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Updated: 07/03/18 | July 3, 2018
This is something I hear from everyone I talk to: “Matt, I simply don’t have enough money to travel.”
This problem — and how to overcome it — is my most asked question. I have answered this question in a plethora of posts, emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. Long-term readers might even be getting sick of me discussing this subject, because it is one I talk about so much. But I know no matter how often I address this question, it will come up again.
Since this question comes up so often, I like to constantly remind people of this fact:
You do not need to be rich to travel.
Let’s repeat that.
You do not need to be rich to travel cheap.
I sure wasn’t. I had an average-paying administrative job the year before I left for my first trip. It wasn’t a lot after taxes.
At the time, I was still paying college debt, and yet using these tips, I managed to save over $20,000 for my initial trip around the world.
How? I made it a priority.
If travel is not a priority for you, you will always find some other things to spend money on and you’ll never have “enough” money to travel. I never have enough money to go shopping or buy a new electronic gadget, because I spend my money on travel, so there isn’t much left over for non-priority expenses. Everything I do is focused on having more money for travel (and other things I love, like sushi, movies, and nice dinners)!
“But Matt, I work a minimum wage job/am a student/live on Social Security/am underemployed/live with my parents/spend a lot/have kids/, and no matter what I can do, I’ll never be able to save enough. I can’t even pay back my student loans. What do I do?”
The Cheapest Way to Travel the World: The Ultimate Guide to Cheap Travel
What do you do when you are in that boat? What do you do when prioritizing your budget?
Six years ago, I attempted to answer that question in this blog post. Now, I’ve updated this post to address those concerns again, because the methods and resources have changed.
But the central tenet remains the same: You don’t need a lot of money to begin traveling.
Even if you don’t earn a lot or you have debt, there are still ways to go overseas. Follow this ultimate guide to travel frugality and see the world on the ultra-cheap:
Not making enough money at your job? Why not get a job overseas? There are plenty of opportunities in the world as long as you aren’t picky — and after all, this isn’t a career you are starting, it’s just a way to earn money for travel. Here are some jobs you can get to pay the bills and fund your travels:
Working overseas often gets discounted as an option because it seems hard to do. It’s not. Just be open. These jobs don’t require advanced degrees or a lot of work experience either. Are you going to get some high-paying office job? No. Will you get a shitty, low-wage job that will pay all your travel bills? Yes! I’ve met people from all walks of life, both from Western and non-Western countries, funding their travels this way.
READ MORE ABOUT WORKING OVERSEAS:
One of the best ways to make money for travel is to teach English overseas. You can make a lot of money teaching — I replenished my travel funds while working in Thailand, and I have had friends leave South Korea with tens of thousands of dollars in the bank. All you need is the ability to speak English fluently and maybe a TEFL degree, depending on the country you work in. The world is yearning for teachers, and this is a job in high demand; many companies in Asia will even pay for your flight over.
Additionally, there are many websites and services out there that allow you to teach virtually. As long as you have a great wi-fi connection, you can help people learn English from anywhere in the world!
READ MORE ABOUT TEACHING OVERSEAS:
Get free flights
I hate when people tell me they can’t afford to fly. There are so many ways to earn free flights. Sign up for a few, collect miles, and then fly for free. Most cards offer sign-up bonuses of 50,000 points — and if you sign up for both an airline card (e.g., a United Airlines card) and a general rewards card like the Chase Sapphire or AMEX card, you can combine the two point balances and get a cheap flight faster.
By collecting points and miles through credit card bonuses, smart everyday spending, online surveys, bonuses, and other methods, you’ll accrue a ton of miles even before you’ve left for your trip. You can go a lot further in the world when you take away the cost of flights and some accommodation.
READ MORE ABOUT TRAVEL HACKING:
Stay with locals for free
There are many services that connect travelers with locals who are willing to let them stay with them for FREE. Using these sites, you will never have to pay for accommodation. Years ago I read about a guy who traveled for years while only Couchsurfing. I’ve used this service about 10 times and always meet amazing people. Sometimes you get a room, sometimes a couch, sometimes an air mattress, but it’s always free. There are also local Couchsurfing group meet-ups that can help you make friends in your new city. Moreover, because of the rise of the sharing economy in the last few years, there are now websites that let you not only stay with locals but share rides, meals, train tickets, gear, and much more! These websites not only save you a TON of money but they also get you off the tourist track and into the local life. Win-win! Here is a list of websites to use for free accommodation:
READ MORE ABOUT FINDING CHEAP OR FREE ACCCOMMODATION:
Use the sharing economy
Use the sharing economy to find cheaper accommodation, quirky tour guides, rideshare options, and home-cooked meals with local chefs. You can bypass the traditional travel industry with sharing economy websites and gain access to locals using their own assets and skills to become small tourism companies with cheaper prices. Moreover, locals know where to find deals. They know which supermarket is cheapest, which stores offer the best sales, and where to find the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars with the tastiest food at the lowest prices. Talking directly to them gives you access to that knowledge.
These websites have changed the travel game and made travel more accessible for everyone.
Here are some of my favorite websites:
Hitchhiking is a free way to get around that is relatively safe and quite common in many parts of the world, including Central America, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. I’ve hitchhiked in more than a handful of countries (and I know solo female travelers who have done the same!). Sure, it has a bad reputation in North America, but with some common sense and a bit of patience you can hitchhike almost anywhere — saving you tons of money in the process!
READ MORE ABOUT HITCHHIKING:
Free walking tours
Want to learn about the city, get your bearings, and see the major sights? Take a free walking tour. You can find them in 90% of the major cities in Europe, and there are also a few in large Asian cities, South America, New York, Australia, and New Zealand. To find these tours, ask the local tourist office, your hostel staff (or just walk into a hostel and ask about them), or Google “free walking tour (city name).” Just be sure to tip at the end!
READ MORE ABOUT TAKING FREE WALKING TOURS:
Can’t afford your vacation? Watch someone’s house while they go on theirs! You can sign up for one of the sites below and watch people’s homes (and often their pets) for free, allowing you to stay in one destination for a while without having to pay for accommodation. Everyone’s account is verified so you know you won’t get cheated. This is a great platform for long-term travel with an important added bonus: you get a kitchen to cook your food (which saves you even more money!). Here are the best house-sitting websites to check out:
READ MORE ABOUT HOUSE-SITTING:
Cook your meals
The best way to save money on the road is to cook all your own meals. I recently spent $60 USD for a week’s worth of groceries in Stockholm instead of an average of $15 USD per meal eating out! That’s a saving of $150 USD! If you are Couchsurfing, your host will probably have a kitchen, as do many hostels, campsites, and guesthouses. No kitchen? Pack your own container and silverware and make some sandwiches and salads on the go. Not every meal requires a stove, right?
Just because you are traveling, it doesn’t mean you need to eat out every meal. You won’t ruin your trip to Paris if you decide not to eat out one day! There’s simply no reason to be spending lots of money on food on your trip!
READ MORE ABOUT SAVING MONEY ON FOOD WHEN YOU TRAVEL:
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s a platform that allows you to work on a farm in exchange for free room and board. It’s a great way to see a destination in-depth while allowing you to commune with the great outdoors. You have to pay to get to the farm, but once you are there, everything else is covered!
READ MORE ABOUT VOLUNTEERING:
Here are five additional ways to save money that cost a little but are still very cheap:
Get rail passes — Booking ahead of time can usually save you about 50% of the cost of a train ticket, but if you don’t want to be tied into a fixed schedule, rail passes can save you a lot of money.
Sleep in large dorms — Large hostel dorm rooms are the cheapest paid accommodation out there. If Couchsurfing isn’t your thing, this is your next best way to save money on a place to sleep.
Use student and other discount cards — Are you a student, teacher, or under 26? Welcome to the world of 50%-off attractions and a plethora of discounts. Get a student/teacher/youth card and save big!
Get city tourist cards — If you plan on seeing a lot of sights in a city, you should get a city tourism card, which offers you discounted and free access to the major attractions and museums, as well as free public transportation. I saved over $100 with the London pass, $80 with Paris Museum card, $50 with a Helsinki card, and tons more with other city tourism cards. They are an amazing way to save money on attractions that not enough people use.
Sell your services — Need some cash? Use Craigslist, TaskRabbit, or Gumtree to find people who need a few things done around the house and get paid to help them. It’s a way to make money when you travel without committing to a long-term job. Additionally, if you have a skill, sell it. Offer haircuts to other travelers, busk for money, consult, etc. You can also help people learn your native language through apps like Duolingo.
Between all of these tips, you’ll be able to travel for relatively little money. After all,and once spent .
If I can do it, you can do it too!
Whether it’s two months, two years, or just a two-week vacation, travel doesn’t need to cost a huge sum of money.. Using out-of-the-box, nontraditional ways to travel can lead to big savings.
With a little creativity, patience, and practice, you can travel the world with little to no money!
Next Steps for Traveling
To turn the above advice into actionable steps by reading the following articles:
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