Top 10 tips to Travel the World on a Budget
Do you want to travel, but don't have much money?
That's exactly the situation I've been in for the past few years but I've traveled to over 25 countries, usually on a very tight budget. I've been paying off students loans and working overseas at a job that gives me a lot of vacation, but not a huge paycheck. But, I haven't let it be an obstacle to my passion of seeing the world. I know all the tips and tricks to make your holiday plan a success, even if you don't have a lot of money. Everything from picking the right destination, to accommodation, food, and transportation. It's easier than you think to see the world cheaply. Read on for my top tips and tricks to travel on a budget.
#1: Choose the right place to travel to
The most important thing to traveling the world on a budget is to choose the right countries to visit in the first place. Any place in the first world will be too expensive. So North America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Japan and New Zealand are out. If you're looking for a place where you can travel cheaply, why not think about Central or South America or South-East Asia. My favorite cheap places in South-East Asia are Cambodia and Laos. Africa is actually surprisingly expensive, especially for accommodation.
#2: Don't book accommodation ahead of time
It may be tempting to get your hostel sorted out ahead of time from home, but actually, the cheapest places are not often even advertised on the internet. And you could book and pay for a week, only to discover that you want to leave after one night.
My suggestion is to only book the FIRST night, after you get off the airplane. That way, you have a place to go straight from the airport and don't have anything to worry about. After that, start talking to the other travelers and find out the best deals in town.
Also, if you're staying in a place for more than a few days, don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Most places will do this.
#3: Only do free things when you're traveling on a budget
This is one of my rules for when I travel to a bit more expensive places, such as Europe, but it can also work for cheaper countries as well. I make it my goal to only do things that are free. There are plenty of sights to see and things to do that don't require any money. Go for a walk, talk to the locals, take some pictures, sit in a local cafe and have a cheap cup of coffee. Once every few days, I'll make an exception and pay for one thing if it's a must-see. It keeps things interesting.
#4: For food, go local
This can be one of the biggest money-savers on your trip. If you eat Western Style food, you'll end up paying significantly more than if you just ate local. My favorite place to find cheap food is from the street-vendors. You can't get cheaper, and in Asia, it's usually prepared right in front of you, on the spot, so food poisoning shouldn't be an issue. And actually, I've never gotten sick eating from street vendors, but have gotten sick from eating at nice Western restaurants!
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#5: Pack Light to travel on a budget
If you only bring a small carry-on bag with all your stuff, you'll save money on the discount air-carriers, such as Air Asia or Cebu Pacific. Plus, you'll save yourself lots of time and hassle by having to wait for your baggage to come out.
But the best thing about this is that you'll be more inspired to walk places instead of taking a more expensive taxi. For example, say I want to change hostels. The new hostel is only about 2 kms away, but I have a big suitcase. I'll take a taxi. If I have only a small backpack, I'd for sure walk. I can think of a hundred more examples!
And, think about it. Does a giant suitcase with everything but the kitchen sink really go with the budget traveler? Of course not. A small backpack fits the image!
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#6: Travel with a friend to split costs when traveling
Traveling with a friend, or an even number of people will save you a lot of money. You can often get group discounts for any activities that you'll do. The cost for every taxi ride or airport shuttle that you take will be split in 1/2 because there are 2 of you. Also, if you book a hotel or a private hostel room for the night, your cost will be split in 1/2. You can also pack lighter, since you really don't need more than 1 guidebook, camera, computer, power converter, etc, etc. This is probably the biggest way to save money while traveling.
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#7: Think Beach for Cheap Travel
If you are in a country that has some beaches, go hang out at them for a few days. Lounging on the beach, drinking some fruit shakes and getting a cheap massage is usually cheaper than touring around the cities. Rent a mask and snorkel and set off on your own for a bit, checking out the underwater sights. Find yourself a nice, cheap beach hovel!
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#8: Bargain for almost everything when traveling!
If you're from the Western world, you're probably not used to bargaining. Prices are generally set and there's no wiggle room. However, in most of the third world, bargaining, especially at markets, for transport, and for souvenirs is just a way of life. The first price you're quoted is often at least double what the true price is, so don't be afraid to aim much lower. Don't be afraid to walk way. Most people will come running after you to offer you a lower price.
But, please bargain with a smile on your face and don't get angry. Keep it light.
#9: Use your own power to save money
It's ALWAYS Cheaper to just walk places instead of taking a tour, private or even public transport. And, it's usually not so far from the sights, if you plan correctly and are staying somewhere central. Get yourself a map and just walk places, if it's less than say 5 km. When I've walked places, it's been the most rewarding parts of my trip because you see the unexpected and meet random people that you otherwise would never have met.
If it's a bit further, look into renting yourself a bicycle. This is a cheap way to see all the further sights in one day, without tiring yourself out too much, or leaving your wallet empty.
#10: Have money coming in while you're traveling
This is one of the keys to traveling cheaply. If you have a job that gives you big paid vacations, you can not worry so much about traveling cheaply. For example, at my job I get 4 months of paid vacation. During these 4 months, I don't worry so much about saving money, but my goal is just to break even. During the other 8 months, I work a lot of overtime and try to put some money in the bank.
Or, you could set up some passive income things, or invest money so that you have dividends coming in.
Bonus Tip: Research cheap airfare tickets
The biggest part of your trip budget will be your airfare. Which makes it all the more unbelievable that people often spend a few minutes searching around on the internet and buy one of the first tickets they see that looks okay. You can save a substantial amount of money on your plane ticket by doing some research. When I travel, I usually spend 20-30 hours researching travel sites and talking to travel agents in order to get a cheap flight. I've saved thousands of dollars by doing this.
My favorite Iphone app for doing this is: Skyscanner. Find the cheap flights quickly and easily. I'll often use this for my initial research to see which airlines are the cheapest to my certain destination, and then go directly to that airline's website to actually book. Be beware: I don't think they include the discount carriers like Air Asia or Cebu Pacific so check those sites also.