25 top tips for traveling on a budget

If you’re looking for tips for traveling on a budget or how to save money when you’re traveling, then you’re in the right place. I love a good bargain.

traveling is such a wonderful opportunity, and being able to travel on a budget makes it more accessible to people. Also, if you spend less on one adventure, you have money to spend on another. Budget travel doesn’t have to be any less fun either. There are cheap places to travel to all over the world, including plenty of places to travel on a budget in Europe. There are lots of ways to save money when you’re traveling, from planning your travel budget carefully before you leave, considering backpacking and car-sharing, through to the choices you make (e.g. food) when you are on your trip.

In this post, I’ve shared all my top tips for traveling on a budget. From what you need to do before you go, to advice for when you’re already abroad, this post has it all: travel tips, money-saving tips, budget travel tips, free things to do, and more!

Here are my 25 top tips for traveling on a budget

1. Choose your destination carefully.

Some places are naturally more expensive or cheaper than where you call home. My first tip for traveling on a budget is to research places that are good for traveling on a budget. Maybe it’s somewhere that’s cheap and easy to get to, somewhere where the currency gets you good value because of the exchange rate, or somewhere that has a lower cost of living than home!

2. Avoid tourist traps.

Big cities and tourist hotspots are often a lot more expensive than straying off the beaten track! Try and choose less well-known destinations, if you can. 

Even within your destination, avoid restaurants on the main strip and try something down a sidewalk. The food will probably be better as well as cheaper!

3. Get travel insurance.

Perhaps the most important tip for traveling on a budget! Sure, it’s initially an extra expense, but you’ll thank yourself for sorting it out if your trip gets canceled, or God forbid you to get ill abroad. 

4. Travel off-season.

Sure, you might not be able to guarantee the weather, but your chosen destination will be a lot less busy and crowded. Not only will you save a lot of money, but you’ll have it all to yourself!

5. Book in advance.

Last-minute deals can be a godsend, but it’s often cheaper (and less stressful!) to book transport, accommodation, and activities well in advance.

6. Or, in less touristy destinations, be spontaneous.

Accommodation isn’t always advertised online and you may save money by booking directly with the owner, especially for places in small towns or in homestays. It really depends on where you’re going!

7. Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight deals.

Skyscanner.net is the easiest way to find cheap flights between countries! Simply put in your home airport/country and your destination, you can see what is available on specific dates, or across a whole month if you’re able to be flexible.

8. Fly mid-week.

Flights are more expensive at weekends because more people are free to travel. Try and fly between Tuesday-Thursday, if you can.

9. Pack well.

Firstly, pack light. You won’t wear half the clothes you want to take, and it’ll only cost you more in baggage to bring more than you need.

However, it’s important to check that you take everything you need, not forgetting anything! If you forget something, it could cost a lot of money to buy that essential missing item when you’re abroad.

10. Be prepared to share.

You’ll save a lot of money on accommodation if you’re willing to stay in a dorm in a hostel with a shared bathroom.

11. Couchsurfing

Meet locals and stay with them all over the world! Couchsurfing is ideal if you are traveling on a budget because you can stay at people’s houses for free. Just make sure you stay safe, choosing people with consistently good reviews. 

12. Travel overnight.

If you have a long journey to complete as part of your trip, one way to save money is to travel overnight. You have to pay to get from A to B no matter what time of day you travel, but traveling overnight saves you the cost of accommodation for that night. Bonus: you don’t ‘waste time’ traveling during the day, so you have more time to explore!

13. Look into carpooling services, such as Bla Bla Car.

Bla Bla Car and other similar services can save you a lot of money if you’re traveling on a budget. People who have cars and are doing the journey anyway say if they have any spaces, and then you can pay for that space. It’s often cheaper than public transport. Similarly, if you’re doing a road trip and you have a space in the car, then you can get a bit of money back towards the petrol.

14. Read others’ backpacking experiences.

Google ‘a backpacker’s guide to …’ when you’re planning. This way you’ll be able to see immediately what a low-cost holiday looks like in your destination, and you should be able to get an idea about costs, accommodation, and activities.

16. Search for free things to do in your chosen destination.

A great top tip for traveling on a budget is to look for free things to do wherever you’re heading. It could be that certain museums are free on certain days or that there are local events. Don’t forget the classic ‘free walking tour’, a great way of seeing the city you are visiting. Just remember that it’s customary to tip at the end.

15. Get a local SIM.

Data roaming or paying for WiFi abroad can be extortionate. One way to save money when you’re traveling is to get a local SIM card with locally priced data packages. You’ll want the data for navigating your way around and keeping in touch with home!

17. DIY excursions.

You can often save a lot of money by skipping out on a planned tour and working it out for yourself! Use public transport to get there, take a picnic, and buy your own entry ticket (if needed).

A great example of this is my self-guided trip to the Blue Mountains in Australia. A group tour will cost at least 100 AUD per person, but my return train ticket was just 12 AUD! The only other expense was the packed lunch I took with me, and a coffee I bought en route. 

18. Don’t eat out all the time.

Another tip for traveling on a budget is to shop at the supermarket and cook for yourself. Factor trying some local delicacies into your budget (if you can), but beyond that, prepare your own food. Most hostels have kitchen facilities that are available for everyone to use. There might even be a shelf with leftover food from backpackers that have moved on!

19. Be aware of ATM charges.

ATMs can charge a lot of money to withdraw and exchange your money. However, it is often the case that it’s cheaper to take money out on your travels than it is to get it exchanged before you go. To avoid charges, take as much money as you can afford to lose out at once. The more you take out, the less often you’ll pay the charge, but there’s more to lose/have stolen! If you have lots of cash, put it in different parts of your bag/pockets, and leave some in a locked, secure space at your accommodation.

20. Try and haggle.

Prices are often marked up for tourists, so put your negotiating skills to good use and see if you can get a discount! This is more likely if you are in a group, either traveling together or friends made along the way, and all of your book onto e.g. the same excursion.

21. Get recommendations from the locals.

The locals definitely don’t want to pay tourist prices for food, drink, and activities. Speak to someone from the area (perhaps someone at the hostel reception) and find out their favorite hotspots. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

22. Bring your own water bottle and coffee cup.

I never travel without my reusables now! Taking your own water bottle means you can fill up for free from fountains, cafes, or mountain springs. Having your own coffee cup often gets you a discount.

23. Walk everywhere.

Walking is the cheapest form of transport and by far the best way to discover a new area. Renting a bike is often cheap if you need to go a little bit further.

If you have to take public transport, buses are typically the cheapest. Avoid taxis and Ubers like the plague if you are traveling on a budget; they are by far the most expensive form of transport. With a bit of planning, there’s almost always a much cheaper bus or train alternative.

24. Work as you travel.

An obvious way to save money while you’re traveling is to earn money doing it! Many hostels offer free or reduced rate accommodation if you put in a few shifts, and there’s also the option of bartending, teaching abroad, or getting a working holiday visa.

25. Decide on your budget, and stick to it.

There are very few places that can’t be traveled on a low budget. There are free things to do at every destination, so you just need to manage your expectations of how many expensive activities you can do there or how often you can eat out at restaurants, for example. Once you’ve planned your budget, try not to overspend; it’ll only cause you more stress later on your trip or when you get home.

(This article was originally posted on weareglobaltravellers.com)