I’m always meeting people who say “I wish I could travel as much as you but I can’t afford it,” and it frustrates me because you seriously don’t need much money to start travelling the world, and sometimes you can even travel for free. It simply comes down to priorities. To give you perspective, I left Australia in 2015 with $4000AUD in my savings, and after 8 months of non-stop travelling around Western Europe (that’s known to be an expensive part of the world to travel), I still had enough to keep going. You need to be creative to live nomadically, especially if you don’t have a steady income, but if I can do it then there’s no reason why you can’t too. I’m going to share with you my tips and secrets on how to travel for free and alternative budget options.
Volunteer in exchange for Food & Accommodation
WorkAway – We volunteering our way around Europe throughout 2016 with a company called WorkAway, which has saved us A LOT of money. All we had to pay for was transport to get to our destinations and activities in the places we were at. There are so many different jobs you can do with Workaway around the world and you generally help your host for just 5 hours per day, 5 days per week in exchange for food and accommodation. It may not exactly allow you to travel for free (because you’re working for it), but not having to spend money on food or accomodation I’d say is pretty close. Read our guest post on the WorkAway blog about the benefits of travelling with Workaway Vs. Backpacking…
WOOFING – A similar option to Workaway is WOOFING which stands for World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s the same concept as Workaway, you volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation, but it’s specific to working on organic farms. I know from experience that this isn’t my thing but it’s perfect if you love being outdoors and working with the Earth. You can find hosts all around the world but it’s especially popular in Australia & New Zealand for people who can’t get a Working Visa but still want to travel for free or at on a small budget around these countries without having to pay the high living costs.
Find A Crew – If you’re like us and have ‘Sail Around the World’ on your bucket-list then the perfect way to gain experience is by volunteering on yachts – something we are going to seriously look into for the near future. A good website which has been recommended to us by experienced sailors is Find A Crew. There are many yachties out there that offer food & accommodation in exchange for help on their boat, and a bonus is that you get to travel for free to the places they sail to.
Couch Surfing – It’s 100% free and there’s no catch. Couch surfing is an online community where travellers find locals who allow them to sleep on their couch while they’re passing through. The locals don’t get paid but it also doesn’t cost them anything so they purely do it to meet like-minded people. Since we’ve almost always had free accommodation through volunteering, we haven’t had the opportunity to experience couch surfing yet but have friends who highly recommend it as a way to travel for free.
House/Pet Sitting – If you enjoy looking after animals, then pet-sitting someone’s pets while they’re on holiday in exchange for staying in their house may be the perfect way for you to see the world and travel for free. We have experience working with animals and are wanting to create a house/pet-sitting profile soon so have done some research into it. According to our favourite traveller bloggers’ tips, Trusted Housesitters is the best website to get started with.
Work in Hostels – We spent 3 months working in a hostel in Gran Canaria in exchange for accommodation. Even though we actually found our host through Workaway.info, sometimes you could just turn up to a hostel and ask if you can do some cleaning in exchange for a few free nights. If you don’t ask, you won’t get, right? If you’re in the right place at the right time some hostels might even offer to pay you if you stay longer.
Budget Accommodation Options
Hostels – If you’re backpacking solo and don’t mind sharing dormitories with like-minded travellers then staying in hostels is definitely the cheapest option. As an example in South East Asia you can stay in dormitories for as little as $3 per night! Hostel World is a good website to find the best hostels that match your needs and budget, and a lot of hostels also offer private room options too.
Airbnb – The concept of AirBnB is that instead of staying in a hotel/hostel room, you either rent a room or the whole house/apartment from a local in the place you’re travelling to. A lot of the time if you’re travelling as a couple or with a friend then booking an AirBnB can work out cheaper than 2 beds in a hostel room! You get to experience your destination like a local, and by travelling this way you help out the local community. Read our article about all the benefits and reasons why we love and recommend Airbnb for more info. Receive a $50 Airbnb Credit to use on your first trip when you sign up through this link.
Booking.com – As much as we love AirBnB we often compare rates of AirBnBs to accommodation rates on booking.com before decided on where to stay because some countries accommodation on booking.com can work out cheaper.
Hitchhiking – means ‘to travel by standing on the side of the road and soliciting rides from passing vehicles.’ Make sure to check with trusted locals whether hitchhiking is accepted in the place you’re travelling in before sticking your thumb up. If it’s generally all good then go for it, it’s the best way to travel for free (literally!) and I’ve met some really interesting people hitchhiking. You could also hitchhike by boat when travelling between islands.
Budget Transport Options
Blablacar – When arranging transport from one destination to another we always look at Blablacar first (if the country we’re in has it) because we’ve only ever had good experiences with Blablacar. It’s basically like hitchhiking but a lot safer and more reliable because money is involved. When local drivers have spare seats in their car they advertise where they’re going and travellers can pick up a ride with them if they’re going the same way. It usually works out a lot cheaper than public transport so you save money, it’s a lot better for the environment and you get to meet locals too.
Public Transport – When Blablacar isn’t an option, public transport generally is. In most places we’ve travelled to buses have been a lot cheaper than trains, except for in Portugal for example, so make sure to always do your research first.
Uber – To get around short distances in a city, taxis are obviously the easiest (but most expensive) option. If you can’t or don’t want to use public transport we recommend to always choose Uber over taxis – it’s a lot cheaper! Uber is a similar concept to blablacar where locals use their own car to give you a lift, but they take you to where you want to go like a taxi service, and it’s more suited for short distances. Get your first ride free when you sign up to Uber through this link.
Cheap Airlines – When travelling long distance, sometimes it’s even cheaper to fly to big cities than to catch a bus or train (depending on where you’re going). We use Sky Scanner to find the cheapest flight options. Some cheap airlines in Europe include Ryan Air, Easy Jet & Whizz Air, or if travelling within Australia Virgin & Jet Star are the best budget airlines.
The best way to find out what attractions are free in the places you’re travelling to is to read travel blogs and do your research. You’ll be surprised at how many museums have free entry on particular days.
Free Guided Walking Tours – One of the first things I do when planning my itinerary in a big city is to go on the Sandemans website and see if they do any free guided walking tours there. So far I’ve been on free walking tours in London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona, and learned a lot about the culture of those places from a local’s perspective. It’s free because the tour guides work on tips, so if you really can’t afford a thing then you don’t have to pay, but they are usually so great that you want to tip what you can afford.
Internships – Have you ever wanted to learn activities like surfing, scuba diving or yoga for example? Why not ask for an internship? Chances are that by donating your time you’ll get to learn new skills, do activities for free and make new friends. We recently did an internship at a Scuba Diving centre in Gran Canaria where we got to learn how to Scuba Dive and get PADI Diver certified for free in exchange for our help.
And if you’re still not convinced that it’s possible for you to travel for free or on a budget then you must watch this Tedx Talk by Tomislav Perko about how to travel the world with almost no money. His story is very inspiring.
Though I know not everyone is willing to make certain sacrifices to be able to travel for free, I do hope this article has given you plenty of budget savvy tips to save you a few dollars on your next trip – even if you are a mid-range or luxury traveller!
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