So you’ve decided that it’s time for you to spread your proverbial wings and travel the world on a budget. Traveling in itself is very exciting, but traveling the world? That is very very exciting. Maybe you’ve even dipped your toe into the world traveling water only for financial thoughts to show up and send you running for the hills.
A common misconception about traveling the world is that you have to be a millionaire to do it. Sure, maybe if you want only the swankiest and most luxurious experience that money can possibly buy than yeah, you probably need to start wishing on that nightly star.
However, if you’d like to truly experience the different cultures that the world has to offer — I’m here to tell you that it is not an impossible feat.
Which is why I’m sharing my…
10 Tips on How to Travel the World on a Budget
- Know Your Budget
While this would seem like a no brainer, some people only ballpark their budget when planning travel and — unfortunately — end up on the wrong side of it. By knowing your budget you can plan your entire trip around it. That’s not to say that you can’t splurge while abroad but pick and choose where to scrimp and splurge to really utilize your budget and get the most out of it.
A lot of people get discouraged when even setting a budget because finances aren’t our best friends sometimes. If you’re having problems figuring out a budget that won’t leave you homeless and in debt when you return, there are little things that you could do save for your trip right now.
For instance, look at things you buy daily, weekly, and even monthly that you could live without. Then instead of buying them just put the money in a savings account or even a piggy bank. Little things we buy such as our favorite $8 coffee to get us through the day really add up. For a week, you’ve saved $56 but when you begin to add that money up for a month and even a year — that’s how you can travel the world on a budget.
- Do Your Research
Some countries in the world are cheaper to visit than others, while some countries that we view as out of our price range can actually be affordable. Go into your research with an open mind not based on simply what you’ve ‘heard’. Most places have a number of different accommodations for different levels of pricing.
Part of your research into the specific area you would like to travel should be on the currency exchange rate as well.
By knowing the area’s currency exchange rate you can prepare yourself — and your budget — for how far your money will really take you. Some countries are even in the process of decreasing their currency exchange rates, to provide more of us budgeters a place to explore, including Japan.
- Try the Local Foods
I’m not necessarily referring to a restaurant here, most countries have fresh markets and street vendors that can provide you with a taste of local cuisine without the price tag of a big restaurant. This food is usually comfort foods of the area and is totally worth trying. You might even just find your new favorite.
You can also choose to prepare your own meals to save some money if you have the proper accommodations available to you for that. Markets may even offer to cook what you buy for a small fee depending on the country that you choose to visit. To truly experience another culture, what better way than to have a local cook a meal they’ve prepared for their own families for years?
I’m not saying that you can’t visit a popular restaurant or dine out on your travel but remember to try your best to stay within your planned budget. Maybe you’ve been waiting a lifetime to visit this ritzy restaurant in Italy — go for it. Just make sure that you’re familiar with the prices.
Visiting Restaurant.com can be helpful in scoring gift certificates to restaurants in the area you are visiting as well. Just visit the website and enter the location to see if any offers are available. More importantly, if you’re going to dine out, try to do it at lunch instead of dinner as dinners are usually more pricey. Just think a big lunch, then a small dinner if you’re going out.
- Use a Rewards Program
By joining a rewards program you can save on more than just your airfare. Rewards programs these days are offering so much more than they have in the past from upgraded flight class tickets to hotel upgrades and more. You do have to use your travel cards to earn points, but what better way than to earn your next trip on your current trip?
Each program is different and not all programs are created equal so I would definitely encourage you to look at several different programs and weigh out the pros versus the cons before making a decision.
Also, make sure that any reward program/travel card that you apply for does not have foreign fees as those can add up quickly in another country. Hidden fees also make learning how to travel the world on a budget pretty null, if you ask me. Yes, you’re traveling but you’re incurring debt rather than saving. So please, don’t fall prey to those.
- Know the Transportation Layout
You may think that all the information in this section merely depends on airfare and taxi fees when it comes to your budget. You’d be wrong. Most — if not all — countries have some form of public transportation. Beyond that, most countries are capable of being explored solely from public transportation.
How can this help you with your world travel budget? Because by taking a public transport option, you can save your hard-earned money from being overspent on pricey taxis. Public transportation, whether it be a bus or train, also allows you to mingle with locals and travelers alike so that you can get a more authentic feel for that particular part of the world.
If places are within walking distance, take the walk. It’s a healthy exercise and a new experience to be had. Don’t be afraid to lace up those sneakers and strike out, you never know what kind of adventure lies ahead! Not to mention it also allows you to place the money that was formerly set aside in your budget — for taxis — towards something else you may want to do.
- Learn the Basics of the Language
If you’re going to a country and are unfamiliar with the native tongue, it is very helpful to learn at least the basics. This by no way means that you have to spend a year getting fluent — unless you’d like to — but by knowing the basics you can mingle with the locals and save yourself some confusion.
In this age of YouTube and Google, this should be the least of your problems but the most helpful. Learning salutations, numbers, common phrases — even food options — is a very budget-friendly aid for world travel as you can do it for free.
- Look for Free Things to Do
Most countries — if not all — have activities that can be done with no cost attached to you. Make sure you look online for the dates that you would like to visit to see if there are any festivities or special activities for that time period.
Depending on where you want to travel, guided tours may also even be offered for free but they can be a bit harder to find as they’re likely to get booked up quickly. Walking tours usually don’t fill up quite as often as tours that take a form of transportation and are offered free of charge more regularly, so they may be a better budget-friendly option.
Also, museums and historical sites — depending on location — are sometimes free admission or admission for a small fee. If you find one that isn’t free, look for any discounted admission days to save the most money on your visit.
- Book Early
This applies to your hotel room, flights, and everything in between. By booking your flight more than 54 days in advance, you can obtain cheaper rates. The same can be said for hotel rooms. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book both together, but not always. So pay attention when you’re scheduling them.
- Visit During Off-Season
Off-Season is a term used to describe an area that is not in its peak business/tourist season. There’s not a lot going on during these seasons so flights, hotels, etc. are offered at cheaper rates.
This in no way means that there is nothing to be done in the area, just that it’s not the most popular time that people decide to visit. Many people prefer to visit areas during their offseasons for that particular reason – fewer people mean fewer wait times which mean more time to spend exploring and discovering the area.
This is a pro tip for how to travel the world on a budget because loads of people do this to maintain their budget. Many of the most expensive places often become budget-friendly during their offseasons so that they still turn a profit. It all just boils down budgeting and planning.
As with a trip anywhere you’ll need to look into the average weather for the time of year that you are going and pack accordingly. This may sound more like common sense than budget advice — but it is both. If you pack wrong for a trip across the world, what do you have to do? You end up having to buy the things that you didn’t pack, all over again.
This could be a coat, umbrella, comfortable shoes, etc. but the point is to pack for any kind of weather that area could have while you’re there to keep you from having to buy pricier things to compensate for the left-behinds. Comfortable shoes would be a must even if you initially plan not to do a lot of walking. Plans can certainly change.
Also, pack essentials that you may need while you’re there. Any toiletries, cosmetics, etc. may be more expensive in the area that you’re traveling to. This could hurt a budget but is very easily avoided simply by good preparation. Sure, most hotels have complimentary toiletries but most likely won’t have that special shampoo or pore cleanser you swear by.
Lastly, plan to bring a lightweight backpack or bag that can be easily worn while you navigate your new surroundings. Budget savvy things to carry in this bag would be snacks, a water bottle(s), sunscreen (if needed), and an umbrella.
I hope this helps and informs anyone thinking about traveling the world on a budget. Above all, traveling should be fun and exciting!
My bonus tip for traveling the world on a budget is very important — and also free. We are all different, and that’s okay. That’s what makes us so unique is that there is no other person out there in this world that is exactly like us. There may be similarities, but we are all very different individuals.
With that being said, cultures can be viewed in the same way. Some cultures may be similar, but no one culture is exactly like the next. It is very important on your travels to respect the etiquettes and cultures of others as you would like them to respect yours. A quick Google search can tell you the basics of that culture and what to expect.
In larger cities that you may visit, there are usually more diverse populations that could be broken down into a few different cultures. However, smaller areas may not be. So it’s very important to know what to expect when traveling somewhere new so as to be respectful.
I hope you found this to be a good read and I wish you well in all your travel endeavors!