My bank statement came back last week indicating that $11,000 had come out of my account in the last 6 months. That’s more than half the cost of living in Australia for that long yet I managed to experience the world for a fraction of living in Australia. I get asked by so many people how on earth I can afford to travel for so long – truth is that it’s cheaper than living at home and I actually SAVE money when I’m overseas. I’ll give you the run down below.
In 2015 I visited 8 countries taking 17 flights along the way yet I still managed to keep my costs low. In this post I’ll tell you some simple tips and tricks that I use without even keeping an eye on my spendings.
#1 – Buy one way tickets
The best thing you can ever do is buy a one way ticket. This leaves you open to a lot of possibilities and there is no pressure on you making the next destination. If you don’t like a place then you don’t have a feel pressured to stay just because you booked another flight from there. I made this mistake when i first started travelling and if I’m not on a deadline then ill never book a return ticket. There is a huge myth around buying in advance will save you money but this is a complete lie – I’ve found flights a week before the scheduled departure for cheaper than 3 months before.
Use app’s like Skyscanner or Kayak to find the best deals on flights from your nearest city.
#2 – Use ride share apps
Ride sharing app’s are becoming the norm today and with so many people now in on it you can find drivers heading to just about any destination. Uber is the big one but what about Bla Bla Car? This is the biggest thing in Europe at the moment. If you want to go from city to city just search in the destination and you can pick and choose your ride. Rides go for 1/3 the cost of trains and around 1/2 the cost of the bus. You also get to meet locals and that’s how I ended up becoming friends with one of the people listed in #3. I can’t say how much this app has helped me. I’ve used it over 20 times and never once had a problem. You certainly meet some characters and if you do feel a bit strange going with a complete stranger just choose the ones that have the most/best reviews and you’ll be fine. Drivers have their numbers listed as well so you can message or call them if you have any problems.
The other big one that I’ve used is in Indonesia called go-jek. They are essentially the Uber of motorbikes. If you are one or 2 people then it’s way cheaper than a taxi and you can get to your destination much faster as you can beat the traffic. Depending on the country you’re travelling through you can just ask the locals which app’s they use when getting around and they should be the ones that you use too.
#3 – Stay with friends or camp
Europe will eat your budget if you decide to stay in hostels and fancy hotels before you know it. I am lucky enough to have a lot of awesome friends that are willing to take me in but when I couldn’t stay with friends, I’d always seek out the best camp sites the country had to offer. In the cities I recommend staying with friends but in places where you can hike then camping is a common thing. Some of the camp grounds have some amazing facilities in amazing locations and you’ll never know what you’re missing out on until you go.
The other big one that I haven’t used too often is couch surfing. This isn’t just a place to crash on someones couch for a night, it’s a community of travellers that have regular meet-ups so if you don’t need a place to crash you can still meet up with locals to show you around. Also check out common locals – A site dedicated to linking you to locals to show you around and make sure that you don’t miss the best things on your next trip.
#4 – Search out cheaper destinations
I spent 2 and a half months of my trip in Europe and after noticing that I was blowing through my money faster than expected, I found a cheap ticket to Asia and I was out of there. Living expenses in Europe aren’t that bad but its the unexpected ones that kill your budget. Want to take a chairlift to that 3000m high summit? Well that’ll be $150. In Asia the expensive sights don’t even come close to that and you could quite easily spend $150 in a week in Asia as compared to that one chairlift. It’s all about balance and if it’s your dream thing then don’t skip it but don’t go doing it just because you can – In Switzerland instead of taking the chairlift my cousins and I hiked to the top in 5 hours and were back before mid afternoon – It’s all about time vs money which ill discuss in the next step.
#5 – Time is your friend
I’ve noticed a lot that it’s either time or money. If you have time you spend less money – If you have no time you spend more money, it’s just how it works. The biggest thing to spending less is to be abundant in time. With time you can accomplish a lot of things and not have to worry so much. Time allows you to see more things, befriend more people and just enjoy your trip without any added pressure. You might get an offer too good to refuse and if you don’t have time, then you’ll never know what might have come of it. Let yourself be open to suggestions, ideas and to places that you might never have ever thought about. Sometimes we have to let go to truly feel what it feels like to be free.
#6 – Book accommodation by the month
This is one of the best ways to make your money go a lot further. If you have a project or are enrolled in a course then booking your accommodation for a month or longer is the way to go. There are a lot of great deals to be had from 400 euros a month in France to $400 a month in Bali. This is far cheaper than paying by the night and you’ll make friends with the locals and feel like you are really seeing and experiencing a place rather than just cruising through.
Staying for a month or more gives you the opportunity to learn a local language, go exploring places you never would have thought about and you might even love it so much that you’ll decide to stay. In Tim Ferriss book the Four Hour Work Week he explains that a fancy hotel for 4 nights, hostel accommodation for 2 for one week and a month in a fancy apartment in an upscale city cost exactly the same.
# 7 – Book everything online
Gone are the days of arriving at the train station or your destination and just winging it. Sure this still works but for you to be savvy with your money, booking ahead is a must. With almost every transport and accommodation provider on the internet these days the competition is fierce so you’re guaranteed to get some great deals. When I first started travelling the online game wasn’t as strong as it is today so arriving and bargaining was the method of choice. Now-a-days this has been replaced by the internet and some websites have big specials of up to 50% off a room for the night.
#8 – Buy a local sim card
This should be one of the first things that you do when you arrive in your new destination – get yourself a sim card. Sure almost every hotel and restaurant has wifi these days but they can be slow and the convenience of being connected wherever you go can be priceless. What if you need to meet a friend or find the way to your next hotel? That money it cost to buy a coffee to use the internet could have gone towards the cost of your sim card and you’ll be grateful that you did.
#9 – Avoid buying drinks
This one is probably the one that saved me the MOST money – It doesn’t matter if its an alcoholic drink or just a soft drink, drinks cost money, a lot of money. If you forego those couple of beers each night or those 2 or 3 coffee’s you drink a day you can easily save $10 a day. In Indonesia a drink is often the same cost as a meal – THE SAME TO DRINK AS IT IS TO EAT! crazy! So if you think of it like that you’re essentially buying 6 meals a day instead of 3. Forego the drinks and stick to the water.
#10 – Eat where the locals eat
This one might not work so well in Europe but in Asia this is a must. People tend to be scared to eat from local stalls but you’re travelling and experiencing new things so why not? You can eat the food you know when you get home – try something different. Just remember that the food from local stalls is cooked right then and there and hasn’t been sitting around waiting for someone to buy it. If in doubt just choose a busy one and everything will be ok.
#11 – Buy travel insurance for the duration of your trip or extend it before it expires
There goes a saying that if you can’t afford travel insurance then you can’t afford to travel. In part this is true and with insurance companies doing whatever they can to get out of things there are ways to save money when purchasing your insurance. Buy your insurance for your whole trip beforehand. This can be hard when you don’t know how long you’ll be gone for so the other option is to extent right before it expires. If you buy a new policy you will be charged with a lot higher price so it makes sense to extend.
#12 – Share with friends
Travelling with friends can really help you save, especially on accommodation. It’s fine if you’re a solo traveller staying in dorms but if you’re a couple or 2 friends then it makes sense to share a room. For the cost of less than 2 dorm beds you can have a great hotel room or city apartment thanks to app’s like Airbnb and also Booking.com. Sharing essentially cuts your accommodation bill in half which can be a huge chunk or your overall travel budget. This also works with taxi’s as you don’t have to foot the whole bill yourself.
#13 – Helpx or Workaway
Helpx and Workaway are both websites that link travellers with locals in need of a helping hand. In exchange for your time, usually around 4 hours a day, you will get to live with your host, get fed and also experience what it’s like to live like a local. The things you could be doing range from teaching English in a school to being a receptionist in a hostel. I tried this on my last trip and got to teach English in a local school where you really feel like a rockstar. There is a fee of $29 a year but this money is well spent and you’ll get to have genuine experiences that you’d never usually get the chance to have.
Being smart with your money when travelling is a personal choice. We all have things that we love to do and want to do, so don’t skip those things. If it’s a $500 sky dive over the Swiss Alpes then do it! Those are unforgettable experiences but you probably won’t remember that expensive restaurant meal so well. It’s about making clever choices and saving where you can so you can afford to do those big, bucket list things.
Originally published on Medium.