During my last few years of travelling I have had a lot of people ask me, “how do you afford to do all this travel?” And I mean a lot of people.
Aside from “What is your favourite country?” This is the most common question I hear. The truth is, travel has been cheaper than I thought it would have been before I quit my job and left Sydney. When you travel long term it’s a very different style of travel compared to a two week holiday and this certainly helps keep the costs down. It is more about travelling slowly and enjoying the culture and lifestyle rather than visiting as many countries and tourist attractions as you have time for. I want to share with you some of my favourite ways to travel the world on a budget. I hope this helps you realise that you can, in fact, afford your travel dreams.
I love this site, it is such a great concept and I have met some awesome people through it. From a host staying up until midnight to let me in when my flight to New York was delayed, to landing in Orlando and being greeted with a glass of wine and a delicious home cooked meal, you really do meet some of the most welcoming people on Couchsurfing. However, it does take a bit of effort searching through profiles, finding someone you feel you could have a friendship with and writing a request they can’t decline.
I think Workaway would have to be my personal favourite. If you have heard of HelpX or WWOOF, they all follow a similar model. Workaway lists many different projects all over the world. It costs $20 to sign up but it’s totally worth it. You will get your money’s worth during your first placement. The concept involves volunteering for a host several hours a day in return for food and accommodation. I stayed with a local family in Siem Reap and taught English to children in the local village for a couple of hours a day. In return, I was given a bed in their lovely house and provided with delicious home-cooked meals. I was even invited to a traditional Khmer wedding (but that’s another story in itself). I also joined The Mindfulness Project in Thailand where I helped with a range of things from making mud bricks to logo design. The accommodation was pretty basic but the vegetarian food which we all cooked together was so amazing, I didn’t even think about the meat I was missing from my usual diet. We also got the chance to learn about Buddhism and stayed overnight in a local monastery.
This generally requires a bit more commitment but also less savings. There are many different organisations that are willing to help you find jobs overseas. Just make sure you know what you are signing up for before you pay any kind of fee. Some organisations will find a job for you, while others just promise help with finding a job such as access to a job board and a CV review. I personally used CCUSA for my placement as a specialised counsellor at a summer camp in the USA. They also help with finding work in Canada and the UK. Another option is to take a bit more risk and find work once you get to your desired location. This avoids the extra fees and gives you more flexibility with what kind of jobs you can apply for.
Stay in Hostel Dorms
When I didn’t have a Couchsurfing host or a Workaway project planned, staying in a hostel dorm room was my next best option. Large dorm rooms can be incredibly cheap and a great place to meet other travellers. To be honest I wouldn’t always go for the cheapest hostel option that was available. My technique was to look up the cheapest hostels on Booking.com or Hostelworld that had a rating above 7.5. This meant that the hostel would still be an affordable option but also relatively clean and comfortable.
Cook Your Own Meals or eat Local
Accommodation, transport and food are the three main things can make you burn through your savings pretty fast. When Couchsurfing or staying at a hostel it is best to cook some of your own meals and always have something easy for breakfast such as muesli. This can really make a difference to the weekly budget. However, in Asia, it is often incredibly cheap to eat at local food stalls and restaurants. Many people are afraid of the obvious risks that come with doing this, however, if you only go to places that look popular among the locals you can be pretty sure that it is going to be delicious. Just thinking about this has me craving a coconut shake and the best Pad Thai I ever have had from a small unassuming food stall in Koh Tao!
Free Walking Tours
Cities can also be a big budget killer during your travels. I really enjoy doing a free walking tour at the beginning of my visit to a new city. It helps you get a sense for the city and what it has to offer, your tour guide will often suggest places to eat and additional things to see, plus it is pretty affordable with just a tip expected at the end of the tour.
This is one of the easiest ways to keep your costs down while you travel. Take your time to really experience the places you visit and what it would be like to live there. When you travel long term you will most likely also want to travel slowly. Otherwise, you will get run down and exhausted from constantly travelling to new places and having full on days trying to fit in all the sights.
Take Local Transport
It can be tempting to take a taxi or shuttle to make finding your way easier and less stressful, but these costs certainly add up. As long as you have Google Maps on your phone and aren’t afraid to ask others for directions (maybe you’ll have to play a little charades to communicate) you’ll be able to find your way and save some dollars. Local buses are always a cheaper option and can be an adventure in itself. Flying is another option that can be a whole lot easier but also a whole lot more expensive. If possible try to bus to your next location. If you are travelling long-term the additional time it takes shouldn’t be an issue.
Now it’s Your Turn
My travels have certainly not been free but by using many of these options, I have been able to afford much more travel than I originally planned. I have even been able to have a much lower weekly budget than I had in Sydney, although this is largely due to Sydney’s crazy rent prices! This style of travel has also given me the opportunity to meet many more amazing people along the way. Do you have any additional ways that help you travel on a budget? I would love to hear them! Please share in the comments below.