Budget travel is the real deal. Countless travelers are exploring this wonderful world right now for less than $50/day. I’ve put together a little guide (in two parts) that should help any new and seasoned solo traveler. I’ve found these tricks to help save money and enhance my travels in 30 different countries so far. Enjoy!
I walk everywhere when I travel. It’s not only a money-saver, it keeps me in shape! I average around 10 miles a day while on the road and I feel a lot better about myself when I’m exploring on foot. I also get to see much more of the destination as I can go at my own pace and on my own time. I’ve met new friends, found hidden beaches, alleys and cafes all because I took a walk.
If you’re not in to walking, taking the bus is by far the cheapest transport option. Local buses usually run daily, hourly and more. Long-distance buses are also super cheap. I’ve taken long buses for less than $10 for a 4-hour journey. It’s just a matter of research and asking people for advice. I always Google ‘cheap buses from ___ to ____’ and go from there.
Buy a local transport card
Another cheaper option is to buy a local transport card. Almost every city has a weekly or monthly card that you can use unlimited times. This can save you loads of money instead of using taxis or renting a car.
Uber of Lyft
Uber has saved me so many times. You also get a free ride when you sign up and can get credit when your other friends sign up and use your code. Lyft offers free rides as well and gives you a bunch of codes to use for your next five rides. Either way they are completely worth it.
Things to do
Free museum days
Free museum days are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If you plan your trip right, you can hit up several museums without pulling out your wallet. The catch is to research the museums you want to go to, then check out their ‘free days.’ They usually fall on the first Sunday or Tuesday of each month. Some even offer cheap admission after 5pm on certain days so look for that as well. San Francisco is a fantastic city that allows you to see plenty of museums for free each month. Check before you go as a lot of museums are free to enter anyways.
Once again Google comes to the rescue when I need to find answers fast. I Google ‘free activities in (the city I’m going to).’ Of course the results are endless, so I choose the first couple of websites and start my research from there.
Walking tours are available in a variety of destinations around the world. Majority of them are free or they might ask for a tip at the end. Walking tours are a great way to meet other travelers as well as learn a good deal about the place you’re visiting. If you get a good group, you’ll end up going out for a drink after!
If you’re staying at a hostel, Airbnb or somewhere that has a kitchen, eat in! This will save you the most money by far. Eating out at all of the incredible restaurants is fun and part of what makes travel adventurous, but it’s bloody expensive. If you can even eat breakfast or make your snacks rather than pay, you’re already ahead. I love cooking on the road. Regardless if I’m cooking for one or five, I find it comforting to make myself a meal. And it usually is less than $10.
Get off the tourist trail
There’s a rule out there that you should never eat within five or six blocks of where you’re staying. Obviously this only applies if you’re staying in an uber-touristy location. Take a walk and get out of the city center and see different parts of the city. More times than not, you will find cheaper and better food. Plus, you’ll get to meet locals.
Is breakfast included?
When I travel solo, I try my hardest to find accommodation that includes breakfast. That saves me a lot of money. One; it usually includes tea/coffee, and two; breakfast is ridiculously expensive in certain parts of the world. For example, breakfast in New Zealand-say Eggs Benedict- will run you anywhere from $17-20 depending on where you are. Add my soy flat white and my breakfast is nearing $25. No thank you.
Have a chat with the receptionist at where you’re staying and tell them your budget or what type of food you’re looking for. They know the destination inside and out and have awesome recommendations. I go to this breakfast place in Auckland every time I’m in the city because a receptionist told me it was the best. And it was. Plus, they know where the cheap (and delicious) eats are.
Hostels are cheap. They usually range anywhere from $15-40 for a bed in a shared room. You also share a bathroom and it’s definitely not for those who love their peace and quiet. Although the last couple hostels I stayed at, everyone was courteous and quiet and I got incredible sleep! But hostels are definitely for those who like to socialise. It’s one of the best ways to meet other travelers and new friendships are born every minute. I tend to stay in hostels to connect with other solo female travellers and come away with incredible travel stories and tips. I highly recommend it regardless your age. Hostel world is a great website for you to research places to stay.
Airbnb has revolutionized the accommodation industry. You can stay with locals in their homes, rent an entire house out, or just rent a couch! The variety is incredible and I love using Airbnb when I travel. I find that now that I’m in my 30’s, I like to have my own room and it’s usually cheaper and nicer to stay at an Airbnb. I’ve used it all around the world and have met incredible locals. Many places have their own guide printed out for you that includes the best restaurants, things to do and contact information. Read reviews of the hosts BEFORE you book. You don’t want to stay somewhere that ends up being uncomfortable or doesn’t promise what they show in pictures and descriptions.
Couchsurfing is another way to budget travel. You set up a profile on the website and you can request to ‘surf’ someone’s couch. They cannot charge you, but in return many people cook dinner or bring a bottle of wine for their hosts as a thank you. I used to use Couchsurfing like crazy in Australia and New Zealand and have made incredible friends through the website. I feel it’s tailored itself now to the younger crowd, but I still keep it as an option if I cannot find any accommodation.
Don’t be shy! Ask your friends and family if they know anyone you could stay with wherever you’re going. It’s one of the best ways to see a place. Plus, you’re not technically alone. It’s a great transition into the traveling world if you’ve never gone solo. If I stay with a friend-of-a-friend, I always cook a meal. It usually ends up being Mexican because a lot of places do NOT know how to make it properly and it’s a big hit. (Thanks mom for the recipes!) 🙂
House sitting is a great way to travel for cheap. It usually means that you look after a place (and maybe their pets) while they’re gone. In exchange for you watching over the place, you get to stay in an awesome house in a cool place. I did it in San Francisco for a month and it was crazy! It was one of the best locations I could have ever asked for and I really got to see what it was like to live in the city by the bay. It also saved me over $2,000 in accommodation expenses!