How to save money while backpacking

Obviously money is always an important theme while traveling. Not only how to get the money you need to start your journey even more:

How to save money while backpacking?

Actually on the way once in a while I met some backpackers that were doing there journey without any money! This would not really be my lifestyle as it is a bit to extreme! But to get an idea how it is possible and how to save money (or actually earn some) on the road. I spread it up in 9 diferent sections to give you a more clear picture how it is possible.

Saving with the Destination

First of all to avoid spending money on your way – an obvious point: Choose a close region that is cheap! To a close region the travel costs might be way less plus you could anytime come back. And why cheap regions are better to save money doesnt need more explanation. However this point is something to think about before your journey and it will help a lot by doing it on a budget. Still… I know (and hope!) it won’t keep you from going to your dream destination. However once you are in a special region the best way to save money is to ask the locals… Yes, you can ask other tourists or in Hostels but noone knows better than the locals living and spending money in that region everyday.

Saving on the Flight

With the second point nearly every journey starts… The Flight. However first think about if you really need a flight? Is there a cheaper option maybe for transportation? If you really have to take the flight my favourites to check for them are Skyscanner, and ITA Matrix and Kiwi. With these platforms you have the options to choose from one way, roundtrip and multicity. As well (what is even more important) it is possible to check for the cheapest flight days per month! Tip: Use them all or different ones, not just one! So if you are a bit flexible that can save tons of money. Obvious the timing when you buy the tickets is important- but my experience is as long as you are not buying less than 4 weeks ahead it doesn’t really matter. The best is to have an eye on the prices for a while! However, if you do so make sure to make the final booking from another device, as they are tracking you and might raise the price. Also try different locations! If you are traveling it doesn’t really matter where exactly you start. And one last hint for the flight – if you had some troubles with an european airline check out the site flightright! Once my flight was delayed and I actually got 250€ back! So in case something happens there … don’t worry ;).

Working while backpacking

Obviously the best option to save a lot is to work on your way. There are many programs that offer volunteers abroad which mean they give you food and accommodation for your work. By myself I tried the platform www.workaway.info and it worked out very well working 6 weeks at a Hostelbar in Antigua/Guatemala. As I said there are way more options like that but even if you want to earn real money (of course depending on the country a lot) just walk into a bar or a cafe and ask if they need someone. I saw it so often happen for other travelers that they went there and the next day they started to work. Another option of course is use some of your skills! Play guitar on the street, offer your photos, writing skills or translation on an online platform. Whatever is your skill go to Mr. Google and check what it offers! So in the end… if you really want to do a journey “for free”… it is possible!

Saving with the Accommodation

And here we find the main difference between traveling and making holidays. A real traveler or backpacker just doesn’t go to a hotel or anything similar expensive. the main way to stay are Hostels! Not only for the price… you also want to stay with other people and make new friends… and this is how it works. Just check Hostelworld and Booking for the cheapest or best rated and you will find what you want (If you plan to stay longer ask for a discount! If you are a big group, do the same!). Still they are not for free so how is it possible to make it even cheaper? One option is Couchsurfing which is a platform that make locals offer their bed for free. So just try it out – write someone and if you are lucky youll have a free place to stay and a friendship for life. If that is nothing for you, just bring a tent and everything else you need to sleep outside. For once in a while it is a lovely thing to do! (Also hostels sometimes offer their garden cheaper than their beds so you can still live cheap but heave a shower and meet people. The last way to stay for free that I really like is with your friends! By traveling you’ll find them all over the world. Stay in touch with them! Invite them to visit you! And even if not, usually everyone in the world is guest friendly once they know you. And what could be a better place to stay than with your friends that you like? – Nothing.

Saving on Food

Eating in a restaurant? Sounds nice! But to save money that is a no go! Well… depending on the country you can find cheap ones but the most important thing is: Make sure it is a local restaurant e.g.: In Colombia the restaurant in the tourist areas are like 15-20€ a meal. If you explore a bit more outside at the local areas you’ll get a whole meal inclding drink and soup for 3-4€! So take care – ask for the prices first! The more cheap option is: Make sure your hostel has a kitchen and cook by yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to eat what you are eating at home.. Experiment with the local vegetables and everything else you can find. Also: We have the internet … check and try out local receips! And my last hint! Dont eat too much… You want to be productive on your journey anyway! Always have a small snack with you in case you are too hungry but a real meal? Once or maximum twice a day. With that you also save money in case you wanna go out and get drunk ;).

Cheap touristing

That is a point you can’t avoid if you want to see and explore famous areas but still make it cheaper: Don’t always take guided tours – nearly everything is possible to do on your own, even tho it’s sometimes hard to find the right way to do it! Ask locals, the reception or at the tourist information… everything is possible. If you are visiting something with entry, try out Groupon! An app that offers random discounts close to your location! if you are lucky you’ll find what you are looking for (However I use it more to get inspiration what there is actually to do with a discount and then go for that). Last trick to save money is to ask other people or friends to group up and get a group discounts. Depending on your age it is also possible to carry your student ID with you! Mine expired some years ago but still works once in a while ;).

Low budget transportation

For transport there is an easy rule: The more comfortable the more expensive it is! So instead of a shuttle service for tourists or big buses that carry you from city to city take the small local ones. I know it can be hard to figure out the route, which bus to take, its less comfortable and takes longer. But it is always an experience by itself and so an important part of a journey. Also a real traveler never takes a taxi! The usual option would be Uber but even that is too expensive for a backpacker! So thats already the last option in case there is nothing else. For long distances theres also something like Uber called Blablacar (not in every country but actually already in many!). However still it all costs a lot so to make it really cheap try hitchhiking! Sometimes it works right away, often you’ll have to wait a while but if it works it is always the best experience! The only other free option is to hike! Yes! If you follow my packing list it is actually possible to hike for quite a distance – in case you are not sure if you can make the route in one day… bring your tent! (By myself I like the combination of hiking and hitchhiking… trying to do it by myself and if I am tired trying to stop a car!) You see… there are nearly always options to do it for free… it just means you’ll have to put some effort.

Cheap partying

Mostly on a journey you’ll also want to go out once in a while and this can be the most expensive point of all! Well the most cheap is not to go out at all obviously but I guess we want to have some fun sometimes! So one point to save here I mentioned already: Dont eat before going out – this way you don’t have to drink as much ;). Also important is to predrink! The prices in supermarkets are always cheaper than in a bar or restaurant (depending on the country the difference can be waay to much!) Bring your booze to the hostel and share what you have with others… they will do the same which makes it cheaper for everyone (Sharing is caring! Plus it is more fun.) The last step again… ask the local for free clubs, Happy Hours and so on!

Saving with the Equipment

In general for trip there’s nothing you will need on the way that you don’t have at home! Well besides the backpack maybe. If you are short on money, use your normal clothes and bring all from home. If you feel like you have to buy something and you’ll travel to a cheaper country, don’t get it in advance, get it there! But still 3 items that I’d recommend to bring to save actually money:

1. A bottle that filters water (I use Lifestraw but there are many others!) so you don’t have to buy a bottle everyday! Fill it up in the Hostel in restaurants or in rivers … it is always clean and save!

2. Bring a tupperware box for food. So you can cook a lot in the hostel and you wont have to throw the leftovers away. Also you can bring your own lunch and never have to buy it on a hike or somewhere else.

3. Make sure you got a small kit of sewing things with you. Something will break… and once in a while you’ll have the time in the hostel to repair it by yourself. Never buying new clothes again and neither it has an important weight!

With these small some obvious some extraordinary tips you can make every journey way cheaper… But of course it depends on you how often you want to use them. My suggestion: Try everything at least once! The experience is always an adventure by itself. (If you can think of any more options…. feel free to leave them in the comments.)

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