The Thrifty Guide To Traveling The World On A Budget

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Shorter Version


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Money shouldn’t be an obstacle when it comes to living your travel dreams. Traveling the world on a budget is all about reducing your main expenses. A cheap plane ticket, low-cost or free accommodations, and delicious, affordable local cuisine allows you to see the world without spending a fortune.

The breakdown

Search multiple flight aggregators to make sure you’re getting the lowest price on your ticket. Skyscanner.com and momondo.com are good places to start. For accomodations, stay with trusted locals on couchsurfing.com, or book a dorm bed through hostelworld.com to meet other adventurers. When it comes to eating, get recommendations from the locals to find cafes and street vendors that are popular and trusted.

Most importantly…

Above all, keep an open mind and enjoy yourself. Traveling the world, on a budget or not, is about gaining the most out of every experience. You don’t need to be rich to have a great time abroad.

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Longer Version


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Ask anyone over 30 and they’ll tell you the same thing: your 20s are the time to see the world. You’ll never be younger and more open to new experiences than you are right now.

What’s holding you back?

There’s just one thing holding you back from going abroad: money. Free travel may be a myth, but you can stretch your budget a lot further than you might think. It’s not uncommon to meet long-term travelers living comfortably on less than $10 a day, even in some of the world’s most expensive regions.

Traveling the world on a budget is all about reducing your three main expenses: plane tickets, accommodation, and food.

Use the following methods to reduce your expenses while having an incredible time wherever you go.

Find the cheapest flight

Budget airlines make traveling abroad affordable for everyone, without the amenities you’d find in first class. With dozens of low-cost airlines flying out daily, finding the best price can be tricky.

The best airline search engine we’ve come across is skyscanner.com, but you shouldn’t just search on one website. Secretflying.com gets the best deals, although it’s hit or miss when it comes to dates and destinations. For a broad overview of price and travel times, Google Flights is king, but you typically won’t find the lowest price here. Momondo.com and kiwi.com have come through with the best deals in the past. Search each site when you start planning your travel and see which one comes out on top.

When it comes to booking plane tickets, flexibility is key.

If you have certain dates to travel, then be open to various destinations. You never know which airline or region may be putting offering eye-popping discounts to somewhere on your bucket list. If you’re not sure when you want to travel, pick an airport or region and set an alert through your favorite site.

Some final tips to ensure you’re getting the best price:

Sign up for a mailing list

Sign up for a free mailing list like Scott’s Cheap Flights to stay informed on huge discounts from your local airport.

Consider transportation methods

Multi-country journeys can be done by night bus or train, saving you money over another flight. When in the country, opt for public transportation over taxis and Uber. They add up over time.

Travel light

Try to travel light. Most budget airlines charge extra for a checked bag. You’ll be surprised how little you actually need. Lugging around a giant duffle in a foreign country is no fun.

Stay for nearly free when traveling the world on a budget

For some travelers, it’s all about the hostel. For as little as 3 dollars a day, you can stay in a multi-bed dorm room with other travelers, swapping stories in the common room, lounging on rooftop hammocks, and planning your next adventure over a local beer. Not only is a great way to meet people while traveling, but you’ll also save bundles compared to a hotel or Airbnb.

Hostelworld.com is the leader when it comes to booking ahead of time.

Of course, not everyone wants to stay in a hostel, at least not on every trip. If you’re looking for a more private (or quieter!) experience, couchsurfing.com is the next best thing.

Get Personalized Help

Since its founding in 2003, Couchsurfing has offered travelers and tourists the chance to stay with vetted, trusted locals, gaining advice and new friendships with every journey. It’s not just couches either – some hosts gladly offer private rooms or even guesthouses to their guests. Every experience is different, and with dozens or even hundreds of hosts in each city, you’ll find the right stay for you. Best of all, couchsurfing is completely free and a great way to travel the world on a budget

Save the 5-star hotels and luxury Airbnbs for later in life. You’ll get a lot further by staying smart and meeting new people throughout your next adventure.

A few other tips:

Stay in touch

Stay in touch with the people you meet in hostels. Always exchange Facebook or Instagram usernames to keep in touch when you return home. Most people will be happy to let you stay with them for free if you ever travel their way.

Check the reviews

Not every hostel is a party hostel. Spend some time browsing hostelworld and read the reviews. Some places focus on quiet, others experiences, and others, yes, on  non-stop booze-soaked revelry. You can decide which environment works best for you.

Travel in groups

Traveling with a partner or group can make hotels more viable since you’ll split the cost. Better yet, a hostel with a private room and double beds can be cheaper for two than a dorm bed for one.

Eat well, for cheap

You didn’t fly halfway around the room for a Big Mac. One of the best parts of traveling abroad is getting to sample the authentic cuisine. You don’t have to pay 4-star prices to do it.

In fact, eating like a local is the best way to save money while sampling foods you can’t find at home.

Check out the local markets to see what’s available in season, then bring your haul back to the hostel to cook with your friends. A couchsurfing host or a local guide can help you learn the basics of local cuisine. Finally, look into doing a food tour in the city. You’ll experience a variety of delicacies while seeing the most interesting sights.

Concerned about street food safety? Make sure you can see the food cooked in front of you, and keep an eye out for the more popular venues. Places that are trusted tend to be not only safe, but delicious as well.

A few final tips for eating delicious food on the cheap:

Go at lunch

Try one well-reputed sit-down restaurant, and go at lunch. Most places will have lunchtime discounts compared to the evening.

Cook at home

Practice cooking at home before you travel. Learning to cook is an essential skill, not just for budgeting, but for health, relationships, and success in general.

Drop the pop when traveling the world on a budget

Avoid soda and other pricey beverages you can get at home. Buying a water bottle every day is a cost that adds up. Bring a refillable aluminum or steel bottle and save your money for what matters.

Actionable Steps


1

Start planning now

You may not know where you want to travel to next, but it’s important to start planning in advance. Flights are cheaper the earlier you book, and accommodations are tougher to come by at the last minute. Spend some time thinking about where you’d like to visit – few places are off-limits!

2

Set up a flight alert

Do you know when your vacation starts? Set up a price alert for the days you can travel and see what comes up. It takes a few minutes to set up an alert on Google Flights or Kayak, but it’s worth the time. Check out this detailed guide to learn how.

3

Make connections

Even if you don’t want to stay with a host, you can meet people through the Couchsurfing app and website. Consider hosting your own guests; you’ll gain positive reviews and make connections throughout the world. In addition to hosts, CouchSurfing offers meetups for travelers and locals. There’s probably one in your city this week!

4

Learn to cook

A key attribute of the savvy traveler is being able to cook your own meals. Don’t rely solely on restaurants and street vendors: the best meals are the ones you make yourself. Cooking with local ingredients while abroad means having the best meals at a fraction of the price.

5

Make travel a priority

You can travel for cheap, but you’ll still need a bit of cash to get started. Socking away a few dollars a day will add up over time and give you the budget needed to see your dream destination. Don’t put off your life-changing adventure just because you think you can’t afford it. With the right planning, your next vacation may be your best yet.

About the Author


Michael Power

Michael Power

World-Traveling Expatriate

Since 2012, Michael has been living abroad full-time as a world-traveling expatriate. He spent his early 20s as an international high school teacher in South Korea. After visiting over 20 countries he’s excited to share what he’s learned with other aspiring nomads. You can currently find him in South America, probably at the nearest salsa club.
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