Fulfilling your travel dream doesn’t have to break the bank.
There are many cost-effective ways to travel on a budget that don’t jeopardize your experience. We’ve listed 10 ideas to help you travel on a budget and still have an awesome time.
Walking is a win-win for anyone who loves to travel on a budget. It saves you that hard earned cash and it’s good for you!
Some cities are made for walking, like Taipei, Taiwan. Even using their really cheap subway (one of the best in the world!), you still have to do quite a bit of walking.
It’s a sprawling metropolis with millions of people but walking was the best way to see the city up close. We discovered so much more by walking everywhere we could.
This plays true in any city. In Budapest, Hungary, the metro near our Airbnb was under construction on the weekends. We could have used the tram or bus but they were overcrowded due to our subway being closed. So what did we do? We walked! Even in cold and snowy January, walking along the Danube River was enchanting.
2. No-Fee ATM card
No-fee ATM cards have saved us so much money! When you go from country to country the currencies change, the cost of living rises or falls; it’s hard to discern how much cash to withdraw.
When we first quit our jobs and moved abroad to teach English in Taiwan, we were total newbies. It took weeks to hammer down a routine for withdrawing money and budgeting. Then we were off to Thailand, where one ATM charged us a $20 USD fee!
We were fed up and scoured the web for a better card. Luckily we found out about the Charles Schwab checking account.
There are no foreign transaction fees and NO ATM FEES! Hooray!
There are other banks out there if you choose not to go with Charles Schwab. We recommend searching on Nerdwallet for some help on good checking accounts for travelers.
3. Make your meals
Whether in Paris, Rome, Tokyo, or any major city, the cost of eating out is typically more expensive.
There are three main meals in a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That doesn’t include snacking. Even if in the big city for just a few days, eating out adds up quick.
One way to mitigate the cost of eating is to make your own meals.
Obviously, if you’re in Italy for a few days you want to try all the awesome Italian food you can. But what if you didn’t eat out for breakfast and instead made some oatmeal and had a banana? What if you didn’t go to that bistro and pay a service charge?
Fruit with nuts and yogurt makes a great cheap snack. Or maybe have a romantic night in with a bottle of local wine or beer with a homemade dinner.
There are so many concoctions that are easily prepared in a small kitchen. That’s why we love Airbnb. We can have a little space to make some meals, achieving that budget travel.
We save so much by shopping at the local grocer that we’re able to go big when we dine out.
In Taiwan it was hot and sour soup with lots of dumplings and potstickers. In Hungary it was pörkölt or goulash, full of meat and vegetables and creamy sauce. Don’t forget to add some Hungarian wine or beer to that.
4. Find cheap flights
Okay, we’ve talked about some ways to save money while abroad, but you actually have to get there first. For most of us that means we need to buy a plane ticket.
When we see that ticket price we wince in pain. But it’s not that bad! The internet provides a lot of great resources for finding cheap flights so budget travel is easier!
Google Flights is our favorite flight tool because it’s so user-friendly. You can search by the entire continent for a certain date or you can search a destination by a calendar.
The calendar is especially helpful for those that don’t know the exact dates of their plans but they have an idea of the general timeframe.
Another great tool is Scott’s Cheap Flights, which offers a free subscription or a paid version. Emails are sent out almost daily and they tell you which cities have a flight deal available from your region.
These deals typically last just hours to a couple of days so your decision making has to be quick. The paid version allows more specificity and you’ll also receive more emails and sooner than the free version.
5. Be flexible with your accommodations
For those short-term travelers out there be sure to check out hotels or hostels, but we don’t really recommend them.
Our favorite accommodation for budget travel is Airbnb, especially for long-term stays. Most Airbnb’s are cheaper per night, offer a kitchen, and some even provide insight into local life.
Like in Taipei, we were the only foreigners we could find in our area. We don’t speak Chinese except for some numbers and basic “hello” and “thank you”. It was an experience, to say the least.
Staying 6 weeks at an Airbnb saved us a ton of money compared to hotels and it gave us an unforgettable experience in a very foreign place.
For those wanting to have a really unique experience while traveling on a budget then we recommend three things: TrustedHousesitters, Couchsurfing, and farm stays.
We can personally talk about our experience with Trusted Housesitters because we have 6 sits lined up in the United Kingdom that begin in March.
That means we have free housing for 10 weeks. Let’s be real, the UK is not considered a budget travel destination when compared to eastern Europe or most of Asia.
Trusted Housesitters lets us watch people’s pets for them while they’re away in exchange for free housing. We think we’re getting the better end of the deal. There is an annual membership, but you can get a discount on your first year.
Couchsurfing allows you to stay with a local for free in exchange for some culture sharing. Sounds easy enough but it’s outside of the comfort zone for some.
But when you can stay in Amsterdam for free then getting to know a stranger doesn’t sound like a bad deal.
Farm stays are another option.
Love working in a garden or want to practice a language? Just want to see the countryside and stay with a family?
WWOOF and WorkAway are two great programs for this! They require a membership fee so it’s not totally free but you’re getting to really experience what living in that country is like.
We’re hoping to try these farmstays out before heading back to the States!
6. Work whilst travelling
This isn’t an option for everyone, obviously. Some of us travel because we have time off from our day jobs. If that’s the case for you then don’t work while you travel. Those emails can wait.
For those that are traveling for an extended period of time, why not look into working while you travel? What’s better than making money to pay for your expenses abroad? Sounds like a sweet deal to us!
We found jobs teaching English online. We’re now going from country to country, seeing the world, as long as there’s a good internet connection.
It’s been quite an adventure!
Teaching English isn’t the only gig out there for nomads. There are copywriting jobs, graphic design, web design, virtual assistants, the list goes on.
If these sound like they’d never happen for you then think again! We never thought we’d be teaching English to Chinese children from our laptops in different countries across the globe.
We’re making money while traveling, even saving money some months, depending on the destination. Can’t beat that!
7. Ditch the phone plan
Phones are part of our being nowadays so taking them with us while we travel is essential.
If going for the short term, be sure to check with your carrier for plans while abroad. However, we highly recommend suspending your plan while traveling.
They’ll save your number for when you return, don’t worry! If you do use your phone’s data while abroad you will be charged massive fees so suspending your number or having a travel plan is a sure way of avoiding that headache.
Public Wifi is also becoming very accessible. The free wifi isn’t as widespread in Asia as Europe. You’ll find Wifi at restaurants, public transport, or at your accommodation.
Many Asian countries offer very cheap phone plans for travelers. For instance, an unlimited data plan for 30 days in Taiwan costs around $30 USD per person.
Temporary phone plans in Europe are more expensive and the data usage is limited. But we’re now going on 2 months on the continent and a phone plan has never seemed necessary.
If you do need a phone plan while abroad, Google Fi or T-Mobile offer decent phone plans for travelers.
8. Do as the locals do
As we’ve mentioned, eating the local cuisine is a great way to experience a different culture. It’s also cheaper! Do locals eat at the expensive touristy restaurants? Nope! Seek out those less talked about places to find some cheap but tasty grub. It might be the local produce market or a pub off the beaten path.
We hope these eight tips will help you find a budget friendly way to travel. These aren’t all of the tips we could think but they stood out the most to us.
The cost of travel always depends on the destination and you! Most importantly, say yes to that travel idea you have.
Whether you’re traveling for a short break from the job or you’re looking to travel indefinitely, you’re buying memories to last a lifetime. In our opinion, that’s money well spent.
We’re Darah and Garrett, two mistake-prone wanderers with a mad love for food. Our story began in June 2016 when we eloped in a pink Cadillac in Las Vegas. We quit the 9-5 life two years later to move abroad. Now, unexpectedly, we’re digital nomads who teach English online. Life is full of surprises!
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