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How to travel the world on a budget?

Updated on May 9, 2015

Travel is assumed to be expensive, thanks to our travel habits. Since we only take two or three weeks of holidays, we tend to splurge and consume much more money than necessary. Not every country is easy to travel cheap. European countries tend to be expensive. The same is true for the US and other parts of the world. We usually stay for shorter periods of time in expensive countries and stay for ages in the cheap countries.


There is a distinct difference between vacation and travel. This article is about travel. Travel is a way of life and people can travel for years on end. Vacation is a two week holiday where you prefer to lie down at a beach for most of the time. Lying on the beach is also possible when traveling, but it isn't the main reason of travel. Travel is about the experience, the people, the culture and so much more. Most regular vacationers never see the life as it is in the country they visit. They only see the main tourist attractions and the inside of their hotel.

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I tried multiple ways of travel. For a week, I traveled with a group and a travel agency. What a disaster it was! The trip alone was very expensive and the travel agency makes sure that you consume some meals in expensive restaurants. The tour bus takes you to a designated restaurant, especially for tourists. Of course the tour group leader gets his meal for free. The food they serve is as close as it can be to the food at home. Most of the time they have a local dish on the menu, so tourists can try some local food. That is not the way to do it!

Another annoyance is that the tour bus stopped at the same viewpoints every time. Locals know this and await you so you can take pictures of them and then pay them for the photo. Those aren't real photo's. If you want to travel on a budget, travel by yourself.

Wether you travel on your own or with a partner or friend, is up to you. We traveled as a couple and hope to travel much more. Choosing your own itinerary gives you so much freedom, you'll never go back to the group travel. Our travels lasted longer, since we spent less money. Here's how we do it!

Cheap destinations

Choosing your destination may be the most important decision in your budget travel experience. When choosing the wrong country, you could be broke within two weeks. Countries in Asia, Central and South America are good for your budget. We stayed for 6 weeks in Guatemala and spent only a few Euro’s. When we traveled to the expensive Argentina later, we noticed we could stay on budget. When visiting a more expensive country, you can cut down the expenses by visiting less hostels and more local couches through CouchSurfing.

Cheap food

Eating in restaurants is always fun, but sets you back a lot of money. While staying at hostels with a kitchen, we mostly cook our own meals. We buy some vegetables at the local markets, sometimes some meat and just made our own dinner. This results in the fact that you sometimes travel with half a bag of rice and an onion. I don't mind that. By visiting local markets and grocery stores, you get in touch with the real life in a certain place. Whenever we eat out, we look for places where lots of locals eat. If the place is full of locals, you'll eat good and cheap. And most important: you'll pay the price the locals pay. That is the price for food in that country and you get some local dishes.

Cheap accommodation

Hostels are the way to go. Most of the hostels have private rooms and dorms. Dorms are very budget friendly, but private rooms in hostels tend to be cheaper than a regular hostel. Most of the time you can use the kitchen for free, which saves you more money.

Other options are websites like Couchsurfing. With the couchsurfing way-of-travel, you can stay at people's homes for free. You won't pay money for your stay, but you should be involved, friendly and helpful. Staying at the house of a local has many benefits. You get to know the local culture, eat local dishes and if you're lucky, you'll get a private tour of the city.

Workaway is a nice way to really get to know a place and culture. The workaway principle is all about volunteering. You might have already noticed that volunteering mostly costs a lot of money. The WorkAway website is en place where employers and volunteers meet. You pay a small fee for a 2 year membership. Once you're a member you can see all the hosts and pick a place you want to go. Since WorkAway is such an interesting issue, I'll write a separate article on that in a few days.

Cheap transportation

We always travel with public transportation, mostly buses or trains. The tourist shuttles tend to be expensive and extremely busy. If you want to see the real country you visit, live the real life and meet the real locals: on a regular bus.

When traveling in Europe or the US, you can use apps like BlaBlaCar to find cheaper transportation. Trains and buses aren't cheap in Europe.

Wherever you go and whatever you do, there is always an options to do things cheaper than you do right now. And if you really want to travel the world with a tight budget, you have to let go of common luxury and open your eyes to the world. Luxury doesn't have to be buying stuff. Waking up on a deserted beach with a beautiful sunrise can be luxury and it can be for free. And don't forget to bargain!

Don't be shy!

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