When I tell people that I’ve been travelling for the past two years, without having any source of steady income, they frown upon me, and ask, without sparing a second, “Then how do you fund your travels? You must be rich.”
People think travelling is an expensive hobby. They think it is only possible to travel, and travel regularly if you either earn in an impressive figure, or your father was hopelessly wealthy. In my case, neither were true. Perhaps that’s why, when I’d initially told my friends, two years ago, that I am quitting my job to travel, they couldn’t believe me. A few asked if I’d won a lottery.
Sure travelling costs money. But if you do it the right way, you might not need much of it. For example, three weeks in Cambodia should take no more than USD 350. Similarly, two weeks in Thailand should be travelled in under USD 280.
And then travelling cheap doesn’t mean living under bad conditions. If you go for local experiences or look for something beyond the traditional way of travelling, you will automatically save.
9 Proven Ways To Travel Smarter And Cheaper
Staying With Locals
Before I started travelling full-time, I met a girl from Israel, who once told me how she’s been surviving for the last few weeks, in India, on no expenses at all. A local family, from Rishikesh, had invited her to stay with them. I was fascinated with the idea.
Local families, particularly in some parts of the world, are very hospitable. For example, people in the higher altitude Himalayas are always much keen to invite tourists to dine or stay with them. This is how I’ve recently completed a 4-day Panchachuli Base Camp, in the Eastern Kumaon region, in less than 800 Rupees, out of which 600 was spent on transport. I got several invitations to stay with locals and eat with locals. I saved 100% on food.
Staying with locals, moreover, not only saves you money but also helps you understand their culture and makes your journey a lot more exciting. If you travel solo and behave in a friendly manner, getting such an invitation is fairly easy.
Use Student/Discount Cards
If you’re a student, you’re sitting on a gold mine. Many countries offer handsome discounts to students. You can use public transport, watch movies, enjoy club-nights, all at a discounted price. Eg, if you use your student card you get a discount on all public transport in UK, movies become half-priced, even flights allow you to carry more luggage. So every time you travel a new country, and you happen to own a student card, make sure you carry it along with you to save big!
Cook Your Own Meals. Or Eat Street Food
Food and transport are two major expenses when travelling. The best way to save money on the road is to cook all your own meals. You can do that in many youth hostels, where you get a kitchen. Homestays and Couchsurfing properties also have a kitchen. If no kitchen, pack your own container and silverware and make some sandwiches and salads on the go. Not every meal requires a stove, right?
If not, rely on street food. It is economical, easily accessible and is not always as bad as you may think. In fact, in some countries, street food might just be far better than a plate of 50 Dollar Fourchu Lobster.
Why spend money when you can just hop on someone else’s ride?
A free way to get around destinations is not only cool but also much fun. I hitchhike almost everywhere I go, to save money and to meet interesting and friendly people. And because I travel solo – it also makes it much easier for me to get quick and easy rides.
And as I know, hitchhiking is not risky. Just be cautious about where you’re doing and go for it. If you feel shy, that’s a different problem.
One thing is that I hate flying. And the other is, it is expensive.
Travel from New Delhi to Kathmandu, by land, 1000 Rupees. Fly, 10*1000=10,000.
Travel from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, by land, 20 USD. Fly, 20*5= 100 USD.
Plus you miss a portion of your journey.
During the first initial year of my travel, when I travelled only inside India, and to a couple of neighbouring countries, where I could cross the border by land, I never flew. And in the process, I made a lot of friends. Saw amazing countrysides. And most importantly, saved a lot of money.
Find Cheap Accommodation
What consumes most our budget other than hefty airfares? Accommodation. And if you share it with other people, or simply choose a cheaper option, you cut down the travel cost significantly. I always look for a cheaper deal, when I travel. Also when you barely have to be in for most of the day – there is no point in paying a 1000 Rupee bill and bleed unnecessary money. So I stick to the other side of the spectrum: I stay in hostels, dormitories, tents and pretty much everywhere else which is pocket-friendly.
But other than hostels, dorms, and cheap guesthouses, there are many other ways to save on accommodation. [Further Reading: Tips On Finding Cheap Accommodation]
Sign up For Travel Newsletters
By signing up for mailing lists from airlines and travel companies, you get to buy last-minute special deals. Sure you don’t want to clutter up your inbox, but it is an effective way to know about deals that can help you save good money. On top of that, you also don’t lose irritably long hours Googling results for what you actually wanted.
I would have missed a promotional airfare from New Delhi to Bangkok for INR 4000 (normally 9,000 and way more during tourist season), a couple of months ago, if it wasn’t for Air Asia’s mailing list. Subscribe to some useful travel brands working in your country, or in the countries you wish to travel, and you’ll find a lot of useful emails, helping you save more money.
Go For Budget Trips
This is a universal fact. You do a budget trip, you save money. But to understand it well, I’ll tell you about something that a 70-year old retired colonel, from Indian Army, who himself was a traveller now. He said, “you can either spend more and travel less, or spend less and travel more”. And it is as simple as that. If travelling is an everyday business, you afford a five-star hotel to stay, or an expensive sushi restaurant to eat.
Cutting your daily expenses, and being more frugal by downgrading to a simpler way of life will only allow you to save money for your trip. Find your own cheap travel tricks, which are convenient for you, and use them to save money.
Volunteering is the best way to explore the world. I know people who’ve travelled across the world volunteering. Teach English overseas (very common in countries like Thailand & Vietnam) if you can. You don’t have to be a native English speaker for that. If your academics have taught you in English, you’re good to go. Then there are other options like using Workaway which saves serious money and open all new possibilities of travelling.
Volunteer saves you a 100% of your money, as you get free food and free accommodation. What’s better is volunteering can teach you a new skill, provide insight into a foreign culture, and helps make a lot of local friends.
Using these few tips coupled with your own experience and learning – you’ll be able to travel for relatively little money. This is how I backpacked through Thailand for less than 1000 Rupees a day and drove across Spiti Valley in less than 5000 Rupees.
And if I did it, you can do it too!