Photo: Ty Coy
You may think it’s impossible to travel the world cheap, or that traveling for long periods of time is only for people with a lot of time and money on their hands. Well—you’re wrong! There are plenty of people who’ve found a way to travel the world on a budget, and you can join their ranks. Learn how to travel on a budget with these 30 cheap travel tips. With these tips for traveling around the world, you’ll be out of here exploring the world in no time.
1. Budget-Friendly Destinations
Photo: Ben Leo Davis
You could spend a week in London, or stretch that same budget out several weeks (or even months) in a place like Southeast Asia, or South America. If you want to travel the world on a budget, and you don’t have your heart set on a specific place, you should definitely give some cheaper destinations a try. You may even find a location that you love more than you could have ever anticipated.
Here are a few of our favorite budget-friendly destinations:
- Xian, China
- San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
- Barcelona, Spain
- Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Gaziantep, Turkey
- Amritsar, India
- Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand
For more ideas for cheap travel destinations, check out this budget-friendly travel guide.
2. Be Flexible and Travel in the Off-Season
If you want to find cheap flights you shouldn’t just be flexible about where you go, but when you go. Fly in the off-season to avoid crowds and get reduced ticket prices. Remember, the off-season is different if you’re going to the southern hemisphere. Going where the tickets are cheap will jump-start your travel.
We suggest you visit at least 3 websites to find the best deals and the cheapest flights. The more you research, the more likely you’ll strike on a good deal. Our favorite sites to research flight prices are Google Flights, Momondo, and Skiplagged.
If you want some more tips and tricks, read these 5 flight finding hacks from Jesse Neugarten.
3. Pay Attention to School Semesters
Flight prices always rise slightly right after school semesters end or begin because that is when students must fly home (or back to school), or when families choose to take vacations. Depending on where you are, school semester end dates vary. Try playing around with different dates to see the prices before school’s out and after, so you can travel the world cheap.
4. Purchase Tickets Together
If you’re already planning to travel around the whole world or make several stops along the way, you can travel the world cheap by purchasing all your tickets together in a Round the World Ticket. You can use companies like Star Alliance, SkyTeam, or One World to do this. Feel free to play around with flight planning a little bit. Check how much it would be to book every leg fo your trip separately, and then compare Round the World Ticket prices. Typically Round the World is cheaper overall because it bundles flights, even if it looks like a big chunk of cash up front.
5. Free Flights
Yes, this cheap travel tip is possible. The best way to get free flights is by getting some travel credit cards with a few airlines. Nomadic Matt has an excellent article on how to find the best travel credit cards for 2018, so you can travel the world on a budget. Many cards have sign up bonuses that can help you get started, and as you purchase more flights and make daily purchases you will get even more points. Sign up, get points, fly free. Tip: Track all of your rewards programs using the WANDRD Travel Journal (pictured below).
6. Credit Cards for Foreign Travel
Actually, while we are on the subject of credit cards, credit cards that get travel points are great but are not always ideal to use for daily purchases, depending on where you are. Many credit cards have ATM or foreign transaction fees that are usually 3% of the total transaction cost. If you’re doing the math, it adds up to quite a bit depending on how often you use your card. Thankfully, you can travel the world on a budget by cutting out this 3% fee and finding cards that have no foreign ATM charges and no foreign transaction fees. There are several cards out there to choose from and Charles Schwab even offers a checking account debit card with no monthly maintenance fees and no ATM fees—ever.
7. Pack Quality Clothing
Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you should go for the cheapest clothes you can find. You will end up wasting much more time and spending more in the end if your pants can’t even make it through a couple hikes. (Also, there’s nothing more embarrassing than tieing your sweatshirt around your waist for 8 hours because you have a big hole in your crotch...just saying) Selecting a few good-quality pieces the first time will actually help you travel the world on a budget in the long run. The good news is, you don’t need a lot of clothes. Make a list, get only the absolute basics, and make sure they are made of quality, durable material.
8. Pack for Your Destination
Sure it’s summer in America right now, and t-shirts and shorts feel great, but you’re going to Argentina. Shorts and t-shirts won’t feel quite so good when you step off the plane into a chilly Argentinian winter—now will they? Think about the weather where you’re traveling. It takes literally a minute to find out what the average temperatures look like and whether it’s the rainy season or dry season. Save yourself some money with this cheap travel tip, so you don’t have to purchase clothes when you arrive. This way you know if you should be packing a raincoat and some boots, or tank tops all the way!
9. Consider the Culture When Packing
This brings us back to the point above. Just because the weather is a bit warmer and you like shorts and tank tops, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate clothing for where you will be traveling. Check for any customs your destination may have. For example, in many parts of Asia it’s perfectly fine to wear shorter shorts (for women at least—guys, not so much), but not really appropriate to wear tank tops or low-cut shirts (again—for girls). Keep this in mind to avoid having to go shopping for an entirely different wardrobe when you’re out and about.
10. Pack a Carry-On
Photo: Richard Bustos
Checked bag fees continue to rise and increase the likelihood that something will be lost in transit. Force yourself to carry only what you need by packing a carry-on bag. You will be able to travel the world cheap, keep better track of your things, and get around faster if you’re visiting various locations. WANDRD’s PRVKE pack is a great backpack carry-on, or if you need more room the HEXAD duffel bag is a great option. Keep in mind that it’s so much easier (and faster) to get through customs if you only have a carry-on and don’t have to re-check a large bag.
As long as you can wash your clothes every couple of days, you won’t end up smelling like an old gym bag. Keep in mind that you don’t need to bring everything with you—many hotels and accommodations offer complimentary shampoo, toothpaste, and toiletries (or you can also just buy them at your destination as well).
11. Stay at a Workaway
Staying in a hotel when you travel is the surest way to spend a ton of money really fast. Why spend extra on your accommodation, when you could use those funds to travel to a new place, or buy way too many bowls of ramen? Programs like Workaway allow you to volunteer in exchange for free lodging and food. This might include working on a farm, at a bed and breakfast, or a myriad of other odd jobs. Just go with an open mind, prepared to work, and you can easily travel the world on a budget.
You’re an adult now, be adventurous and save some serious money by camping for the duration (or at least part of) your trip. Sure it’s a bit grimy, but if you really want to get out and explore the world, a little discomfort is totally worth it. Some countries lend themselves to camping more than others. For example, the police in Japan probably won’t like it much if you’re trying to pitch your tent in a park or something. However, America, Australia, and New Zealand, to name a few, are great places to camp your way around. Just make sure you’re abiding by local laws when you camp.
13. Travel in a Campervan
Photo: Michael Weybret
If you’re planning to be in a large country for a long period of time then you might want to travel around in your own campervan or car—freedom! You can opt to rent a campervan, or it might just be cheaper to buy one for your trip, depending on how long you need your vehicle. This couple from the UK and Anna (also from the UK) have some great cheap travel tips on how to rent or buy a campervan, from when they traveled around Australia for one year.
14. Travel at Night
Because finding a place to stay can really eat into your budget, try to plan any traveling overnight. Take that red-eye, or jump on an overnight train! You’ll save money on accommodations for that night. You can even choose to have a long layover and sleep on the floor of the airport. (It’s not the most comfortable thing to do, and the security guards in Singapore might wonder why you’re doing it, but it can be a great way to save money and travel the world on a budget.) There’s even a whole website dedicated to sleeping in airports called “Sleeping In Airports”—go figure.
Photo: Ty Coy
Friends are great for letting you crash on a couch when you pay them a visit and can really help you travel the world cheap. However, if you don’t know anyone you can crash with on your next adventure, you’ll certainly want to look into CouchSurfing. The idea behind this mind-blowing concept is that you are willing to offer up your couch, and in exchange, you get to be part of a community of people who also offer up their couches (or beds, or air mattresses—you get it). Make some new friends in a community of like-minded people who want to travel, just like you.
16. Friends of Friends
This is a great option, especially as you build your international network of friends. You can reach out on Facebook to find friends you can stay with when you travel or friends of friends who are willing to host you. Just remember to offer the service back and be the best couch crasher they’ve ever had. We’re big advocates of bringing a small gift to people who let you crash for free (especially if you’re traveling in Asia—it’s a must).
17. Free Accommodation with Locals
We’ve already covered your new best friend, CouchSurfing, but there are also services like Servas, and Global Freeloaders if you need a few more options. Staying with locals really is the best way to travel the world on a budget and see new places because your hosts can direct you to their favorite joints and hang out spots.
18. Work Your Way Around the World
Photo: Mary Claire Stewart
You want to make sure you’re obeying the law, but there are plenty of opportunities to work while you’re abroad to continue your travel journey. Some websites like Workway, HelpX, and WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) allow you to find work and volunteer in exchange for food and a place to stay. Other options for traveling and working include house sitting through MindMyHouse and HouseCarers.
If you enjoy teaching, you might also consider teaching English abroad. Countries like South Korea and Japan pay very well and you can make enough that you can save money to travel during school breaks. Other places like Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and China, don’t pay as much, but you can still explore the country you’ve chosen to call your home. Just remember that most countries require you to have a bachelor’s degree to teach English, and it is always a good idea to look into their TESOL or TOEFL certificate requirements.
19. Glorious Street Food
Going to a restaurant once in a while when you’re traveling can be a fun treat, but if you do it every day you’ll run through your travel budget at an accelerated rate. Follow this cheap travel tip and eat street food like the locals. You’ll still have the convenience of grabbing a quick bite while saving money, and best of all—you’ll get to try new things that the locals like to eat. After all, you’re traveling to have new experiences right? Grab some Beondegi (번데기) in South Korea and tell us what you think.
20. Kick the Coffee Habit
That addiction that drives you to pay for overpriced lattes every morning—yeah, give it up while you’re traveling. Even if you’re only spending a few dollars a day, you’re basically drinking away your food budget for the day. If you really want to travel the world on a budget and absolutely cannot do without your coffee, you may need to do a cleanse, or grab the cheapest coffee you can. A few months of nothing but Americanos may make you reconsider your coffee habit anyway.
21. Shop for Your Food
Photo: Tracy Dungo
Eating out gets expensive and it’s nearly always cheaper to prepare your own meals (even in countries where people insist it’s cheaper to eat out all the time). Find the nearest grocery store and grab some food. Even if you just cover your breakfast and lunch costs, you will still save more money than if you went out to eat.
In some countries, you might even consider getting your meat and vegetables from open-air markets, where the prices are really, really cheap. Also, exploring grocery stores, markets, and convenience stores is seriously fun to do in other countries. In Japan, 7-Eleven and Lawsons are LYFE! Grab a cheap onigiri with fish eggs and mayo, or a pizza-man bun, and savor every bite.
22. Local Food is Best
We get it, sometimes you just can’t help but crave a good burger. News Flash—unless you’re somewhere known for great burgers, you probably won’t find what you’re looking for—and you’ll pay double for it. Avoid the unsatisfying burger, head down the road and grab a local meal that costs half as much, and tastes twice as good. Sure, traveling on a budget might make you crave food from home, but local food is much more affordable, and way better tasting.
23. Drink Tap Water
Okay, so don’t actually drink directly from the tap. Bring a Steripen or LifeStraw and purify your water to save you money on purchasing bottled water. You’ll be less wasteful and won't have to worry about whether the “bottled water” you’re purchasing has actually been filtered or not.
24. Find Local Hangouts
If you really want a feel of what life is like in a country, don’t go to the bars and clubs frequented by foreigners. They’re certain to be overcrowded and overpriced. You didn’t travel halfway around the world to do the same thing you can do back home. Ask your host, local bartender, or friends what they like to do and where they like to hang out. You’ll learn how to travel on a budget by hanging where the locals hang. It can be as simple as grabbing some lunch and enjoying the views in a nearby park.
25. Don’t Rush
Slow travel is one of the best ways to travel the world on a budget. If you’re trying to get from one place to another very quickly, you will find yourself spending more money on faster trains and direct flights. Take the express train over the bullet train, or the bus over a taxi. You’ll save a lot and enjoy it more.
When you need to get around it can be tempting to take the fastest option, but if you're trying to travel the world on a budget this cheap travel tip is as simple as lacing up some good walking shoes. Wander around, get lost (but keep your map with you) and really get to know the city you’re staying in. Plus, getting to the gym is hard when you travel. Look at it as free exercise.
27. Take Public Transportation
Photo: Meghan Collison
Aside from walking, learning how to travel on a budget involves learning the public transportation system where you are staying. This can be tricky if you’re not familiar with the language—but you should still give it a shot! If you’re worried about getting lost, use Google maps (or another map system depending on where you are) and plan out your route before you take it.
28. There’s an App for That
Most countries have apps you can download that help you navigate public transportation, find food, and just make life easier in general. For example, everyone in South Korea is on KakaoTalk, and you can make and connect with some great friends this way. They also have a food review app called MangoPlate that will be your best friend when it comes to finding a good dinner or a quick lunch.Explore apps for the country you want to visit; they’ll save your life.
29. Get Travel Insurance
You never need it till you do. It may not be the first thing on your mind, and I’ve certainly traveled without considering it before, but getting travel insurance is one of the best ways to travel the world on a budget. While it may seem like an unneeded expense initially, if you get injured, need emergency medical care, or need to evacuate an area quickly, you will be glad you purchased it.
30. Ditch Your Phone Plan
Okay, so this cheap travel tip really depends on where you are going. However, if you intend to spend most of your time in a city, wifi will save you a ton of money on an unnecessary phone plan while traveling around. If you really feel like you need to be connected, get yourself a portable wireless egg and use that to stay in touch. Also, if you find yourself without internet—Don’t Panic! People have been known to live without the internet for years and only a few of them have died.
While learning how to travel on a budget takes some planning and creativity, it’s completely possible to travel while you’re broke. Follow our cheap travel tips and travel the world cheap. If you’re looking for more travel tips and inspiration, check out the WANDRD travelog, you’ll find it’s more rewarding to travel the world on a budget than you could have ever imagined.