Often find yourself scrolling through your social feed, daydreaming about faraway lands, inspiring photography and life-changing adventure? Then you wake up and check your bank balance…dammit. To travel on a budget is a daunting thing to many people, and unfortunately can deter some would-be wanderers from experiencing this incredible planet. To help you get the most out of your journey, here are 55 genius travel hacks for when you’re broke AF:
1. Book using a private browsing window
Always make sure you clear your browser cookies, and even use a private/incognito window while searching for flights. Websites have a tricky way of tracking what prices you’ve been quoted in the past, so in order to make things competitive and cheap, make sure you’re browsing on the hush!
2. Stay in hostels
This one is pretty obvious but it cannot be overstated just how much more wallet-friendly budget accommodation options like hostels are compared with hotels, resorts and rental homes. Not only are you getting lower prices (some hostel beds are literally just a couple of dollars per night), but you’re getting the authentic backpacker atmosphere, and memories to last a lifetime.
3. Take free classes
So many hostels around the world offer free classes for guests. You can sooth your soul with some yoga, learn how to whip up some local cuisine, or even flex your creative muscles with some art. With a little research it’s pretty easy to find out which hostels offer the best free classes for backpackers.
4. Hostels often have free food
It may seem obvious, but SO many hostels offer free food. Yeah of course breakfast is often a given, but there are hostels all over the world that provide baked goods, BBQ, pizza nights and loads more. Stock up on free eats to take with you while you’re off adventuring for the day!
5. Venture off-the-beaten-path to save money
Tourist traps can be an absolute nightmare for your wallet. Sure, the they are usually popular for a reason, but literally anywhere you choose to visit will have so many incredible things to see, people to meet and food to try that you won’t have to spend loads or queue for hours just to get close! Even some destinations that appear to be a little off-the-beaten-path are becoming more and more popular with backpackers as their hidden gems are slowly discovered.
6. Treasure experiences over material things
Souvenirs are overrated. Seriously! Instead of bringing back a suitcase full of touristy paraphernalia, why not focus on collecting memories and experiences instead of material things. It makes your travel so much happier, your bags so much lighter, and your wallet so much fatter.
“Save even more money on accommodation by working in hostels too. Most hostels need cleaners and reception workers and many offer work exchange programmes where you work a few hours per day in exchange for free accommodation.” – @BudgetTraveller
8. Do you know how much a visa costs?
Some countries don’t require visas for entry as a short term traveller, and others charge for the privilege of entering. Be aware what you’re getting into, as you can plan your journey around destinations with cheap visa processes.
9. Book in advance
Another simple thing to remember, but often prices will go up as time gets closer to your trip. Booking train journeys, hostel beds and of course air travel ahead of time guarantees you won’t get stuck having to spring for a flashier room or a last minute price gouged flight.
10. Plan around off-peak travel times
Be aware of the seasonality of travel. What is considered to be “off-peak” in one country might not be in another. Various destinations have different tourist seasons so make sure to do your research. With a little planning you can ensure you plan around the price hikes and tourist swarms!
11. Use a VPN to find the cheapest deals
Prices can vary depending on where you are booking from. Using a simple VPN on your computer can make it look like you’re booking from another place. Definitely worth trying and shopping around the get the best deals!
12. Save up frequent flyer miles
Chances are, at some point your adventures will take you far enough away that you’ll need to fly. It’s definitely worth joining a frequent flyer program and racking up those miles/points. Over time they really add up and can get you discounted flights and upgrades!
13. Shop around
Another simple one, but it’s so important! Don’t just settle for the first few flight or hostel prices you see. Shop around! Check Skyscanner, and the Hostelworld app. Ask travel buddies for their site recommendations. Don’t settle just to save time!
14. Make the most of sales events
While people are loading up on new TVs and tablets during Black Friday and the Boxing Day Sales, skip straight to the flight sites and Hostelworld. Your wallet will thank you!
15. Travel light
“Save more money while flying by taking carry-on luggage only, and avoid checked luggage fees.” – @BudgetTraveller
16. Rent a bicycle
“When you need to travel that bit further, rent a bicycle. Not only does it allow you to get around on the cheap but it also keeps you fit!”- @BudgetTraveller
17. Mix and match using different airports
It’s all about changing it up! Sure a flight from London to New York might seem expensive, but if the outbound and return flights leave from different airports in the two cities, you could end up saving a bunch. Plus, sometimes other countries and airlines will offer discounts just for stopping for a layover in their country. If you stop in Iceland for example, that NYC to LDN journey becomes a lot more doable (plus you get a free mini trip within a trip).
18. Be flexible
This might be one of the most important qualities for a budget savvy backpacker to have. Being able to drop plans and switch things up at the last minute will help you take advantage of deals and opportunities that arise on your travels. Don’t be tied to your plans.
19. Be strong
Of course no journey is without its little problems, but when an airline or accommodation actually messes up your journey in a preventable way, stand up for yourself. Calmly work with customer service reps to make sure you’re compensated. Don’t waste money on poor service!
📸 by: @JohannaW
20. Do your research
A no brainer really. One of the biggest mistakes a money-conscious traveller can make is to rush into plans. It might be tempting, and sometimes taking your time can be a hassle, but take a moment to read some inspiring and helpful blog posts, shop around, talk with other travellers, read reviews etc.
📸 by: Jennifer Lachs
Perhaps the best source of money saving knowledge is experience, and who better to ask than real travellers themselves. Talk with everyone you know who’s been out backpacking, read authentic forums and articles by those who have gone before. You know, and articles like this one 😉
22. Start your digital detox
Travelling the world is an amazing time to break away from the addiction of electronics. You’ll save on batteries, chargers, travel adaptors, Wi-Fi charges, roaming fees, electronics insurance etc. Life is cheaper when you’re not worried about gadgets.
23. Get to know the locals
Take it from our expert Australian local: “Don’t pay $350 to climb it when you can walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge pedestrian footpath for free. Want the best views in Sydney? The Coogee to Bondi coastal walk is free and will take a couple of hours. Why not pack a picnic lunch? Surfers Paradise too crowded? Escape the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed vibe on the Southern Gold Coast without the bling and expense of Surfers. Give Kirra, Burleigh or Coolangatta a try. Also, over 2 weeks in January, Sydney Festival holds over 450 performances and 150 events performed by over 1000 artists in 46 venues. Most are FREE or less than $30!!” – @KristyDoesStuff
24. Shop at local markets
“Temple Bar in Dublin is home to 3 different types of markets all held over the weekend. They offer cheaper and more unique souvenirs than what you will find in the shops.” – @KristyDoesStuff
📸 by: @raquelalmeida_
25. Turn on notifications
“Often sites like Skyscanner will give you an option to set up some alerts so you’re the first to know when new deals come in. Travel Pirates, Thrifty Traveler and also good bets. I even regularly check Fares Error on twitter. They post erroneous fares so you can book before they’re corrected. You have to buy the ticket and wait 24 hours before planning your trip. If they catch the error within 24 hours they can cancel the trip but afterwards you’re good to go!” – @wordswithfran
26. Be open to new places
We all have lengthy bucket lists but don’t be married to them! Sometimes some of the most amazing destinations in the world aren’t on your radar yet but are totally worth the trip. Often they’ll even been cheaper too. This year a whole batch of previously under the radar destinations are emerging as backpacker havens, partly because they just aren’t as expensive as the traditional hot spots but still pack a hell of a punch.
📸 by: Emily Mulligan
27. Travel Tuesdays
“When booking flights, Tuesday is almost always the cheapest priced day of the week to travel, due to the low demand for flights on this day. If you’re willing and able to travel out and/or back on a Tuesday, this will save you some money.” – @BudgetTraveller
28. Bring food with you
Stuff your pockets for the road! Bring food from home, shop at grocery stores instead of restaurants etc. It might not be as glamorous as dining at fancy cafes and eateries, but financially it’s a live-saver.
29. Travel at night
“Save a night’s money on accommodation and take the night bus or train. Particularly in Europe, you’ll find the night trains can be quite comfortable. In countries like Argentina, the night buses often offer 180 degree reclining seats.” – @BudgetTraveller
30. Get your walking tour on
Walking tours of one of the best ways to explore a new city. Often they’re free and led by experienced locals.
“Jerusalem is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Go on a free old city walking tour with SANDEMAN Tour Company at 11am & 2pm. Ahhh-mazing!” – @KristyDoesStuff
31. Discover street art
I believe one of the best ways to truly know a city is to explore its street art. You’ll discover the cultural nuances, colours, themes, styles and stories that make the city what it is. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing!
32. Visit free art galleries and museums
Some cities like London are full of free things to do, including numerous collections of art and history that are free to the viewing public. Other cities charge a small fee for entrance into their museums, but even those places frequently offer discounts and even free days. Google it!
33. Bring a hammock
“In my experience, some overbooked hostels will let you set up a hammock (and for a cheaper fee than a dorm bed).” – @BudgetTraveller
34. Cook in hostel kitchens
“Most hostels have hostel kitchens. By eating in, you can save an absolute fortune on meals.” – @BudgetTraveller Remember what we said earlier about taking food with you? Same applies here! If you have access to a usable hostel kitchen, cooking and sharing a meal with other travellers will be soooo much cheaper than a night on the town.
35. Learn to haggle
“In many cultures it’s the norm to bargain a price down from the asking price. It may not feel comfortable but it’s normal. But, also know when to stop and pay a decent price. ” – @JohannaW
36. Focus on lunch
“If you do decide to eat out in more expensive restaurants, eat out at lunch instead of dinner. In most places a lunch deal is a lot cheaper than the full price they charge at dinner.” – @BudgetTraveller
37. Choose local beer/wine
“When drinking in or out, be sure to buy local brands of beer and wine. It’s usually a lot cheaper than the more well-known international brands.” – @BudgetTraveller
38. Take a bottle with you
Save the environment and your money at the same time! Taking a sturdy water bottle with you while you’re out and about will save so much money often shed on drinking water throughout the day. Especially when you’re travelling in a place that would require you buying bottled water to stay safe, BYOBottle!
39. Make friends
“Share. Even, when travelling solo it’s possible to share. Often when a dorm-buddy is heading home after a trip they’ll offer their shampoo, bug-spray etc. Make sure you do the same as it’s such a treat when you get new products for your journey” – @JohannaW
40. Walk as much as possible
Travel will turn you into a walker. It’s amazing to explore large swathes of countryside on a moped or by bus, but whenever you can (and especially if you’re in a city), stretch those legs and stroll! You’ll burn those pesky calories, save some pennies, and definitely get to know the nooks and crannies of your chosen city in far more detail.
41. Learn the language
“If you can converse in the local language – make sure you do! In some destinations such as Tenerife and Delhi, there’s a locals rate in the shops and a tourists rate. Sometimes just by speaking the local language when you go into the shop, they charge you the local rate.” – @BudgetTraveller
42. Get a student ID
“Just like you can get student discounts at home, you can get student discounts abroad too! So if you have a student ID card – make sure you bring it! You’d be surprised how many attractions offer a discounted rate for students…” – @BudgetTraveller
43. Also get an ISIC card
“Get an official International Student Identity Card and you could get thousands of extra discounts in up to 45 different countries. There is also a youth card available for those under 30 but not in full-time education.” – @BudgetTraveller
44. Work and Travel
If you’re able to, work! Some countries (like New Zealand) can issue a working holiday visa, which will allow you to work certain types of jobs for a limited time. If your passport or visa allows, earn that cash!
45. Claim tax back
Not only do some countries let you work while you’re travelling, but often there’s a way to claim tax back from your working holiday. Every country has a different process, but it’s definitely worth looking into.
📸 by: @karynleigh89
46. Get with the right phone provider
Plan now to be on a phone provider that provides a travel friendly service. This isn’t always possible, but the UK’s 3 Mobile for example offers free international roaming in certain countries. Check traveller forums and facebook pages for the best country by country phone tips. No brainer.
47. Free Wi-Fi y’all
“Wi-Fi in some countries is expensive (and slow) so try a coffee shop or hostel (check first) to get connected for free.” – @KristyDoesStuff
If you’re looking to stay connected on the go, know what you’re getting into. Obviously some countries will only have very limited access, whereas in Japan or the USA you’ll be just fine. Gotta get those bars!
📸 by: Chris Oakley
48. Street food is cheap food
“Eating street food tends to be the cheapest way to feed yourself on a budget. There’s a lot of unnecessary fear around this. You can actually watch the food being prepared and cooked, so it’s better than being hidden away in a kitchen. Go for the stands that have a steady queue and freshly prepared food.” – @JohannaW
49. Let each city come to life
“Can’t afford to go clubbing? Grab a take away bottle of beer and enjoy the many street musicians. Guaranteed amazing entertainment till the wee hours!” – @KristyDoesStuff
50. Avoid taxis
“Always try and use public transport, over taxis, even when you arrive in a new country. Often the local metro or bus service is a fraction of the price of a taxi and is a great way of getting to grips with a new city straight away.” – @JohannaW
📸 by: @raquelalmeida_
51. Look for quirky transport
You don’t always have to take a bus or a train. Try local fishing boats, kayaks, trams, scooters, rickshaws etc. There’s certainly no good reason not to do a little exploring to find a way of getting around that you wouldn’t find back home, and often it’ll be a lot cheaper. Cable car anyone…?
📸 by: @mochilerostv
52. Check out the side streets
“When eating out, always explore the side-streets. It sounds obvious but if you’re in the main tourist drag expect to pay tourist prices. Check whether there’s an additional charge for sitting outside on a terrace, before you start eating.” – @JohannaW
53. Pool hop
“Sometimes it pays to be a little sneaky. Like when staying in budget accommodation in SE Asia, the 5 star resorts will often let you use their pool for free so long as you buy a drink.” – @KristyDoesStuff
54. Sell as you go
Check local listings and hostel notice boards for all the latest classifieds. You might find it’s cheaper to buy a used vehicle, and then sell it when you’re done. “For example, if you’re done travelling Australia and need to sell your van, check out the backpacker car market in Kings Cross undercover car park.” – @KristyDoesStuff
55. Instagram tips
A less obvious source of budget travel tips is Instagram. Searching through hashtags like #budgettravel and following your favourite inspirational travellers will be invaluable to your planning.
Banner 📸 by:@TeeJayHughes