel or accommodation to cook. Secondly, eat street food! For example, in Vietnam, you can buy a delicious Banh Mi sandwich from a street vendor for as little as 0.50 USD!
If you do want to eat out at restaurants, think about going at lunchtime when it’s cheaper. For example, in countries like Spain, you can find 3-course lunchtime menus for under 10 euros. Fill up for the rest of the day, so you only have to worry about buying small snacks for dinner.
In many countries, it’s not safe to drink water from the tap. This means it can cost a lot to stay hydrated. It also means increased use of single-waste plastic. Instead, invest in a decent reusable water bottle and fill it up at safe water points. If you’re traveling in countries without these, buy yourself a water purifier instead. For instance, brands such as ‘Life Straw’ will purify the water, so that you can drink it safely.
6. Make Money Online
The new way of remote working (especially in light of the global pandemic), means it’s totally possible to work and travel. This means you have an income, which can help you to travel on a budget while you explore the world! Think about using your skills for an online business, such as yoga teaching, or English teaching. Alternatively, start your own blog or website to make money online.
7. Volunteer Programs (Save costs to travel cheap)
A great way to travel on a budget is by taking part in a volunteer program or going on a working holiday. What’s more, it’s an excellent way to immerse yourself in the culture of a country. For example, companies such as WorldPackers organize volunteer programs all over the world, where you can exchange your services (painting, cleaning, cooking, teaching, website development) for free accommodation in amazing locations.
If you’d prefer to earn a bit of extra cash, think about a working holiday. For example, a ski season, or working in an Australian vineyard. It’s hard work, but you’ll make lifelong friends, earn some extra money, and get accommodation included.
8. Plan Your Trip
Unfortunately, for those that are spontaneous travelers, traveling without a plan can actually cost you money. If you haven’t researched well, you might accidentally pay more for accommodation than you initially budgeted for. (Learn more about travel insurance here) For example, you may decide to travel to a destination last minute and have to stay in an expensive hotel because all the hostels are full.
9. Travel Off-Season
Traveling off-season is a great way to travel on a budget. Out of the main school holidays, prices drop hugely, particularly in the rainy season. People often think the rainy season, or wintertime, are the times to avoid. However, city trips can be hugely enjoyable in the winter. At this time it’s cool enough to explore, and it’s quieter and cheaper. Additionally, it’s a myth that the monsoon season means rain all day. It’s more likely that rain will only last for an hour or two. This leaves the rest of the day to explore your beautiful destination.
10. Use Public Transport
A top way to travel on a budget is by using public transport, such as buses and trains. It is even possible to travel by night bus across some countries. This is normally much cheaper than flying, and can save you spending money on a night’s accommodation! These days, the night buses are normally fully equipped with beds and even TVs.
11. Talk to Locals/Other Travelers
The best way to get insider knowledge on the cheapest spots, and must-sees, is to talk with locals and other travelers. Make friends with people who know the area well, or have found secret spots. This way, you get to find hidden gems, and off-the-beaten-track destinations. These are often unknown by other tourists, and therefore won’t have such high prices! The internet is a great resource for information, but it can’t compare to the knowledge of a local.