Travel the World on a Budget
Updated: Apr 1
Most people would believe that being a full-time student and traveling the world are mutually exclusive. So how am I doing both? Well, I'm here to tell you that budgeting is REAL, friends! It is absolutely possible to travel the world without a huge amount of money, and I'm here to tell you how.
Four Steps to Cheap Travel
1. Be Savvy with Accommodation
2. Shop Around for Transportation
3. Eat Like a Local
4. Take Advantage of Free Activities
1. Be Savvy with Accommodation:
Finding cheap accommodation can be much easier than you think. Couchsurfing is the ultimate money-saver when it comes to finding accommodation abroad; you can find places to stay quite easily with this fabulous network of travelers, and you’ll be surprised at how gracious and accommodating hosts can be.
Alternatively, you can keep accommodation costs to a minimum by choosing accommodations such as guesthouses or hostels, which provide basic shared rooms for a lower cost. Just be sure to check your expectations at the door if you choose either of these accommodations, as cheap prices usually mean sacrificing location, cleanliness, or atmosphere. On the upside, it’s at these establishments that you can meet other budget travelers, get the low-down on the best activities in the area, and of course, make traveling on a shoestring budget easier.
If you're looking for more privacy, you can utilize sites like Agoda and Air Bnb to rent out a variety of different accommodations ranging from single rooms in a shared home to whole apartments. The choice is yours when it comes to choosing where you would like to stay!
2. Shop Around for Transportation:
Finding cheap flights to specific destinations can be tricky, but there are a plethora of fare-comparing websites that make finding the cheapest deal easy. These websites typically include a notification system you can opt into that can send you an email when flight prices drop below a certain level for your target destination. Talk about a budget traveler’s dream site?!
Flexibility is usually the key to finding the best airfares, so prepare to get spontaneous or change your plans in order to take advantage of cheap deals. Try to book flights in advance, but not too far in advance. Fares can dip down closer to your departure date if the airline needs to sell seats, but don’t expect a rock-bottom price the day before you fly.
If you hone your packing skills until you can get all of your belongings into a carry-on bag, you can save money by avoiding the added fees for checked luggage on budget airlines too. If you are flying with a budget airline, be aware of all the ways they sneak in extra fees and charges, though.
Once you’ve reached your location, using public transportation, walking, or renting a bike for the day can be the most thrifty way to get around town.
Here are some of my absolutely favorite websites for finding cheap airline tickets worldwide:
3. Eat Like a Local:
You can save a large portion of your money by saving on food prices. Splurging on local delicacies is fine, but dining out in posh restaurants isn’t really feasible for the average budget traveler. Many accommodations have a kitchen available to their guests for this very reason, so take advantage of it by buying your own food and cooking for yourself. When shopping for food, look for markets instead of chain supermarkets; if you fancy a piece of fruit for your snack, it’s probably fresher and more local in the markets, as well as significantly cheaper than supermarket equivalents.
If you feel like you aren’t exactly a culinary genius, you can also save cash by buying food from street vendors. If you get sick of (or sick from) street food, look for the restaurants where locals like to eat (hint: look for the uber long lines; these places will be worth the wait). Usually, simple, straightforward lunch or dinner spots will be the cheapest, and will serve up huge servings!! In regions like Western Europe, many restaurants will offer a menu of the day, which packs together a three-course meal for a set (and very reasonable) price, so keep an eye out for these.
The cardinal food rule of budget travelers? Always avoid overpriced tourist restaurants in main sightseeing areas!
4. Take Advantage of Free Activities:
Depending on your interests and what you want to do, finding free activities may not be as hard as you think. You’ll be surprised by all that you can see and do in different cities just by walking around. Adventurous travelers may actually love wandering around soaking up the local ambiance even more so than doing organized activities or attending scheduled events. You’ll get a chance to see less touristy areas and meet locals more easily if you choose to explore in this way, and guess what? Wandering around is free, making it the perfect way to travel on a shoestring budget!
If you tend to like a more structured schedule, ask around or look at local publications to learn about free activities in the area. In some countries and cities, visiting churches, cathedrals, and museums is completely free (while in more popular regions, like Barcelona, for example, many require an entrance fee). Others may offer free entry on holidays, or on specific dates (such as the first Sunday of every month), and in many places, you can follow free walking tours!
Now that you've read through these four easy steps to travel the world on a budget, where are you going to travel next??