How to travel the world on a budget and make money while doing it
Traveling the world on a budget is an incredible way to experience new cultures, meet new people, and enjoy life’s adventures. This guide is for anyone who wants to see the world but doesn’t have tons of money to fund the journey.
The benefits of budget world travel are immense. Not only do you get to see amazing destinations and make unforgettable memories, but you also learn to live simply. Traveling on a budget teaches you resourcefulness, flexibility, and gratitude. You gain first-hand experience understanding how people live in different parts of the world. Budget travel expands your perspectives and worldviews.
When you travel cheaply, you spend less on accommodations, food, and transport. This frees up more time and money for activities and exploration. Traveling on a shoestring means interacting more with locals, staying in family-run guest houses, and using public transportation. It leads to a more immersive and authentic experience than an extravagant vacation ever could.
The best part is that you can earn money as you travel, offsetting your costs through work exchange, freelancing online, or finding local jobs abroad. This guide will teach you money-saving tips, budget travel hacks, and ways to make money on the road. Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
Plan Your Route
Mapping out a general route is one of the most important steps when planning budget travel. Consider factors like climate, cost of living, and safety when deciding where and when to visit different destinations. Make a list of places you’d like to see ranked by priority. Research the seasonal weather patterns, average prices, and safety reports for each location. This will help determine the best time of year to visit each place.
Many budget travelers plan trips around optimal weather and low-season prices. For example, Northern Europe in the summer is pleasant and cheaper than peak season. Southeast Asia has cheap prices year-round outside of major holidays, with ideal weather during their dry season. Other considerations are major events, holidays, and festivals you wish to attend. Plot out a flexible route starting with your top priority destinations. Budget in transportation time between locations. Leave room to alter your plans as you go. Talk with other travelers on the road and remain open to recommendations. With an adaptable road map, you can maximize adventure while staying on budget.
One of the biggest expenses when traveling is accommodation. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce this cost substantially. Consider the following budget-friendly lodging options:
Hostels provide cheap, dorm-style accommodation and a built-in community. They’re ideal for solo travelers or those on a tight budget. Search sites like HostelWorld to find well-reviewed hostels in your destination. Read reviews to ensure the hostel is clean, safe, and sociable. Many hostels now offer private rooms in addition to dorms.
With Couchsurfing, you stay for free with locals who open up their homes. Create a profile highlighting your interests and who you are. Search for potential hosts in your destination city and send personalized requests. Make sure hosts have positive references from past surfers. Always contribute to the household and be respectful during your stay.
Home swapping involves trading houses with someone in your destination. Sites like LoveHomeSwap allow you to browse listings and swap with confidence. Make sure to clean and prep your home. Discuss details like utilities, pets, house rules, etc. Home swapping saves on accommodation and lets you live like a local.
Tips for Finding Deals
- Book early, especially for busy seasons or big events
- Check hostel social media for last-minute deals
- Inquire about weekly and monthly rates for long stays
- Use comparison sites to find the best prices
- Travel in shoulder seasons when rates are lower
- Get memberships with hostel organizations for perks and discounts
By getting creative with accommodations, you can save substantially on lodging costs.
Simplify Your Lifestyle
To travel the world on a budget for an extended period, you’ll need to minimize your possessions and embrace a minimalist lifestyle. This means reducing your belongings down to just the essentials so everything fits in a backpack or suitcase.
Only bring necessary items and serve multiple purposes. For example, quick-drying clothing can be hand-washed. A laptop can store photos and be used for work. The fewer items you own, the easier travel becomes.
You’ll also want to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle. This involves making money through online work that can be done remotely from anywhere with an internet connection. Many digital nomads run travel blogs, online stores, freelance businesses, or remote jobs in fields like programming, marketing, writing, and more.
With a portable career, you don’t need a permanent home base. You can travel continuously and support yourself no matter where you are. The digital nomad lifestyle provides complete location independence, financial sustainability through remote work, and the freedom that comes from not being tied down.
Embracing minimalism and digital nomadism is key to long-term budget travel. With less stuff and a location-independent income stream, you can explore the world freely and affordably.
Earn As You Go
One great way to earn money while traveling is by teaching English abroad. Programs like [English First](https://www.ef.com/) and [JET](https://jetprogramusa.org/) allow you to teach English in countries around the world while earning a salary and getting free or subsidized accommodation. This can be a great way to offset the costs of long-term travel.
Volunteering is another option for earning your keep in new destinations. Organizations like [WWOOF](https://wwoof.net/) facilitate volunteer opportunities on organic farms and other environments in exchange for room and board. This allows volunteers to immerse themselves in a new culture while contributing to a good cause.
WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a specific type of volunteer program focused on organic farming. WWOOFers volunteer on farms around the world in exchange for meals and accommodation. It’s a great way to learn about organic practices while traveling on a budget. Tasks typically involve things like planting, harvesting, building, cleaning, etc. Length of stay and hours worked are negotiated with the host. This can be a fun hands-on way to offset travel costs.
Get Discount Transportation
Budget-friendly transportation is an essential part of traveling the world on a shoestring. There are many ways to get around cheaply, including budget airlines, buses, and trains as well as less traditional options like hitchhiking and rideshares.
Look into budget airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and WOW Air for ridiculously cheap flights within certain regions like Europe. These airlines offer deals as low as $10 for one-way tickets if you’re flexible and book far enough in advance. You can bounce all around Europe on the cheap this way. Just be prepared for extra fees for checked bags, food, etc.
Also, check out low-cost Asian carriers like AirAsia to hop between countries for very little. Domestic budget airlines can also get you around specific countries like Mexico and Thailand on the cheap when buses just take too long.
Buses and Trains
Buses and trains are an ultra-budget way to get around most places in the world. Taking overnight buses between cities is a common way to save on a night’s accommodation as well.
Do your research and compare bus companies for the best deals. In many developing countries you can get semi-private bunks on overnight buses and sleep your way to your next destination for very little.
Second-class trains and hard sleeper cabins on overnight trains can also be quite affordable. Just be prepared for a lack of personal space and amenities.
While hitchhiking always carries inherent risks, it is still a popular way for backpackers to get around certain areas if done carefully. Having a companion is ideal, and only opting for rides from safer people (like families) is recommended.
Hitchhiking is most common in places like New Zealand, the Greek islands, and throughout Central America where locals are used to backpackers thumbing rides. Still, proper precautions are a must.
Rideshare services like BlaBlaCar are popular in some regions for arranging shared rides between cities and countries. You chip in for gas and get to split the costs while meeting locals. Thoroughly vet any driver before getting into a car and only rideshare with other passengers too for safety.
One of the biggest travel costs is food. Eating out at restaurants for every meal can quickly drain your budget. With some planning and effort, you can eat well and cheaply during your travels. The keys are taking advantage of local cuisine, markets, and grocery stores, as well as cooking your meals.
Local markets and grocery stores offer an abundance of fresh, low-cost ingredients. Shop like a local – find out where the deals are and what produce is in season. Browse outdoor markets and small grocers instead of big supermarkets. You can often get excellent bargains on fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins this way.
Make it a habit to cook for yourself rather than relying on restaurants. This allows you to control portions and ingredients. Set aside time to grocery shop and cook – even just preparing simple meals like sandwiches, pasta, omelets, or salads can save substantially compared to eating out. If your accommodation has a kitchen, take advantage of it. If not, many hostels have basic shared kitchen facilities you can use.
Sampling inexpensive local cuisine is one of the great joys of travel. Street food and small family-run establishments offer delicious and authentic dining experiences without the high price tag. night markets, food stalls, and holes-in-the-wall restaurants are prime spots to get your fill without emptying your wallet. Be adventurous and try regional specialties – it’s an education for your palate.
With some effort devoted to food preparation and opting for cheap local eats, you can get your food budget under control. Eating well doesn’t have to drain your travel funds when you’re willing to cook and eat like a local.
Travel Hacking Strategies
One of the best ways to travel cheaply or even for free is through travel hacking. Travel hacking involves taking advantage of loyalty programs, credit card points, airline miles, and other techniques to maximize your travel rewards. Here are some of the main travel hacking strategies to use:
Credit Card Points
Sign up for travel reward credit cards and strategically use them to rack up points and miles that can then be redeemed for free flights and hotels. Optimal use involves signing up for cards with signup bonuses, hitting minimum spend requirements, and timing applications so you can continuously earn bonuses. Points from different programs can also be combined for maximum value.
Sign up for frequent flyer programs with multiple airlines, even if you don’t fly with them yet. Earn miles through flying, credit card spending, online shopping portals, dining programs, and more. Use your miles to book reward flights. Look for “sweet spots” where your miles will get you the highest-value flights.
Regularly check for pricing errors and cheap mistake fares. Airlines and third-party sites will sometimes accidentally price flights for much cheaper than they should be. If you catch these error fares fast enough, you can score incredibly cheap flights around the world.
Only pack a carry-on bag rather than check your luggage. This avoids baggage fees, saves time at the airport, gives you maximum flexibility, and enables low-cost airlines. Carry the bare necessities and learn to pack light. This travel hacking strategy opens up a world of budget air travel.
Travel hacking takes some effort and learning, but can enable you to travel the world in luxury for much less. Get creative with combining strategies for maximum rewards.
One of the best ways to earn money while traveling is through remote work. The rise of freelance platforms and remote jobs makes it possible to work from anywhere. Consider these options to fund your travels through remote work:
- Freelance Gigs: Sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer allow you to pick up freelance gigs in your area of expertise. Jobs like writing, programming, design, virtual assistance, and more are all possible. Set up a profile, bid on projects, and complete the work from your laptop. The income can help cover daily costs.
- Remote Jobs: Many companies now hire remote employees around the world. Search sites like RemoteOK, FlexJobs, and We Work Remotely to find open positions. Jobs in customer service, editing, tutoring, development, and more are open to remote workers. Obtaining a remote job provides a steady income to sustain travel.
- Digital Nomad Visas: Countries like Iceland, Croatia, Mexico, and more now offer digital nomad visas. These allow remote workers to live and work from the country for an extended period of months or even years. Obtaining a digital nomad visa provides you with resident status and the ability to earn an income while experiencing life in the country.
Taking advantage of remote work opportunities allows you to fulfill your wanderlust and pay the bills too. With the internet, you really can work from anywhere and see the world.
As you near the end of your budget world travel journey, keep these final tips in mind:
- Pack light. Limit yourself to a carry-on backpack or small suitcase to avoid checked bag fees and make transit easier. Stick to versatile, lightweight essentials that can be mixed and matched for many outfits.
- Get travel insurance. Comprehensive travel insurance can protect you if you need medical care abroad or encounter trip cancellations. Shop around for a policy that covers your planned activities and destinations.
- Learn basic language phrases. Even just learning how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “where is…” in the local language can help you connect better and avoid overpaying as a tourist. Download language apps or pocket phrasebooks.
- Enjoy free activities. Walking tours, free museum days, festivals, public parks, beaches, and hiking trails offer fun without spending money. Get your bearings in new places by just wandering around and observing local life.
- Review budgets frequently. Check-in on your daily spending to ensure you’re sticking to your budget. Adjust and adapt your plans when needed. With some flexibility and creativity, you can explore the world affordably.
Putting budget tips into action allows you to achieve your travel dreams. Safe travels!