Is the high price of travel holding you back from seeing the world? With a few adjustments, the cost of traveling abroad can be much cheaper than you think. Traveling the world on a small budget is a common practice among young backpackers and more experienced travelers alike. There are plenty of ways to reduce your costs without compromising your experience.
Many find that budget traveling is actually preferable to luxury travel because of the way it brings you closer to the local culture. Unlike staying at a fancy resort or hopping on a Mediterranean cruise ship, traveling independently and cheaply can put you in touch with the day-to-day lives of millions of people around the world.
Here are some of the biggest ways to travel for less than you think while still having an amazing experience.
The easiest way to travel longer or more comfortably for very little is to go some place where your money stretches further. Five thousand dollars might allow you to backpack for a few weeks in Western Europe, but it’s enough to survive for months in Thailand or Vietnam.
When you plan your trip, be aware of what parts of the world offer the most for your money. Think Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe, South East Asia instead of Australia, and Central America instead of South America. The pricing in some parts of the world can also vary by season, and traveling during the off-season can make an unaffordable place more obtainable.
Planes, Trains and Overnight Buses
No matter where you’re headed, transportation is going to be one of your biggest costs. There are a couple of things you can do to try to keep these costs low. The first is to reduce flight prices by booking during low-demand times and using a search aggregator like Kayak to search many different websites for the best airfare. Also look at overland methods of transportation like trains, boats, and buses, which are often less costly than flying.
Since transportation costs eat up not just money, but also time, plan an itinerary where you spend longer in each destination and move less. If you’re constantly on the move, your costs will be much higher (and your trip more stressful) than if you spend more time in each place you visit. Consider making a major city your hub and taking day trips from there.
Forget the scary movies you may have seen. Hostels are not terrifying murder dens. They’re actually wonderful, inexpensive places to lay your head. Think of a hostel not just as a place to stay, but as an instant social life and an easy point of access into new cultures. Other cheap alternatives to expensive hotels include renting a short-term apartment, couch-surfing, and housesitting.
One of the most exciting ways to cut some of the fat from your travel budget while getting close to a new culture is to eat on the cheap. In general, you want to avoid any tourist establishments where prices are inflated–think anywhere with multiple languages on the menu and places directly next to a major tourist attraction. Eschewing these restaurants to eat more like a local will save you a ton of cash and introduce you to delicious new foods.
If you’re traveling in a country with great street food like much of Asia or Mexico, you’re in serious luck, as you can have an amazing meal for less than a couple of dollars. If street food is not an option, look for local fast food chains, bakeries, and small family-owned restaurants. Another option is to visit the grocery store and make a picnic of local foods.
While some major tourist attractions can cost a lot to enter (and some are well worth it), there are also tons of free and inexpensive ways to explore a new city. Wander aimlessly, talk to people, make new friends, and try new foods. Spend time exploring local neighborhoods, relaxing in public parks, or poking around smaller museums and churches. You never know what you might discover.