Budget travel is not a myth. Countless travelers are exploring this wonderful world right now for less than $50/day.
I’ve put together a little guide that should help any new and seasoned solo traveler. I’ve found these tricks to help save money and enhance my travels in 30 different countries so far. Enjoy!
I walk everywhere when I travel. It’s not only a money-saver, it keeps me in shape! I average around 10 miles a day while on the road and I feel a lot better about myself when I’m exploring on foot. I also get to see much more of the destination as I can go at my own pace and on my own time. I’ve met new friends, found hidden beaches, alleys and cafes all because I took a walk.
If you’re not in to walking, taking the bus is by far the cheapest transport option. Local buses usually run daily, hourly and more. Long-distance buses are also super cheap. I’ve taken long buses for less than $10USD for a 4-hour journey. It’s just a matter of research and asking people for advice. I always Google ‘cheap buses from ___ to ____’ and go from there.
Buy a local transport card
Another cheaper option is to buy a local transport card. Almost every city has a weekly or monthly card that you can use unlimited times. This can save you loads of money instead of using taxis or renting a car.
Uber of Lyft
Uber has saved me so many times. You also get a free ride when you sign up and can get credit when your other friends sign up and use your code. Lyft offers free rides as well and gives you a bunch of codes to use for your next five rides. Either way they are completely worth it.
Things to do
Free museum days
Free museum days are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you plan your trip right, you can hit up several museums without pulling our your wallet. The catch is to research the museums you want to go to, then check out their ‘free days.’ They usually fall on the first Sunday or Tuesday of each month. Some even offer cheap admission after 5pm on certain days so look for that as well. San Francisco is a fantastic city that allows you to see plenty of museums for free each month. Check before you go as a lot of museums are free to enter anyways.
Once again Google comes to the rescue when I need to find answers fast. I Google ‘free activities in (the city I’m going to).’ Of course the results are endless, so I choose the first couple of websites and start my research from there. If you’re going to SF, check out our free things to do there here. 🙂
Walking tours are available in a variety of destinations around the world. Majority of them are free or they might ask for a tip at the end. Walking tours are a great way to meet other travelers as well as learn a good deal about the place you’re visiting. If you get a good group, you’ll end up going out for a drink after!
If you’re staying at a hostel, Airbnb or somewhere that has a kitchen, eat in! This will save you the most money by far. Eating out at all of the incredible restaurants is fun and part of what makes travel adventurous, but it’s bloody expensive. If you can even eat breakfast or make your snacks rather than pay, you’re already ahead. I love cooking on the road. Regardless if I’m cooking for one or five, I find it comforting to make myself a meal. And it usually is less than $10.
Get off the tourist trail
There’s a rule out there that you should never eat within five or six blocks of where you’re staying. Obviously this only applies if you’re staying in an uber-touristy location. Take a walk and get out of the city center and see different parts of the city. More times than not, you will find cheaper and better food. Plus you’ll get to meet locals.
Is breakfast included?
When I travel solo, I try my hardest to find accommodation that includes breakfast. That saves me a lot of money. One; it usually includes tea/coffee, and two; breakfast is ridiculously expensive in certain parts of the world. For example, I live in New Zealand at the moment and Eggs Benedict will run you anywhere from $17-20 depending on where you are. Add my soy flat white and my breakfast is nearing $25. No thank you.
Have a chat with the receptionist at where you’re staying and tell them your budget or what type of food you’re looking for. They know the destination inside and out and have awesome recommendations. I go to this breakfast place in Auckland every time I’m in the city because a receptionist told me it was the best. And it was. Plus, they know where the cheap (and delicious) eats are.
Hostels are cheap. They usually range anywhere from $15-40 for a bed in a shared room. You also share a bathroom and it’s definitely not for those who love their peace and quiet. Although the last couple hostels I stayed at, everyone was courteous and quiet and I got incredible sleep! But hostels are definitely for those who like to socialize. It’s one of the best ways to meet other travelers and new friendships are born every minute. I tend to stay in hostels to connect with other solo female travelers and come away with incredible travel stories and tips. I highly recommend it regardless your age. Hostel world is a great website for you to research places to stay.
Airbnb has revolutionized the accommodation industry. You can stay with locals in their homes, rent an entire house out, or just rent a couch! The variety is incredible and I love using Airbnb when I travel. I find that now that I’m in my 30’s, I like to have my own room and it’s usually cheaper and nicer to stay at an Airbnb. I’ve used it all around the world and have met incredible locals. Many places have their own guide printed out for you that includes the best restaurants, things to do and contact information. Read reviews of the hosts BEFORE you book. You don’t want to stay somewhere that ends up being uncomfortable or doesn’t promise what they show in pictures and descriptions.
Couchsurfing is another way to budget travel. You set up a profile on the website and you can request to ‘surf’ someone’s couch. They cannot charge you, but in return many people cook dinner or bring a bottle of wine for their hosts as a thank you. I used to use Couchsurfing like crazy in Australia and New Zealand and have made incredible friends through the website. I feel it’s tailored itself now to the younger crowd, but I still keep it as an option if I cannot find any accommodation.
Don’t be shy! Ask your friends and family if they know anyone you could stay with wherever you’re going. It’s one of the best ways to see a place. Plus you’re not technically alone. It’s a great transition into the traveling world if you’ve never gone solo. If I stay with a friend-of-a-friend, I always cook a meal. It usually ends up being Mexican because a lot of places do NOT know how to make it properly and it’s a big hit. (Thanks mom for the recipes!) 🙂
Housesitting is a great way to travel for cheap. It usually means that you look after a place (and maybe their pets) while they’re gone. In exchange for you watching over the place, you get to stay in an awesome house in a cool place. I did it in San Francisco for a month and it was crazy! It was one of the best locations I could have ever asked for and I really got to see what it was like to live in the city by the bay. It also saved me over $2,000 in accommodation expenses!
I buy alot of my tickets only one-way. I do this because I never know where I want my trip to end. I might have an end-date to my trip, but I might want to go somewhere else in that time and I don’t like to be tied to a return ticket. But for beginners, one-way tickets can also be cheaper. Check if there is more than one airport close to your destination and check flights to-and-from with that airport as well. It might be cheaper to buy one-way from one airport and cheaper to fly home from the other airport. The Flight Deal is my go-to website for cheap flights when I have a lot of flexibility and where I found that cheap flight to Europe!
Buy on a Tuesday
Go during shoulder season
Shoulder season, a.k.a slow season means cheaper prices. I went to Europe end of April until the end of May and I got a flight ROUNDTRIP for $440 including taxes. Accommodation was cheaper, tours were a bit cheaper and a LOT less touristy and I didn’t have to wait in line for anything. If you’re wanting to go to Australia or New Zealand, March and October are great months to go to miss the tourists and can save a bit on the flight price as well.
Before you go
I pack at least three different times for a trip. I start with a big pile and slowly dwindle it down to a smaller one. I find this important because I need to travel light. If you travel with checked luggage, a lot of flights charge you an arm and a leg now for it. Try to keep it to a carry-on. If not, keep it light and as small as you can. Only pack essentials as you can always buy clothes on your trip. Always pack your chargers/electronics/makeup as they are quite pricey in many parts of the world.
I say pre-plan because I love making lists. But if I pre-plan a trip, I can at least set out a budget. Then I go back to the ‘free activities’ list and plug it in to the itinerary to save money but not skimp on adventures. I feel alot more confident with a bit of planning, knowing that there are places I want to see and things I want to do, but I don’t book them. You never know what will happen when you travel so I rarely book in advance for activities unless it’s something that has a few months wait. Like Macchu Picchu or something.
Connect with others
Get online, call your friends, send emails, do what you can to connect with others who are traveling! There’s plenty of websites, apps, Facebook groups, travel forums, you name it that can connect you with other people in your future destination. A couple of my favorite blogs are The Blonde Abroad, and Nomadic Matt. They supply you with a shit ton of info for travel on all spectrums.
Free Wi-Fi is a huge plus for me since I work every day. I must have it. It also allows me to stay connected to fellow travelers easily and makes posting on Instagram and Facebook convenient. You shouldn’t pay for internet. EVER. TIP: Libraries have free internet. If you need it go there!
There you go! I think this should get you off to a pretty good start. If you have any questions, leave a comment below!
About the author:
Jen Heuett is the creator of Travel + Trust & Wanderlust, an online community to educate, empower and inspire women to travel solo. Her words can also be found on Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, and Travel Hooligan, her first travel company that inspires young adults to utilize the Working Holiday Visa in Australia and New Zealand. When she’s not traveling the world, she’s enjoying the Pacific Northwest and her mom’s tacos.