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 45 genius travel hacks for when you’re broke AF:
1. 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!
Travel to countries whose quality of life is inferior to ours or during their low season. Maybe the flights are somewhat higher but, if you opt for Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa or even Latin America, you can find good prices on accommodation and activities. In addition, there are less tourists and you can enjoy other types of activities and landscapes. “But in Asia it’s rainy season,” they’ll tell you. Yes, but it is the best time to see the rice fields on that green colour they show in the catalogues. “- @raponchii
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.
“There are all kinds of hostels: party hostels, relaxing hostels, exotic hostels, rural hostels, etc. Some of its advantages are that usually they have common areas where people meet, so you may end up finding someone to share transportation, dinner or day trips. These ones can be hired from reception. “- @raponchii
The Hostelworld app (free) is the most used by backpackers because you can find and book directly the cheapest and best rated accommodation in the country you wish to travel to.
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 take a free surf class. 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! Some hostels dishes are more delicious than you’ll ever imagine.
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
“The same for some shipping companies, where if you lend a hand they take you to your destination at no cost. “- @raponchii
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. 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!
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!
With this trick you could save on a long distance flight between € 50 or € 300.
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. 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!
14. Travel light
“Save more money while flying by taking carry-on luggage only, and avoid checked luggage fees.” – @BudgetTraveller
Check out our tips how to pack for a hostel to avoid bring more stuff than you actually need. Also make sure you avoid any airline charges by checking out the terms and conditions beforehand. They are all here for you to make it super easy!
15. 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
16. 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).
Another tip is to choose the neighbouring airports. “For example, if you want to visit Laos or Burma, the best option is to fly to Bangkok (to enter to Thailand you do not need to pay a visa) and then look at flights from local companies that fly to your final destination. Many times there is also an option to get there by bus and it is much cheaper. You’d be surprised how cheap it can be to travel to Australia or New Zealand from Southeast Asia. You just have to invest a few hours to find the best combinations. The same if we want to travel to the Caribbean from the United States or move around some parts of Europe. “- @raponchii
17. 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.
“There are two types of people in the world: those who can freely choose their vacations at any time of the year, or those who by obligation leave in August. The first ones have it easy: search for flights and choose the cheapest day to fly (or enter Low Cost Guide and get carried away by any of its finds / bargains) The second can get cheap trips travelling to countries where it is low season “- @raponchii
18. 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 😉
“Some of the advantages of hostels are that they usually have common areas where they can meet people, so you can end up finding someone to share transportation, dinner or excursions. Some of them can be hired from the reception itself. “- @raponchii
20. 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
21. Shop at local markets
Eat seasonal products and local products. Get closer to the local market and observe the prices and the offer. What you can find more easily, will be the cheapest.
“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_
22. 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
23. 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
24. 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.
25. Travel at night and use public transport
“When preparing the route for a country it is convenient to look at what airlines have and what are the prices of their internal flights. Sometimes these are similar to other means of transport, so it is profitable; especially if you have little time. In the event that flying is more expensive, one of the cheapest ways to travel a country is to do it by public transport. Sometimes the distances can be very long, so it is best to opt for the night. In the Asian Sudestes there are numerous bus beds, while in India or Europe you can find them on trains. In this way, not only time is saved, but also the night of accommodation. Another option is to make auto stop. Before launching, look to see how safe is the destination you are traveling to. In New Zealand, for example, this practice is widespread and it is very easy to find a car. ” – @raponchii
26. 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
27. Visit free art galleries and museums
Some cities like London and Berlin are full of free museums , 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!
28. 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.
29. 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
30. 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
31. 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
32. 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.
📷 by: @nataliaanjaphotography
33. 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
Another idea is to try to make them laugh with the feature on our app Speak The World, they will know that you are a tourist but maybe they find you funny and offer their help and goods!
📷 by: @nataliaanjaphotography
34. Also get an ISIC card
Like at home, student discounts are also valid abroad! So if you have a student card … do not forget it! To avoid problems, it is best to get an ISIC card (International Student Identity Card) that is internationally recognised, as your school might not be recognise in the country you are in. An ISIC card can be requested by any student without limit or age restriction. It is valid in 133 countries and with it you can get more than 150,000 discounts.
35. Work and Travel
If you’re able to, work! Some countries (like Australia) 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!
36. Claim tax back
Each country has a different process but it is definitely worth investigating if you can claim the taxes of your purchases during your holidays. Look for the tax free logo in the establishments you visit. Some will require a minimal purchase expense and you will usually have to present the passport. Once at the airport back home, before checking in, introduce yourself at the tax return stand to complete the process.
📷 by: @karynleigh89
37. Buy a SIM card in the country you visit
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.
The end of roaming for mobile users in the European Union has meant a great savings in our travels. Not having to worry about turning off the mobile or deactivating data roaming and using our phone in the same way that if we were in our country eliminates some headaches. We all want to continue to access the internet to make our trip more comfortable. But what happens outside of Europe? You can contact your company and ask about the special rates to use in the mobile abroad. But almost certainly the cheapest option will be to buy a SIM card in your new destination. Check the travellers’ forums to get the best telephone tips about a specific country.
38. 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
39. Check out the free local entertainment
“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
40. 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_
41. 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
42. 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
43. 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
44. 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
45. Choose a destination that fits your budget
“It may seem obvious, but try not to get carried away by the price of flights. “Is that Stockholm for just 50 euros”, you say to yourself excited. Do not buy yet: Have you looked at the standard of living in Sweden? We must think how much we want to spend in total on the trip. Sometimes it is better to pay a little more for the flight and opt for a destination that allows us to enjoy all the comforts “- @raponchii
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