How To Travel Cheap (29 Easy Proven Ways)
The number one problem that is holding most people around the world from traveling is money. A lot of people think that long term travel must be extremely expensive and only possible if you have a tonne of money. However this is most definitely not the case if you know how to travel cheap.
We have never traveled on a large budget and in doing so for many years we have picked up many different tips to help keep costs down.
I think that the four main areas that you need to focus on to keep costs down are Transport, Accommodation, Food and Activities. So in this article we will go through each area one by one and give you are best tips to enable you to travel cheap and therefore stay on the road for longer.
1. Travel Slowly
It may seem obvious but the easiest way to cut down on transport costs is to travel slowly. Because if you aren’t moving then you obviously are not spending money on expensive flights, trains and buses.
Most travelers come to the conclusion after traveling for an extended period of time. That it is better to spend longer periods in cities or countries and get to know them better.
A good way to do this is find a low budget travel country that has a lot to see and do. Then just spend as much time as possible really getting to know the country.
We spent almost a year working and moving around Mexico and found that we liked to spend one month minimum in a destination. Not only did this allow us to really get to know a place and cut costs on transport.
But by staying for longer we also ended up saving a lot on accommodation. Because quite often you get weekly and monthly discounts on airbnb if book and extended stay.
When you stay longer in a location you also get to know where the cheapest deals on food are. If you are only in a location for a few days it may be hard to find the cheapest restaurants and supermarkets. But after a month or two you will know all the the cheapest deals like a local.
2. Ride Sharing Apps
Depending on where you are in the world ride sharing apps can be a great way to save money on transport.
With these apps if someone is driving somewhere and they have a spare seat they put an ad up. The ad will show the price they will charge for a seat and the departure time and pick up point. You can then choose a driver and depending on the country pay straight away or at the pick up point.
It can often be faster than taking a bus because you don’t have to stop to pick up and drop off passengers and can also be cheaper than public transport.
BlaBla car is one app that is widely used in Europe and also available in Latin America. We used it many times in Mexico and it was usually faster and more comfortable than the bus. You just have to be careful to make sure your driver is trustworthy and actually shows up.
3. Book In Advance
This is probably an obvious tip but generally if you book in advance you can save a huge amounts of money. Whether its booking flights, buses or trains it is usually a lot cheaper if you book in advance.
Especially with trains and buses in developing countries. It is often worth it to go down to the station to book your tickets if they are not available online as it will be much cheaper.
4. Be Flexible With Your Dates
This is one of the biggest mistakes that I have seen people make when booking flights in particular.
A lot of people will decide that they are going to fly out on a particular date and only check flights for this date. This can be a big mistake because particularly on long distance flights you can save hundreds if you are flexible and leave a few days before or after your desired travel date.
Of course if you are on a tight time schedule this will not be possible but if you can be flexible it can make travel cheap.
For this reason whenever I am searching flights while using Skyscanner I search by month. This way you get a calendar with the price for each date. Then I choose the date that works the best for me with the best price without being fixated by leaving at a certain date.
5. Be Flexible With Your Destination
This is a tip that will allow you to save money by being adventurous and spontaneous.
On Skyscanner, Kayak and a number of other sites you can search for flights and select your destination as Everywhere. If you do this for a particular date or month it will show you the cheapest flights leaving your departure city to any destination.
If you do this you may find some extremely cheap flights to destinations that you may not have considered going to. The first time I tried this I was in Copenhagen and the cheapest buses or trains to somewhere I wanted to visit where around 80 euros.
But then I found a flight to Belgrade, Serbia for 15 euros! So I went to Belgrade and had a great time. If it wasn’t for the super cheap flight I never would have gone there.
So being flexible and adventurous can also help you to travel cheap.
6. Avoid Peak Season
The peak travel season for any destination will usually mean that prices for accommodation and travel will be increased quite dramatically.
I have always found that by traveling to beach destinations when it is not peak season. That not only is it cheaper but that the experience is much better. There is usually far less people and a more relaxed atmosphere and it is also a cheap way to travel!
Particularly if you are living as a digital nomad there is no reason to be somewhere in peak season as you can move where and when you want.
7. Pack Light. Try Take Carry On Luggage Only
This is a tip that will not be possible for most people who are on long term trips. However medium length trips of at least a couple of months can still be done with carry on if you get creative.
Airlines can charge as much as 50 euros per trip on flights in Europe and charges are similar for flights in other areas of the world. So if you take multiple trips in a year the saving 50 euros per trip will be a big help to travel cheap.
Also as a bonus if you do not have to check in any luggage you save time in the airport before and after departure because you don’t have to drop off and pick up your luggage.
8. Change Home Country on Skyscanner
This is a tip that I discovered by accident while using Skyscanner.
While in Mexico the home country of my Skyscanner account was set to The United Kingdom for some reason. I then decided to change it to Germany randomly to see what happened and the prices all became cheaper.
After this happened I tried it out again and found that it worked again. You will have to just guess and try different countries but it can quite often lead to you saving a bit of money.
I never found huge savings but sometimes around 50 euros. But if you save a bit from all areas of your expenses it all add up and all you to travel cheap.
9. Use Incognito Mode When Booking Flights
You may have noticed that when you check for flights on a booking flight such as Skyscanner. You do some research and then go back to check the prices a short time later and the prices have already gone up!
This quite often because websites keep cookies when you visit the site and if you return they raise the prices. This is to try and make you worry that the prices will go up even further and you will panic and buy the tickets straight away.
However if you switch to incognito mode on google chrome you will quite often find that the prices go down and you will be able to get your cheap travel tickets.
10. Take Cheap Public Transport In Cities
When you are in a new city it can be quite daunting to figure out the public transport system. Especially if you can’t speak the language and it is much easier to take a taxi or Uber. But taking taxis everywhere will definitely get expensive very quickly in most countries.
I would always recommend to try and take the public transport in a city at least once (if it is safe). It is often cheaper and you also get a better idea of how the city is and what the people are like.
11. Check Taxi Prices Ahead Of Time
If you are in a new country and there are no ubers or you can’t book one as you don’t have a sim. It always a good idea to know how much a taxi should cost. Taxis at airports are one of the most likely places around world for you to be ripped off.
So before getting in one it is a good idea to ask a local how much a ride should be or google ahead of time.
12. Stay In Hostels
My number one tip to save money particularly if you are traveling solo is to stay in a hostel. Not only do you save a lot of money but you have the chance to meet fellow travelers and make friends along the way.
Some people do not like the idea of sharing a room with strangers and I won’t lie you will have to sacrifice some comforts. It is also highly likely you will have some annoying room mates at some point.
But especially when you as a younger backpacker some of my greatest travel memories came about because of friends I met in hostels and the experiences I had with them.
Also if you are traveling as a couple, a lot of hostels have private rooms and they are generally cheaper than hotels. So depending on the hostel they can be quite good quality and a cheap way to travel.
13. Check Multiple Booking Sites
I have always found that when booking hostels prices can vary quite drastically between booking sites. The two mains sites I use for hostels are Booking.com and Hostelworld. Sometimes it is cheaper on booking.com and sometimes on Hostelworld.
I also use the same tip when trying to book a cheap hotel or a guest room, always check multiple sites because prices can always vary.
Another tip is that sometimes booking.com will have private rooms to rent in peoples homes, similar to air bnb but often even cheaper.
14. Airbnb Tips
Of course Airbnb does not have to be explained to anyone but there are tips you can use to save money on rooms you book there.
The biggest tip is that if you book longer stays you get a discount in return. A lot of properties give a two week discount or a monthly discount. Quite often these discounts can be quite large and can mean a monthly stay could end up costing slightly more than a two week stay at full price.
Another small tip that I have noticed, particularly in cities with a lot of air bnbs. Is if you are searching by looking on the map and want the cheapest places. Make sure you filter for price. I have found that if you do not filter the results the cheaper properties are quite often hidden on the map by the more expensive ones.
One last tip is to make sure you book and airbnb with a kitchen so you can cook your own food.
Couchsurfing is a great option to get free accommodation if you are interested in meeting locals and don’t mind sharing a space with another person.
On this platform hosts will offer somewhere to sleep at their place for free. As the name infers this will often be a couch but if you are lucky they may have a spare bed.
There is no payment but it is considered good manners to maybe do something nice in return to the host like cook them some food but this is totally optional.
I used couch surfing in Norway as the prices of all accommodation was super expensive and it ended up being a great experience so I can highly recommend it.
Workaway is an online platform in which you can get free accommodation for work. Hosts can post a range of volunteer jobs such as farm work, animal care, hostel work, gardening etc.
In return for doing the volunteer work advertised by the host you will be given accommodation in return. The accommodation can vary quite dramatically and can range from a simple hostel bed in a dorm room to your own studio with it’s own kitchen.
We used this platform to travel around Mexico for several months and not pay for accommodation once. We would spend a minimum of one month with each host. Workaway was an awesome way to meet new interesting people and experience new parts of the country at the same time.
If you are interested in joining Workaway click here.
16. Pet sitting
If you love pets then pet sitting is a great way to get free accommodation. In return for looking after an owners pets you will get to stay at their house while they are away.
Of course it must be emphasized that you should only do this if you really love pets. The hosts are really putting their trust in you so you should only apply if you truly like spending time with animals. Plus it is quite a lot of work but is also so fun and rewarding.
There are a number of sites where owners post ads for pet sitters. We have used a site called Trustedhousesitters to find a few house sits and we love the site.
There are so many amazing houses around the world and we have had the chance to stay in some amazing houses while taking care of the cutest pets so we definitely recommend it.
17. Facebook Marketplace
In a number of countries around the world looking into facebook groups can be a good place to find cheap accommodation particularly for long term rentals.
While in Mexico we found that many people listed their properties for rent on facebook marketplace. They were much cheaper than airbnb as long as you were willing to stay long term.
18. Cook On The Road
Enjoying the local cuisines is one of the best parts of travel. However in most parts of the world you are going to save a lot of money by cooking a lot of your meals at home rather than going out to eat.
When we are looking for accommodation even if it is just for a few days we always make sure there is a kitchen. Then once we arrive we ask around and find out what the cheapest supermarket or local market is and load up on groceries.
Not only does this save you money but it ensures that you are able to cook some healthy meals at home. Whereas if you are eating out it can be a bit harder to find healthy meals in some parts of the world.
Of course the problem with that is trying to figure out what to cook when you arrive at a new destination. My advice is to master a few dishes using ingredients that are found every where in the world and don’t take too long. We also always travel with a bag of spices, salt, nuts, oats etc by doing this we know we can cook up a tasty meals no matter where we are.
19. Make Coffee At Home
When I first started traveling I would always go out and grab a couple of coffees throughout the day. However I started to realize that in a lot of countries I was visiting the coffee wasn’t even that good and the cost of buying them everyday adds up.
Now I always make coffee wherever I am staying every morning. I only head out for a cafe on special occasions or if I hear there is a really, really good cafe I need to check out. This way I enjoy it much more when I head out to a cafe and I save money on the coffee.
20. Always Travel With A Water Bottle
This tip is both a sustainability tip and a money saving tip. So often when I am traveling I see people buying multiple bottles of plastic water a day. Not only is this adding insane amounts of plastic waste into landfills but the cost also adds up over time.
We always travel with reusable bottles that we fill up at our accommodation and carry with us. This is a cheap way to travel and you are being environmentally friendly at the same time.
21. Stay Away From Restaurants In Touristy Areas
The areas of any city that has the most tourists generally has by far the most expensive food. Also the food in those areas is generally not that good and you will be surrounded with other tourists.
You will find that by walking a couple of blocks away from where all the tourists are that the food prices drop dramatically. Just have a look for restaurants that are full of locals they generally know where the best food is.
22. Look For Free Breakfasts
When booking hostels it can often work out cheaper to book a hostel that is slightly more expensive if it comes with a free breakfast. The breakfast would often cost you more if you bought it on the street.
Another bonus is that you save time by not having to make breakfast or look for it in the morning. But probably the biggest bonus of a free breakfast is the opportunity to meet other travelers. If you are traveling alone it can be hard to meet people sometimes.
But breakfast is a great place to meet new people as everyone sits together while they eat.
23. Buy Fruit As Snacks For Long Trips
One of the hardest things to do on a long bus trip or while waiting at the airport. Is resist the urge to go and buy some unhealthy snacks.
Not only are these snacks unhealthy but generally crazy expensive at a lot of airports. I find a good solution to this is to buy some fruit like an apple at a supermarket and bring it with you while you travel.
Not only is it a cheap way to travel it is far better for your health. Eating healthy while traveling can definitely be a struggle but adding fruit for snacks will make a big difference.
24. Google Free Things To Do
When I visit a new city I will nearly always google free things to do in the city. Someone will have written a blog post about free things to do in nearly every major city around the world. They can have some awesome ideas that are totally free.
In a lot of countries around the world museums will often have certain days where they are totally free. A lot of the time they may be free on Sunday or the first Sunday of the month. The entry fees for some museums can be quite high so it is good to be able to go for free where possible.
26. Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are available in most major cities around the world. Generally a local guide will wait at a meeting point in the city and at a certain time will take those who turn up on a tour around the city. Giving a brief history of the city with some interesting facts.
I have done these tours in many cities around the world and have nearly always found them to be very interesting and worthwhile.
While they are not really free as the guides work for tips it is up to you how much you tip. So those on a bigger budget can choose to tip more and if you are more strapped for cash you can choose to tip less.
27. Self Guided Walking Tours
One of my favorite things to do when I arrive in a new city is to just go for a walk without any big destination in mind. A good idea is to google a couple of nice areas and then just pick your own route on google maps and start walking. I find that you will often discover interesting parts of the city you never would have seen if you just stick to the main tourist attractions.
27. Avoid Tours
Try to avoid tours when going to major tourist attractions. There are many tourist attractions where tours are offered that cost a lot of money. But the tours offer little more than transport to the attraction.
So often it is better just to take public transport to the attraction your self. Not only will this allow you to travel cheap but you can take your time at the sites you visit and not have to rush and stick to schedule of the tour group.
Of course in some situations tours can work out to be cheaper. But it always pays to compare the price of a tour vs doing it on your own.
Going for a hike is an activity that is totally free or at least quite cheap and also has the added benefit of being good for your health. It is easy to get stuck in big cities and towns while traveling.
Especially as a digital nomad you may be living in these exotic locations but being glued to you laptop all day.
Hiking is a good way to escape the city, your laptop and see more of the natural beauty of a country.
29. Working Out
While traveling it is very easy to slip out of your workout routine and become unfit. Also in many countries around the world day passes to gyms can be very expensive.
Thats why the best idea is to learn workout routines that require no equipment and can be done anywhere. There are thousands of videos on youtube with routines that you can follow along with anywhere.
My personal favorite way to workout is to do calisthenics as there are calisthenics parks in almost any city in the world. For more information on how to exercise for free check out my article here.
That brings us to the end of our tips for how to travel cheap. Of course every individual is different and will prefer to spend more on certain things.
But we hope this list helps you save a bit of money and enable you to extend your travels so you can spend more time doing what you love.
If you have any more tips on how to travel cheap let us know in the comments below.