The truth is that travelling the world on a budget IS possible. All that is needed is some careful planning and changes to your lifestyle. Here are my 10 tips for getting up off your backside, hitting the road and making your money stretch as far as possible.
1. Save your arse off
While working and saving to travel I lived with my father for a year which greatly helped saving cash. Obviously not everyone wants to live with a parent for a variety of reasons, but if you really want to travel cuts have to be made where possible.
Once you have enough cash to go, quit your job or if you are lucky enough take work leave (I suppose that depends if you like your job or not). I was quite nervous about handing in my notice, but once it was done it was a huge weight off the shoulders. Yes there were a few moments of cold feet, but you just have to tell yourself that if you don’t do it now, you never will and then will be in the same job for the next 40 years.
2. Travel on the cheap
- Round The World tickets make travelling much cheaper as they cut the price of flights significantly in comparison to buying your flights individually. This will require you to PLAN out your route so that a travel agency, like STA, can quote you a price which without a doubt will save you heaps. You can choose an additional option for about €50 which allows you to change the date of your flights 3 times without any charge. Well worth the extra investment. But that means you must plan, and there is no better time to start than now.
- I bought my RTW ticket for €2500 which had 10 flights included, which took me to 4 continents. I bought some internal flights in Mexico and Asia but these were relatively cheap and cost about €300 in total with low cost carriers such as VivaAerobus and AirAsia.
- One of the cheapest ways to travel is by bus. The standard of buses does vary from country to country so do some research before buying as sometimes a much better bus can be only a few € extra. Overnight buses are where it is at, as they save money on hostels. So get used to sleeping on buses as they will become a second home on the road. Buses are also a great chance to get through your favourite TV shows and movies.
- I had an overall good experience with buses around the world. There were a few which will live long in the memory including the 35 bus in Colombia due to a farmers strike and the 12 hour bus in Bolivia with no suspension and filthy dirty seats. But overall my experience was generally great. Overnight buses became a firm fixture on our social calendar where we made some good friends on the road and saw tons of Z-list movies.
- In more Westernised countries try to avoid taxis where possible as they are seriously overpriced. In less developed countries sometimes taxis are your only option, but always use official taxis in airports and bus terminals to avoid being ripped off or something potentially worse.
- Travelling in numbers in taxis is also recommended as it cuts your spending significantly. Try to have the local currency ready before you arrive at bus station, just enough to get you to your hostel.
- In South America and South East Asia taxis were quite cheap so I used them a lot more often and didn’t have too many problems. Although no one likes to admit it, you will be ripped off. Yes it hurts your pride, but sometimes paying that little bit extra is better than getting into bigger problems. This generally happened when we first arrived in a new country, but just learn from it and ask hostels for set price taxis when you need one.
3. Avoid expensive countries
But it makes sense. Your money goes a lot further. Places like Central America, South America and Asia offer you a lot more bang for your buck. And from personal experience they have an awful lot more to offer in terms of sights and activities than more developed countries where the price of living is 3+ times the rate.
4. Cook for yourself
I learned this the hard way. I was all the way down to Brazil before it became obvious that I could no longer eat out as it was eating (excuse the pun) into my daily budget. But once I began cooking, it left me with a lot more spare cash. Where possible, try and split food and cooking duties as this cuts costs significantly.
Although not always great for your health, fast food can also be a cheap alternative if you do want to eat out…just do so in moderation!
5. It's dorm living for the year!
Although not ideal living conditions, dorms can also be the most fun part of your trip. It’s where you meet the majority of your fellow travellers and you can even make little forts if you are lucky enough to have a bottom bunk. Just bring the ear plugs for the usual 3am drunks stumbling in and trying to get it jiggy with it on the top bunk while 11 other people listen on in fear for their lives.
6. Work for free accommodation
While travelling I worked in an Irish hostel/bar with the lads in Bolivia and we had accommodation and food free for the length of our stay, not to mention the odd drink or 4 at the bar. In one week of staying in La Paz I spent €30 in total, which is pretty insane for the amount of partying we did. We also even busked singing One Direction for the day in New Zealand and made $20!
Volunteering is also a great thing to do while on the road. There are lots of charities that you can contact through your hostel who are always looking for people to help out. This doesn’t necessarily save you money but makes you feel good while getting to know the local community.
I volunteered with a local charity called My Small Help in Peru helping a family raise much needed funds for their daughter who is wheelchair bound. Going to their family home on a daily basis were some of the most memorable days of travelling as a whole.
7. Teach English to gain some cash on the side
I taught English on a few occasions with the guys during our journey while staying with some friends in South America. It was a way of giving something back to them for giving an insight into their country and culture. It also gave me the chance to show how great Ireland is. And now even a few of them have gone to study there.
8. Be smart with how you spend your money
a. Budget Daily:
Try to take note of everything you spend. Obviously this can be hard sometimes if you go partying but try guess as best you can. Giving yourself a daily budget and documenting what you spend greatly helps. It’s not just about curbing your spending, but sometimes when you spend next to nothing, you won’t feel bad for splurging on other days.
These are the perfect times of the year to kindly ask for donations in the form of cheque or cash to the Travelling Around The World Association.
c. Use your debit/credit card
It’s the safest way to travel by far as you are never carrying too much cash. Check with your bank if there is any way you can avoid bank withdrawal fees abroad. For example, when I loaded cash onto my credit card and then withdrew I was never charged a withdrawal fee thus saving a nice bit of money on the way.
d. Pre-drink in hostels
Gone are the days of drinking in bars for the evening I’m afraid. That means doing some pre-gaming in hostels before heading out. And sure that’s where the best craic is anyway! Also never bring out your bank card on a night out…ever.
e. Don’t get involved in group tabs
Pretty simple but effective. In some countries it is common to buy bottles of spirits for the table, but try avoiding this in the politest way possible as you will just end up stumping a huge bill. Stick to your own beer.
f. Listen to other travellers experiences
One of the best ways of not getting ripped off is listening to fellow travellers experiences. They can recommend hostels, tours operators and places to visit and also give a roundabout price that you should expect to pay, which helps greatly when you arrive in a new city.
9. Use friends and Couchsurfing
I was lucky to have a number of friends dotted around the globe who were fantastic and generously lent me and the lads a place to crash along the journey which obviously saved a bit of money. It also gives you the chance to meet some real locals and get out of the hostel lifestyle for a few days at least.
Couchsurfing is an excellent resource to use when travelling. You can find a place to crash in virtually any city in the world and again gives you a great chance to meet locals and experience a new culture first hand. A word of warning, especially to girls: do as much research as possible before you go to a stranger’s house. Read reviews and do a bit of snooping on Facebook to see if the person is genuine or a complete serial killer.
10. Take days off
I found that these days can also be some of the most enjoyable of all. They give you the chance to lounge around all day, chatting to new and interesting people with not a care in the world. These are the days you will remember when you are working behind a desk for the next 40 years, so appreciate them.