Many of us dream about visiting new countries and discovering different cultures – and if you’re thinking about longer-term travel, you’re certainly not alone. But many of us feel like we don’t have the budget to see as much of the world as we’d like.
The good news is that it’s very possible to travel on a budget. As well as exploring top travel deals, there are lots of handy tips and tricks that can help you save money along the way – and some that can help you feed your wanderlust for free!
With the right mindset, there’s no reason why this can’t be the year you make your travel dreams a reality. So, here are eight ways to travel on a shoestring budget.
1. Work abroad
If you’re keen to get on the road as soon as possible and don’t have substantial savings to use, there are plenty of opportunities to earn money abroad. Doing so means you can travel to a different country and make money while you’re actually there – funding your accommodation and all the activities you want to do.
One of the best ways to earn money abroad is to teach English – and all you need to do this is a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. There’s a high demand for TEFL teachers worldwide, and some companies will even pay for your flight out. If you have a degree, you can charge more and apply for better roles – though it isn’t necessary.
Online TEFL tuition is especially popular these days, which means you can teach people English and earn money from absolutely anywhere, as long as you have a decent Wi-Fi connection. Some websites where you can teach English online include italki, VIPKid, and Cambly. Our article, How to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL), has more information too.
If you don’t fancy teaching English to fund your travel, there are plenty of other jobs you can do while travelling, depending on your individual circumstances. The key is to think about what qualifications and experience you have and how you can apply it.
For example, if you have your diving certification, you could become a diving instructor, or if you’re good at history and confident at speaking in public, you could secure a role as a tour guide.
While getting a job abroad won’t usually earn you lots of money, it’ll allow you to extend your travel while living in a new country. Plus, it’s a great way to meet others and broaden your experiences.
2. Stay in hostels
When it comes to accommodation, one great way to keep costs to a minimum is by staying in hostels.
While hostels are still largely associated with young travellers, they’re actually very diverse, and many hostels around the world attract older guests. Just be sure to read the reviews to make sure you don’t end up at a party hostel if that’s not the scene you’re looking for!
The standard of hostels has rocketed over the years, and many offer comfortable private rooms, free WiFi, and a decent breakfast for a very reasonable price. However, if you’re really looking to cut costs, you might want to think about staying in dorms. These can save you serious money in the long run and help you preserve your budget. Just remember to bring some earplugs if you’re a light sleeper!
In cities, it isn’t usually too difficult to find quiet hostels where the guests are interested in getting a good night’s sleep. Plus, another perk of staying in hostels is that you’ll meet other like-minded travellers and might be able to get recommendations for other ways to save money while travelling.
To browse hostels all over the world and book your stay, it’s worth checking out the Hostelworld website.
3. House sit or pet sit
If you don’t fancy staying in a hostel, a great way to get free accommodation is to house-sit. This is a great option for those who plan on staying in one place for a set amount of time.
As well as free accommodation, many house-sitting opportunities give you access to a vehicle too, which can save you more money on transport costs. Plus, if you love animals, house-sitting for people who have a pet is also a lovely way to enjoy some company.
You’ll also get access to a kitchen. Since food is often one of the biggest expenses of any trip, being able to whip up your own meals can be a lifesaver (but more on that next!).
Some of the best house-sitting websites include TrustedHousesitters, Home Exchange, and House Carers. All accounts are verified and reviewed on these websites, so you can feel confident about where you’ll stay.
If you’d like to hear first-hand what an experience with one of these websites could be like, you might want to read our article about Angela, who’s in her 70s and regularly pet sits through TrustedHousesitters.
4. Cook your own meals (or eat like a local)
One of the quickest ways to run out of money while travelling is eating out all the time. Aside from staying in free or cheap accommodation, cooking your own meals as much as you possibly can is probably the best way to save money while on the road.
Of course, to do this, you need access to a kitchen – another reason why staying in hostels, couchsurfing, or house-sitting is such a good idea. Eating out is expensive, and in some countries, it can deplete your budget quickly. If you do have to eat out, though, make sure you avoid the overpriced tourist restaurants!
If you don’t have access to a kitchen, you might like to consider travelling with some Tupperware and cutlery. This means that even if you can’t make cooked meals, you’ll still be able to prepare quick meals and snacks, like salads and sandwiches.
Eating like a local is another good way to save money. So, if you need to eat while you’re out, instead of going to a restaurant, you could buy food from street vendors or head to a local food market.
If you want to sit in a restaurant and enjoy a proper cooked meal, try to look for the restaurants where locals are eating. These usually serve up simple, traditional food – and the portions tend to be very generous!
And, if you’re travelling in Western Europe or South America, look out for the menu of the day (or menu del dia). This is a fixed-price menu that usually serves a three-course set menu for a very reasonable price.
5. Use a credit card to get free flights and hotel stays
If you fancy free flights, you might like to sign up for a credit card which you can earn air miles with.
As long as you’re responsible about paying them back, purchasing things like bills, food, and shopping (money you would’ve spent anyway) on a travel credit card can save you cash on flights and getting around.
Many credit cards also give you points that you can use to get free hotel stays. If you’re considering travelling in the future, signing up for a card now and being careful to collect rewards will help you accrue plenty of miles and points before you’ve even left.
To find out more about using credit cards to save money while travelling, have a read of this article from Experian.
6. Get a rail pass
Depending on where you’ll be travelling, a rail pass can be an excellent investment.
For example, if you’re travelling through Europe, the Eurail Pass can save you huge amounts of money. It’s an all-in-one train ticket that gives you access to most European trains and lets you go anywhere, any time, no reservations required. To see which rail pass might be right for you, head over to the Eurorail website.
If you’re travelling in Japan, the Japan Rail Pass can also save you some cash. It’s valid for all national trains in Japan, including Shinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express trains.
To find out more about the different rail passes around the world, check out this article by Go Nomad.
7. Use city tourism cards
If you’re spending time in a city and want to see all the main sights, it’s almost always worth purchasing a city tourism card. These typically offer you free or heavily discounted access to all the main attractions, as well as free travel on public transport.
For example, the Paris Pass gives you access to over 75 attractions – from an Eiffel Tower tour to a cruise down the River Seine. The Los Angeles Pass also allows you to visit as many spectacles as you like over one, two, three, five, or seven days – from Warner Bros. Studios to the Hollywood Sign. Meanwhile, the Rome Pass gives you incredible savings at top attractions.
For a full list of destinations where you can save money using a city pass, head over to Go City.
8. Take advantage of free tours
Finally, there are many ways you can discover and learn about a new country, city, or culture without spending money.
Just strolling around a city, people-watching, and soaking up the local atmosphere is a wonderful way to experience a new place. And if you like to be around other people, you can get the best of both by taking a free walking tour.
Free walking tours are very common all over the world, and you can find them in most major cities. These are good ways to get your bearings in a new place and great for meeting other travellers and seeing less touristy areas. Just remember to tip at the end!
To find out more about free walking tours, head over to Free Tours. Here, you can book tours with local guides in more than 120 countries – from Canada and Cambodia to Japan and Jamaica.
Discovering new countries and cultures is one of life’s most exciting adventures, and there’s never been a better time to start making those travel dreams a reality.
As this article shows, you don’t have to be rich or have huge savings to travel the world. With a bit of planning, an open mind, and a can-do attitude, we can all enjoy the beauty of exploring other countries for extended periods of time.
And if you don’t have anyone to travel with, remember that travelling alone and stepping out of your comfort zone can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. To find out more about solo travel, have a read of our guide here.
Our Rest Less Events platform also has plenty of virtual travel events that’ll allow you to explore new places from the comfort of your home – and who knows, they could inspire your next adventure!
Looking to book your next getaway?
Are you thinking about going travelling? Or do you have any more budget travelling tips you can share with our readers? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!