The main question that I am asked is:
“How do you do it?”
I am smart with my money.
Travel is different for everyone – but if you’re like me, you want to travel all around the world without breaking your bank. Over the last few years I have learned so much when it comes to budget before and during travel – and I was asked to share my tips and advice on how I get around and live day by day so cheap. SO, if you’re interested in ways to save money….stay tuned.
There is no magic answer for this. I didn’t hit the lotto or get money handed down to me from a passed relative. I worked, I saved. When I am home with a trip in mind, nine times out of ten I am at work. I’m that person. My inbox looks like this:
I’m not saying you have to work your life away and ditch your social life….because I still had my nights out and made time for my friends and family. I had a goal in mind and I knew the more I worked, the more I earned, the more I could manage.
Luckily for me, I’m really young and I am not drowning in any type of bills. I have some student debt – but it’s nothing that will hold me back. Saving money is what hurts a lot of people – they can’t do it. My mind is stuck in a travel mindset 24/7 so I’ve been REALLY good at saving money for the last couple of years. I think like this:
Your morning Starbucks coffee is around $5. That’s one night in a hostel in Thailand. You get your coffee almost every single day….it adds up.
$38 for a new pair of black booties? They’re cute. Do I need them? No. $38 is a bus ride from the north of Argentina to the south.
Of course I am not continuously holding myself back from things that I really want – but you need to have self-control in order to save.
I worked at two different locations for months before I took off on this current trip – I was working an average of 45-75 hours a week between the two. I was working every position you could think of, which gave me a paycheck AND also tips when I was hosting/waitressing. It added up, I saved, and I left.
NOW HERE’S THE FUN PART! How in the F do I travel so cheap? Let’s break it up into different categories.
Transportation is really important because it tends to be the biggest expense. Especially when it comes to GETTING to where you’re going. Plane tickets are a pain in the ass, but you can find them a lot cheaper than you think most of the time. I use SkyScanner to find the best flights. You have to be careful with this website because it is a flight search engine. It’s going to show you a ton of different companies/airlines/options….but some of them are NOT reliable. You may see a flight for $300 cheaper – but the website it takes you to may not be a legitimate website. I do not recommend using websites like FlightNetwork, for example. Try to go through the airline’s websites or websites like Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Once I am actually in the country/continent/whatever that I want to be in – I tend to lean towards buses/trains. For example, there was a 1.5 hour flight from South of Brazil into Argentina for $568, or I could take a 22 hour bus for $75. 22 hours on a bus sounds like a horror movie, but it isn’t bad as you think AND you saved hundreds of dollars. If it’s a long bus, I always go for the night buses. That way, I am saving money on accommodation that night, I can sleep through half of the ride, and I am not wasting an ENTIRE day in a different city. Buses in South America and Asia are super easy to take and way cheap. In Asia you can take a 12 hour bus for less than $10. It’s insane. HUGE money saver. (But sometimes flights can be cheaper, always check both.) I took a flight from Cordoba, Argentina to Mendoza for $26 when the bus was $48….interesting! Always check all of your available options and go from there.
The next biggest expense is accommodation – but it doesn’t need to be nearly as expensive as you think too! My number one rule with accommodation is to NEVER STAY IN A HOTEL WHILE BUDGET TRAVELING. First of all….they are expensive. Second of all…..how boring are hotels!? There’s a few cheap options when it comes to where you’re going to sleep at night…..let’s dive in.
For free: Couchsurfing is free – I like to call the payment “cultural exchange”. Couchsurfing is an online community where you can connect and stay with locals for free all over the world. There is no payment – but don’t use this as a “free bed” for a night. You need to connect and spend time with your host – it’s a cultural exchange and it’s INCREDIBLE.
For cheap: Hostels are my next secret weapon when it comes to traveling. Not only are they cheap – but it is a great way to meet people from all over the world and never be lonely (especially when traveling alone). Depending on where you are in the world, prices can range anywhere from $3-$25 a night (there are of course more expensive/fancier ones, but this is when you’re budget traveling). The $3 hostels are more in places like Asia – that was the cheapest hostel I’ve stayed in….$3 a night in Cambodia. UNREAL! In Europe they’re more towards $20-$25. I don’t want to talk about hostel prices in the US because they’re ridiculous. ($78 for a shared dorm? Riiiight, ok…) My two websites for hostels are Hostelworld and Booking. Or you can show up in a city and search yourself – this is also fun!
Bed for work: Another really REALLY really REALLY awesome opportunity is working for a bed. This can literally be any job you can think of. There are a few volunteer websites that I highly recommend. I always use Workaway, but another good one is WWOOF. These are two websites where you can search for volunteer jobs all over the world in exchange for a bed and usually free breakfast. Workaway is a mix of all kinds of jobs where WWOOF is more farm work. I have released baby sea turtles, worked at a scuba dive center, worked as a hostel receptionist, bathed and walked elephants, been a bar manager, and more. Not only are you saving money, but you’re learning about different odd jobs around the world and meeting incredible people. This is for sure one of my favorite ways to travel – you can totally extend your travel time by doing this. Work at an orphanage, work at a bee farm, work at a hostel or a chocolate factory…..the possibilities are ENDLESS.
Cheap-ish: I understand that hostels and couchsurfing aren’t for everyone, but not everyone can afford hotels in foreign countries either. Another option is staying in an AirBnB. You can stay in mixed houses, private rooms, rent an entire apartment to yourself…..you can even rent a castle……yes, I’m serious. Prices will range depending on what kind of accommodation you’re looking for and where you’re at in the world. I rented a private room in a BEAUTIFUL house in Bali, Indonesia in middle of rice paddies for $20 a night. I’ve stayed in AirBnB”s a lot in the United States for $16 a night. You can also find really nice apartments for $80 a night – which isn’t necessarily on a budget, but cheaper than a hotel. Explore their website and see what you can come up with!
Food is another thing that many people struggle with when traveling. Filling your stomach can take a huge chunk of money out of your budget…..but you can be smart with food. The most important thing when traveling on a budget is knowing that it isn’t good to eat out at a restaurant for every meal. Sure, breakfast seems cheap at that corner cafe in Peru….but eat there every single day for a week and you’ve spent a lot of money. OF COURSE you need to eat out at restaurants sometimes….experience local cuisine and indulge in the best damn Pad Thai in Thailand….but not all the time 😉 I have two really important tips when it comes to budget eating. First of all, always try to stay in hostels with free breakfast. You may be sick of cornflakes and bread with jam, but you’re going to save a lot of money not paying for your breakfast every single day. Second tip – COOK. Learn how to cook simple meals (or be a top chef) and try and cook for dinner as much as you can. Shop at local markets rather than large supermarkets – they’ll be cheaper and more fresh. Depending on where you are, go for street food. I ate street food in Asia for like $1 – amazing Thai food and other options for SO CHEAP (and you won’t die).
The problem with doing fun activities around the world is that they can get pricey. It’s good to know that some hikes that will cost you a fortune can be done without a guide – just be careful and research these hikes beforehand. Another piece of advice is to check with many companies when it comes to doing tours – you can always try to talk down prices with competing companies and save some money. Try to book with companies that give you package deals too – get more for your money. Explore options and talk to many people and locals for the best advice!
Nights out, buying souvenirs, buying those street churros filled with manjar…..learn how to control the urges. If you’re trying to budget travel – you need to watch your nights out. Your Cuba Libre’s every Friday and Saturday night are going to break your bank and you’re going to be filled with regrets. Don’t drink 3 beers a day, don’t go clubbing and drinking every Thursday-Sunday. Souvenirs? Check many different shops – the chances are….the farther away you are from the city center the cheaper they’re going to be. About the churros? Yeah, always buy the churros.
I hope that this blog post helped you with ideas on how to manage your money before and during travel – this will make your travels last longer.
If you have any questions or want to discuss budget options – leave a comment or contact me here!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog! See you soon.