15 Tips for Traveling Around the World on a Budget

I just traveled around the world for 4 months and was able to stick to my rigid budget with a lot of planning and preparation. Time is of the essence when booking travel plans and keep that in mind if you are determined to travel on the cheap. I learned a lot while traveling that really made me feel like a smart and responsible young globetrotter, I hope my tips are helpful in planning your next backpacking trip. How did I save enough money and determine my budget? I did some research on daily expenditures in different parts of Europe, so around 40$ in Eastern Europe and 60$ a day in the rest of Europe was the average for other backpackers. It’s the flights and train rides that add up, so some days I made sure to spend less than the budget to account for that. Furthermore, for the past year I had been bringing my lunch to work everyday just to save a little extra money which added up to a couple thousand dollars.

  1. Book flights way in advance, 6 months or more and track the prices for a week so you book on the cheapest day. Google is great for comparing flights and shows all international airlines as well.
  2. Take the cheap flight with a budget airline, grit your teeth and read their rules. You save a fortune but will have to jump through some hoops for sure and you will be uncomfortable so prepare for that.
  3. Cheapest way to travel country to country in Europe? The bus! It takes a lot longer than flying and a train obviously, but I saved over $100 by taking a bus from London to Amsterdam. Book these tickets in advance too, fares go up. Use GoEuro to compare your options. As a budget traveler, you have to understand that what you pay for is what you get so find a good book for that 13 hour bus ride and a pillow. Keep an eye on your belongings and pat yourself on the back for being so frugal, the cheap trip will be over quickly and you can spend the money you saved on a massage, tour or food.
  4. Pack smart. You should already have some activities in mind, so pick out your outfits for each day or activity and try to use some pieces on multiple days. Layers are key.
  5. Pack light. Bring one pair of good shoes you can wear for everything that are cute, I wore my Clark’s boots and was fine in the snow and on the beach.
  6. Pick your toiletries wisely. I bought Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, which were amazing, luxurious and sailed through airport security. I also used baking soda to wash my face, which was cheap and easy to find in every country.
  7. Hotels? Nope, I traveled for 4 months from Ireland to Australia by crashing with friends, family and occasionally a hostel. The cheapest was $8 a night in Budapest, Hungary and the most expensive was about $20 a night in Australia.
  8. 3 meals a day? No need! I bought boxes of granola bars whenever I found them on sale and had one for breakfast and then after noon. Then I made a big meal around 4PM which was my dinner and lunch. It was kind of fun waiting until the afternoon to feast, not only did I lose weight but I discovered my ability to function on an empty stomach. Lunch is also usually cheaper than dinner, so I could order 2 lunch entrees for the price of 1 dinner entree and take it to go.
  9. Tours are expensive. Almost every city I visited offered free walking tours, sometimes they accept tips and are usually led by people who live in the city and love it. I met some fascinating guides who gave fantastic restaurant and site recommendations. I made sure to do the free tour on my first day in each city so I could get a lay of the land and help orient myself, then I went back to the neighborhoods or the sites that I wanted to explore more.
  10. Make your own tour! Do your research, map out the hot spots you want to check out and then just walk or take public transit. Cities by design are very walkable as long as you feel safe and the weather is fine. Most popular cities have those red bus tours, I never took one and saw the same sites on foot over a few days instead of all in one. In Rome, I walked around all day and night which was magical, no better way to experience a city than to poke around on foot.
  11. Bucket list? You can walk to Stonehenge for free to avoid paying for the bus, but you cannot swim to the Great Barrier Reef or be satisfied with seeing the Coloseum from the outside. I had to splurge on the snorkeling tour to the Great Barrier Reef but other than getting to the Greek Islands from Athens, most sites can be accessed by public transit. You will probably have to pay an entrance fee so look online before just walking up, you might be able to get a discounted ticket and you will definitely avoid waiting in line for an hour or more.
  12. Phone plan? I did not want to pay $10 a day to use my data so I just didn’t. I kept my phone on airplane mode the entire time and took advantage of free wifi anywhere and everywhere. How did I find my way around without data? I made sure to use Google Maps and download offline maps of each city, that way even without data I could still find my way around. I did have to use my data maybe a handful of times during my 4 month trip which I thought was pretty good.
  13. How do get enough exercise while traveling? I literally never worried about this, I did so much walking that each day my feet were sore and I probably covered over 10 miles or more each day. Finding a gym or fitness classes in a foreign city is tough. Going to the beach and swimming or surfing burns calories and so does shivering in the snow and the cold. You can also do a core workout if you have enough space in your hostel or wherever you are staying, I did this for a few weeks but then felt too cramped to continue. Plus when I started shedding layers and hitting the beach after walking all day, I felt I didn’t need to.
  14. Souvenirs? These can really weigh you down and the price tags can add up! I really did not want to add any more weight to my pack, so I just took photos and picked up a few postcards. I took pictures of things I wanted like a Dutch blue delft cheese plate and limoncello in Sorrento. When I go back next time I will make sure to pick up those things.
  15. Photography? I do not own a fancy camera and even if I did, I don’t think I would want to lug it around and risk breaking it or having it stolen. My iPhone 6 camera was sufficient, not amazing but I did take some really great photos. I also brought an iTouch with me just in case I felt unsafe using my phone for photos, I would rather have that stolen than my phone. Photos take up a lot of storage as well so having a blank iPhone was great and I also brought my laptop with me so I was able to dump all my photos from each city onto my computer to free up storage. Those old digital cameras that most of us have hidden somewhere do still take good pictures even compared to our fancy cell phones, if you have the patience to charge the battery and get a new memory card, bring it along.

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