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