If you’re really looking to get out there and travel more, but you don’t have the funds to take the trips you’ve always dreamed of, think again.
You’ll be pleased to know there are lots of ways you can make your travel cheap. Make some sacrifices and get creative, that’s what you need to keep in mind.
In this guide we’re going to explain exactly how to travel cheap, and sometimes free. ,can save money on every single aspect of your travels, and still have an amazing time.
Tips, tricks, secrets, hacks – whatever you want to call them. We’ve compiled a list of our very own techniques that work, combined with helpful tips from our interviews with several seasoned round-the-world travellers.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to travel anywhere you can dream of with a small budget.
Table of Contents
The better you plan your adventure, the more possible it is to travel cheap and for longer.
- Travel to affordable countries – If you want to travel cheap, the first obvious step is to pick somewhere that’s affordable. Your daily costs will be much lower and as a result you’ll be able to do more and stay for longer.
Asia has a host of affordable countries to visit: Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Laos and the Philippines are all great options.
Europe: Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Italy, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Serbia, Latvia and Lithuania are all beautiful and affordable countries to travel to.
Rest of the world: Iran, Columbia, El Salvador, Mexico, Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Cuba, Morocco, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Egypt and Tunisia are all brilliant places to start.
- Travel during low season – If you can, avoid the tourist-heavy destinations in the summer months. Visit these more popular places during early autumn or at the start of spring if possible. If you have flexibility over when you book your holidays, avoid school holidays. The difference booking a week, even several days outside of this time can make an enormous difference. Like this you’ll get to experience popular cities without hordes of tourists and long queues.
- Book international flights 2 months in advance – To get the best chance of finding low-priced flights, try out our popular cheap flight guide here
- Plan your visas in advance – You can find out if you need a visa to travel to a particular country with iVisa. Take note of how much they will cost to buy and how long it takes to become available. Sometimes you will have to wait weeks, even months for the visa to be ready. Organizing visas once you are already on your journey can create unnecessary stress and sometimes cost you valuable time.
Travelling as light as possible is a great way to experience more freedom. Avoid charges for exceeding your weight limit with a scale to keep at home. That way you can weigh your luggage before you leave for the airport. Also, there are some items that you don’t want to forget to take with you. This can be another unnecessary expense that will eat into your travel budget. There’s many clever packing techniques that allow you to use your space more wisely. I’ve collected a collection of expert tips and advice from air cabin crew on how to pack light to assist you.
Transport is another area where you can save a lot of money. Try to avoid taxis at all costs, especially going to and from the airport – the rates can fluctuate wildly. Carefully plan the most cost-effective transport options per mile. Coach companies like Flixbus and Megabus can get you around for a decent price.
Another option to travel overland at a low cost is car-pooling. Services like BlaBlaCar allow a safer, more efficient way of hitching a ride in someone else’s car. It’s available in many countries worldwide too. This dramatically reduces the cost of getting about and you could make some new friends along the way.
If you intend to use your own vehicle to travel overland, find a suitable service for your area that indicates the cheapest fuel prices around you. GasBuddy for travelling in the USA, Petrol Spy for Australia and Fuel-Flash for travelling in Europe are all great examples of this type of service.
The final option, which is still widely used by travellers all around the world is hitch-hiking. It’s not as dangerous as it’s been made out to be as long as you apply common sense and choose your rides wisely. Gas stations and rest areas are good places to thumb a lift from place to place. Make yourself a nice, visible sign and don’t forget to smile, it helps!
Manage your money wisely
Manage your money well, and it’ll go a lot further in helping you get the most from your travels. Being misinformed can be costly, especially with regards to exchanging foreign currency and bank fees for card transactions. To learn all about managing your money when you travel, including how to collect rewards, check out our complete guide here.
Food and Drink
Food and drink is another area that you can work on to travel cheap. Here are some tips to survive your adrenaline-filled days without splashing out on expensive meals.
- Free breakfasts – I wouldn’t recommend paying for a hotel breakfast. If a free breakfast is included with your room, by all means take advantage and fill-up. You can even wrap some food to keep in your bag with you if you want to really take advantage of this.
- Visit food markets in the morning – I’ve found many times that browsing local food markets in the morning and appearing genuinely curious and interested in what’s on offer can score you some free fruit, olives and other small snacks. Vendors want to show their generosity in the hope that you will buy something from them, however it’s not necessarily expected of you to make a purchase afterwards.
- Buffet restaurants – Often low prices, a great selection and usually you can sit down and eat at any time of day. Have a look for a buffet restaurant where locals are eating. Fill yourself up to keep yourself going for the rest of the day, you might not even need an evening meal.
- Trade for food – It’s possible sometimes to offer some help in exchange for a meal. or snack, then offer your helping hands. Locals are much more likely to offer you some food in exchange for a bit of your time instead of giving you cash in hand.
- Daily snacks – Simple and effective snacks will boost your protein and sugar levels to keep you full of energy without the need for a meal. Dried fruits, nuts, cured meats and cheese snacks are all great for eradicating those moments of hunger. Visit local grocery stores, supermarkets or penny markets for compact travel snacks and keep them stored in a cool, dry place in your bag where they wont get squashed, ready for when you need them.
- Avoid tourist traps – Restaurants and cafes located in main squares, on rooftops or within view of famous landmarks will come with hiked-up price tags as you’re also paying for the privilege of the location. Look for establishments on backstreets and away from crowded tourists areas where you can see locals eating.
Finding a safe and comfortable place to stay overnight is often the biggest daily expense we encounter when on a trip.
Nowadays, there are so many different types of accommodation available you’re not solely limited to hotels. If your adventure leads you away from cities and civilization in general, your options can become more limited but also more interesting. It’s important to plan ahead whenever possible and if you’re staying for a longer period of time, see if you can negotiate a discount in advance.
Hotels are the most widely available kind of accommodation and the price can vary a lot depending on the popularity of your location. Just because they can be expensive, you shouldn’t rule them out entirely. In many destinations, hotels are just as affordable as apartment rentals, or hostels and can come with added benefits like increased security and secure parking.
- Always check booking sites – Sites like Booking.com and Hotels.com allow you to search for the cheapest hotels in your area. Call the hotels directly to see if they can beat the price you are offered on the booking site as sometimes this proves to be a success. Limit the facilities included to only those you’ll actually use and make sure you always check-out with enough time.
- Avoid the mini-bar – Indulging in the mini-bar is a terrible way to burn some cash. Avoid it like the plague and instead, buy water, alcohol or any snacks you might need while in your room from an affordable place outside.
- Don’t pass-up on free breakfasts – If a free breakfast is provided, take it. If you want to, pack some food in napkins and save it to keep you fuelled up during the day. If you have to pay for the breakfast, it often isn’t worth the extra cost!
- Ask for last-minute cancellations – Sometimes there are cheaper rooms available due to cancellations. These rooms are often not shown on booking websites, it’s always worth a try.
Rent a property
Renting a property is a fantastic way to keep your travel on a controlled budget, and make your experience more authentic and relaxing. There’s a diverse range of properties available, from forest cabins in North America, to canal boats in the Netherlands. Whatever your preferred style, chances are, a perfect property is out there for you at a very reasonable price. Check out what kinds of properties are available to rent in the destination of your choice with sites like Airbnb and Vrbo.
- Avoid hosts with a low score or none at all – No matter how tempting the offer seems to be, your safety and security is the most important factor when staying in a foreign country.
- Renting can save you money – if you are planning to stay somewhere for more than a week, often hosts offer discounts the longer you want to stay.
- Cook for yourself – Take advantage of the refrigerator and cooking facilities in the property. You can save a considerable amount of money compared to eating out.
- Consider the extra fees. When comparing properties, take note of their service/cleaning charges. Sometimes this isn’t included in the room price you see initially. Once added up, some of the properties that initially looked like a great deal can actually be hiding unreasonable service charges.
- It’s cheaper a cheaper way to stay in expensive cities – Renting out someone’s room, apartment or house can be a more affordable way to stay in a location that is a bit pricey for your budget.
One of the advantages of booking into a hostels is they are often the cheapest accommodation available. The downside is they are only usually available in cities that experience a fair amount of tourism.
Hostels offer a communal experience and are a great place to make friends while on your travels and stay over for longer without spending a lot of money. Hostels range in type from the no-thrills basic option all the way to artsy, boutique hostels with vibrant decor and homely living spaces.
- Download popular booking apps – Hostelworld.com and Hostelbookers.com are useful for finding local hostels all around the world at good prices. They include user reviews which can really make choosing the right hostel for you, a lot easier and more assuring. With the app you can search for hostels offering a range of facilities and easily save them to be viewed later.
- Sort by cheapest first – Start with the cheapest options available and work your way through the listings until you find the first hostel that doesn’t have shocking reviews and the photos of the place look good to you. You’ll arrive at the perfect choice when you strike a balance between great price and the quality of accommodation.
- Stay in larger dorms – This saves you some money, and it doesn’t always mean the room will be filled with other people. You’ll have to get used to being around more people but getting to know the people you’re sharing with is a great way to feel more comfortable. If you don’t get along with the other people in the room, you can ask to change dorm rooms at the reception.
- Avoid private rooms – There’s really no point in choosing a private room in a hostel. You’ll pay just as much as in a hotel.
If you are a someone that likes camping, you could find campsites around where you want to stay to reduce the costs of accommodation.
- Find the cheapest campsites – Use sites like Pitchup.com – it’s a great website that works much in the same way that hotel or hostel booking sites do. Enter the location you want to visit, and browse the range of campsites and unique nature areas to pitch your tent in the UK, Europe and the Americas.
- Campsites are cheap – Daily rates for places to pitch your tent can be as little as £5 in Europe – even less in cheap countries. Some campsites even offer laundry, kitchen facilities and places to charge your devices.
- Work out a deal with the operators – If you are planning to stay at a particular campsite for more than a few days, have a chat with the staff and see if you can wiggle a deal to get a little discount. Maybe offering to lend a helping hand around the site for an hour or two could help your chances. The worst that can happen is they say no. Don’t ask, don’t get.
Wild camping is 100% free in cost, and 100% free with regards to your own freedom; the only downside is it requires the most effort to find a place to spend the night. Wild camping allows you to spend the evening in some of the most scenic locations, feel like a real part of nature and means you’ll have experiences in places that are truly unique to you.
Of course, wild camping in quite a lot of places is illegal, but it generally won’t land you in any trouble. Wild camping is a money-saving method that is used by travellers worldwide to maximise the amount of time they can travel for.
- Use your map – to find suitable locations, look for sparse areas of nature, a decent distance from roads, towns and villages. When you’ve found an area, look for a spot that’s obscured by trees or bushes, and isn’t near any walking paths.
- Check the laws on starting fires – It’s worth carrying out a little research on the consequences if you get caught starting a fire somewhere in nature. In countries like Germany and Austria, active patrols search forest areas looking for wild campers and fines for starting fires in the wild, especially in the summer can be in the region of $500! quickly ruining your holiday and any chances of staying on a budget.
- Ask farmers/landowners if you can pitch on their land – If you start to run out of options and you’re struggling to find a wild camping sport, but there is a farmhouse nearby, try asking if you can pitch your tent on their farmland. Make sure you don’t leave a trace of your existence when you pack up and be respectful of any rules they may have.
To spice up your adventures, you’re going to want to take part in some activities. Now, there are many experiences that will set you back a lot of money such as flying in a hot-air balloon or swimming with dolphins. And travelling the world on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to rule these activities out. Perhaps the best strategy is to research which countries are the most affordable to experience these activities and use some of the money you’ve saved so far to tick some of these things off of your bucket list.
For the most part, there are just as many day-to-day activities you can experience without spending any money.
- Free festivals, live performances, museums and galleries – You’d be surprised how many free performances there are out there for you to enjoy. Whether it’s street parties, carnivals, festivals or galleries and museums, things always feel better when you know you’re getting them for free. Take a look on the official website for the town or city you intend to visit and have a look at their events calendar to see any free events.
- Nature should be free of charge – Immerse yourself in the nature that exists all around you, instead of paying for entry into National Parks. Keep in mind that there’s so much you can see and do outside, that paying for entry to a gallery, museum or show by paying for a ticket often isn’t worth it.
- Free walking tours – Want to find your feet in a new place? Have a look online for walking tours that are free, with the option to leave a donation.
- Find out from the locals – Get talking to someone in the coffee shop, bar or market, any places where it’s easy to meet local people and ask them for some advice on what’s worth seeing, free of cost. Most paid exhibits in museums and galleries are aimed at tourists and are not visited by the locals. Find out how they like to spend their time and get some clues.
Make some local friends
Making some friends with locals when you travel is actually a brilliant way to save money. It will allow you to find useful insights into what to do and what not to do, avoiding tourist traps and unlocking some secrets of the local area.
Quite often, when you make friends with locals, you’re offered many things for free in exchange for your companionship and gratitude. Friendships are mutually beneficial and there’s honestly no better feeling that making friends that make you feel welcome when you’re in a place that’s new and mysterious.