This post is a continuation of the 3 Part Series on Money Matters. In Part 1, I explained how I managed to pay off $100K of debt in just 2.5 years, dishing out my best advice on managing and minimizing debt. In Part 2, I talked about our best money saving tips to help you save on travel and today, the topic is Budget Travel.
The idea that long-term travel is a luxury, available only to those who have no debt and plenty of savings, is a huge misconception. In fact majority of long-term travelers are the opposite of being well off. Travel, long term and short term, is a lot more attainable than you might think.
When we tell people that we have quit our jobs to travel the world, many assume that we are sitting on $30,000-$40,000 in savings. I mean, how else would we be able to travel the world for 6-12 months, right? The truth is, we don’t. We don’t even have half of that. We are confident that we can manage to get around the world on roughly $50/day/person, and with a few of our new income sources (like this blog, freelance writing, and photography) we think we can make it work.
$50/day may seem impossible especially in places like Singapore and London, but we’ve done it before and we know we can do it again.
Budget travel is our thing and we pride ourselves on being able to travel the world for less. So today, we wanted to share some of our best tips for minimising travel expenses to help you travel more often and travel for longer.
Get Around for Less
Save on Flights
Flight costs often make up a huge chunk of your overall travel budget, so it only makes sense to look at alternative ways of booking flights. We’ve written a whole post on our best tips and tricks for finding the best deals on flights around the world. You can find it here.
In the post we talk about our favourite flight search engines, like Google Flights, that allows you to find the cheapest routes from Point A to Country B. Skyscanner, another favorite, is a flight aggregator whose search results include many of the world’s best low cost airlines. There is also Hopper, a site that checks your ticket prices against historical norms and advises you if now is the best time to book a flight or if you should wait for a little longer.
READ MORE: 11 Tips on How to Find Cheap Flights
Consider Ground Transporation
While there really is no alternative to flying when it comes to traversing really long distances, there are lots of options for getting around countries without ever boarding a plane. Trains, busses, cars, and motorbikes are almost always a cheaper alternative then domestic flying, but they do take a bit more time and require a bit more perseverance to navigate.
Travel by Train
Traveling by train can be a great alternative to flying. Even those traveling on a tight schedule can take advantage of train travel by choosing to take overnight trains instead of staying in hotels and flying. This is our favourite way to save on transportation! We always start our research with Seat 61, a brilliant website that has information on train travel all over the world. We have used Seat 61 on numerous occasions, planning train travel in Europe and Asia, and for our upcoming trip to Morocco.
Choose Local Busses
Local bus transportation is always the cheapest option for getting around the country, but it is often the hardest to navigate. Some countries with well-developed tourist trails offer tourist alternatives to the local routes with comfortable air-conditioned busses and designated seating. Tickets on the premium tourist busses often cost a lot more than the local alternatives, but in many cases they are still a cheaper option than flying.
We love traveling on local busses! You won’t find a more culture immersive experience than being the only foreigner on the bus full of locals along with their children, chickens, or just about anything else you can think of. But the downside of local travel is that more often than not these busses are often packed to the brim, uncomfortable, and almost always way to hot!
Rent a Car/Scooter
Renting a car is not always the cheapest way to navigate the country, but is certainly the most flexible. It’s a great way to get off the beaten path and explore the scenery and if the price is right, it’s a great way to see the country. If you are planning to rent a car, shop around, use aggregator sites like Orbitz or Skyscanner to find the best price for your rental.
When traveling short distances or looking to explore the nearby country side, consider renting a scooter, which can save you a ton of money on taxis. Scooters are a popular method of transportation in many countries in Asia, Europe, and South America, but are not as easy to come by in more developed countries.
How to Save on Accommodation
Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to rough it in a 24 person room at a hostel (we certainly don’t). It’s also a misconception that if you want hot water and an en-suite bathroom, you’ll be forced to dish out a minimum of $100 or more per night.
Hostels Are Still a Great Option
We may have grown out of sharing a dorm room with 10-15 other 18-20 year old travellers, but we are still very happy to stay in a private room in a hostel with a shared bathroom and shared kitchen facilities. We love to take advantage of the social environment in the common area, cook our meals in the kitchen (another money saving tip that I’ll get to later), and still enjoy the peace and quiet of our own private room.
Airbnb Is the Best Hotel Alternative
Airbnb is another one of our favourite alternatives to staying in hotels. We’ve written about How We Saved $2,500 on Accommodation Amidst the World Cup in Brazil, and have since used Airbnb for accommodation in Australia, Costa Rica and beyond. We love that for the same price as a hotel room (and often for a lot less), you can get an entire apartment with your own kitchen, living room and often things like a washing machine and even a TV. Airbnb offers the best value to couples, friends, or families traveling together. It is also possible to find Airbnb accommodation (often just a room in a shared house) for a single traveller.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive $20 to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
READ MORE: 10 Tips for a Great Airbnb Experience
Guest Houses Offer A Local Experience
If you are planning to travel through less developed countries, consider trading a hotel room for a room in a local guest house. Often this will be a room in a local’s home that they frequently rent out to other travellers. Rooms often come with breakfast (home cooked by the hosts) and the experience of staying with a local family. Guest houses rarely have websites with online bookings and sometimes aren’t even listed in the guide books. But once you arrive at your destination they’ll be easy to find and book on the day.
Save on Accommodation and Transportation by hiring a Campervan
We have become addicted to traveling around Australia in a campervan. It is possibly our favourite way to save not just on accommodation costs but also on transportation and meals. Places like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, U.S., and Europe have well developed campervan options, allowing you to hire campervans for as little as $50-70 USD. Plus, if you are flexible with your itinerary and have some time to spare, you can find amazing deals on campervan relocations that are as low as $1/day
READ MORE: Getting Around Australia on $1/day
Camp Where Possible
We find camping to be a bit too difficult when it comes to long term. It’s tough to lug around camping gear all over the world, but when an opportunity arises to rent some gear and spend the night sleeping under the stars, it’s often one of our most preferred options. More often than not, camping is the best and by far the cheapest option to see some of the most remote parts of the world, were facilities and accommodation don’t exist
Over the last 2 years we took advantage of being based in Brisbane and having our own camping gear, which allowed us to take tons of weekend camping trips all over the country from places like Fraser Island in Queensland to Walls of Jerusalem National Park in Tasmania.
Couchsurfing Is a FREE Option For Solo Travelers
Couch Surfing is a community of hosts all over the world that offer their couches/spare mattresses/spare rooms to travelers for free. The community is 100% reliant on reviews and allows you to find a couch to crash on in over 200,000 cities all over the world.
Couch Surfing is THE cheapest accommodation for solo travelers (nothing is cheaper than free), as most of the time hosts only have space to accommodate 1 extra person in their home. For us traveling as a couple, this has never been a suitable option, but many other travelers have had fantastic couchsurfing experiences and continuously recommend it to female and male solo travelers.
House Sitting Is Ideal for Slower Moving Couples
House sitting communities around the world offer another great FREE accommodation option. Primarily available as a longer term accommodation option, house sitting can be a great way to save thousands of dollars on hotels and other lodging options. The premise is simple: the hosts, typically be owners of a nice house, look for someone to take care of their property while they are away on holidays. Looking after the property can be as easy as keeping it occupied to detract burglars, but can sometimes also include duties of looking after their gardens and/or pets.
Housesitting is an excellent accommodation option for couples, or small groups of friends traveling together. Its one of the most popular ways that a lot of travel bloggers and other digital nomads are able to live abroad for an extended period of time without breaking the bank.
We haven’t been able to take advantage of house sitting yet, but its something we woud absolutely love to do in the future. In the meantime, if you are interested in reading more about house sitting, Pete and Dalene from Hectic Travels have some great resources on their blog dedicated to this amazing travel hack.
How to Save on Meals
When it comes to eating out on the road, your ability to save will largely depend on what countries you are traveling to. In some places around the world (particularly in South and Central America and in most of Asia), eating out can be extremely cheap, but others, like parts of Europe, Australia, and Scandinavia can drive up your budget in just a few days.
No matter what country we are in, there are a few easy strategies we follow to minimize costs of meals while traveling.
Local food will almost always be a cheaper alternative to Western cuisine. So don’t shy away from local restaurants that may not look very appealing to the eye. Remember, if the locals are eating there, it must be a great spot. Eating local dishes is not just a great way to save money, but also a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of each country. It’s the only way we eat when we travel!
Eat Street Food
Street food is essentially any food that’s sold in public areas, be it right on the street, at a market or fair, or at a hawker centre/food court. The best thing about street food is that it can be found all over the world. In Paris, it may be a freshly made crepe, in Vietnam it’ll be a bowl of Pho soup, in Brazil – Queijo coalho, a cheese kebab. Despite the frequent concerns of food poisoning associated with street food, our experience and some studies confirm that the chances of getting food poisoning from street food are about the same as from eating in restaurants. So don’t be afraid to give it a try!
Cook Your Own
When you are going on vacation, the last thing you want to do is cook while you are away. But if you are planning to travel for a long time, it is the absolutely best way to save on meals. A shopping trip to the local supermarket is a local immersion in its own, so don’t shy away from picking up some groceries while you are away. Cooking on the road doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair, we try to always make our own breakfast and maybe some sandwiches for lunch.
It can be tough to cook if you are staying in hotels, which is why we always opt to stay in hostels or in Airbnb apartments, both of which almost always come with a kitchen.
Other Money Saving Tips
Get Around on Foot
We find the best way to see the city is to walk it. It’s free and it’s by far the best way to get lost and discover the lesser-known parts of the city. It’s also one of the easiest ways to stay fit while traveling!
Take Public Transportation
In large cities, brave the unknown and make use of the public transportation system. It will cost you a fraction of the price of taxis and is, of course, another great way to experience the local way of life.
Subway/metro/underground is always the easiest to figure, because even in countries where English is not widely spoken, the signs and instructions still make it easy to navigate your way around. Busses are a bit tougher, but if you have access to wifi public transport system will sometimes be available on Google maps.
Free Stuff is Great Stuff!
Many destinations offer a plethora of free activities to keep you busy for days on end. Check out local museums and art galleries for free or discount days, take a stroll along the streets and watch life go by. Enjoy your time on the beach or in a national park, or get active and choose to do some treks into the wilderness.
Ask Yourself: Can You do This Tour on Your Own?
The biggest daily expense that comes with visiting countries with big attractions is that someone somewhere is always offering a prepackaged tour to take you there. It sounds appealing and stress-free but if you want to travel on a budget, ask yourself: can you do this tour on your own?
Maybe you could hire a private local guide that will charge you a fraction of the price you’d pay to go with an organised group, maybe there is an audio tour you could grab instead, or maybe you can follow a map and simply choose to explore on your own. Assess the risks, and if you are up for the challenge, it is bound to be an adventure!