Before you take any advice from me on this subject, I should warn you: I’ve done some pretty reckless things on the road in the name of saving money.
I’ve ridden on the top of busses, stayed with locals I’d only known for a few hours, eaten questionably safe street food, slept on every sort of uncomfortable surface you could imagine, and have haggled in broken Hindi, only to walk away guiltily wondering why I haggled so hard when the local Indian man probably needed 20 rupees more than I did.
When I reflect back upon my travels, some of my favorite moments were the direct result of being on a budget. Limited funds encouraged me to step off the beaten path have a more authentic experience. Even in the moments when I was exhausted and frustrated, it was all part of the whirlwind adventure that is travel.
The people I met, the moments we shared, the absurdity of it all, these are the memories that bring a smile to my face.
“How long you are traveling for?” is a common question amongst backpackers, and the most frequent answer is “until the money runs out.”
Luckily, there are a myriad of ways to avoid booking a ticket home early.
If you’re traveling for awhile, working abroad can be a great option. There are numerous ways to do this. For example I support my traveling by teaching yoga and embracing any opportunities that come my way. While traveling I’ve met masseuses, graphic designers, wood workers, hair dressers, and every type of healer you could imagine. People simply take their trade on the road with them, and seek out opportunities to practice their craft.
I love working while traveling because it encourages you to stay in one spot for a bit and really taste the flavor of the place instead of just breezing through on the tourist trail.
Anyone can work while traveling if they want to. Be creative and play to your strengths! Do you surf? Teach surf lessons! Do you write? Start a travel blog! Know how to garden? Work on a farm! Love meeting new people? Check in with hostels to see if they need any help. Local cafes and bars will often hire travelers. Computer savviness can create heaps of job options.
Be open minded! We never know what types of crazy opportunities will come our way.
One time I worked on an elephant farm in Jaipur, India.
Sometimes working for an exchange, usually accommodation or food, is a great option. Workaway.info is a wonderful organization that supports travelers in finding work-trade opportunities abroad. They connect local hosts seeking aid on a variety of projects with travelers looking to embrace the culture, contribute to the community, and stay within their budget. These trades often offer much more than a roof over your head, they can be unique once-in-a-life time experiences. Did I mention I worked on an elephant farm once?
Some hosts welcome travelers into their homes in exchange for volunteer work. This is a wonderful option if you’re looking to give back and want a free place to sleep. For example in Delhi, India, I stayed with a lovely family who ran a school for children in the slums of the city. I have years of childcare experience, and had been searching for an opportunity to work in an elementary school in an area of need.
I taught English and yoga to the children everyday, and in exchange, the family welcomed me with open arms and a cup of chai, explained the infamous Indian “head bob” to me, taught me how to properly wear a sari, and fed me delicious food. I still miss waking up to the smell of fresh chai brewing in their small Delhi apartment.
Couchsurfing.com is another invaluable resource for budget backpackers. This website connects travelers with local hosts. It is completely free! It should always be free, if people try to charge you money be wary. Guests are encouraged to contribute to the household or community in any way they can, maybe showing up with a nice bottle of wine, gardening, doing the dishes, or maybe just being awesome company.
Couch surfing a is unique opportunity to experience a new place from a local perspective. Many of the people I have stayed with have been more than happy to play tour guide and teach me more about their culture. I’ve met so many amazing people through couch surfing that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and have saved lots of money at the same time. It’s a win win.
In summation, a few more little tricks that will keep you on the road for as long as you want to be there:
1. Travel in the “off season.” You might not get perfect weather, but you will get cheaper rates on rooms, transportations, and even meals.
2. Street Food. It’s cheap and delicious. The five rupee (10 cent) samosas I ate, at a bus stop in the middle of the Thar Dessert, are still the most delicious samosas I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.
3. Public Transportation. It’s cheap and entertaining. Navigating local subways, buses, etc, is an adventure in itself. Embrace it and strike up a conversation with the person next to you.
4. Consolidate accommodation and transportation costs. Anytime you have an opportunity to take an overnight bus/train/ferry/elephant ride, do it! Then you won’t have to pay for a place to stay that night. Learn to sleep anywhere and you’ll save heaps of money.
5. Haggle. Do some research and find out if haggling is appropriate in the area you are visiting. For example in India haggling was expected, the first price is always extremely inflated. However haggling is not the norm everywhere, so be informed. Always be respectful and courteous of local customs. I’ve found that haggling with a smile on your face is far more effective than getting aggressive. If you can learn to haggle like a local you’ll be given local prices and respect.
6. Learn to speak a little bit of the local language. The first thing I learned to say in Hindi was “that’s too expensive for me my friend.” This simple sentence somehow magically reduced prices from 500 rupees to 50 rupees. If you speak a little bit of their language, or at least make an earnest attempt to, the locals tend to be warmer and more welcoming.
7. Make friends. There is an instant comaradery amongst travelers. Many people you meet will share your goal of saving money. Splitting the cost of a room or a taxi with a new friend can help you both out.
Countless times I’ve befriended locals and have been invited over for delicious home cooked dinners or to stay the night.
Author: Severn Jones
Editor: Renée Picard