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Stretch Your Money Farther with These Budget Travel Tips

Most people don’t travel for extended periods, because they think it is expensive and the longer they stay away the higher the likelihood of not coming home to a job. In most countries companies have a rather limited holiday allowance for their employees. That alone prevents most people from travelling longer. So, unless you quit your job or are able to take a sabbatical, or some other kind of extended unpaid leave, you probably won’t need to know much about stretching your money farther.

However, there may still be some tips here that allow you cut some corners and indulge elsewhere. But mostly this is for those of us who travel for more than a month or two at a time. And most of us only travel as far as our money lasts. Let’s find out how we can make it last longer and thus take us farther.

Set a daily budget

This should go without saying, but not everyone is aware that setting a daily budget helps you save money. Many kids go on a gap year using their savings and with a vague idea how long these may last. But by calculating a daily allowance, which should include food, accommodation and transport (calculated as an average over the number of days you’re travelling), you can keep a better hold of your money and learn when you can spend it and when you may be stretching it.

You will also want to budget for tours you may want to take, so get an idea in advance what a given tour might cost you. And every once in a while you’ll want to treat yourself, perhaps on a day when you’re a little homesick. Don’t forget to budget for souvenirs.

Use a budget/expenses app

You can do this alternatively or in addition to setting a daily budget. When I started my current trip in Peru, I noticed that I was constantly withdrawing money from the ATM and wondered, where the heck my money went. I decided to get a budget app for my tablet to track my expenses. I retrospectively added all the money I had spent thus far (which resulted in a bit of a shock) and have diligently kept at it ever since.

It helps immensely when you can see where your money goes and it allows you to hold onto it a little tighter. It’ll also allow you to keep track of your daily budget and if you’re within it or not.

Travel outside of high season

You will travel most comfortably during shoulder season. In low season you’ll find the weather usually an impediment to your travels, which you’ll want to avoid. Find out what the high season is for the country or countries you’re travelling to and then decide when to go.

Shoulder season is on either side of the high season and whilst not as cheap as low season, the weather is usually agreeable, which makes for a more pleasant experience. Tour operators and hotels or hostels will also still operate. Some do indeed shut down during low season.

Take the bus

I’ve never been to a country where the bus wasn’t the cheapest way to get around. The comfort varies not only between bus companies, but from country to country. I’ve never seen overnight buses like the ones in South America. They absolutely rule. You won’t find anything like it in Europe, for instance, though you will likely not feel a need to take an overnight bus in Europe very often.

In fact, Europe is the only exception to the rule, especially when you book a budget airline far enough in advance. You won’t always have the luxury to do that, though. In most countries taking the bus is safe. But there are some places where it can be dangerous or at least horribly uncomfortable. I took the worst bus ride of my life in Bolivia. India is also not necessarily always safe. Do research road safety in advance.

Eat like a local

And by extension, eat where the locals eat. There’s no point in eating Western Food in South East Asia for instance. Sampling the local cuisine is part of the experience and it is best done where the locals eat. Western Food tends to be at least twice as expensive as local food and it’s rarely ever anything like what you know from home anyway.

There’s also the rule that the eatery most frequented by locals serves the best food. It’s true. The only country I can think of where you don’t want to eat where the locals eat is India. The infamous Delhi belly is almost inescapable, but you don’t need to tempt fate even more.

Shop around

When it comes time to go on a tour, no matter where you are in the world, shop around. In some places there are so many tour operators that you’ll feel slightly overwhelmed. Often your hotel or hostel also offer tours and they may not be cheaper than elsewhere. Compare prices and always find out what you’ll be getting for your money.

Unfortunately, cheap sometimes also means unsafe. If you need to be taken somewhere in a vehicle, find out if photos of the vehicle are available. Read reviews of the tour operator and remember that you get what you pay for.

Sleep in dorms

Dorm life is something you will get sick of eventually. But in most places you can’t beat the price for a bed. In South East Asia you will also have the option of guesthouses, which will often allow for a private room that is cheaper than a dorm bed in most Western countries.

If you absolutely can’t handle hostels, try AirBnB. Here you can stay with a local and in many cases have a room for yourself. You’ll have the added advantage of getting all the inside information locals can offer. Some will love to be your friendly guide to their hometown.

Go WWOOFing

WWOOFing nowadays stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. There are dedicated websites that will ask you for a small membership fee so you can get addresses for places where you can work as a volunteer for food and accommodation. You’ll meet great people, learn something about organic farming and can stay around for a while to get to know the area.

You will usually only work half a day at the most and it’s a great place to stay somewhere for longer without spending much of your own money. I’ve done four weeks of that in Hawaii on the Big Island and ended up wishing I had had more time to stay longer.

There are more ways to save money whilst travelling, some of which are much more destination specific. But above budget travel tips rule pretty much anywhere in the world. Everyone has their own tricks and ideas. Young backpackers will work at hostels that offer the opportunity. If you’re lucky you can do reception or bar work (if the hostel has a bar). Otherwise it will likely be some cleaning work, which is not everyone’s favorite. But you can stay for free at the hostel. Bear in mind that most places prefer a few weeks commitment, though.

I have done all of the above during my travels and have never felt deprived just because I was on a tighter budget than others. In fact, I had a fantastic time WWOOFing and I met some of my best friends whilst staying in hostel dorms.

How do you save money whilst travelling? If you have any tips to add, please share them below.

About the author

Anja

I left home eight and a half years ago to travel around the world for what I thought would be three years. I somehow ended up living a year in Melbourne, Australia, almost three years in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a year in Victoria, BC, Canada. In between I traveled slowly, but extensively. Just when I thought I’d go home and settle down for a bit, I ended up living in London working for one of the biggest online travel agencies there is. Needless to say travel holds my heart and when I finish my current trip around the world, I will have been to roughly thirty countries (“only” ten on this trip, though, seven of them for the first time). My first passion is, and always has been, writing. When I get back to Europe, I will continue to work on my freelance career, keep writing my own blogs and publish a novel one of these days, all whilst living on a houseboat, because settling down is not for me.