These tips aren’t mind blowing revelations for most people, but they are tips that most people don’t follow when they travel for a long time because they think that it doesn’t save much money, or they simply can’t be bothered.
Couchsurfing: Especially when traveling on a continent like Europe, this can save you tons of money. Hostels these days are generally at least 10 euro a night, and likely much more in the USA, Australia or Western Europe. Granted there are some countries in Asia and South America where you can find a place to sleep for under 5 euro, but it’s becoming more rare.
On top of all this, there is a cultural exchange that takes place. Couchsurfing isn’t just about saving money, but about sharing an experience. Some of the most memorable things I’ve done are thanks to the couchsurfing community. Plus you have a local with all the inside secrets to their own city. They speak the language, have a group of friends you can hang out with, know where to find the best places to eat (again, for cheap), and can help teach you the local customs and a few phrases in the native language. What more could you ask for?
Walking: Even in a cheap country a taxi will at least cost 2-3 euro to get from the bus station to your hostel. Some people think “Eh, it’s only 3 euro.” The way I look at it as a long term traveler is “3 euro x 365 days…that’s over 1000 euro!” Over the course of time, thats a ton of money. That money could be spent on other things, like beer!
If walking isn’t an option, there are almost always a means of public transport. One of the best examples I can think of was when I flew into Panama City to start backpacking in Central America for 5 months. The taxi was $20, and all I had to do was walk outside the airport and hope on a bus. I was shocked when I paid the driver and the ride was 25 cents! Granted the bus didn’t drop me off at my hostel door, but it got me close and saved me $19.75, which in Panama is an entire days food, accommodation, and sightseeing!
Street food and cheap resturants: Eating out can seriously eat away at your budget (pun intended), but it doesn’t have to. As a long term traveler I rarely cook my own food, but still manage to stay on a small budget. How you ask? It’s quite simple really.
If a resturant looks expensive, that’s because it is. When a place has table cloths, wooden chairs, clean walls, etc, it’s going to cost you dearly. When I’m walking around a city and I start to get hungry, I look for one thing: Plastic. When a resturant has plastic chairs and tables it’s going to be cheap. This is much more common in Central and South America and Asia then say Europe or the States, but you can still find them there too.
Sometimes these places are lined up on a street, perhaps across the street from a bus or train station. “Which one should I eat at?” you might ask yourself. The answer is whichever place has the most locals in it. I’ve seen two competing resturants where one gets most of the business and the other almost none. Eating at the resturant with more customers not only means better food, but fresher food. In a third world country you never know how long that meat has been out of the fridge for…
Another great thing about these places in Central and South America is they almost always have a menu of the day option. You may not have a choice of what you’re going to eat, but it often includes a soup, a plate of meat, rice, and vegetables and a juice drink. The icing on the cake is it’s often about half the price of other things on the menu.
When I’m looking for a cheap eat in Europe or the States, I’m mostly looking for street food. I thank the Turks and Greeks dearly for making sure that nearly every corner of Europe has a Gyro or Kebab stand.
Laundry: Washing your own clothes takes a few minutes of your time and it’s something I rarely see other travelers do on their own. I’ve seen places charge as much at 10 euro to wash and dry a load, and in my mind that’s crazy. Unlike most people, I don’t carry much clothes with me. For example I have 5 t-shirts, 1 dress shirt, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts and 1 pair of running shorts that double as swim trunks. Carrying less makes it even easy to do laundry yourself because it sounds even crazier to pay to wash 4 shirts and a pair of jeans when you can do it yourself in 10 minutes and hang them to dry. Carrying less clothes also makes that walk from the bus station easier on your body.
Hitchhiking: I know this one may sound extreme for a lot of people especially if you don’t know anyone who’s ever done it, but I’m here to tell you it can save you a ton of money.
Not only does it save money, but introduces you to lots of interesting people along the way. Just as an example, there was a time when Thora and I were hitching from Spain to Portugal and we were picked up by a drug smuggler who bought hash in Spain, and drove it through customs in the UK. Then he sold it for 4 times what he paid. This wasn’t the only interesting thing about him either. He grew up in Mozambique, spoke 6 languages and used to hitchhike himself when he was younger. On top of all that, he drove us out of his way to drop us off where were needed to go.
All this said, there are some precations to take. Try to only hitchhike during the day, and if possible do it with a friend because it’s more fun that way anyways! I’ll have some more information coming soon about tips for hitchhiking, so stay tuned.
In Conclusion: If you follow these simple tips, your daily budget can go from $50 down to $20, or possibly less. You do the math…20 x 365 is less then $7500 a year. I hear people tell me way too often that they don’t have the money to travel for as long as I do, when really maybe they do. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy, but certainly feasible. Good luck on your adventure!