How long your traveling lasts and how much it costs depends fully on your travel style. I traveled over the course of a year with just under $9,000 hitting 12 countries. If you’re looking for ways to stay in luxurious hotels and fine dining on your journey, this isn’t the post for you. Here’s the best way to travel on a tight budget to guarantee a long-lasting adventure.
There are a lot of volunteer programs all over the world that offer free room and board in exchange for your help for ‘X’ amount of days, weeks, months or even years. Not only do you get free accommodation and meals, but you also get an amazing experience with organic farms, Italian vineyards, yachts, teaching abroad, meditation retreats, jungle tree-houses, and the list goes on and on. Here’s a list of a few that you should check out:
This is a great, easy-to-use site that you can sign up for that guarantees amazing experience all over the world. All you have to do is:
- Pay $25 for one year in order to sign up
- Set up your profile
- Select the place you want to go
And in three easy steps, you are good to go!
Because of Workaway, I volunteered in the hills of Wales to help take care of a beautiful pack of professionally trained malamutes (1 month/-80 pounds). I helped a screenwriter/novelist bring her garden back to life in Belgium and she even paid me if I put it in extra hours (1 month/+50 Euros), and I taught English in Vietnam (2 months/+$200) They provided me with a motorbike, clinic runs and gave me a single, private room. This was a huge money saver and a great experience.
Tip: Send out a lot of personalized requests, don’t copy/paste. Sometimes I had to send out quite a few messages to get a score, but I always scored nonetheless. Also, when you fly into certain countries, check out their visa requirements.
This stands for “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms”.
WWOOFing is available in 53 countries, and how long you volunteer is entirely up to you and the host.
WWOOF, unlike Workaway and HelpX, focuses more on sustainable living through a variety of different farms you can choose from, depending on your preference.
In exchange for a day’s work, you get free room and board, and depending on the arrangements you made, you can stay for a week, to a month or even an entire season.
HelpX is a similar setup to Workaway, volunteering free room and board in exchange for your volunteering, and you can choose from many different areas. Most hosts have accounts on both websites, so I’d suggest just signing up for one to save more of that tight budget of yours. If you’re not sure which one to sign up for, no worries! Workaway and HelpX both allow you to search through their host database for free, so you can see which one you prefer and then go on about your business.
Couchsurfing isn’t a volunteer program, but it’s an amazing way to stay with a local for a couple nights, possibly make a friend and experience the area in a much more authentic flavor.
Couchsurfing is a site where you type the place you’re looking to go, hosts pop up, read their profile and send them a message. No volunteering, just a simple concept of integration and genuine people loving the idea of meeting and sharing stories!
And it’s not sketchy. Each host gets reviewed and rated by the people that visit, so you know if they’re a good fit or not. And as a couch surfer, you get reviewed and rated too!
The cool thing about couch surfing is you can do last minute requests in case something goes off plan (saved me tons), you can use the app to see other backpackers that are close-by, they have events near wherever you are posted on their website/app so you can mingle with like-minded people. It’s great, free and I’ve made some serious connections this way. I stayed in Turkey with an amazing group of college students for over 2 weeks. I can come back anytime!
The Peace Corps is a good option for those out of university and aren’t sure what to do next or somebody who wants to quit their job to travel but just isn’t sure how to afford it.
This is a more long-term commitment and most volunteer opportunities require college degrees, work experience, and a resume. It’s a little bit more competitive but definitely doable and no more than applying for a job. (Each volunteer program have different prerequisites, go to their website to see what you’ll need)
However, this is a beautiful way to travel around the world, make a difference and help out the communities that need it. They take care of your accommodation and your meals with some other benefits, and if you commit 1-2 years to the peace corps, they reimburse you $8,000 for your time to help you get settled whenever you return home.
This is pretty huge if you’re trying to travel with a tight budget. This little concept allowed me to jump through 4 European countries without paying anything for accommodation, and I made great friends.
Networking is simply just putting yourself out there and meeting amazing people. If it’s your first time traveling and you’re doing it alone, don’t be afraid to talk to other backpackers, locals or anybody else for that matter. I flew out by myself, but the entire year I was never alone. Backpackers always integrate and join plans, so don’t plan your trip down to the T, you have to leave room for the unexpected.
I can’t tell you how many times I would go out, see an interesting crew and start chatting. Before I knew it, I’m ditching my old plans of doing this or that and then we’d all start on a little journey together for a couple weeks.
I met people from all over SE Asia and the UK that welcomed me to visit anytime, and most travelers have an integrity you can count on, so when it came time for me to go through, I took them up on their word, and it was amazing seeing my old travel buddies in their homestead.
This is a natural process of networking. I wasn’t planning on meeting them, I wasn’t planning on going to Turkey, Austria, Germany or Holland, Wales or the UK for as long as I did, but because of what always happens on an adventure- the unexpected- I was able to extend my trip much longer because of the lovely friends I made.
“You have friends everywhere, you just haven’t met them yet.”
There’s a lot of stigma around this travel method, but it’s a great experience and it gets you far without any expense.
I hitchhiked with a few people I met through- ahem, networking – and we went from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, Vientiane to the 4,000 Islands. We then hitch-hiked across the Cambodian border to Siem Reap, from Siem Reap we hitched it down to Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh to Otres Beach. From Otres beach we had to take the bus to get back through the Thai border to Bangkok. From Bangkok, we hitch-hiked to Krabi.
We hitch-hiked around 3,000 KM and didn’t spend a dime on transport (except the one time we had to take the bus). We had no issues, no problems. There were 3 of us, and we still got picked up. You can see my “Hitch-hiking through SE Asia” post here to know more.
This is a method I definitely wouldn’t recommend unless you’re really wanting to extend your trip for as long as possible, which we did.
By “camping”, I don’t mean paying for a campsite, because campsites can be pretty pricey depending on where you’re at. This is an unorthodox method my friend and I used quite a bit out in Europe.
I suppose I’m sharing this method because I want to share just how “rough” you can rough it if you’re a bit of a nutter like me and don’t mind coloring outside the lines in order to extend your journey.
So basically, we had a tent, and we would pitch it in areas that were kind of off the radar. It is illegal to pitch tents outside of a camping zone in most European countries, but when you travel on a tight budget, survival mode kicks in and you do what you need to do. We made sure we were out of the way, respectful towards the land and out of there by early morning. Sometimes, however, we weren’t out of the way enough and would get waken up by a park ranger of the sort. We didn’t get in any trouble, just asked to pick up and get. It did feel strange to feel like a lawbreaker just for trying to get a place to sleep outside of paying for a hotel. It’s an interesting controversial topic.
However, there are areas where they implemented a “right to roam” which goes as follows:
“In Scotland, the Nordic countries of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the Central European countries of Austria, Czech Republic and Switzerland, the freedom to roam takes the form of general public rights. The freedom to roam, or everyman’s right, is the general public’s right to access certain public or privately owned land for recreation and exercise. The right is sometimes called the right of public access to the wilderness or the right to roam.”
Which basically means, you can pitch a tent without paying for campsites. We did this in Scotland for a few nights until we met some people – there’s that networking again- who welcomed us to stay with them for over 2 weeks.
We took a bus out every night, pitched a tent near a beautiful stream in the woods, which so happened to be equipped with a fire pit, and lived like kings.
This is a strong, strong recommendation. Hotels are expensive and you miss out on so much!
Hostels are convenient, have great deals, and it’s the best way to meet other travelers. Most hostels throw mingle parties, host free events and offer free meals. Just make sure you read reviews on hostels. I never had any issues with bed bugs or anything else, but other people have.
Also, if you want a discount on the room, visit Hostelworld or get their app, pay for the room online and you get can usually land a discount. Another tip, some hostels aren’t on some of the hostel sites. Most of the time we would just arrive in a city, walk around and see what we could find. We found way cheaper hostels this way versus looking through online booking.
This is a great way to make some pocket change if you can play a little tune – or even if you’re crafty. We traveled with some guitars, opened our case and played casually for a couple of hours. That would usually feed us for the day!
If you can make any type of art, I’d recommend setting up shop somewhere and see what you can catch. Make a little sign explaining your story, that definitely helps.
If you travel on a tight budget, try some of these tips and you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll extend your adventure indefinitely.