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How to Travel the World on a Budget

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The question I get asked the most as a digital nomad, is how do I afford to travel so much. It’s a common misconception that frequent or long-term travel is expensive. It’s not, if you do it right! It’s all in the approach – the way you budget for long-term travel or for frequent trips throughout the year is completely different to planning a few days’ vacation, which is when you usually splash out and overspend.

Long term and frequent travel is more of a lifestyle – it involves budgeting ahead, saving money along the way whenever possible and spending extra only on special occasions. For example, last year, I spent over two months island hopping in the Greek Islands and travelling through Turkey. I’ve exceeded my usual budget only by around €200 a month (excluding flights to Greece and from Turkey). I could have easily spent less but I wasn’t on a strict budget at the time. The point is, if I can do it, so can you! Here’s how you can travel the world on a budget!

 Choosing the Right Destination

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Like most countries in this part of Asia, Laos is stunning and cheap to travel around.

Travel costs depend hugely on your destination. It’s no coincidence that South and Southeast Asia are amongst the most popular destinations for backpackers and long-term travellers. Living and travelling there costs a fraction of what you would spend in Europe or in the States. In fact, you may actually spend less travelling on a budget in Asia than you would if you stayed back home! Other cheap destinations include parts of Eastern Europe and South America.

Funding your Travel

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  • Save money in advance

Starting with the obvious, figure out how long you’ll be travelling for, research the living and travel costs of your dream destination(s) and start putting the pennies aside! To make saving easier, use a money tracking app like Money or Home Budget. This will help you monitor your expenses and make it easier to cut them down. For more saving advice and tips, read my post on saving for long term travel.

  • Work while you travel

If you want to travel for an extended period of time or indefinitely, you need to find a way to work while you travel as the sad truth is, your savings will eventually run out. While you can get a seasonable job or apply for short-term work, the option that works best for me and which I would personally recommend is working remotely as a freelancer/contractor. Why? It offers you maximum freedom as you’re never tied to one location. You can basically work from anywhere in the world. Freelancing is how I’ve been funding my travels for the last couple of years. To find out how to get started working freelance and become a digital nomad, read my step by step guide.

  • Apply for funding

If there’s a purpose or a cause behind your trip, other than you having the time of your life while getting a tan, you can apply for a government or NGO funding. It will take some planning but it will be worth it. How to do it? Be creative and use Google – there’s lots of opportunities waiting to be discovered!

Accommodation

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Relaxing in front of my guesthouse in Varkala, India. It cost next to nothing because I shared the room with my travel buddy AND haggled over the room price!

Accommodation costs is what will set you back the most, so make sure you choose from the most cost-effective options:

This site is a great alternative to staying at a hotel. You can rent a room or a whole apartment from registered hosts which gives you the chance to experience the local life, while paying less. Small guest houses also advertise on Airbnb.

It doesn’t get better than free, right? Couchsurfing offers just that – free accommodation for budget travellers. Be sure to read the reviews before choosing a host and don’t overstay your welcome. Couchsurfing is the best option for short-term stays.

  • House Sitting websites

House sitting allows you to live rent-free (yup, FREE!) in return for looking after someone’s house. While I’ve never tried it myself, it sounds like a fantastic option for those on a budget. The most popular house sitting sites include Mind My House and House Carers.

  • Price comparison sites

Use sites like Expedia, Booking.com and Agoda to find the best accommodation deals.

  • Self-contained accommodation

When possible, book a self-contained room with a kitchenette and a fridge. This will help you save a lot of on food – you can easily find this type of accommodation through Airbnb.

  • Don’t pre-book

If you haven’t found a good deal, don’t worry. Travelling without pre-booked accommodation allows you to choose from a variety of cheaper options which weren’t advertised online. It works best if you’re not travelling in the high season, late at night or long distance. Once you get to your destination, use your travel guide to find an area which offers the best accommodation options, head straight there and enquire about the room prices. You may be even able to haggle, especially if you’re in India!

Perfect Flight Hacking

Flight hacking, the art of finding cheap flights, definitely comes in handy. To become a master flight hacker, make sure to:

  • Book your flight in advance, especially if you’re planning to travel during the holiday season, in which case you should book it as fast as you can say “Christmas” – cheap flights will sell out fast!
  • Fly on weekdays (except for Fridays – this is when flights get expensive) and off-season – this is when the prices are usually the cheapest.
  • Use price comparison sites such as Skyscanner or Expedia to easily look up flight deals, but don’t finish your research there. The websites you get redirected to through price comparison sites often add extra charges on top of the regular ticket price so you may be better off booking your flight directly with the airline, while using price comparison sites for research.
  • Clear your cookies and cache before purchasing a flight or browse in incognito mode. Travel sites may track your visits and rise the cost of the flight.
  • Keep an eye on flight deals and sales – a lot of airlines offer seasonal price reductions for chosen destinations. The easiest way to stay up to date with the latest deals is to subscribe to a newsletter.
  • Sign up to a miles programme to get rewards and collect miles each time you fly, especially if you tend to travel with the same airline.
  • If you’re not in a hurry to get to your final destination, book a flight with multiple layovers. This way you can visit a couple new places, all in the price of one ticket!

Transportation

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My ride is cooler than yours!

The rule to saving money on transport is simple – the slower you travel, the less you spend! Take a bus instead of a taxi, use a car share website like BlaBlaCar, rent a bike or simply walk –this way you will not only get to save but also explore more!

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How to travel the world on a budget

And that’s it! Simpler than you though, eh? What are your tips for travelling without breaking the bank?

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3 Comments

  1. I love that last picture, definitely a new career option for making money on your travels :)

    I don’t think I’m carefree enough to not pre-book accommodation, or at least have some very good ideas of what hotels are available and where and for what sorts of prices so I have a backup if things didn’t work out.

    Google also has a pretty good flight checker btw https://www.google.co.uk/flights/

  2. Dee says

    I’m travelling long term ( a year off work) and a now staying with my second Helpx host. You exchange food and accommodation for four or five hours work a day. I can recommend it!

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