9 Travel Bloggers Share Their Best Budget Travel Tips

When you see travel blogs featuring people who seem to be living out your bucket list, chances are you must wonder how they can afford to do it. If you’ve never traveled beyond your work-allotted vacation limit, it’s easy to assume that the only people who can sustain this lifestyle are either millionaires or incredibly reckless spenders. The truth is that the majority of travel bloggers are neither, and they probably live off of less than you do! Here are the best tips, stories, and secrets of long-term budget travel from 9 of the best bloggers around the world (including yours truly). Don’t forget to share this with your friends–they’ll probably learn something new!

“Shopping, bills, and permanent fixtures

are just not part of

my life.” – Jonny Blair, Don’t Stop Living

Jonny

Do you stay in hostels often? Any great stories to tell?

Yes and yes. Too many to mention!! I have a crazy stories section on my blog which details my stories down the years, some of which happened in hostels. I have probably stayed in over 400 hostels in the last 11 years or so.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about long-term travel, cost-wise?

People think it’s dear/expensive. But this fact remains:
I currently spend LESS MONEY traveling full time than my friends that stay in the one place!!! It’s a fact. I don’t own a car, a bed, a flat or even an iron. I don’t have ANY bills and I don’t go crazy buying clothes or food. Shopping, bills and permanent fixtures are just not part of my life. Cut that hat trick out and you can travel easily.

We all have our moments where being cheap is too much and we want to indulge. What was one instance where you went way over your daily budget and thought “man, that was worth it!”?

It’s happened a few times. Recently I attended the Mexico v. Brazil match in the World Cup in Fortaleza which was a childhood dream and well worth the extra cash. The same goes for my Antarctica trip in 2010 – must have cost me around $300 US a day for that one, when that money normally lasts me a few weeks! I also did the Inca Trail in Peru and hiked up Mount Kinabalu in recent years and they were crazy hikes but well worth the money. Other days I have spent zero money, by staying with friends who have given me food, so there is a middle ground.

Have you ever done anything illegal to save money (or earn money) while traveling? Care to share? 🙂

I have certainly had my times of being arrested and some bad moments in travel. In terms of illegal, I did work for a few companies down the years for longer than the periods on my visas but I don’t think it mattered in the end as the work for done for external companies so they could just have put down a separate employer if anything had happened.

“The moral of the story is that

travel and work don’t

have to be an either/or

proposition.” – Mallory van Waarde,

Here & Mal

 

Mal

When you’re looking to travel somewhere, do you have a go-to website for booking travel, be it air, rail, bus, or ferry?

I love SkyScanner. It’s the perfect tool for budget travelers who don’t have an agenda. It’s the equivalent of going to the airport and buying the cheapest ticket to anywhere. Use your current location as the starting point and “everywhere” as your destination and boom. You have a list of the cheapest places to visit at the cheapest times. Favorite steal? I bought a ticket from Eindhoven, Netherlands to Crete, Greece for 30 euros.

Do you squat or stay with people living in squats? If so, what has been your favorite experience?

Can’t say I’ve done much squatting. Not that kind, anyway.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about long-term travel, cost-wise?

Two things: 1) That it’s expensive. It isn’t. On a monthly basis, I spend less than I did when I lived in the US. 2) That you have to save forever to take a big trip and come home when you’re broke. You don’t.

Let’s talk about #2. I’m passionate about this one because it’s what’s allowed me to travel for the past four months without watching my bank account drain. There are tons of people who have figured out how to monetize their skillsets and work on the road. Some start online businesses. Some do freelance work. Some do consulting. Some travel for a few months and stop to work at a bar every so often. The moral of the story is that work vs. travel doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

We all have our moments where being cheap is too much and we want to indulge. What was one instance where you went way over your daily budget and thought “man, that was worth it!”?

I recently went paragliding over the Sacred Valley in Peru. It quadrupled my daily budget but it was definitely worth it. “Occasional overindulging” has become more frequent lately, especially now that I am in South America where adventure treks and pedicures are dirt cheap. I think spoiling yourself every so often is important to avoid travel burnout. I have a little pot of money I set aside for those moments.

What’s the cheapest country you’ve ever traveled to, and what was one instance where something was so cheap you basically couldn’t believe it?

Aside from the cost to actually get there, Thailand was by far the cheapest. My friend and I stayed in a bungalow on the beach for $6 a night. Each morning, we would open the door of our hut and take ten steps to our hammocks overlooking the blue ocean with fresh fruit in hand. Does it get any better?

“Sell all your shit, travel light, and go far.”- Bani Amor,

Everywhere All The Time

 

Bani

Do you volunteer using sites such as workaway or WOOF?

I’ve WOOFed a few times, but my experiences were, ‘meh’. I mean, the locations were beautiful, and I don’t mind the hard work, but the hosts I’ve had (in North and South America) didn’t give much in the way of food, especially food from their land. Once, after a 10-hour work day in the Southwestern Summer desert heat, my host bought me Chinese takeout! Yummy, but not a part of the deal. Research your prospective hosts and make sure you know what you’re getting in exchange for your work ahead of time.

Have you tried Couchsurfing before? What are your thoughts on it?

I’ve had varied experiences with CS. Been on there for years, and in the beginning, it rarely ever worked. Here’s what I’ve learned – as someone from the U.S. traveling in the U.S., no one wants to host me! Seriously, I’ve sent thoughtful, personalized messages giving plenty of time before my arrival to many a prospective host, and gotten nothing back so. Many. Times. They want a foreigner, not some broke punk like me. In Canada and South America, the only other places I’ve used CS, it’s been great. The only thing is, as a woman, navigating the creepy guy factor on CS can be a chore. As a precaution, I usually just search for female hosts.

What’s the cheapest country you’ve ever traveled to, and what was one instance where something was so cheap you basically couldn’t believe it?

My first bus ride in China was like 12 cents. I was blown away. Plus, the whole trip was paid for so everything was free, food included. The catch was I was there for some activist-type reasons and ended up getting deported! Go China!

Any other thoughts, information, or tips that would be helpful for people to know?

If you really wanna travel semi-nomadically for a long period of time – save like crazy, don’t buy dumb shit you don’t need, sell all your shit, travel light and go far. Try to find a job you can do on the road and be prepared to stop, work and live in some places for a bit before moving on. Invest in good gear you won’t need to replace all the time. Learn the language. Don’t rely too much on mobile devices. Draft a plan b, c & d. The cheaper you travel, the more you’ll be immersed in the local culture.

“I travel to experience the local culture,

the food and to meet

people.” – Yara Coelho, Heart of a Vagabond

 

Yara (2)

Do you squat or stay with people living in squats? If so, what has been your favorite experience?

I’m a squatter. I’ve been squatting for more than 9 years now, and to be honest I can’t comprehend why squatting would be considered an accommodation option for travelers. Squats are homes, normal homes that happened to be abandoned before people moved in and restored the place. So, for that matter squats are NOT hostels, free accommodation options or hotels; they’re homes.
I’ve stayed in many, many squats during my travels, because I’m a squatter and so are most of my best friends. I stayed at their homes. We were quite welcoming to people passing by in Barcelona more than a decade ago, but due to the constant abuse and belief that were free hotels, we became a closed community. It’s quite disturbing to find your home address listed in travelers forums without our permission and having people knocking on your doors asking for a place to sleep, usually with an attitude.

Have you tried Couchsurfing before? What are your thoughts on it?

I’m a CS host and Ambassador for Lisbon. I can definitely say that most of my friends nowadays are Couchsurfers and I met them through the CS vegan dinners I organize every week. Although CS has been changing a lot after it became a for-profit website, the spirit is still there, especially amongst the older members and I would advise everyone to give it a try. I’m a very active member of CS and I love it!

We all have our moments where being cheap is too much and we want to indulge. What was one instance where you went way over your daily budget and thought “man, that was worth it!”?

I always travel with cash and it has to last my entire trip, no matter what. For this, I think I never really indulged into anything expensive, although I regret I didn’t… Sometimes it’s not worth being so anal about money. I wish I would have slept in better places when I went to India, for example. Or traveled in a better train class, rather than having cockroaches walking all over me and my bags.

Admission to the Louvre is 12 Euros and that’s my barometer—in a manner of speaking—for measuring whether or not something is worth paying admission for. I’ve made exceptions once or twice, but that’s generally my limit. Do you have a similar limit you restrict yourself to when it comes to non-essential expenses?

I don’t pay for expensive entrance fees and I don’t like museums. I travel to experience the local culture, the food and to meet people, so those things are really non-essential. For example, I decided not to visit the Taj Mahal in India, which was extremely expensive for foreigners, so I ended up finding other amazing free monuments, like the baby Taj, which basically no one knows about. There were no tourists there, I had the place all for myself and for free!

“You never know when you’ll

have a chance to go back!” –

Sabina Trojanova, Girl vs Globe

Sabina

When you’re looking to travel somewhere, do you have a go-to website for booking travel, be it air, rail, bus, or ferry?

Before booking any airplane tickets, I always check both Skyscanner and Google Flights. I then delete my browser’s cookies before buying, as the price can increase if you don’t. I’ve recently discovered Drungli, which finds the cheapest flights from where you are to anywhere. If you just want to get away and don’t care about the destination, it can be really handy – I just found a flight from London to Skopje for £12.99!

Do you hitch-hike? If so, do you have any special tricks for flagging down rides? What’s the best ride you’ve ever taken?

I once hitchhiked to France with a pimp and a Mexican and would do it again in a heartbeat. My special trick was dressing up as a nun and waving my arms up and down like a crazy person, so I’m not sure I’m the best person to go to for advice… It worked wonders though! The best ride I’ve ever taken was a French man with a death wish and a broken door, who almost killed me and my friends with his reckless driving. He did do it for free though, so I’m not really complaining.

There are tons of apps for travelers looking for hole-in-the-wall bars, live performances, great restaurants, and hip boutiques. Do you have a favorite app that you use when you’re in a new city and looking for something to do?

My favourite travel app only works if you’re in London, Edinburgh, NYC, San Francisco or Las Vegas, but it’s absolute gold. It’s called YPlan and it gives you a curated shortlist of the best events in town. These can range from cooking classes to burlesque shows – and the events are usually fantastic! YPlan has totally changed my approach to going out in London and made me much more spontaneous. You must give it a try if you’re in one of those cities. If you’d like to download the app, feel free to use my code – STROJANOVA – to get some free credit into your account!

Admission to the Louvre is 12 Euros and that’s my barometer—in a manner of speaking—for measuring whether or not something is worth paying admission for I’ve made exceptions once or twice, but that’s generally my limit. Do you have a similar limit you restrict yourself to when it comes to non-essential expenses?

When I’m traveling, I usually think twice about any expense over £5. I make a point of flashing my student ID wherever I go and seeing what it can do. Having said that, if there’s a place I really want to visit I will pay whatever price they’re asking and save on food or drinks later – you never know when you’ll have a chance to go back!

“We always said that we’d rather have 10 good

months than 12 really tightly budgeted

months.” – Shawn and Carmel, The

Journey Itself 

Carmel and Shawn

When you’re looking to travel somewhere, do you have a go-to website for booking travel, be it air, rail, bus, or ferry?

We use a combination of websites. TripAdvisor is good for getting an idea of neighborhoods we might like to stay in and averages prices. We use Skyscanner a lot for flights – I like the option to pick “everywhere” as a destination. It helped us find flight routes that we hadn’t thought of previously. For hotels, we used Agoda quite frequently mostly because of the price and the points system, which has gotten us at least a few free nights over the course of our travels.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about long-term travel, cost-wise?

I think people are often put off by the upfront costs, like the vaccinations, visas, flights, etc. But then, in theory, you’re not paying rent or a mortgage, and most of the other costs are just ones you would incur in daily life. So there is a big investment in the beginning, but spread over time, it doesn’t end up costing much more than living in our home country of the U.S. We weren’t the most careful budgeters during our time in Asia – we kept an eye on our finances, but we weren’t so thorough as some – we still managed to keep costs pretty low and have plenty of experiences, though. Long term travel just takes a little more flexibility and time – both of which are plentiful when you don’t work 40 hours a week!

We all have our moments where being cheap is too much and we want to indulge. What was one instance where you went way over your daily budget and thought “man, that was worth it!”?

Definitely our motorbike trip in central Vietnam. It took about 10 minutes of discussion to decide that we would extend our already pretty pricey 3-day trip to 5 days. It was worth every cent. I can’t wait to go back.

Any other thoughts, information, or tips that would be helpful for people to know?

We always said that we’d rather have 10 good months than 12 really tightly budgeted months and we ended up with exactly that. We could have done more to save money or make money, but this trip ended up being everything we wanted it to be because we were honest about our needs and our desires for our time. We’re a little sad we couldn’t go any longer because of money, but at the same time, neither of us would change our experiences or choices. No regrets, right?

“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”- Noel,

West517

Noel

What are some things you do to make money while you’re traveling? What’s the coolest/craziest job you’ve ever worked?

Earning my keep in Montana as a ranch hand of sorts. I herded cattle, cooked breakfast and lunches for hungry cowboys/girls – and tried to keep one or two bunk houses relatively tidy … which can be a difficult thing when you’re the only one who cares . . . boys.

We all have our moments where being cheap is too much and we want to indulge.What was one instance where you went way over your daily budget and thought “man, that was worth it!”?

I was in Washington State and DESPERATELY wanted to fish for Salmon and go whale watching, so I pooled all my money to pay for the ticket. I would do it again in a heartbeat – seeing an overwhelmingly beautiful animal like that in the wild is unforgettable, and well worth the extra babysitting I had to do to put money back in my wallet again.

What’s the cheapest country you’ve ever traveled to, and what was one instance where something was so cheap you basically couldn’t believe it?

Panama. I bought leather boots for $7.50.

Some people use the “Big Mac Index” to quantify the cost of living somewhere. Is there a particular item that you look for to get an idea of how cheap or expensive a place is (mine is the cost of a bottle of decent wine)?

I generally look at the cost of food—not fast food—but REAL fresh food (i.e. produce, meat, etc)–the kind I love to cook!

What’s the cheapest meal you’ve ever eaten while traveling?

My cheapest meal would have been in Havasupai Indian Nation/Reservation … I had a fantastic breakfast of eggs, corn cakes and buffalo jerky served family style for $1.38

“I think we have Couchsurfed upwards

of 50 times, and we have only ever

had amazing experiences” – Dan and

Casey, A Cruising Couple

Dan and Casey

The “sharing economy” is big and only getting more popular. How often do you use Airbnb, Blablacar, Gomore, and other companies dedicated to affordable and sharing-based accommodation and travel?

We love the idea of the ‘sharing economy’ and we participate in it often actually. We have only used Blablacar once in France, and unfortunately we had the most ridiculous experience—a five-hour journey inexplicably took eight, and we almost missed our train! However, we would definitely try it again. Airbnb we use regularly, especially if we are looking for an apartment for a couple of weeks or a month. It’s nice because unlike housesitting or couchsurfing, you’re still paying, so you get the independence and flexibility to respectfully make yourself at home.

What are some things you do to make money while you’re traveling? What’s the coolest/craziest job you’ve ever worked?

Most of our money now comes from running our travel blog, as well as from freelance writing and photography clients. But before we set off to be ‘location independent’, we taught English in Taiwan for two years. We loved it, and we would definitely consider teaching English again part-time just to be in the classroom with some adorable kiddos again.

Have you tried couchsurfing before? What are your thoughts on it?

We love couchsurfing and have been doing it for years and years. It’s such a good way to make friends around the world, learn new things, and gain a deeper insight to the host culture. Now that we’re traveing slower it doesn’t always work for us (no one really wants to host someone for a month haha), and sometimes we feel bad about having to work while with our host, but whenever we can, we do it. I think we have couchsurfed upwards of 50 times, and we have only ever had amazing experiences.

What’s the cheapest country you’ve ever traveled to, and what was one instance where something was so cheap you basically couldn’t believe it?

Vietnam. We cycled through the country, and all the time we were staying in guesthouses for about $US 7 and eating huge, delicious meals for just $1 or $2.

Any other thoughts, information, or tips that would be helpful for people to know?

A lot of people know about housesitting, which is actually unfortunate for us as it makes it more competitive to get gigs, but we think housesitting is hands down one of the best ways for long-term travelers to balance comfortable accommodation, a working space, and still get a unique travel experience. It’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t yet!

“This definitely beats my old job.”

– Nathan Mizrachi, Life is a Camino

10382361_10203210553157463_2318979698675837882_o

When you’re looking to travel somewhere, do you have a go-to website for booking travel, be it air, rail, bus, or ferry?

Skyscanner is pretty much my one-stop shop for searching for air travel—I’ve tested out other sites, such as Momondo, Jetradar, and the Google flight matrix, but nothing beats Skyscanner for its “everywhere” destination search feature, as well as the ability to search flights during the span of a week, month, or year. I wrote a Skyscanner hacking guide which you can download for free here.

I use Rome2Rio when I’m going on a short-to-medium distance trip where flying is either not possible or insanely expensive. The brilliant aspect of Rome2Rio is that it has literally every city, town, and village on the planet catalogued—and it will break down exactly how to get there. They’ve never figured out how to accurately display pricing, but in cases where I’ve been in the middle of nowhere and was headed to some other remote location, Rome2Rio has directed me to local bus or ferry websites that I would never know about on my own.

Do you hitch-hike? If so, do you have any special tricks for flagging down rides? What’s the best ride you’ve ever taken?

For me, one of the revelations of travel has been taking the leap of faith and hitch-hiking. The stigmas attached to hitching—that it’s dangerous, that only homeless people do it—are 99% wrong. Some of the most incredible stories of my year on the road have come from taking a ride from strangers.
Hitch-hiking is what led me to a picturesque country house in Burgundy, rather than sleeping on the street for the night (and believe it or not, this was my first time ever); I met a super cool midwife while hitching in Belgium and ended up staying with her family in Brussels for 2 days; I got a really cool ride from an elderly Danish man who took me to see a gigantic moving sand dune up near Skagen, which I would have never seen unless I had hitched with a local.

If you hitch-hike, first consult local friends who do on the best spots; if no one knows a place, refer to hitchwiki, which is pure gold and one of the best resources a budget traveler can have.
Having a sign is useful because it will automatically weed out people who aren’t going in your direction. I find it best to incorporate humor into the sign; one time in Morocco, I wrote CALIFORNIA on my sign; another time in Toulouse, I scavenged a HUGE piece of cardboard, and wrote my destination on one side and a comically large question mark on the other. The people that laugh at you might not pick you up, but they will keep your spirits high, and that’s probably the most important thing about hitch-hiking. If you get discouraged your chances of getting picked up go way down, whereas if you’re joking around with drivers passing by and waving to them, someone who might not normally pick up a hitcher will give you a chance.

What are some things you do to make money while you’re traveling? What’s the coolest/craziest job you’ve ever worked?

Right now I’m working as a freelance writer on oDesk.com—I do all sorts of random jobs. I’ve written articles on online advertising, I’ve brainstormed a list of domain names for a web design firm, written sales copy for a lottery ticket resale company, and currently have my biggest project yet writing the website copy for a new solar energy firm. The pay is great—you can set your own compensation terms on oDesk, and they take a 10% cut—and the projects I work on are interesting and challenging. This definitely beats my old job.

What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about long-term travel, cost-wise?

People assume that long-term travel is no different than a planned vacation you take for a week in the Bahamas. It’s not like that. There are days when I don’t do anything besides watch a movie, and days when I completely throw my plans out the window and do something spontaneous. It all depends. The beauty about buying a one-way ticket somewhere is that if you don’t make any plans, things tend to fall into place anyways.

Have you ever done anything illegal to save money (or earn money) while traveling? Care to share? 🙂

I blackride a lot – that means not paying the fare on buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. For the three weeks I was in Berlin I only paid the fare twice and never got caught any of the times that I didn’t. If you act normal and don’t look like a criminal, there’s no reason for people to care what you’re doing, and you probably won’t be caught. Just make sure to apologize if you are, because the ticket inspectors are only doing their jobs!

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20 thoughts on “9 Travel Bloggers Share Their Best Budget Travel Tips

      1. Yes! I am about to buy a whole bunch of flights as part of a year long trip to collect stories about water and climate change in Fiji, Tuvalu, New Zealand, and the UK. Hold me? Buying plane tickets stresses me out but having this great advice is oh-so-helpful.

      2. that’s an awesome itinerary! The south Pacific sounds amazing, I know that RTW trip itineraries are very different from buying single tickets–otherwise no other ideas. Good luck!

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