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How To Travel On A Shoestring Budget: 17 Money-Saving Tips

Travel is undoubtedly one of the best ways to spend your hard-earned cash. You could even say it is priceless!

However, the reality is travelling can come with a hefty price tag. But it is possible to travel on a shoe-string budget if you don’t have much money in the bank. Travel can actually cost you a lot less to travel then you might think.

In this post, you will learn 17 money-saving tips which will help you make the most out of your money and allow you to experience this wonderful planet!

budget travel

1. Sign Up For a Volunteer or Exchange Program

This is the single best way to save money when you travel and keep going even when your money is running low. Accommodation and food will make up the bulk of the cost of your trip! 

There are so many volunteer and exchange opportunities all over the world. Usually, you will be required to work a certain amount of hours per day in exchange for food and accommodation.

The type of work you do varies greatly depending on where you are. You could be behind the desk at a hostel, painting murals at a guest house, picking fruit on a farm or recording videos for a hotel, teaching kids English or teaching yoga at a retreat centre. 

The options are endless!

Popular platforms to look for these kinds of opportunities are Workaway, WWOOF, Worldpackers or just good old word of mouth!

2. Choose your destination carefully

Decide on which country to go to based on certain things that apply to you and where you are from. 

Consider destinations that are more budget-friendly like Eastern Europe, South East Asia, India and South America. Your money will go a long way, especially if you are travelling independently and for an extended period of time.

Obtaining visas is painful and can also drain you of cash. Research which countries are visa-free for you. If you need one make sure you know how long the visa is valid and how much it costs.

If a country is visa-free, always check how long the visa-free period is and what the visa requirements are after that period has finished. 

3. Create A Daily Budget & Stick To It!

This is the best way to make sure you are spending within your means and won’t run out of money! 

Research into the cost of the basics in the countries you plan on visiting. Then create a daily budget based on how much money you have saved and how much you want leftover.

Consider accommodation, transport, food, activities, souvenirs, going out and so on.

Track your spending each day in an app like Spending Tracker so you can clearly see where you are spending money and track if you are spending too much.

This will help you decide whether you can afford to splash out on something or if you need to reign it in!

4. Get A Prepaid Travel Card

Prepaid travel cards are the best way to save money when exchanging currency and withdrawing from ATMs.

Prepaid cards from companies like Revolut, Transferwise and Monzo allow you to open an online app-based account with a debit card attached. You load money from your regular bank account into your online account using a debit card or bank transfer.

From there you have the option to exchange your currency on the app using excellent rates. Even if the country you are visiting doesn’t have its currency on the platform you can use your card to withdraw funds from local ATMs using their better exchange rates. 

You will also get access to free ATM withdrawals up to a certain limit per month. After your limit is reached the fee that is taken is a small percentage. You will incur no other ATM withdrawal fees when using these prepaid travel cards.

Card transactions in different currencies are also free! 

Using a card like this will save you so much money so make sure you get one before your next trip.

5. Avoid Hotels

Staying at hotels will drain your bank balance. Rooms are expensive and so is everything else including food, taxis and tours. Plus most hotels lack local character and culture.

Stick to guesthouses run by families, hostels, Airbnb or try Couchsurfing. Even if you need your own space, hostels are a good option because they usually always have private rooms that are economical and you get access to all the great vibes. 

Send a note out on social media, letting people know where you are travelling. You might find you have some connections there who you can stay with.

Another option is to look into house-sitting where you can get a free stay in exchange for looking after someone’s house and pets. What a dream! There are numerous websites in countries all over the world linking up travellers with people who need their house looked after.

Another accommodation tip is to always check whether you have access to a kitchen. Try to stay in places where you have access to a kitchen, even if it is a bit more expensive. Being able to cook will save you a fortune! 

Another thing you need to consider carefully, particularly when staying in a city, is the location of your accommodation. Make sure it is a safe area and has good access to transport, restaurants, supermarkets and attractions. There is no point staying somewhere in a terrible area even if it is dirt cheap!

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6. Negotiate On The Price Of Your Accommodation

When booking accommodation, call and book directly instead of booking through a third-party service like 

Negotiate with the owner for a better price. This works particularly well if you are visiting during shoulder or off-season, if you are staying for more than a week and if you bring up the savings they will make from not having to pay any commission!

7. Don't Eat Out For Every Meal

Try to only eat out once or twice max per day when you are travelling. Eat at least one meal per day from the supermarket. It is easy to get ingredients from the supermarket for breakfast and you won’t even need access to a proper kitchen for this to work.

If you do have access to a kitchen then making your own dinner is great, especially if there are fellow travellers you can have a family dinner with.

Since you will be out and about during the day exploring it naturally works better to treat yourself for lunch!

8. Always Pack Basic Cutlery

Following on from point 7 you should always travel with basic cutlery. This makes it incredibly easy to prepare your own food even without access to a kitchen.

A spoon, small knife, large stainless mug and plate will provide you with all the tools you need to prepare your own food.

9. Research Your Destination

Do your due diligence on the locations you want to visit before you go or once you arrive. Thanks to travel blogs there is an abundance of helpful information for every single corner on Earth.

Find out what there is to do for free like walking tours, nature hikes, museums and galleries. For example, all museums and galleries in London are free to enter and in some countries, entrance to museums is free on certain days.

Have a quick search online for any coupons or offers available for tourist attractions in the destination you are visiting. You might be surprised at what you will find!

It’s also a good idea to negotiate on the price of certain activities especially if there is a lot of competition for the same thing. This works really well when you are booking an experience or attraction on the street. For example, when booking a day yacht cruise in the Greek Islands you can shop around at the different travel companies on the waterfront and negotiate with them. Choose the punter who offers you the best deal!

10. Be Smart With Transport! 

You can save a ton of money by being smart with the type of transport you choose to take, especially if you are moving around a lot or staying in a city. 

First always walk if this is an option. Walking is totally free and is the best way to explore a place. You will probably see incredible things that you never even knew were there!

Also always use public transport if this is possible, even for longer journeys. Public transport is exceptionally cost-effective, particularly in developing countries like Asia and South America. It might take longer and be slightly uncomfortable but the savings are worth it and you can experience life as a local

If you must catch a taxi always check whether there are apps like Uber and Ola operating. These are usually significantly cheaper than a taxi. When a traditional taxi is the only option, always ask what the price should be from locals or from your host. If there is no meter negotiate on the price before you step into the car.

You can also try hitchhiking, which is totally free and exciting for those with an adventurous spirit. Just make sure it is a safe place for hitchhikers. It is best to do this with a travel buddy as well. New Zealand is a great place to hitchhike! 

budget travel

11. Be Flexible With Your Dates & Destinations

Being flexible with your travel dates and destinations means you can take advantage of the best rates. You could save a small fortune by being flexible!

When booking flights just make sure that the cost of staying somewhere for a bit longer doesn’t outweigh your savings from getting a cheaper flight!

12. Travel During Shoulder Season

You will save so much money travelling during shoulder season! There will be access to more options when it comes to accommodation and dates for tours. Accommodation, food, activities, tours and souvenirs will all be significantly cheaper.

This works well in places that are highly seasonal like places in the Mediterranean including Spain, Greece, Italy, Croatia and so on.

Usually, in the shoulder season, most restaurants and activities will be open and the weather is almost as good or better than what it is during high season. Plus you will avoid all the crowds!

13. Go Local!

Do what the locals do! This is the number one way to have a rich travel experience while cutting down on costs. Trust me the locals are not dropping a ton of money on a daily basis.

You will also get an authentic experience with real people and you will learn a lot about the place you are visiting.

Ask for advice on where to go from friendly locals you meet and from your host. If you know someone who is from where you are visiting or has lived there before ask them for recommendations. 

And don't be afraid to try street food! Avoid tourist trap restaurants as much as you can, even if they look appealing!

Also, join local Facebook community groups where you can ask locals and other travellers for recommendations and advice. 

14. Compare All Flight Options

Carefully consider all of your options when you are booking flights. Use a platform like Skyscanner to research different flight options to get to your destination.

Check one-way prices, different dates and various stopovers with different airlines. Don’t be afraid of long layovers, especially if you aren’t on a short trip. Having a long layover can also save you if you’re a victim of flight delays.

Once you have found the best flight options, book directly with the airline. You will usually get a better price than booking through a third party service. 

15. Carefully Check Airline Baggage Allowance

Don’t assume you know what your luggage allowance is! Carefully check your ticket and the allowance you are given for check-in and carry on bags.

Make sure you only pack what is in your allowance, don’t risk it. There is nothing more painful than forking out hundreds to pay for excess baggage or having to throw away your precious belongings while queuing in a busy airport. So save yourself the stress and just play by the rules.

It’s a great idea to travel with luggage scales so you can always check the weight of your bags. They are affordable, lightweight and readily available on Amazon.

16. Get A Local SIM Card 

International roaming charges can be exorbitant! Data, calling and text packages using a local sim card will be a lot cheaper. 

Basically every country in the world has access to decent 3G and 4G coverage. You will probably find that a lot of countries have cheaper rates than your home country as well, especially in cheaper destinations.

17. Find A Travel Buddy To Split Costs

Being able to split costs with someone can really save you. Having a buddy to split food, accommodation and transport costs can really make a huge difference. 

This is particularly true is you are visiting places that aren’t so backpacker-friendly like the Greek Islands, where there aren’t many shared accommodation options.

If you want to travel solo or you don’t have anyone to travel with that is totally fine! Keep an eye out for new travel buddies on your journey you can link up with as you go when it suits. You might even make some friends for life!

Spending money on travel is always money well spent. No one ever regrets a penny! 

So make your next trip last longer while still being an enriching experience by implementing these simple money-saving tips!

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St Christopher Pendants, lucky runes and other travel charms will bring you luck, protection and good fortune on your travels. Having fortune on your side will go a long way in your endeavours to travel better for longer!

budget travel