I have travelled the world on very little money in the past and I’ve never really ‘saved for the big trip’. I could have stayed at home longer, worked more and saved a sufficient amount of money, but most of the time I just get too eager to get on the road again.
I’ve had moments on the road where I’ve nearly hit a big fat zero in my bank account, but somehow it has always worked out and I’ve found a job doing something. The world, from my experience, is a pretty friendly place, and there’s usually people willing to help you out and offer you work in times of need. Travelling on a tight budget can sometimes be more fun than when you travelled with money.
The way I see it, to live, you need food, and you need water. Oh and air, mustn’t forget air. As long as you have those things, you’re pretty much sorted when it comes to the staying alive part. As they say, “the best things in life are free” and whilst it can be nice to have millions in the bank, if you’ve not got it, that shouldn’t stop you from having a damn good time. You can still walk around cities, gaze up at famous landmarks, hike through the countryside or sunbathe on the beach.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about how to travel the world with barely any cash in the bank.
If you want your money to last as long as possible, you’re going to have to set a budget and be quite frugal with your money. The trick is to keep track of your spending so that you don’t blow your budget too early on. This is easier said than done. If you’re going away for a fixed length of time, whip a calculator out and divide the amount of money you have by the number of days you’ll be away. If you go over your budget on one day, spend less the following day. A little trick I have is to only carry around the amount of cash I am allowed to spend for that day. If you’re travelling indefinitely, then just try to stretch your money out as long as you can and be prepared to work and let fate have a part to play.
Travel and Work
If you’re worried about running out of money, travel to somewhere where you know you would be able to get work. If you know you can get a working holiday visa in Canada, England, New Zealand, Australia etc, it might be a good idea to include that country in your travel plans if you’re low on cash. But even if you aren’t travelling to a country where you are legally allowed to work, there are many cash in hand jobs you can do in places like hostels and bars. I have met people who work ski seasons in Canada and then do summer seasons in Europe, and I know lots of people that have been permanently travelling and working for years.
Stay in one place for longer
The longer you stay in one place, the more friends you make. The more friends you make, the more people will help you. Someone might be able to hook you up with a job, or they might offer you a place to stay for a while. If you hang out in a bar often enough, you sometimes get a few free drinks thrown your way. If you’re looking to rent accommodation or transport, the longer you stay, the cheaper it gets. Renting accommodation by the night in a hostel can be quite expensive, but if you rent an apartment by the month, you’ll be spending a lot less.
Eat like a local
Avoid restaurants geared for tourists and eat like a local. Ask around and find out where they eat. I’ve often found that the restaurants with the best food are the ones that look pretty basic. Yes the restaurant may have plastic chairs, bad lighting and paper table cloths, but the fact that it is packed to the brim suggests that the food is good. If the locals are eating there, so am I, and you can be guaranteed it will be cheaper. If you’re staying in a hostel, see if people want to chip in and cook up a meal. If there’s quite a few of you, eating in and cooking yourself can work out a lot cheaper.
If its safe, fill up your water bottle from the tap
This is a relatively small thing, but can save you money in the long run. If the water’s safe to drink where you’re travelling, fill up your water bottle from the tap to save money on bottled water. If you’re in a country where the water’s a shade of brown, drink bottled water and avoid spending money on more expensive soft drinks.
Drink before you go out
If you like to party and you know you’ll be allocating much of your budget towards booze, buy it in the supermarket instead of buying drinks when you’re out. If you can leave your cards somewhere safe, just take cash with you on a night out so that you don’t end up with random payments for champagne and cocktails on your bank statement!
Have a skill you can use
If you have a skill, whether it’s plumbing, photography, massage, web design, writing, bartending, cooking or teaching, you might be able to use it in return for free accommodation, board or money. I have a friend who made really nice earrings and people she met started asking her to make some . I had another friend who made a website in return for accommodation and living allowance. If you’re into web design, photography or writing it might be worth sending a few speculative emails before you set off on your travels.
Do your RESEARCH
Wherever you’re going, do your research about how much things should cost in the place you’re going to. There are billions of pages on the internet and you can find pretty much anything on google these days, so there’s no excuse. So don’t be a dummy- make sure you’re well informed before you go. Have an idea of what you want to do and the cheapest way to do it.
Consider Free Accommodation & Hitchhiking
Some people feel a little bit uncomfortable about staying with a stranger for fear of being ripped off, harmed or having something stolen. This is a call you can make for yourself, but there are plenty of people out there who would be nice enough to give you a ride to where you’re going, or offer you a room for the night.
A friend of mine gave me a very useful tip about staying with strangers- his theory was that you should be the one approaching them rather than them approaching you. He reckoned this way round they are much less likely to have an agenda and rip you off, and if you approach them you can trust your own judgement and instincts.
Consider Couchsurfing or WOOFING, which is where you work on an organic farm in return for food and board.
- Victoria at Pommie Travel -