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 or travel repeatedly 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 US $ 350. Similarly, two weeks in Thailand should be travelled in under US $280.
And then travelling cheap doesn’t mean living in bad conditions. If you go for local experiences or look for something beyond the traditional way of travelling, you will automatically save. Here are 9 golden tips that I usually follow to save maximum while travelling:
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 trek to 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. If you travel solo and behave in a little 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 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?
OR, rely on street food. It is economical, easily accessible and is not always as bad. 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 into 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 guest houses, there are many other ways to save on accommodation. [Read: Tips To Finding Cheap Accommodation]
Signup For Travel Newsletters
By signing up for mailing lists from airlines and travel companies, you get a whole new opportunity to buy last-minute sal , and 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 traveling 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 to 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 has taught you in English, you’re good to go. Then there are other prospects like Workawaying 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.
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