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These days, it seems everyone is talking about how to travel cheap. If it’s not a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia with mates where somebody gets disgracefully sunburnt and/or drunk every other day, it’s a long-haul stint of mysteriously-funded travel by that girl you used to kinda-half be friends with in school. But social media can be deceiving.
How do they do it??? You ask yourself… We’re here to debunk the mystery of ‘cheap travel’ once and for all.
Who knows, hopefully one day we’ll be telling you how to travel abroad for free.
Let’s start right here though…

How To Travel Cheap – Tip #1: Choose Wisely

How To Travel Cheap
First off, it’s important to maintain a sense of awareness in terms of what you want to get out of your stint of cheap travel.
A lot of how you travel and what you experience while doing so comes down to where you place your priorities. So do your research. Our choices dictate our experience of places. When thinking of how to travel cheap, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you expect to get out of a trip before embarking on it. 
For instance, if you just want to party on a beach while you’re away, the easy solution is to stay exclusively at beachside party resorts or hostels, choosing your destination based on nightlife options and social scene alone.

If you’re a little more on the active/adventure travel side of things, you may choose to go somewhere with more daytime activity options like surfing, skiing, rafting, hiking, yoga, renting a scooter/bicycle, partaking in watersports, etc. It seems fairly obvious, but planning your route and budget becomes an awful lot easier once you narrow down your goals for each destination.

Money Doesn’t Grow on Palm Trees

How To Travel Cheap
That being said, once you decide what kind of cheap travel experience you’re after  – how do you go about funding it?! Chances are you won’t be able to afford to spend a month at a yoga retreat, and paying for the likes of daily surf lessons and scooter/equipment hire can all add up.

The answer? Balance. Of course.

Like everything else, how to travel cheap is about finding a balance between enjoying the perks of being abroad in a welcoming climate means enduring the negative aspects too – like work, or compromising on a certain aspect of your travels to ensure you enjoy what it is you really want to do.


I’ve compromised on accommodation expenses and stayed in shitholes unappealing rooms in order to save money for daily activities. If you know you want a week of surf lessons or expensive day-trips, stay somewhere less luxurious for the duration. Not only will your money go further, but you’ll actually be spending less time in the room as a result of your activities.
Couchsurfing is a great option of how to travel cheap, as well as helping you meet locals and gain a unique insight into your location that you might not get otherwise. Talk Talk Air B’nB is a relatively new initiative which lets language enthusiasts stay for free with hosts in exchange for lessons in their chosen language. It’s especially popular in European countries at the moment, but if it’s cheap travel options you’re after, it’s definitely a great bet.

How To Travel Cheap – Tip #2: Share Your Skills

How To Travel Cheap
I’m not going to be assumptive or clichéd here and tell you to go and become an English teacher or yoga instructor if that’s something you’re just not going to do. But the options are there, and this advice rings true in order to fund some cheap travel no matter what your passion; share your skills. You might be a budding artist whose doodles have never seen anything outside the intricate margins of your college notebooks, or a green-fingered goddess in the garden with a love for all things plant-based.

It might be that you have experience taking care of children, or co-ordinating projects, administrative work, or social events. It could be a background in sports and teambuilding, or even just a childhood spent kicking footballs around a field and organising the local neighbourhood tournaments.

Whatever it is, there are voluntary positions around the world to be found that will suit you. Using your skill set and experience to your advantage is key when seeking ways to fund cheap travel.

WARNING: It’s all too easy to get caught up worrying about qualifications or ‘experience’. In the end, the only true experience you’re ever going to get will come from giving it a shot. At the same time, if you’re taking on a voluntary role, make sure you are actually qualified to do the job at hand. Your presence could be a true benefit to the community. If you wouldn’t be qualified to do it at home (e.g. teach a primary school class), hold the same standards for yourself abroad. Take a course or otherwise prepare yourself before you jet off.


How To Travel Cheap – Tip #3: Don’t Sell Yourself Short

How To Travel Cheap
Helga’s Folly in Kandy, Sri Lanka – an example of a Workaway position for creatives (read more here)

So don’t underestimate yourself – try things, put yourself out there, and don’t get hung up if it doesn’t work out. You’ll more than likely come away from your experience with more confidence and self-belief than you ever thought possible.
Worst case scenario, it’ll make a great story!
Our favourite volunteering and cultural exchange websites are Workaway, and GoAbroad. Here, hosts list the kinds of service/skills they require. For a small fee to join the website (worth every penny!) you can apply for the position. Through Workaway, I lived with a French family in Bali for 3 weeks reviewing local health-cafés for their website. I also squeezed in plenty of surfing and doing yoga in my free time – talk about JACKPOT cheap travel experience!

I also know people who have ended up staying with Workaway hosts for several months after their initial dates – most places are really open and if you’re the right fit, there’s every chance you’ll get to stay on for longer.

When Applying For Positions To Fund Cheap Travel

There’s no set way to apply for most of these volunteer positions, and to be honest, the more personality you show, the better! List your areas of expertise, explain how you can add to the hosts’ property or work environment, and above all – be nice!

You’re ten times more likely to get offers if you show you’re laid back, polite and open about what you want to get from the exchange.

Learning to be flexible and go with the flow is all part of learning how to travel well, so be sure to show your potential hosts that you’re open to try new things – just ensure it’s a fair exchange on their part too!

How To Travel Cheap – Tip #4: House-Swapping and Pet-Sitting

How To Travel Cheap
(Pic thanks to Wanderlusters)

There are endless options to consider if you really do your research into how to travel cheap. House-swapping or sitting with the likes of Trusted Housesitters can allow you to stay in some of the most luxurious properties in your destination if your dates align and you can prove your reliability. Wanderlusters have a great guide to house and pet-sitting here.

Pet-sitting is a another mode of cheap travel that animal-lovers will swoon over. You might even end up finding difficult to part with – like any care-giving profession, you can easily get attached to your charges!

How To Travel Cheap – Tip #5: Connect and Travel Responsibly

How To Travel Cheap
In the end it’s all about forming connections with the people and places you visit. There’s no better way to do so than by giving it your all and really trying to get to know your surroundings. Traveling sustainably is an important factor which is vital to the continuation of the tourism industry as it currently exists.
Wising up on local issues, ways to prevent pollution, and ensuring your visit has as little negative impact on both local people and environment is so important to ensure your favourite destinations continue to exist as they do.
Try to always stay in socially or environmentally aware properties (like Mad Monkey!). We want to give back to society and cultivate symbiotic relationships between travelers and locations. Bonus: these are often the more cheap travel-friendly options, and whatever cash you DO spend goes straight back into the local economy and jobs for local people.

Read more about how to travel responsibly here.


Cheap Travel: A Few More Tips For The Road

There are countless resources to help your stint of cheap travel go as smoothly as possible. Research is really your best friend here!
Here are a few more of our favourite articles on the topic:


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