When I tell people that I’ve been travelling the world since 2015, without having any source of steady income, they 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 is exceptionally 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 even asked if I’d won a lottery.
Sure travelling costs money. But if you do it in a budget, you don’t need much of it. For example, three weeks of budget travelling in Cambodia shouldn’t cost more than USD 350. Similarly, a two weeks holiday in Thailand doesn’t cost more than 300 dollars
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 naturally 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 by the idea.
Local families, particularly in some parts of the world, are very hospitable. For example, people in the higher 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 Darma Valley, in the Eastern Kumaon region, in less than 2000 Rupees, out of which 1600 was spent on transport (from New Delhi). 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 invitations 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 the UK, movies become half-priced, even flights allow you to carry more luggage. So every time you travel to a new country, and you happen to be a student, make sure you carry a student card!
Cook Your Own Meals. Or Eat Street Food
Food and transport are two major expenses when travelling. So a smarter and cheaper way to travel is by cooking all your own meals. You can do that in many hostels, where you get a kitchen. Homestays and Couchsurfing properties also have a kitchen sometimes. 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 in an expensive restaurant.
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 is also easier for me to get free rides.
If you think hitchhiking is risky, please don’t. Just be cautious about where you’re going and about your surrounding. And if you feel about asking lifts, it’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 initial year of my travels, when I travelled only in 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.
But if you still have to book a flight, read these tips on how to book a cheap flight ticket and hence, travel smarter.
Find Cheap Accommodation
What consumes most of 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. Also when you barely have to be in your hotel for most of the day, there is no point in paying a 1000 Rupee bill and bleed unnecessary money in accommodation. 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.
Other than staying in hostels, dorms, and cheap guesthouses, there are many other ways to save on accommodation. Find out ‘how’ in the detailed guide on Finding Cheap Travel 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 and travel smarter and cheaper. 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 a lot of money.
Go For Budget Trips
This is a universal fact. You do a budget trip, you save money. And I understood the equation when I met a 70-year old retired colonel, from Indian Army, who himself was a budget traveller. He told me, “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 for you, you cannot afford a five-star hotel to stay, or an expensive sushi restaurant to eat.
It is only by cutting down your daily expenses and being more frugal by downgrading to a simpler life, you can travel in a budget.
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 to do that. If your academics have taught you in English, and you can clear an English test like TOFEL you’re good to go.
There are other options too like using hospitality networks like Workaway, that helps you save 100% of your money, as you get free food and free accommodation, in return for some work. What’s better is volunteering can teach you a new skill, provide insight into a foreign culture, and help make locals friends.
Using these few travel tips coupled with your own experience and learning – can let you travel smarter and cheaper. This is how I backpacked through Thailand for less than 1000 Rupees a day or drove across Spiti Valley in less than 5000 Rupees.
And if I can do it, so can you!