Updated December 6, 2020
I firmly believe that anyone can (and SHOULD) travel, no matter their budget.
I have never had a large amount of funds throughout all of my years of travelling. As a result of this I am very used to saving money wherever I can to keep me going on my long-term travel adventures.
And I want you to be able to do the same!
After all, the longer your funds last, the longer you can keep on travelling.
So if you’re heading off on your own adventure soon and you’re wondering how to save money while travelling, check out this handy list of the 14 best and easiest ways to save money on your travels.
1: Staying in hostels
When it comes to cheap accommodation options, hostels are definitely the best way to go.
Using apps and websites such as Hostelworld is probably the easiest way to find out what’s available and affordable in any destination.
Just type in the name of the town and the number of nights you want to stay. A list of all the hostels in the area will then appear.
You can sort the list by price to find the most affordable options and read reviews from previous visitors.
The cheapest option is usually a bed in a dorm; but if there’s more than one of you, it may be more cost effective to book a private room.
2: House sitting and couch surfing
These are two fantastic ways to save money while travelling as they allow you to stay in someone’s home for free!
The Couchsurfing website encourages people to meet and stay with locals, as well as to offer a bed or a couch in their own house for travellers passing through.
They also organise meet-ups in a lot of cities for Couchsurfing members. This means that you can get a feel for how it all works and meet some new people before committing to staying with or hosting a stranger.
House-sitting is another great way to save money while visiting a new place and seeing it from a local’s perspective!
It’s a great concept; people list their property on one of the house-sitting websites when they are due to go away on holiday.
They will then chat with applicants and find the best fit. The house-sitter will take care of their house (and usually pets too) while the owner is away.
House-sitters are usually required to complete a security check to ensure that they will act responsibly while taking care of someone’s home and animals.
It’s a win-win situation; the owner has peace of mind that their property and pets are being taken care of, and the sitter gets somewhere to stay for free! What a great way to save money!
I’ve used Trusted House Sitters, which is a great global site, but there are also other sites dedicated to specific countries. There is a sign-up fee with most of them, but it’s a small cost compared with how much you could save on accommodation!
If you have the option to do so, camping is a great way to save money.
In New Zealand, we spent most of our time living out of a small campervan in free or cheap campsites around the country.
The free camps usually consist of an open space and a long-drop toilet or portaloo, and sometimes a water source.
Facilities in paid campsites will vary depending on the price: holiday parks will have full kitchen, shower and laundry facilities, while cheaper campsites will sit somewhere in the middle.
Note: if you camp somewhere for free, make sure it is in a designated area and that you are not breaking any laws.
4: Taking sleeper buses & trains
In many countries, if you need to travel a long distance, you can book a spot on a sleeper bus or train.
This is a common option for backpackers; it saves you money on a night’s accommodation as well as getting you from one place to another.
I have experienced many sleeper buses in South East Asia, and they vary a lot depending on the country. I’ve (barely) slept on a slightly reclining chair in a Thai sleeper bus, and I’ve slept comfortably on what was essentially a double mattress in a Laotian sleeper bus!
I also took the overnight train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai three times, each time in a different class. The cheapest option didn’t include a bed at all. On the next level up the chairs were transformed into a hard bed with a privacy curtain on a rickety old train. The best journey was on a newer and quieter train with a much comfier bed.
I would definitely not recommend the cheapest option on these trains if you want to get any sleep at all!
5: Cooking your own food
This is not always an option, depending on your accommodation. However, if have access to cooking equipment, try to cook your own food as often as possible.
Eating out often seems like the easiest option when you’re travelling, but buying groceries and cooking for yourself will definitely help you to save money in the long run.
6: Eating street food
If you’re not able to cook your own food, eating street food is often the next cheapest option.
Not only that, but I find that street food is usually much tastier and fresher than restaurant food. Plus, you can usually see it being made right in front of you, so you know it’s fresh!
You’ll also be supporting the locals, so it’s another win-win!
In a lot of countries, haggling the price of something before buying it is completely normal.
Often, tourists will be quoted a price much higher than a local would be. It’s a good idea to try to bring the price down so that you’re not over-paying.
The trick with haggling is confidence. It may make you a little uncomfortable at first, but it’s well worth sticking with it to help you save money while travelling.
Just don’t try to undercut the price too much or haggle just for the sake of haggling; remember that this is someone’s livelihood and pay what you think the item is worth.
8: Taking public transport
When you’re in a new town, do as the locals do!
Try to find out in advance how to get around using public transport as taxis are usually overpriced; it’ll be a great experience and you’ll be able to see the town through the eyes of a local.
Most of the time, you’ll find that you’re paying less than half the price of a taxi for the same journey.
In many countries, if you don’t already know which form of transport you want to take before you arrive, you could be overwhelmed by people approaching you at the airport or station trying to get you to choose their service. If you already know what you want to do, it’ll give you the confidence to say no to the others.
One of my favourite free ways to see a new area is to take a slow wander around. I love taking everything in at a slow pace and getting to know the place.
If something is within walking distance, let your feet take you there and enjoy a bit of exercise while you’re at it.
Did I mention that it’s free?
Sometimes, you’ll find the most incredible sights and hidden gems completely by accident, just by walking instead of paying for another form of transport.
10: Joining Walking tours
If you’d rather not walk around by yourself or you’re worried about getting lost, see if there are any free walking tours you can join.
We did this in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, and we learned so much about the area and the culture that we wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Hearing the experiences and opinions of a local is one of my favourite ways to discover a new place.
We even tried some of the local delicacies: crickets, frogs and silkworms! (This is not compulsory so don’t let it put you off!)
Ask at your accommodation about free walking tours or do an online search.
11: Taking your own water bottle
To save money on buying bottled water, and to reduce plastic waste, take your own water bottle with you; preferably one with a water filter so that you can drink the tap water in any country without worrying about whether it’s been treated or not.
When you’re used to being able to have a glass of water from the tap whenever you like, it quickly becomes apparent how much money you need to spend on bottled water in a country with untreated tap water.
Good hydration is one of the most important ways to ensure you stay healthy while travelling, so a water bottle with a filter is a great way to save money without sacrificing your health.
Make it a habit to have it with you at all times so that you’re not caught out without water.
12: Exchanging work for accommodation with Workaway
Workaway is a website where you can find somewhere to stay in exchange for a few hours of work a day.
Your hosts will usually provide you with all your meals as well, depending on the number of hours you work.
So far, we have used Workaway twice, once in Thailand and once in New Zealand.
Both times we have felt welcomed and we’ve been very comfortable, both in our accommodation and with the work.
This is a great way to save money as you won’t have your usual accommodation and food costs, and you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the area.
13: Working to top up your funds
I know, I know, you might not want to think about work while you’re travelling.
But if you want to travel long-term, you will most likely need to earn some money at some point (as long as your visa allows).
If you have a working permit or a working holiday visa, you can apply for almost any job, as long as you’re qualified.
I have worked in restaurants, offices, contact centres and taken up many outdoor seasonal work positions, all while I was travelling away from my home country.
If your home occupation is location independent, you could continue it while you’re travelling and keep going indefinitely! (This is the dream 🙂 )
14: Keeping track of your spending
Finally, the most effective way to ensure you’re not spending too much is to keep an eye on your daily expenditures.
It’s very easy to lose track of all the little things you’ve spent money on and then have an unhappy surprise when you check your funds a week or two down the line.
You’ll find that your budget is closer to the front of your mind every day if you keep a log of how much you’ve spent and what it was spent on.
Final thoughts on how to save money while travelling
When it comes down to it, you’re the only one who really knows what your budget is and how much you can afford to spend on certain things every day, so make sure you’re in control of your decisions.
While not all of these ideas on how to save money for travelling are suitable for everyone, I hope that you can apply most of them to your daily life while you’re on the road and save money wherever you can.
The world, as they say, is your oyster! (Why do they say that?)
What do you think of these tips? Have you applied any of them in your own travels? Or is there something I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- How to actually save money for travel
- Boost your travel fund by cutting out these 10 things
- How to travel for free around the world
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