I cannot tell you the amount of times I have looked at my bank account in sheer horror to see that there was nothing left in it. From the late night snack runs to online shopping just for the sake of it, I've emptied my bank account faster than I could even embrace the three digit figure, and I know I'm not the only one. How I am I meant to get out in the world when I am lost in my overdraft and a mountain of university books, nights out and dinners to afford? It's difficult, I'll tell you that. Travelling often seems to be on the back burner of 'important things to do' when we are young and broke, and thus we continue with our lives. The biggest question I get asked time and time again is how I can constantly afford to travel, especially at such a young age, and the short answer is, I have no idea. I don't have an endless amount of money stored away, but I've learnt the best ways to make money last as long as possible while still doing everything I want to do, consequently meaning I book week long trips with nearly nothing in my account.
Fortunately, now I am able to make money on the road, which takes the pressure of saving my pennies slightly less intense. However I am aware that a lot of people don't have that luxury and/or would rather enjoy their time away as a full blown holiday rather than anything else, so this is for you.
Making the effort is the most important aspect of wanting to travel, and if you only take away one piece of advice from this post, it's that. Being committed in wanting to leave where you live and knowing the appropriate times to make sacrifices in your daily life is quintessential to being able to go on adventures, even when you're broke, and I believe there is no better person to ask than myself.
So here we go, my guide to travelling broke.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
1. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET AND BECOME INSPIRED
I've already given you a full guide on Planning your trip so check that out on ideas of how to get inspired, but for those still needing an extra boost on feeling the broke vibes, here we are. Firstly, travelling isn't about the luxuries, it never has been. Being stripped of the excess money leaves you with a growth of wit, a sense of adventure and a lust for the unexpected! It's inevitable, there will be a long list of things that go wrong while you're travelling, especially while you're broke. You'll have to sleep at the airport now and then to save on costs and your feet will be aching from all the walking. It's all a part of the experience though. If you're going to be miserable the whole time, you can do one of two things,
1. Change your mind set
2. Don't go
Don't have a predisposition of every single moment of your trip and what's going to happen, because it won't happen. Instead, by being the best prepared you can and being ready for a good time, no matter what I can guarantee your trip will be a whole lot more enjoyable. Travelling is about the raw, small pleasures of being out in the world, it's about being real and enjoying what life has to offer. If you're expecting 5 star villas and luxury dinners every night, this unfortunately isn't the post for you, however for those ready for adventure, you've already completed the first step!
2. BE FLEXIBLE
When you're broke being flexible is the most important thing to be considerate of. A lot of intense planning isn't particularly advised as it's both easier and cheaper to go where the wind takes you. For example if you're travelling through Spain have an initial and departure date, but be flexible throughout the time you are staying there. Keep an eye out for cheap flights, buses and trains leading up to and during your time away, this way you'll be able to find good deals and be able to adapt your plans to suit that (e.g. if the cheapest bus is on a Wednesday, you can book a hostel till that day then move on, instead of having already booked the hostel till the Thursday and you miss the cheap deal).
Being flexible also gives the opportunity to change plans if you meet other travellers who you decide to go travelling with and saves you from having to cancel plans, hostels, transport etc.
Now, I can't really comment on saving that much because I am beyond dreadful at saving my own money. However, over the years I've learnt a few tips and tricks for cramming to save in the final month before you'll be jetting off (I also have a full blog posts on Saving Tips which you can check out for more ideas).
SAVING TIPS FOR THE MONTH BEFORE YOU LEAVE
1. CUT OUT EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU LEAVE
It's hard to cut out the things you love, but every time you do, just think about what that money could buy you when you're travelling (this REALLY helps me when I'm saving, you can pretty much do everything you're doing now, except overseas). 6 weeks before you leave start slowing cutting things out, don't go out partying as much, no brunches, take public transport instead of driving, eat simpler food at home (that costs less) and when the month before your trip comes around, try and live and cheaply as possible and put EVERY last coin towards your trip.
2. SAVINGS JAR
This is mentioned in my Savings Tips post but I thought I would mention it again because it's one of my favourite ways to save. Get a jar and put all your change you receive into it. If you're worried you'll dip into it before your trip begins, super glue it shut! Set a day/s of the week where you empty out your purse or wallet into the jar, you'll be surprised how quickly it adds up!
3. SELL YOUR THINGS
If you're travelling you're not going to need the things lying around in your room. For long term travellers I suggest getting rid of pretty much everything you don't need, because it's pretty much just clutter. For people just going on shorter trips try selling things that you have lying around and you never use. Depop is great for clothes you don't wear and Gumtree, Facebook marketplace and eBay are great for electronics, furniture, books, cars, and pretty much anything else.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN TRAVELLING BROKE
Firstly, forget the precedence of travelling you've already got in your mind. Travelling broke is a whole different ball game and you need to be prepared for the in's and out's of what to expect because there is nothing worse than getting on the road and feeling completely lost, homesick, and stuck somewhere with no money.
Travelling on a budget is more than just a holiday, it means long bus rides, hostels, eating simply, but it also means meeting locals, adventures, doing things that scare you, pushing yourself. Luxuries will always be nice but they aren't ESSENTIAL to having a good time, and that's one thing you have to keep in mind while travelling. Be prepared for the best trip of your life.
1. THE FIRST STEP
It takes one stupid, reckless, unplanned action to begin it all. It could be as small as rocking up to your local train station and going to the town over, as long as you start somewhere. If you're scared out of your mind, start small, Rome wasn't built in a day. Be daring and don't take the easy way out, you want to adventure, so do it. If you're ready for something bigger, great! Hit up the internet and hunt it for the cheapest deal.
When you're looking for cheap flights your best friends are going to be;
These are all flight search engines that take the hassle out of looking through individual airlines. Skyscanner is my personal favourite and it has this great feature where you can search 'everywhere' which basically will list all flights worldwide from the cheapest to the most expensive. Have a browse, see something you like and go book it! Overthinking it will most likely end in you backing out of the adventure so I would advise not doing that, instead take a risk and it will pretty much always be worth it.
2. WHERE TO GO
Although I believe you can travel anywhere no matter how much money you have, some countries are far more difficult to travel through on a budget. Greenland, Norway, Singapore, Japan, etc are on the higher end of the scale, whereas countries like Turkey, Croatia, Portugal, Greece, South America and South East Asia are going to allow your budget to stretch a lot further. Hit up Skyscanner and use the 'everywhere' tool to find some cheap flights from your local airport or consider booking a more expensive flight a cheaper destination. You can check out my finding cheap flights blog post for more tips!
If you're not looking for flights, check out local trains and coaches and see where you can go!
Destinations that pretty much always have relatively cheap flights to fly to;
10. New Zealand
The two most important aspects you need to realise before you go travelling broke are; knowing what you want and need. Firstly, you have to want this. You have to want to get out there and go see what you want to go see, no matter what it's going to cost. If you're not too fussed about going away, you're not doing it for the right reasons, and you need to reevaluate why you are going, where you are going etc and focus on a new goal.
Secondly, you need to learn about what you NEED. You don't need fancy dinners and expensive cocktails, pasta and cheap wine will the the exact same job. You don't need souvenirs from every destination you go to, pictures and memories will suffice (although a little souvenir never hurt). All your body needs to survive is food, water, sunshine and a good time, everything else isn't necessary, so remember that while you're travelling.
Secondly, travelling without a lot of money isn't easy. You'll find yourself having to be imaginative about how you get from place to place, you'll have to learn to cook because eating out every meal isn't an option, hostels and couch surfing will be your new best friend, it's not easy. You won't be able to afford a lot of the nice luxuries, but travelling isn't about the lavish experiences, it's about the raw, simple pleasures of being in another place, and that's what you'll continually need to remember.
3. CREATING A BUDGET
Creating a daily budget is probably one of my least favourite parts of planning a trip, and quite frankly I rarely do it. Being a Gemini, I often opt for just 'spend when I feel like it', however for those who love a little bit more order to their holiday, here we are!
Once you've decided on where you want to go, have a look around on the internet on the suggested daily budget of that country/countries. I always find these are a good guide on how much you should be aiming to have for a trip. For example if you're going to Croatia, the suggested daily budget for budget travelling is around €30 per day, so just simply times that amount by the amount of days you're going for (if you were going for 10 days you would need around €300)
2. WORK OUT YOUR EXPENSES
Firstly, work out what you HAVE to spend money on. Accomodation, transport, flights (although I normally don't put flights into my expenses), and any tours that you can't not do (day tours, etc). I never calculate it perfectly (although you're more than welcome to), I will just average out the price of the hostels (so if the hostels you've booked range from €10 - €15, I usually calculate it around €12.50), I will then work out how much the major transport is going to cost, which includes ferries, coaches, trains, etc. Lastly I will add on any tours I want to do so I have money saved for them.
If I was going to Croatia for a week, this is what my expenses would look like.
1 WEEK IN CROATIA
7 Nights in hostels - €12.50 x 7 = €87. 50
2 coaches intercity - €17 x 2 = €34
1 boat cruise day tour - €50
TOTAL = €171.50
The rest of the money you have leftover is for food, drinking, local transport and activities
3. HOW TO STILL DO THE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO
I know a lot of people don't really like or enjoy the idea of budget travel because of the restrictions that it may lead to. Not being able to do the things you want to, see what you came to see, eat good food, etc. Well, I'm here to say you can still do pretty much everything you want to do, just within moderation. For me daily budgets are extremely restricting and I don't like the idea of feeling like I can only spend a certain amount each day. INSTEAD what I love to do is have alternating days where one day I'll happily splurge out on a day tour, a nice meal, or even just a good night out, then the next day I'll limit my spending. I'll cook dinner instead of eating out, find fun free things to do around the city, explore, go to the beach, the possibilities are endless. Intuitive spending is a lot more fun and it means you're not missing out.
You can also set a budget over several days - a week, which means you can spend that money however you please over that amount of time!
4. WHERE TO STAY
The two main costs that are going to drain you of your (nonexistent) money when travelling is transport and accomodation. Accomodation is obviously vital, but you need to be strategic as to where to stay. Hotels are most definitely out of the question, which leaves you with three options, Airbnb's, hostels and couch surfing.
AIRBNB - £££
Airbnb's, presumably the most luxurious option to choose, will range in price depending on where, what season and what type of place you're looking at staying in. Unfortunately, you'll never find an good option for less than £20 (and that's super cheap), most decent places are around £40 a night, but if you're not as broke as previously anticipated, it's really great for feeling immersed in a city and to live like a local.
HOSTELS - ££
Hostels are the most sociable of the options, and I think that if you're on your own, it's a really good way to meet people. The hostel employees/volunteers are always happy to help backpackers with things to do, and sometimes even offer discounts on walking tours (or will host their own walking tour) to get a glimpse of what to do and see if you have no idea. The other big perk is their pub crawls they run, so if you're into partying considering staying at a hostel may actually make it cheaper for you when you go out and drink as they often offer discounts, free entry and free shots if you go with them (some hostels even have their own bar with ridiculously cheap drinks). Staying at a hostel can range tremendously in price, even from city to city in the same country. A hostel in India will cost you around £2 while I stayed in a hostel in Sweden which was around £27 per night (by far the most expensive hostel I've stayed in). When booking do your research first, generally the highest ranked ones will be more expensive, but if you believe it's worth it, then book it. Otherwise there are hostels that aren't ranked as highly and probably won't accomodate the same facilities and experiences as somewhere with a 9.5/10 rating, but will suffice for a safe place to sleep and keep your things, and that ultimately is the most important aspect of somewhere to stay.
COUCHSURFING - £
Couch surfing is your final option and is the cheapest (as in it's free). If you want to travel but literally have enough money for a plane ticket, then that's enough means to go as couchsurfing is the perfect way to see a city and meet locals for free. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, essentially, people offer out couches, spare beds or even a mattress on the floor, for travellers to sleep on for nothing in return. And while it does seem disconcerting staying in a strangers house, with them, while they ask for nothing back, it is actually an extremely reliable way to stay somewhere. The most important things to be looking out for when searching for a good place to stay is;
1. Have a look at the person's profile. See what they like, where they've been, what they do in their spare time, and yes, while it's not online dating and it doesn't particularly matter, getting a sense of a person and who they are is important. You don't know them, and to make it both a little less awkward when you meet them and to feel a little more comfortable, being aware of who they are is helpful.
2. Once you've done a little investigation on who they are, look at the reviews. If you're not too sure who to pick, go for someone who has a heap of good reviews, that way you know that all those people have stayed with the host and has had a good experience (they can't fake reviews)
3. Once you've found someone you think may be suitable, message them! You'll need to tell them the dates you're looking at coming, how many people, etc. When you message them, tell them a little bit about yourself. Firstly they are more inclined to actually accept your request if you're open and friendly, and secondly, this isn't a hotel, you're staying at someone's house so befriend them. Message them about where you're going on your trip, they will probably have the best recommendations for where to go, eat and see, after all they are a local. Ask what the best way to get to their house is, closest train station, bus station, etc, also let them know roughly what time you're planning on getting there, these people have lives to so it's important to arrange before hand. Finally, let them know if you're planning on arriving super early in the morning or late, just to be polite.
4. If you're like me and you've left it very last minute and are having to message people at short notice, don't settle. You may find yourself quite desperate for a place to stay but if someone accepts your request and something doesn't quite sit well with you (maybe their account isn't verified or they have no references or they just seem a little creepy) please don't feel obliged to stay with them. Your safety is the most important aspect within this equation and so even if you are at their front door and you don't feel safe, don't stay. It's better to fork out the £20 for a hostel than to stay in an uncomfortable situation.
5. The final thing to do is to send someone their address. So you've mutually agreed to stay at this persons house. The most important thing to do now is to let someone know where you are staying. Tell your mum, sister, a friend, just someone, in the event of something happening (which is incredibly unlikely and this isn't meant to scare you). Send an address, and even a picture of the person. This is not to say something bad will happen if you Couchsurf, because chances are you'll have an absolute amazing time, but at the end of the day being safe is the most important thing.
After all of that, have an incredible stay! Have fun, hang out with your new friend/s, enjoy yourself.
As stated earlier, transport is one of your biggest money stealers while travelling. Flights, buses, trains, taxis all quickly add up to being super expensive and quite frankly its the least enjoyable part of travelling.
HOW TO CUT DOWN THE COSTS OF TRANSPORT
Flights will pretty much ALWAYS be the most expensive part of a trip. It is also pretty much where everyone starts when they go to plan a trip, which can be incredibly daunting when it comes to thinking about coughing up so much money to sit in a metal box for numerous hours. I already have a full post about Finding Cheap Flights which is a good place to start when looking for those good deals. Flights are also known to be cheapest 8-6 weeks before their departure date, so get hunting!
This is pretty much a big no when it comes to budget travel. Unless we are talking about rickshaws in India or TukTuks in Thailand, taxis should be avoided at all costs to prevent paying half your daily budget to just get from A to B. Instead ask a local, shop or another traveller for the best route to your desired destination. Buses, trains, walking or even cycling are all going to be cheaper and while it may take a little longer, at leas you'll have the leftover money for dinner that night.
3. BUSES AND TRAINS
These two will probably be your best friends while you're out on the road as they are the cheapest ways to get around. If you have a little extra money to spend, trains will be the way to go as they are direct and a lot faster than the alternative. Buses (coaches) are for those who are on the tightest of budgets (you'll pretty much always find me on a coach), they are the slowest form of transport but are the cheapest and are ridiculously frequent. Do a little research and you can find some stupidly cheap coach journeys, I once found a £13 return coach journey from London - Paris, crazy right?!
4. CARPOOLING AND HITCHHIKING
If paying for coaches doesn't really sound like your cup of tea, perhaps carpooling and hitchhiking is more your style. Companies like Bla Bla Car or even just the classic stick your thumb up on the side of the road can easily get you from A to B and if you're looking for a real adventure then that will definitely give you one! Obviously be safe and look out for yourself and your friends.
6. ACTIVITIES TO DO ON A BUDGET
If you're broke, unfortunately there will be no expensive tours happening to take you to all the best places in your new city, that's okay, it's time to get creative. The best memories while travelling always happen to be the little free moments anyway.
IDEAS THAT YOU CAN FOR FREE/LOW COST WHILE YOU'RE TRAVELLING
Get some friends from your hostel, go to your local supermarket and grab some bread, fruit, dips and snacks galore! Head to somewhere scenic and enjoy new friendships and your time travelling! It's a great way to get to know people and a cheap way to eat a meal.
Have an ask around in your hostel (or ask a local) and see if there are any good walking trails or hikes that you can do! Get some fresh air, cure your hangover and just get in with nature.
3. EXPLORE THE CITY
If hiking isn't an option, opt for a wander around the city you're in! Try and find the hidden places where the locals hang out, the best hole in the wall gelato, the prettiest hidden streets. Go off the trail and find what makes the city unique! (Bring snacks)
4. FREE CITY TOURS
Fortunately nowadays free city tours are pretty frequent in nearly all major cities. Ask your hostel and they will probably know of some or even run their own one. It's an amazing way to orientate your way around where you are so I always suggest doing it within the first few days you're there, and then you can always go back to your favourite spots you stopped at on the tour!
5. BEACH DAY
I can think of nothing better than spending the day by the beach enjoying nature and everything it has to offer. Bring a book, your phone, friends, snacks, sunscreen and a towel and you're all set for the day.
6. BIKE RIDES
A lot of major cities now have systems where you can rent a bike for a few hours up to a day, so if walking isn't for you get yourself on a bike and get pedalling! It's another way to explore a city and it means you can cover more land in a shorter amount of time, perfect for if you don't have a lot of time to do everything you want. I know London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen all have council bike programs but there are hundreds of others worldwide, so ask around!
7. SEE THE ATTRACTIONS
What's the point of travelling if you don't indulge yourself in the classic touristy spots, I mean they are famous for a reason, right? To cut down on costs only go into the ones that you REALLY really couldn't live without seeing. For example the Colosseum is free to look at from the outside, but you have to pay to go in, Park Guëll is free but after 8:30am you have to pay to get into some parts of it, the Arc de Triomphe is free for students but you have to pay if you're not studying (bring a student card travelling for discounts). Try and make the most of early mornings and free deals to avoid paying when you don't have to!
SHE TRAVELLED THE WORLD'S TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ON A BUDGET
1. MANIFEST IT
If you're not familiar with the concept of manifestation (Law of Attraction), it's basically the idea that by focusing and thinking about something (either positive or negative) that can come into fruition and turn into a reality. While to some that sounds beyond crazy, I use manifestation daily and it helps bring a more positive outlook on life and I feel like good things happen when I attract it. So if travelling is something you really want, why would you not try and manifest it into an actual plan? The positive thinking is only EVER going to bring a positive outcome.
2. BOOK FLIGHTS FIRST
The flights are always the biggest commitment and the scariest part for a lot of people, so once you've overcome that obstacle you're on the home stretch. The daring and even if it's just another city in the country you're in or even if it's a year from now, at least you've done it and you have a goal to work towards. There is no point constantly talking about it and wanting it if you're too scared to actually go get it!
3. MAKE FRIENDS (TO HANG OUT WITH AND CUT COSTS)
If you're travelling with friends it's automatically a lot easier because you can split costs for a lot of things, however if you're travelling solo don't worry! Making friends while travelling is one of the easiest things to do and people will pretty much always be friendly and welcoming. Ask if they want to cook dinner with you at your hostel, if they want to go for some drinks, if they want to go on an adventure... just ask anything!
When I travel one of my favourite things to do is to go out and have a good time, who doesn't? However going out every night can quickly add up, and those €8 tequila shots may not substitute for a bed at night. Instead of drinking out in the clubs, etc, try and predrink instead, but obviously be relatively sensible about it. It will save you that awkward 'trying to catch up to everyone else' phase and €2 wine is a lot nicer on the bank balance.
5. DON'T STRESS ABOUT THE MONEY
It can be pretty daunting and a little sad to think about your bank account right before a trip, but the important thing is to not make it the biggest part of the trip. If that's constantly going to be on your mind it's better off you stay at home and save until you feel comfortable with the amount of money you have. As stated previously, having limited money is an adventure and should be thought of as a challenge rather than a hinderance to a good time. At the end of the day you're not going to remember how much money you had in your bank account when you went travelling, you're going to think of the time you went on a local fisherman's boat to get a view of the island, the time you made new friends and got drunk off cheap wine, you're going to remember the best moments.