9 ways how to travel on a shoestring

The best time to travel in life, is when you are young, have a lot of time and are full of enthusiasm.

But at this time most persons don’t have a lot of money in the pockets, so the possibilities of travel are restricted.

As a young student I am definitely in the category of shoestring travellers, sometimes more and sometimes less.  Sometimes I get comments from friends: ‘How the f*** can you travel to all this places?

Today I want to share my personal tips on traveling far, adventours and as long as possible on a low budget.

  1. At the beginning, if you are looking for good advise for planning a low budget hotel trip to a beach resort you are not at the right place. I stopped having ‘normal beach resort vacations’ since I started to finance my travel by myself. The last time I spent my free time in a hotel resort was in my teens and it was a family financed holiday trip.

Today I am always looking for self organised travel experiences, city trips and combined travel and work options.

I am not looking for a holiday, I am looking for a travel experience and these mostly start outside of the resort hotels. Since I have been to many countries that are famous for resort tourism (Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Spain) I am avoiding the resorts because  I doesn’t make a difference if I am staying in a resort in Spain or Thailand. The same concept of beaches, food and drinks all daytime and a light evening entertainment.It is the perfect  traditional recipe for a quick and effective relaxed holiday, but not for the travel experience I am looking for.

So the first thing to keep in mind for a economic travel is to look for non touristic areas in a country.

If you are looking for a good alternative in very touristic countries try to avoid the ‘best spots’ of a country for staying and look for alternatives. A hotel in walking distance to the NYC Time Square is definitely not the most economic option, there is always something in a area that is still close but offers better conditions for a stay (like Queens or Brooklyn).  Not only the costs for accommodation, also the prices for restaurants and even supermarkets are cheaper than in touristic centers.

No cheap accomodation in NYC... downtown
No cheap accomodation in NYC… downtown

 

  1. Before arriving at the travel destination, you should choose a way to travel there.  The best way to find good prices is research online. There are various travel sites which compare prices and airline fares. The most common is skyscanner for flights. A search from different airports can make a big difference in the price range. My personal favourite for trips in europe is goeuro. These site compares all kind of transportations: train, car, plane or ship. For short distances the cheapest travel options can be a shared car. Sites like blablacar are showing possibilities in central europe.

Comparing prices online and flexibility of destination and departure airport/places can save a lot of money.

  1. A small but very effective hint is the choice of transportation from the airport  to the place of accommodation.

A taxi from an airport can  quickly go up to 40$. Public transportation is a budget alternative for adventurous travellers  which also gives a first hint into the local culture and people. Travelling could take more time but it is indeed more fun and can save you some pocket money.

Why not travel the local way? This is at the train station in  La Habana, Cuba.
Why not travel the local way? This is at the train station in La Habana, Cuba.

 

 

Take as much public transportation and try to travel like a local.

  1. Accommodation: Instead of looking for a hotel try to look out for a hostel, bed and breakfast or small pension. Also compare prices online before you arrive at hostelworld or hostels. Sometimes you can get special deals by booking online.

I often stay at friends houses, and I appreciate that opportunity of meeting friends which I didnt see for a long time while travelling.

If you don’t mind sharing time and space with a stranger, you can go for Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a travel community around the world, where members offering their ‘couch’ sometimes it is also a guestroom for free to international travellers.  As a counter move you should bring a small gift from your country, cook a nice dinner or contribute anyhow in the grocery shopping.

Couchsurfing is an ideal opportunity to get to know locals and to spent almost no money for accommodation.

 

 

  1. Food: Well, I was thinking long before writing the passage, because it is kinda controversial  trying to save on food. Especially in a foreign country. You never know what you get and you don’t want to spent the last days of your vacation in bed with an upset stomach. I love street food for three reasons, first because it is on a budget, second it is mostly fresh, tasty and local and third buying street food from local people helps support their business way better than vanishing in panic in every new city to a Mcdonalds.

Eating street food in areas where you are not familiar is simply if you follow these easy rules:

  1. Don’t eat raw fish, meats or half cooked food – it is better to go for fried or cooked delis.
  2. Eat where everybody eats. A very busy place  or a long line in front of a street food corner signals that the food is popular and fresh.
  3. Don’t eat things where you can’t see how they prepare them.
  4. Relax, if you are unsure what to eat go to a market and ask some locals for the main food there.
Spicy street food in  Kingston, Jamaica. Jerk Chicken is well cooked and a good start for street food. There is also jerk fish or vegetables, but chicken is the most popular.
Spicy street food in Kingston, Jamaica. Jerk Chicken is well cooked and a good start for street food. There is also jerk fish or vegetables, but chicken is the most popular.

 

  1. Trips: It is travel time, after a while you want to discover the place, you want to make some trips to the must see places and to hidden treasures. So take your stuff and find out which special deals you can find maybe for students, older people, groups etc…

Another way is to organise the trip by yourself. If you can find two or three other people who would like to join you at your trip you can ask a local taxi driver for transportation or inform yourself if there is any public transportation to the place.  You will always get a better deal than booking a tour package in the hotel. Look for special days, national museums and art galleries  have at  least one day in the week where you get a free entry.

 

Getting around the local way Part II.  A traditional coach is a cheap and easy way of transportation in Guantánamo, Cuba.
Getting around the local way Part II.
A traditional coach is a cheap and easy way of transportation in Guantánamo, Cuba.

 

 

  1. Most of my travel was combined with some work or studies. So I the trip by itself was financed mostly by the work I did abroad at the same time. When I was studying a semester abroad I had the same financial income as in Germany. It is always very recommendable to look for scholarships when you are planning to study abroad. I used the time after the studies to stay a few months longer and travel through the country. Other ways are easier if you are looking for only a few weeks of holidays. I made a very good experience in a workcamp. The concept is easy. You work 2-5 hours a day in a social or environmental organisation, therefore you get free accommodation and food. The weekends are completely off and you can decide where to work.  You can get more information at workcamps here (in german) or you can look at the private organised site workaway.

The concept of combining travel with work is not new but still a great deal to save some greens while you are abroad.

 

 

 

  1. Listen to the people around you! Try to catch up some local slang and then use it!

It can be hard and sometimes frustrating, when you try to say a work six times and nobody understands what you mean, because your pronunciation is too bad, when you think you can speak a language and then you are falling on the bottom  again because you discover that the local accent is nothing like you learnt it at home in your books. It is frustrating and you feel overwhelmed… but after a time of shame and embarrassed smiles you will benefit from the knowledge of languages.

People are more willing to help you because they are more able to help you. You can negotiate about prices on a different level (don’t stick to the tourist prices) and you will understand the jokes that are made!

 

  1. Saving, saving and more saving… travelling on a budget can be fun, because it is also always a challenge for your own comfort zone. Are you willing to wait for the local bus, are you brave enough to try the strange looking food, are you friendly enough to convince the strangers to give you a ride to the next city?

But after all these challenges there is always a point where you should stop trying to get the ‘best price’.

When you are negotiating with an old woman on the market for the price of the vegetables and you want to push the price down, because you heard somewhere that the avocado is only 30 cents a piece, and she wants 50…. then stop it.  Come on, you spent hundreds of euros for  transportation, fun, food, alcohol and ridiculous  souvenirs.

Especially if you are traveling to so called developing countries, don’t try too hard to get the local price all the time. Even if you know somebody will earn a few cents more with you, just let him or her, seriously, what difference will it make for you?

This is not an appeal that people should mess around with you, it is more an appeal to accept the structural privileges we benefit from, because we can travel.  Remember, this country might be a temporary playground for you but it is the harsh reality for millions of people every day. And we should always keep that in mind and behave respectfully.

 

 

Take the fruit and stop hustle for it! You deserve it ;)
Take the fruit and stop hustle for it! You deserve it 😉

Well, this is my personal bucket list for saving on my travel trips. Please let me know what are your  best strategies for saving money while travelling!

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