If you know how to travel cheap, then you’ll be able to travel all four corners of the world.
Backpackers that travel the world aren’t rich (most of the them anyway). They just know travel hacks or learn them on the road.
This doesn’t mean you will miss out on seeing the world’s beauty. In fact, you’ll see more of it and make more friends than travelling like a limited tourist. You’ll just have to travel cheap and reduce costs where you can.
And when I mean travel cheap, I’m referring to inexpensive or reduced cost of travel. I wouldn’t want you to rent a hotel in a sketchy part of town just to save $20.
I’ll tell you how to travel inexpensively (in no particular order) with my travel hacks and tips, plus I’ll provide free methods of travel; they’re not all mutually exclusive, but you’ll get the point.
With a bit of dedication, around-the-world travel is a reality even when you have little money.
How to Travel Cheap
1. Use Skyscanner for flights. It’s actually one of the cheapest ways to travel by air when you are flexible. Utilize their search wherever-and-whenever to find cheap flights.
2. Don’t pay for water at the airport. Bottled water is expensive in the passenger sterile area of the airport. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it at the water fountain or politely ask a restaurant. You’ll also help reduce plastic waste.
3. Stay in hostels instead of hotels. Shared accommodation is the way to go. Plus, you’ll make new friends – guaranteed.
4. Volunteer at hostels in return for free accommodation and food. It’s better to volunteer in countries with a high cost of living because accommodation and food will be expensive. Your ROI will be more.
5. Take buses instead of flights to international or cross-country destinations. Buses are usually cheaper but sometimes it makes more sense to travel on a budget airline.
6. Cook your own meals. It’s the cheapest way to eat most of the time. So, stay in a place that includes a kitchen.
7. Choose accommodations that include breakfast. Sometimes the only important difference between two places is the included breakfast.
8. Use Uber instead of a taxi. Using local public transportation may not always make sense. Taxis are known to rip off travellers especially when there is a language barrier. Uber is cheaper and provides an upfront price.
9. Walk – a lot. Walking instead of taking the local bus or a taxi will save you quite a bit of money over months of travel.
10. Hitchike. If you can’t walk, hitchhiking is a free option in countries such as New Zealand or Iceland. A bicycle is also an option.
11. Travel in less-expensive countries. This is no big secret. You can easily double or triple the length of your trip with the same budget if you choose your destinations wisely (e.g. Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia).
12. Wash your own clothes. It sucks to spend money on laundry. And it can be expensive. Just wash your clothes in the hostel washroom or shower with travel detergent. If you’re in a tropical climate then you can easily dry your clothes outside in the terrace or rooftop. If you’re somewhere cold, it’ll be hard and you may have to dry the clothes inside beside a heater.
13. Use a tent and camp. Some hostels allow people to camp on the lawn and pay a reduced price. It’s not always advertised so it’s better to email hostels in advance. Plus, you’ll always have a tent ready for the backcountry or trekking.
I met a British kid back in 2014 who just graduated university. He travelled to California, bought a bike, and rode it through Central America all the way to Panama. He had a tent with him so he would ask locals along his route if he could camp out on their lawn – it worked sometimes. He did the same for hostels. I’m sure he took the bus maybe a few times but I remember his tent in a hostel backyard in Panama City. He then had to disassemble his bike, put it in a box, and flew with it to Colombia. That was the last I heard of him.
14. Avoid dynamic pricing by using private browsing. Airlines can use your browser’s cookies to determine the likelihood of you purchasing their flight. This is dynamic pricing and if you are likely to purchase, then they are likely to increase the fare. You can use Google Chrome’s incognito mode to avoid this or clear the airline’s cookies. This practice is hard to prove or is denied by the airline industry. I’m just putting it out there.
15. Be flexible and get free flights. Sometimes airlines overbook flights and require volunteers to take the next available flight. As compensation of volunteering, airlines provide a travel voucher for future travel. If the next available flight is the next day, then chances are they’ll put you in a hotel for the night where you can get some R and R.
16. Rack up on travel reward points. Many financial institutions and airlines offer reward programs where points can be used to redeem flights, vacations, and hotel rooms. You can sometimes double the earned points by using a rewards program credit card. Be careful of credit cards that don’t justify an annual fee.
17. Work or volunteer on a sailboat. If you can handle weeks without seeing land, try working on a sailboat or yacht that crosses international waters to reach your destination.
18. Use Couchsurfing. Through the generosity of people, you can sleep on their couches for free when you travel. You can even score a bed.
19. Use a TV to charge your phone. If you don’t have a compatible wall charger plug type in the country you’re travelling, then try finding a modern TV in your hotel or hostel. Many of them have USB ports that provides power to recharge mobile devices.
20. Use a binder clip to cover your razor. The fact is many razors do not come with covers or lids. This can cause the blades to go blunt or you can even cut yourself if your fingers are fumbling around your grooming products.
21. Use your credit card’s travel insurance. Many credit cards, especially premium and travel credit cards already include emergency medical travel insurance for a limited amount of days. There is no need to waste money on double coverage. In addition, if you are employed or are covered under your parent’s employer-sponsored health benefits, then you may also have emergency medical travel insurance. Check with your provider.
22. Cover your checked backpack with an odd-size plastic bag. Backpacks can get ripped due to straps getting caught in airport belt systems or suitcases. Instead of partially protecting the backpack with your rain cover, ask the ticketing agent for an odd-size plastic bag to fully cover your bag. Just make sure to rip a small hole in the plastic bag and let the baggage tag hang out so it goes to the right area of the airport. In addition, you can reuse the plastic bag on long-haul bus trips.
23. Bring a LifeStraw. In situations where you’re in dire need of water or you’re in the backcountry, a LifeStraw will allow you to drink water safely from many sources.
24. Use Google Maps offline. You can download map areas of your destinations so you won’t need instant access to Wi-Fi when the bus drops you off in town. Also remember you can save specific addresses offline in Google Maps. Type OK Map.
25. Transfer your cologne, perfume, or any other types of transferable liquid into a smaller container. This will save space and a bit of weight. If you have a hard time opening the cologne or perfume bottle, then just spray the content into the smaller container. It only takes a few sprays.
26. Make free phone calls. Unless you haven’t owned a smartphone, you probably already know that you can make free phone calls on instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook Messenger.
27. Unless you’re travelling during the cooler months or trekking Patagonia, avoid bulky clothing. This will save a considerable amount of weight and space. Nobody enjoys travelling heavy and large.
28. Eat healthy. Be healthy. Having good health and being in decent shape will help you from overeating or getting sick regularly.
29. Photograph or print a copy of your passport. In the event you lose your passport, you’ll have backup abroad to provide identification. Also, many currency exchanges or travel agencies abroad that require a passport will accept a mobile version of your passport. Just take a picture of it right now and back it up to the cloud using Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive. This way it will be available across multiple devices.
30. Download Netflix or Amazon Prime videos to your mobile device. Sometimes long journeys on buses or planes come with inadequate entertainment, especially budget airlines where they charge a premium for movies.
31. Use ATMs to withdraw foreign currency when possible. Though ATMs can double charge (foreign bank and your local bank) for transactions fees, they usually provide better rates than currency exchange houses. Or you can just go to the bank. Sometimes these currency exchanges also try to flat out rob you.
In fact, I was provided a few counterfeit Bolivianos at a currency exchange by the Peru-Bolivia border in 2016.
32. Bring a couple of bank cards. The fact is ATMs are known to eat debit cards, especially when you’re not paying attention to the ATM prompts and are slow to respond. The card eating is usually done as a security measure but there are ATMs out there that are monsters.
33. Buy a dummy wallet. For those times a pickpocket gets the best of you or you get held up, load up a dummy wallet with a few counterfeit bills. Keep your real wallet or cash hidden, or keep them at the safe.
34. Sew pockets on the inside of your pants for your valuables.
I remember a traveller that told me he would have pockets sewn on the inside of his travel pants in case of thieves.
35. Give your change to the homeless. Some currencies do so poorly that it’s not worth to carry around coins and you can’t exchange coins at all currency houses. Do a good deed and just give it away to the homeless or a charity box.
And Here Are Some More Quick Travel Tips
36. Pack a dryer sheet in your luggage for smelly clothes.
37. Choose your airline seats wisely with SeatGuru.
38. Get Wi-Fi passwords on the Foursquare or WiFi Map app.
39. Download Google Translate for offline use.
40. Always travel with a pen.
41. Wear compression socks on flights if you suffer from enflamed ankles.
42. Use a kettle to steam your clothes.
43. Take 5 minutes to stare at the sky and clear your mind.
44. Plan as little as possible.
45. Lock your valuables.
46. Bring ear plugs.
47. Travel with vacuum-sealed space saver bags.
48. Hide your cash in two different spots.
49. Expect things to go wrong.
50. Create fake return plane tickets in case immigration wants to see one.
51. Write a packing and checking out list.
52. Don’t buy too many souvenirs.
53. Travel during low and shoulder season.
54. Use a VPN in public WiFi networks.
55. Bring solid toiletries for carry-on only air travel.
56. Get out of your comfort zone.
57. Bring a microfiber travel towel.
58. Forget the man purse or money belt.
59. Don’t stress the lack of Wi-Fi.
60. Make sure your phone is unlocked.
61. Invest in a good camera.
62. Consult with a travel clinic for travel to tropical climates.
63. One-way tickets are better.
64. Travel alone.
65. And sometimes travel with friends.
66. Translate signs and menus with Google camera.
67. Travel on long bus journeys with some napkins.
68. Smile at everyone.
69. Travel slow to save money.
70. Show up at hostel without a reservation and negotiate a better price.
71. Don’t put anything in your back pocket or let your phone hang out.
72. Mark your luggage with stickers or colored tape.
73. Get a power bank.
74. Get a dry bag for your valuable electronics.
75. Be careful of fake reviews.
76. Travel young.
77. Don’t try to see everything at once.
I hope you learned a few tricks with my travel hacks and tips.
And you don’t need to travel for several months or years at a time either. I understand people have family and other responsibilities or obstacles that are beyond this blog post. But I hope you do try to travel often and see the world’s beauty.