Budget Travel Tips
The life of a famous travel blogger who gets paid to travel is still just a dream to most of us, we travellers must work hard, and travel cheap. Even though it may seem like all my travel is paid for, its not. In fact, I work six months of the year saving up for travel. For many of us this is still not enough to travel to outlandish and exotic destinations, but there is hope! By mastering the art of budget travel, there is virtually no destination in which you cannot get to. Here are a list of tips that have helped me travel to over ninety countries while working full time.
The Complete Guide to Traveling on a Budget!
Now, I know what your thinking “oh here’s another pipe dream guide that doesn’t work”, but I am telling you, to this day I still work a day job here in Canada and have been able to travel about five months out of the year. Because of my website I do however receive sponsorship or discounts on many trips, but over the last ten years the majority of my travel has been paid for by me.
With this guide you can do exactly what I have been doing. Honestly, you will have to make a lot of sacrifices, but those dreams of travelling around the world could be closer than you think. Trust me, as a lifeguard I do not make an extremely high wage, and I do not come from a wealthy family. All it takes is some strategic planning, strict saving, prioritising and knowledge about how to save money abroad! Check out my tips on how to travel the world when your not rich!
Budgeting and Planning Your Trip
Before you start saving money and setting goals you need to decide where you are going for your budget travel trip. If you are undecided as to which destination to see first check out travel websites like Lonely Planet and travel blogs like erm.. Uncharted Backpacker.
For me once I have a destination or general area picked out I buy a guide book for there, usually Lonely Planet as I am biased and like this series. Then I skim through the pages I am mentally planning my route, how much time I need, and of course how expensive the place is. The nice thing about Lonely Planet is, it gives a realistic and updated approach on accommodation, transport, food, and entry fees or sight prices.
With all this information you can start to make yourself an estimate on a daily budget. Do take into consideration any personal shopping you plan on doing. For me, I like to shop for antique and tribal artefacts. These usually do not come cheap, so I try to put a number into my budget for shopping.
Saving Money for Travel
This is the first and biggest step to getting yourself out traveling. Many of us get caught up in life and the money never seems to be there. In order to make your dreams a reality you must make a conscious effort to reprioritize small amount of money from each paycheck towards your travel plans. Maybe it means making your lunch at home instead of eating out during weekdays or skipping out on your fancy lattes.
Open a separate bank account and make a realistic goal to meet after six months. This goal varies depending on the destination you choose, and what you want from your trip. For example, if you are planning a trip backpacking across Europe, the budget will be vastly different from a backpacking budget travel trip across South East Asia.
Once your goal is set, and your travel account begins to fill up you can start estimating a day for your trip to begin. Of course you may have to plan this around your work. My job allows me to take off pretty much anytime of the year and if you would like this then you may have to consider finding a job that will allow for some flexibility.
Finding Cheap Travel Flights
Luckily for you I have written a complete guide for finding a cheap flight already! But Ill give a quick note on what to look out for in finding a cheap flight here as well.
Before anything else set your browser in “Incognito” or “private” Mode. This will hide your IP so that search engines do not raise your flight prices just because you are coming from a wealthier country. Once that is set, use Flight Search Engines like Kayak, Momodo and Sky Scanner. These sites search hundreds of different airlines and websites to get you the cheapest price. They also have Email Price Alerts in which they will send you a reminder if the flights get any cheaper.
The next step is the three-month rule. This literally means that statistically flights are cheapest three months before your departure date. This is the time when airlines play with their prices to see what they should market it at. It doesn’t have to be right at the three marker, but just start searching at this time. I found Wednesday has been the cheapest day of the week, but do search everyday as you never know.
Lastly be flexible, when you search it gives you the option of “exact dates” or “+or- 3 Days”. Choose the plus or minus three days, and pick the days on the calendar that have the little green dots as these are the dates that others have found cheap flights.
Check out my full guide on How to Find a Cheap Flight Here!
Choosing the Right Budget Travel Destination
Unfortunately, not every where will be within your budget. My goal with this post is to show you that no matter where you want to go, you can get there! But this is unrealistic if your dream is to travel Antarctica for two months with a budget of $1,500.
Most destinations in the world are definitely possible! But if a country requires a mandatory tour, or specialized expedition then you may find it hard to plan on a budget. This is where we go back to the planning stages in our trip. Its very important that we do all the research beforehand, this way we don’t end up saving for months for a trip that you may not necessarily be able to afford.
Luckily there is a plethora of budget travel destinations around the globe! Every continent has its cheap regions. More popular regions are South East Asia, Eastern Europe, North Africa, Peru and Bolivia in South America. These are just some examples, but if you look up Budget Travel destinations you can find so much information online!
Finding Cheap Travel Accommodation
In the past I would arrive to a destination, pray to several different gods, and hope that there would be a cheap hotel with available rooms. While this form of budget travel is fun and still prevalent in a few countries, it’s mainly outdated and could end up costing you more.
Hotel Booking Search Engines
For booking hotels, guest houses and hostels you have search engines like Booking, Hostel Bookers, Momodo and plenty more at your disposal! Go online and shop around. I use the Lonely Planet as a reference also as it has great recommendations and will tell you if the hotels are in close enough distance for walking.
I wouldn’t book all your hotels ahead of time. Just book the first one and then play it by ear when you arrive. You never know, you might get a recommendation from the hostel you are staying at. In the past, hostels have given me a discount if I stayed with their sister hostels in other cities. This is popular in South East Asia a budget travel destination.
The next tip is something I am actually relatively new to, Couch Surfing. This great app lets you stay with local people free of charge. I used it in Oman, because hotels in Oman are insanely expensive and I plan to use it again in the more expensive destinations. Its also a great way to meet people, and the profiles give ratings to make sure you don’t end up staying with somebody strange.
Eating Cheap on the Road
This can be either a blessing or a curse! What I mean by this is not all destinations I have traveled through had delicious local cuisine. If you travel through Thailand you will be blessed with a delicious, spicy, diverse and cheap cuisine. When I traveled through Papua New Guinea cheap food consisted of fried chicken, instant noodles, and street sausages, not the best when you are there for months at a time.
Whether you are in Asia, Africa, South America or even Europe, street food is some of the cheapest and tastiest eats you can get. Contrary to what most believe, its also one of the cleanest and safest ways to eat as you get to see exactly what your cook uses to cook with and how they cook it. Be smart, eat street food!
When you get your fill of street food or you just want to sit down in a restaurant then there are a few ways to avoid breaking the bank. My first rule is actually a safety rule, but doubles as a budget saver; See who is eating at the restaurant. If its full of tourists its most likely an overpriced buffet that serves bland and unsafe food. If the place is full of locals expect prices to be lower and food to be delicious/clean. Guide books are also great help in finding restaurants that are decently priced and high quality.
Getting Around on a Budget
This category changes fast! When I traveled in the past taking train, bus, or shared taxi was always the cheapest way to go. Many third world countries this is still the case, but a growing number of cheap budget airlines are opening up that can even beat the prices of long distance buses. Its always good to look into the price of flights before booking anything these days, although if you really want to get a feel for traveling, opt for overland its much more rewarding!
For me train is the best way to travel. You get to see the countryside, meet friendly people, and often you get a semi comfortable bed. There’s also something about a train journey that is sort of romantic and really adds to the travel experience. Trains are priced based on their class. Countries like India provide good classes for cheap prices, while traveling in Europe or Japan, its best to look for open tickets that allow a hop on hop off options.
Bus is usually the cheapest travel, although, long distances are uncomfortable. But they are very convenient; in most cases they leave very frequently making booking ahead unnecessary. With roads improving in a lot of third world countries, Buses are often faster then the trains, and offer the same opportunity to see the countryside.
Not always the safest option, but in many countries you will have no choice to stick your thumb out and hope for the best. A great way to meet people as well!
Finding a Job While Traveling
Work holidays are getting ever more popular and you should definitely consider this if you would like an extended staycation. In my eleven plus years of traveling I have taken two jobs abroad. The first was teaching English in Libya, and the second was teaching Scuba Diving in Thailand.
Teach English Abroad
This is an ever changing industry. Once you obtain a ESL or TESOL certificate you are qualified to work in some countries. Many countries are however changing their guidelines on what level of qualification is required. Some countries like Thailand say that you must have a bachelor’s degree in something relevant, this is not the case. Almost all the teachers I Know in Thailand are teaching on just a TESOL certificate, but don’t assume this is the same everywhere. In my opinion its better too show up and look for work then to sign some sketchy contract before leaving home, but its up to you.
This was my favourite job I had abroad. After obtaining my PADI Dive Master certificate in Thailand I started working in Koh Phi Phi as a Dive Master, and assistant teacher. I spent my days leading dives through colourful reefs and my evenings relaxing in chilled out reggae bars. This was the travelers dream, only problem is the pay. This industry does not pay well, unless you work at a fancy resort, which can be hard to get. So if you want to work and save up for travel maybe consider the ladder, but if you want a fun dive holiday where you can really learn about the destination you are in, then take the plunge!