Have you asked yourself how to spend less money when traveling? I did, actually and on this post, I will share with you some tips on how to travel, have fun and spend less money on it.
The Key here is the ATM. But Im not talking about the Automatic teller machine. In this case, ATM stands for Accommodation, Transportation and Meals. Three words that are on my mind every time that I travel to a new destination. How much will the hostel cost? How will I move around? Bus, train, scooter, cab? What will I eat this time? This are my every day questions.
Luckily for us, there are plenty of ways to make our trip cheaper. These methods are not new, I did not invent them and I am pretty sure that many travelers have used these tools before I did. But, if you have little experience at traveling or maybe you are still curious on information that might be helpful, here are some basics:
Hostels and AirBnB: To be honest, I really like hostels. Its the perfect place to meet new people and fellow travellers that can share interesting stories with you or join you in one of your many adventures. Depending on the country/continent, hostels can be expensive though. Say, cheap hostels in Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand average about USD 16 per night (some are not even close to good). However, many hostels offer free accommodation in exchange for a few hours of work during your stay.
On the other hand, in Southeast Asia, South America, India and Northern Africa you can find good quality hostels for USD 5 or even less. Even though this is already cheap, there are also some hostels (just like in Europe, Australia and NZ) that offer you the accommodation in exchange for some hours of reception work.
Airbnb is also a website with affordable prices that can allow you to find rooms and even private houses or flats for a good rate.
Couchsurfing: If you want to meet locals and save on accommodation, Couchsurfing is the way. This network allows you to stay for free at the house of someone who is willing to host you and show you around the place that you want to visit.
WARNING: Don’t use Couchsurfing just for the free accommodation. This website was not created as a free hotel service. Its supposed to be a community of travelers that want to know the locals and the places that they visit. So make sure that you use it wisely.
Sometimes you will have to send a lot of requests (at least 10) in order to find a host on the dates of your trip. Try getting good reviews from friends, guests and hosts that you have met on the past or any other friend that you have in CS in order to be easily hosted.
Visit couchsurfing here: https://www.couchsurfing.com/
HelpX: I have used this network in the past and it has been really good. The whole purpose of it is to get accommodation and meals in exchange of some hours of work (normally 3-4) per day. Sometimes the hosts charge a small fee for additional costs, but they usually warn you before applying.
All you have to do is pay a registration fee that is valid for two years and then you can start volunteering. Fill your profile with as much information as possible and remember to send many requests at the same time. This is a great way of learning new skills while traveling.
Other networks like this one are WWOOF or Workaway (similar to HelpX).
Here are the links:
Facebook: One of my favorite platforms: Facebook. Nowadays, its very easy to stay connected to friends and family even when they are living in different countries. I use Facebook and Instagram a lot to stay in touch with my close friends and relatives. These networks have also allowed me to stay for free in different places. How? I just send a message to my friends telling them that Im visiting their country and it would be awesome if I could visit them. Most of my friends have given me a hand and it has been amazing.
Tents: A tent is always a good option, especially when you are really into hiking. I started traveling with a tent after 16 months of being on the road. I did not need it before but now I find it very useful. Countries like New Zealand and Australia are the perfect scenarios for traveling with tents. Many places offer camping sites where you pay a small fee and are able to use their facilities. But always make your research first, camping can be illegal in many places.
Look for different dates and pick the one that adjusts to your budget. Book your flights 4-6 weeks prior to your trip, prices are usually the best within this timeframe.
I also recommend using frequent flyer miles, which can turn out to be very helpful. Even if you don’t have any right now, start accumulating. I flew from Bogota (Colombia) to Barcelona (Spain) for approximately USD 100 using frequent flyer miles from Avianca.
Buses and Trains: Usually buses and trains can be cheap when booked in advance or when you get the tickets directly from the station. Try taking the overnight buses and trains if you want to save on accommodation.
I usually like to go personally to the bus/train station to book my tickets so I can also look at different prices and timetables. Websites or apps can charge an additional fee but it can also be more convenient if you do not have the time to do it yourself.
Hitchhiking: The best way to travel. Many people are afraid to hitchhike on their own and I can understand it after all the crazy stories you hear in the news. However, if that’s your case, get a hitchhiking partner. I’m sure that there are people willing to try it (ask in the hostel, facebook or couchsurfing groups). Plus, when hitchhiking you will have the chance to meet locals and their culture. Probably they will teach you something new if you are lucky. And, I promise that you will have a good story to tell.
I use a website called Hitchwiki, which is excellent. They have information on almost every place in the world that is possible to hitchhike. Additionally, they keep updating it with personal testimonies. If you want to hitchhike, Hitchwiki will be your guide, trust me.
There is a website in Europe called BlaBlaCar where you pay a small amount of money to someone that is going to your destination in their car and has an extra space. Its not “hitchhiking” properly but it works.
Uber and GrabTaxi: Two big transportation companies around the world (at least in places where they have not been banned) and many times offer good prices and special offers that can help us when we are moving around big cities. Sometimes they can be cheaper than buses when shared.
Cook: Eating outside in Europe and Australia is very expensive, so I usually go to the supermarkets and buy my own things for cooking. Cheapest things to buy will always be: eggs, rice, pasta, bread, tuna, vegetables and peanut butter. What else do you need? Check for special prices before the supermarkets are closing. Usually they lower the price on the evenings so the food does not get wasted.
Street food: Street food is usually cheap, especially in Asia. If you go for the local dishes, expect to pay between USD 0.50-2 if you are not a picky person. The food is really good in Asia and famous for it. In South America, street food I found normally costs around USD 2-4 maximum. In Europe, you will definitely have to go for the Kebab and Falafel options. An average kebab in Europe should cost no more that EUR3. Falafels are usually cheaper.
Leftovers: Although I am not proud to admit it, I have eaten the leftovers on other tables before. However, don’t focus on that. What I want you to know is that many restaurants and supermarkets give away their food because it will soon expire or will be ruined for the next day. So, if you show up just before this happens, there is a really high chance that you will end up having a free meal (of course, if they prefer to feed you rather than throwing it away).
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