Rob Palmer I have been blogging and living the digital nomad lifestyle since 1999. I help people create an online income so they can go anywhere, do anything and be anyone.

Budget Travel Tips: How to Travel Cheap, Have Fun and See the World

8 min read

What You Will Learn: How to travel the world even when you are stony broke, having amazing adventures along the way; The secrets of saving a fortune on flights, accommodation and other travel costs to make your money go further; How to keep yourself safe and protected on your travels while still keeping costs to the bare minimum

Don’t let a lack of funds stop you from traveling. Use these proven strategies from seasoned travelers to span the globe on a few dollars a day.

What You Will Learn

  • How to travel the world even when you are stony broke, having amazing adventures along the way 
  • The secrets of saving a fortune on flights, accommodation and other travel costs to make your money go further
  • How to keep yourself safe and protected on your travels while still keeping costs to the bare minimum

Travel Hacks that Actually Work

There’s a great big planet out there, and you want to get out and see it, right? Unfortunately, traveling can be expensive. Although costs have fallen dramatically in real terms over the  decades, it still costs you a pretty penny to get out and explore the planet.

That’s the case even when you are a young and broke backpacker. When you get to the stage when you have a family, it becomes even more of a problem. You may be earning more, but now your money has to stretch to cover the whole of your tribe. And when you travel, you are not just paying for one person. You may be paying for four, five, six...or more.

When you are burning through cash at that rate, travel become a real headache. But don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are some fantastic travel hacks you can use to get on the road without busting your budget.

1. Go When Travel is Cheap

You can slash a great deal off your travel budget simply by timing your trip effectively. For starters, do your best to avoid popular vacation times such as school holidays and other special events.

If you are able to travel during low season, you can get some really great deals. Hotels and airlines are desperate for business when things are quiet, so you can often negotiate special deals. And you may be pleasantly surprised at how nice traveling is during low season. You may have to brave the risk of less-than-perfect weather, but the upside is you skip the crowds and often have beautiful places all to yourself.

When booking travel, try to avoid weekends when everyone else is traveling and the price goes up. Tuesday is usually the cheapest day, but anytime mid-week should work fine.

2. Choose Your Destination Carefully

The region you choose to travel to can have a big impact on how far your money goes. You may have always dreamed of going to Scandinavia, but traveling around Norway, Sweden and Denmark will set you back some serious dosh.

Flights to South-East Asia may cost you more, but your money will go so much further when you get there. So which would you prefer...a $17 beer in Oslo or a $1 beer in Phnom Penh?

When booking travel, try to avoid weekends when everyone else is traveling and the price goes up. Tuesday is usually the cheapest day, but anytime mid-week should work fine.

Click to Tweet

When you can book hotels for $15 a night and meals for around a dollar a go, even the tightest of budgets can get you to far off and exotic places.

3. Go Where Your Money is Strong

Exchange rates are constantly changing, and you can get yourself a bargain by looking to see where your money goes the furthest. If your currency is currently high compared to other currencies, then this a great time to travel.

And if you can find a destination country where the local currency has taken a hit, you can get a double whammy benefit.

4. Cut Your Travel Costs

With so many low-cost airlines around, you can usually find a bargain on flights. And the longer the flight, the bigger the savings can be. Use sites like Skyscanner to compare flight costs and get the best deal.

If you are flexible on dates and locations, try Adioso.com. Here you can just enter a date range and a region you want to travel to. Adioso spits out a whole range of bargain flight options for you to choose from. We love it!

Once you are ‘in country,’ you can save even more by skipping flights altogether. Getting around by bus is a great way to save money, and you see more of the local scenery, too. For long trips, check to see if a night train is available. That way, you get to skip paying for a night’s accommodation, too.

5. Slash Your Accommodation Costs

The next major expenditure to attack is your accommodation costs. Staying at luxury resorts may be very pleasant, but they can set you back hundreds of dollars a night. So you definitely want to look at alternative options.

If you are a homeowner, then consider doing a house swap for the duration of your vacation. Sites like HomeExchange.com list thousands of homes all over the world. All you need to do is list your own home and arrange a swap with a family far away.

My family has used this idea to do home exchanges in Denmark, Florida and Australia. We loved it because you not only get to stay in a large family home for free, you also get to become part of the local community. Your kids have toys to play with, and the neighbors may well become your friends, too. So much nicer than staying in an anonymous hotel!

If that option doesn’t work for you, then consider the couchsurfing option. Just sign up for free at Couchsurfing.com and you will be well on your way to free accommodation. While this is not ideal for families, it works great for singles and couples.

I have done this many times as both a host and a traveler, and the experience has always been positive (shout out to my couchsurfing buddies Andre and Amelia from Brazil. It’s my turn to stay with you in Sao Paulo..see you soon, guys!)

If you want to stay in one place for longer, you can get free accommodation in return for doing a little work. Sites like HelpX are perfect this. You can stay at a farm, for example, and get free board and lodging in return for helping out on the farm every morning. A great way to see the world in a way which hotel travelers will never discover.

If none of those work out, there’s always Airbnb. As well as being a cheap way to find accommodation, this site can lead you to some interesting and exotic locations that you would never discover otherwise.

6. Stay a Little Longer

When you visit a new region, it’s tempting to try and go everywhere and see everything. After all, you may never return to this area, right? And it doesn’t look very far between cities - just a few inches on the map.

If you’re not careful, you can end up with a bad case of backpacker syndrome, where you spend most of your trip on the road, traveling from one ‘must see’ destination to another. The allure of a seven-hour bus trip soon wears off, especially when the bus is crowded and has no air conditioning.

You will enjoy your trip so much more if you are more realistic in your expectations. Spend more time in each location and enjoy everything the local area has to offer. As well as making your trip so much more pleasant, this will save you money, too. You can always come back another time to see the places you missed.

By cutting back on travel, you will be saving on air fares, train tickets and bus rides. You will also save on the hidden costs of traveling - the taxi to the airport, the meal at the bus station and the tuk-tuk to your hotel.

Better still, you can negotiate better rates on your accommodation. You will always get a better rate if you book for a whole week, instead of just a single night. Don’t be afraid to negotiate...if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

7. Go Local

I am always amazed when people travel to exotic locations for the trip of a lifetime, but head straight to the Hard Rock Cafe or Sizzlers when it’s time to eat. International restaurant chains do have their place, but is this really your idea of exploring the world?

When you get international, you need to go local. Forget Starbucks - get out in the wild and try the food from market stalls and street hawkers. As well as enjoying interesting and exotic food you would never find at home, you will also save a fortune. In many countries, you can get a great meal for a dollar or less. So why pay $20 for a steak meal in a fancy restaurant when you can eat fine food for a tenth of the price?

8. Manage Your Currency Carefully

One of the biggest hidden costs of traveling is exchange rate fees. If you are traveling to multiple countries, you may find yourself exchanging currency many times. And that ca be a expensive business.

Google your destination before you leave and find out the best places to exchange money safely and at a favorable rate. Although it’s convenient to simply draw money from an ATM, you need to be aware of the rate your bank gives you.

Also check for fees charged at both ends - by your own bank AND the bank that owns the ATM. It might cost you five bucks or so to get your money out. If drawing cash from an ATM really is the best option, withdraw one large amount rather than several smaller amounts, so that you only pay the withdrawal fees once. You don’t want to find yourself paying $5 to withdraw $20!

9. Avoid the Tourist Traps

For sure, there are some ‘must see’ destinations that you can’t afford to cross off your list. But there are also many tourist traps that exist primarily to separate travelers from their precious dollars.

Don’t fall into the error of taking too much advice from a tour operator. You may find yourself packed on a bus with a bunch of other naive travelers, visiting tourist trap after tourist trap. In many places, there is not much to see except souvenir stalls selling you fake souvenirs made in China.

Instead, get onto TripAdvisor and find out where else you can go. You may find beautiful, windswept beaches that you have all to yourself. In Penang, Malaysia, I found a beautiful waterfall hidden in the woods that I had all to myself. Eating my picnic breakfast there was so much nicer than sitting on the overcrowded beach a few miles up the road.

10. Get the Right Travel Insurance

When looking for places to cut costs, don’t be tempted to skip travel insurance. That is one expense you cannot afford to eliminate.

If you become sick or injured during your travels, the cost of medical care and expatriation can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. You don’t want to end up as one of the desperate people starting a GoFundMe page to raise the funds they need to get basic medical care. And that happens...a lot!

So you need travel insurance, but be sure to get a policy that covers you properly. For example, renting a motorbike is a popular way to get around South-East Asia. But if you have a accident, you may find that your regular travel policy won’t cover you - and that can be very expensive indeed.

Get specialist travel insurance that provides proper cover, including medical evacuation. It’s worth every cent. My preferred option for this is World Nomads Travel Insurance - these guys are recommended by travel blogger Nomadic Matt, and they will take good care of you.

Bonus Tip - Don’t Get Ripped Off!

While most of the people you meet on your travels will be honest and helpful, you have to be wary of potential rip-offs. The truth is that they happen everywhere to naive travelers.

People like taxi drivers know that tourists are vulnerable. When you arrive in a new country for the first time, you can be a little helpless. The local currency is totally new to you, and it’s hard to figure out how much the cost translates to in your home currency.

You may also have little idea how much you should pay to get from the airport to your hotel, or to go on a guided tour. That means you can end up paying way over the odds. So you need to be prepared.

Get on TripAdvisor before you arrive in the country and check out how much things should cost. Find out what the exchange rate is for the local currency, and get used to thinking in that currency instead of your own.

Be wary of people who come up to you at the airport or in the street and try to sell you taxi and other services. You are usually better off flagging down a moving taxi or finding one at  a taxi rank. You can also use services such as Uber, Lyft or Grab to get a ride at a fixed price. That way you can’t be charged an over-inflated price.

Take good care of your possessions, too. If you put your bag down for a moment while you find your passport, you may find that it’s gone when you go to pick it up again. Be wary of motorcycle thieves who may snatch your phone or handbag as they drive past you...sadly, this happens.

You need to be aware of these issues, but don’t let them put you off traveling. The positives far outweigh the negatives, and if you are sensible you are unlikely to experience problems.


What You Will Learn: How to travel the world even when you are stony broke, having amazing adventures along the way; The secrets of saving a fortune on flights, accommodation and other travel costs to make your money go further; How to keep yourself safe and protected on your travels while still keeping costs to the bare minimum

Budget Travel is Fun!

Traveling on a tight budget doesn’t take the fun out of traveling. In fact, quite the reverse. You will find yourself enjoying experiences that would never happen if you had more money to splash around on five-star comfort. You will meet far more interesting people in a third-class train carriage than you will in a first-class plane cabin.

So don’t let a lack of funds stop you from seeing the world. Just use common sense to make your money go further. It’s a big world out there, and there is lots to see. Stretch your budget and see as much of it as you possibly can.

And who knows, maybe I’ll bump into you somewhere in the back streets of Bangkok or the beaches of Bali. If that happens, come over and say ‘hi’ - I might have a few more budget travel hacks for you by then.


Rob Palmer I have been blogging and living the digital nomad lifestyle since 1999. I help people create an online income so they can go anywhere, do anything and be anyone.
>