Let’s face it, being on the road isn’t exactly great for your bank balance.
I mean, you don’t meet many travelers who aren’t strapped for cash!
It isn’t surprising. You’re on the move all the time, forking out money for transportation, food, booze, accommodation, and fun activities as you go. Literally everything costs money and you can go weeks and months without an income.
As time goes by, that can put a fair degree of pressure on the old purse strings.
But it doesn’t mean you need a big stack of cash to go travelling. Budget backpackers can enjoy their time on the road as much as anybody. They just need a few tricks up their sleeve to make it happen.
Money Saving Hacks for Budget Backpackers
With the right approach, you can travel for extended periods (and have a whale of a time) without going (totally) broke in the process! Want to learn how? Read on for my top 10 money saving hacks for budget backpackers.
1. Be a Dirt Bag
It’s called dirt cheap for a reason.
Sometimes, budget backpacking demands a bit of roughing it! Get happy being a dirt bag and you can travel on next to nothing!
Scrimping and scrounging your way around the world might not be your idea of fun. But I promise you, this is how real adventures happen. You end up in some bizarre situations if you’re willing to sacrifice to creature comforts, say ‘yes’ to random opportunities, and put yourself out there.
Sleep wherever you can (like in a mosquito net hammock), eat whatever you can, and hitch your way around. You can get by with far less than you need (especially with a minimalist backpack on your back!). You just have to allow be willing to give it a go.
2. Travel Out of Season
My first tip for budget backpacking comes down to when you travel.
If you’re lucky enough to have a flexible schedule, then it makes the most sense to head overseas out of peak season. Tourist industries in every country around the world put their prices up in times of peak travel.
Everyone’s heading on vacation, which increases demand for flights, accommodation, tours, and so on. The prices go up accordingly. Conversely, demand is low in off-peak times of the year. You’ll see the prices slashed by up to 50% of more in an effort to attract customers.
Travel off-peak and you can save heaps of cash.
3. Be Flexible with Flights
Flexibility is your friend when you’re a backpacker on the hunt for financial savings- especially when it comes to finding cheap flights.
You’d be amazed at how much the price can vary between days and times. It really is incredible what a difference a day makes! You might save yourself hundreds of dollars by traveling on a Tuesday over a Friday, for example.
If money really is an issue, try to be as flexible as you can with dates, times, and stopovers.
You might have the worst journey ever! A 10 hour direct journey might take you over 30 on an indirect one. You might take-off and land at horrendous times of day. You might have two or three mind-numbing stop overs and go well out of your way to get to the final destination.
However, you’ll save masses of cash if you’re willing to put up with it.
4. Be Flexible With your (Cheap) Destinations
Extending that flexibility to your destination will be a mighty help as well.
Head over to skyscanner.com to research flights. In the ‘destination’ box, search ‘everywhere’. Select that option from the dropdown and hit search. You’ll see the cheapest flights available for the time of year you chose.
You’ll be able to visit some countries for a few dollars/pounds! It’s insane. I recall, checking a while ago and seeing I could go from London to Sweden for under a tenner.
But it all depends on how open you are to just hopping on a plane and seeing where you end up. As you can see, travelling with no fixed plans is a crucial way to backpack on a budget.
A related tip would be to pick destinations that are known to be cheaper. Think about places like Mexico, or any country in South East Asia. You’d pay a fraction on food, transport and accommodation compared to what you would in wealthier parts of the world.
5. Book In Advance
Let’s imagine you don’t have ultimate flexibility on when you travel.
Generally speaking, booking flights ahead of time is going to help you save cash. The closer you get to a specific departure date, the higher you can expect those prices to be.
Now, you do hear about last-minute deals and discounts that come about. Airlines are said to slash the prices just before the flight to try and fill up any empty seats.
But it’s risky. In my experience (especially to popular destinations), you’re more likely to see airplanes get filled up in advance than you are to get a cheap ticket just before departure. Booking in advance is a more sensible approach that’s guaranteed to reduce your expenditure on flights.
6. Buy Insurance!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have travel insurance.
Now, I do know some people who risk it and hit the road without it. And I understand why! Spending hundreds of bucks on insurance (that you probably won’t need) feels silly when you’re trying to save money.
But, for me, the alternative just isn’t worth it. You hear too many horror stories of people getting sick or injured overseas and being lumped with enormous medical bills.
Heck, some hospitals won’t even treat you unless you have insurance to cover the costs! I’d rather spend a couple of hundred dollars on an insurance policy that saves me thousands down the line.
7. Leverage Free Stuff Whenever You Can
This tip might sound stupidly basic.
But it’s 100% worth emphasizing! As a budget backpacker, it makes total sense to seek out and leverage any free opportunities at your disposal.
You’d be surprised at how few people do it though. The same people who complain about lack of funds take advantage of none of the free stuff they could be claiming. And there’s heaps of possibilities when you start looking for them!
You can find hostels that offer free breakfast/lunch, or that host free events every evening. In some places, there’s almost always free museums and galleries to explore. There might be music venues open in the evenings, free walking tours to join in with, and so on.
Research the best things to do in a place for free, and seek out any extra freebies you can get from your accommodation and transport providers.
8. Work for Accommodation
Working for accommodation is probably one of the best ways to save money on the road.
Why? Because paying for accommodation is super expensive, and working for it makes it free! Many countries around the world offer these kinds of opportunities. You swap a few hours of labor (usually housekeeping/cleaning) for a free bed in a dorm room, for example.
Alternatively, sign up with HelpX or Workaway to find projects all over the world that you can get involved in. ‘Hosts’ look for helpers on any number of things they’re running/setting up. You could be on a permaculture farm, or helping them with gardening, or looking after their kids, or literally anything else.
In exchange for a few hours’ work, you get free bed and board. You get to stay in incredible places, meet awesome people, and without spending a cent.
Couch-surfing is another way to do it! Amazing people around the world open up their houses to complete strangers and let them sleep on the sofa, or in the spare bedroom. I recently spent a week in Perth for free by doing this! You hang out with awesome locals, get top tips on where to go, and spend nothing on accommodation in the process.
9. Get a Job (Travel on a Working Holiday Visa)
It goes without saying that getting a paid job can help with your finances too!
There are different options at your disposal. One of the most popular is to travel on a working holiday visa. Countries like New Zealand and Australia allow you to travel for a year (with the possibility of extension) and work as you go.
It’s a great way to replenish your bank balance in-between stints of travelling.
Another option is to look for cash in hand work. This isn’t always legal in the strictest of senses, but it’s common and works well for everyone (assuming you get an honest ‘boss’). You might do a day’s laboring, for example, and walk away a hundred bucks wealthier.
This is a good way to earn some extra cash without going through the bureaucracy of getting a visa and so on. The hard part is finding the opportunities. Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. But you should always check on the hostel notice-board, just in case they’ve been advertised.
10. Become a Stingy Vegetarian
My final tip is a bit out of left field.
However, I ended up saving heaps of money on the road by switching from a meat-eating diet to that of a vegan. Take meat and cheese out of your weekly shopping and, in one fell swoop, you slash your shopping bill in half.
Plant based diets are filling, nutritious, delicious, and cheap. And no animals die either, which some people might see as a bonus! Honestly, give it a try. Or, at the very least, stop buying so much meat when you’re on the road.
You might think the standard backpacker beef Bolognese is the cheapest meal you can manage. But, I promise you, swap that beef for beans and you’ll save even more!
Combine this dietary shift with a commitment to cook for yourself as well. There’s nothing quite like eating at restaurants to drain your bank balance (unless you’re travelling in budget destinations).
Enjoy These Hacks for Budget Backpackers
Traveling on a tight budget might seem impossible. But it really isn’t! That’s good news for any budget backpackers on the hunt for a cheap adventure. With a few minor alterations to your travel practices, you can easily have an unforgettable experience without overspending.
Hopefully, the tips and tricks in this post will help you do it!
Guest Author: Danny Newman is currently writing and travelling his way around the world in a bid to figure out exactly what he’s doing with his life. He’d love you to follow along with his journey over at What’s Danny Doing and on Social Media: Facebook.