How come you always travel? How can you possibly afford that?
Travelling on a budget is way easier than it might seem. Once you figured out where to cut and where to spend money, it’s easy to go to a lot of places without hundred-dollar bills in your pocket. The most important parts to figure out are: accommodation and transportation. Everything else will be easy from there. But let’s start from the beginning.
Accommodation on a budget
When I travel I never book a hotel. I can happily say that my hotel time lays way in the past. Hotels, in my opinion, are the most boring experience ever. You will not get in touch with anyone while staying there as they are designed to be private and you will not meet any local people there. This way of travelling might be desirable for some people, but for a real, local experience, hotels will not be able to fullfil your needs. So, for accommodation I usually choose a hostel or couch surfing. Recently, I´ve come to prefer couch surfing over hostels and I will tell you why.
From my experience, most hostels are mainly about partying, drinking and going out. While that might be fun for one night, I don’t need this spirit all the time. A bit of tranquillity is also nice from time to time. If you are a party person, I would definitely recommend you to stay there though. You will have the time of your life! Hostels are great for getting in to know a lot of people from a lot f different, amazing places in this world. You can make great friend and great connections in a hostel. But you will, most likely, not get in touch with a local person.
That’s why I’ve come to love couch surfing. Couch surfing is a website that enables you to stay with a local who lives at your desired travel destination – without paying anything. Yes, you read that correctly. This experience is completely for free. Find out more about it here on their website.
The couch surfing community is based on cultural exchange, trust and learning from each other. If you are staying at another person’s place, you are supposed to give something in return. This doesn´t have to be something materialistic – on the contrary. It shouldn’t just be a chocolate box you brought from your country and then you go on to ignore your host the rest of your time.
This way to travel focuses on the cultural exchange. You can share your travel experiences as well as your way of life. You simply offer something you can teach the other person. For me, that´s the perfect way to travel. You don´t only learn about a new culture, but most of the times also about another way of life. And as you are staying with a local, you can ask about the best places to go – and which places better to avoid. Couch surfing also means getting to know where the locals live and what they are doing the whole day. After all, you will be living very closely to the other person as you are sharing their flat and sleeping on their couch.
For all who have never heard about couch surfing and are a bit sceptical of how it might turn out: simply go for it. It will be the most valuable experience ever if you keep the tips below in mind. People I got to know on couch surfing were just awesome.
Staying with someone on couch surfing you really get along with will take your travel experience to a whole other level. You will think back to this experience years later and be grateful you chose to stay with a local during your trip.
Is couch surfing safe?
I, as a woman, never had a bad experience with couch surfing, so from my experience it is save even if you are travelling alone as a woman. However, you need to be careful and rather think twice if something seems strange to you.
I have to say, I feel like 80% of couch surfing users are men. So, as a woman it will sometimes be hard to finding a place to stay with another woman. In fact, I never managed stayed with women, only with a couple once.
However, as I mentioned before, couch surfing is based on trust. Every host on couch surfing has reviews where people write about their stay with the person. If someone has a lot of good reviews, also from women who are solo travellers, I feel certainly safe to stay with them. If you choose someone who has good reviews and seems to be a genuinely nice person – and you’re the same – not much can go wrong.
Couch surfing has so many benefits. It won´t cost you a cent and will g enrich you with an experience you will never forget. You will get to know a county from a whole other side. Of course, not every couch surfing host is the same, some might be more open to go on adventures with you than others. Normally you will be able to figure this out in their description on their profile so that you can opt for the person you think you will get along with the best. I can only recommend reading the descriptions people wrote about themselves as you don´t want to end up with someone you will not get along with at all, especially if you are staying at a place for longer.
When you message a host, it is also important not to just copy and paste a message to every host you would like to stay with. While this might work in smaller cities where a host doesn´t get that many requests per day, in bigger cities, like Paris for example, it is quite hard to find a host. These hosts will ignore your messages if you just copy and paste a message and don’t stand out from the crowd. Read in their profile and tell them why you think you should stay with them. Always remember they are willing to share their home with you – you should offer something in return.
Food on a budget
When it comes to travelling, eating can be a bit difficult – if it is supposed to be cheap. I, as a vegan, have even another, additional problem: finding something to eat that is vegan. This, however, is surprisingly easier than most people think. As vegan restaurants are popping up everywhere right now, that´s not something I usually worry about. A least not in bigger cities. In smaller cities, or on the countryside, it can get a bit tricky. That’s when I usually still get my standard salad, fries or banana.
Meal prep for the journey
When I start my journey and am about to travel by plane, train or bus I take enough food with me in order not to starve waiting at the airport or in the bus. I usually prepare some cookies which are easy to take along with you. Fruits and vegetables are also easy to carry. But whatever you do, be very careful what you take to airports. Never take anything that might be considered a liquid. Never repeat my mistake wanting to fly with hummus. I was held back at the security check and had the option to either eat entire 500g of hummus right at the security patrol in the airport (what I did) or throw it away. Lesson learned. No more hummus in airports. Now I prepare a sandwich or take some fruit with me. In buses and train this is a lot easier. There you can take with you what ever your heart desires. Nuts and dried fruits are also always a good option.
What to eat in the city
Once I am in the city I am visiting I usually cook for myself. As I am mostly staying in couch surfing places or hostels there is always a kitchen where I can prepare my food – which is also cheaper than going out to eat every day. This is a great way to offer some food to my hosts or people around the hostel as well and get people interested in how delicious vegan food can be. I just love to spread the message like that as well. I don’t always cook for myself though. Sometimes I enjoy going out to eat as well. I love to see what kind of food other vegan restaurants are offering in other countries. AS I don’t do this every day I do treat myself when it comes to vegan restaurants. I will admit, this is the only time I am simply not able to save money as I always want to try out as much as possible. I am always amazed by what other places have to offer.
Sightseeing on a budget
What would be visiting a city without sightseeing? “But sightseeing is expensive!” Is it really? For me, sightseeing is the best money – saving – activity ever as it can be expensive if you choose so, but it doesn´t have to be. I just love taking pictures of famous places and walking around the city – which you can do for free.
If I come across a famous building, I don´t always enter it if it is paid. I only do so if there´s a lot to see and it will be worth it. What is worth seeing for you, you will need to estimate by yourself. For me, unusual places are worth seeing and paying for, others aren’t. Especially if you can see a lot from outside already. This is normally the case when looking at churches and some castles. A lot of famous churches you can enter for free anyways, some castles as well.
Sometimes you can enter parts and only have to pay for a certain part, most famous. This part you can either skip or pay for it if it is worth seeing. It will all depend on your interpretation. I love going to parks as well, for example, which will not cost a single cent. There are a lot of ways and tricks to save money.
What I also like to do is so mostly avoid public transportation and just walk around the city. Of course, this is only possible if the city is not too big. Otherwise you have to pay for the metro or bus. Some smaller cities you can discover by foot, which I love to do. In doing so, you just wonder around and appreciate the beauty the city has to offer. You can come across places you would never have seen if just following a travel guide. Is a much more local experience, in my opinion.
Transportation on a budget
Now we end with the beginning in mind – but how do I even get somewhere? When it comes to transportation, this will be the only time you are forced to spend money. Without transportation, without moving, well, you cannot go anywhere.
Nowadays it is easy to get a cheap flight if you choose the right time and airline. If you plan ahead and book in advance, prices are even cheaper. Once the peak season starts, flight prices go up high like the Everest – faster than you even realize it. So, if you already have a fixed destination in mind you have to book a flight to, book it as soon as possible. Sometimes even waiting for two weeks has made a big difference for me. I usually also use a search site for flights to get the cheapest one.
The best one I found so far is Kayak. There you can enter you desired travel destination and your travel dates. If you play around with the dates a bit you will soon find a suitable flight. Days when flights are offered for a good deal are usually indicated with a green point. Normally, the exact days are not that important to me, so I can choose a variety of different dates – and usually opt for the cheapest one. If I am taking a long flight, I normally have one, two or three stops in between, which makes it even cheaper. Of course, travelling like this is not that comfortable – but it fits my budget. I´d gladly give up comfort for a bit in order to afford a flight to a faraway land I always wanted to see.
By bus and train
If I am just travelling shortly and don’t need to master long distances, I opt for the bus as my means of travel. A bus is way more environmentally friendly as a plane and gets you there as well. It might take longer, but you can keep yourself busy during a 24 hours bus ride as well. I honestly have to say I love long bus rides and never get bored. I write, listen to music or read and time just flies.
So, if you don´t mind being trapped in a bus and not moving much, it´s fine. I would totally recommend it as this way to travel is quite cheap as well. In Europe, I would recommend Flixbus or Alsa which always had the cheapest options for me. Depending on the bus you can find tickets from 10 to 40€ to a lot of places. Travelling by train is also amazing. More comfortable than the bus, but also a bit more expensive usually. If that´s the only way though, I opt for it as well.
If there is no other way to get to place off the beaten track, I rent a car as well. However, this rarely happens. As going by car is not the best thing to do for the environment, I try to avoid it as best as possible. However, I would still go for it if there was no other way to get to a desired place. As this are usually the best experiences because those are places not many people know about and not many people can access.
Money travel hacks sum up
Here´s a little sum up of things you can always save money with:
- Accommodation: Try out couch surfing! I can assure you will benefit a lot from it. Only if you don’t find a host, opt for a hostel
- Food: Pack your own food and cook for yourself! Go out to eat in restaurants only a few times, don’t make it a habit
- Sightseeing: Walk through the city and see what it has to offer. Think about which paid sights you really want to see from the inside and which ones you can appreciate from the outside just as well.
- Transportation: Book your flights in advance. Use a search engine to look for the cheapest flight. If you are not travelling long distances, take the bus or the train instead.
So, with these tips in mind – happy travelling! May your budget lead you farther from now on.
You didn’t read enough of travelling yet? Thinking about going to Portugal?