Interview: How to travel for free or with little money
Are you wondering how to travel for free?
Traveling without money is for many people an intimidating thought. There are however hundreds of travelers that decide to leave their comfort zone and travel the world without or with very little money in their bank account.
One of those travelers is also my friend Tibor. He left his home in the Czech Republic to travel for around 12 months with only as little as €2.000 in his bank account. His maximum budget for the day was only €8.
Do you want to travel but you have no money? Watch Tibor’s story and learn about how to travel with little money or on a extreme budget.
Read further to find some inspiration and practical tips on how you can travel the world with no money. Make sure to read until the end as I will list some tips you won’t find anywhere else.
How to travel for free – Plan ahead
If you decide to go traveling with little money, you should definitely plan ahead. That being said, planning ahead does not mean that you need to plan every minute of your trip.
Having a rough idea about your route will save you a lot of hassle and expensive last-minute decisions.
Before you decide about your travel destination do your research about:
- Cost of Food
Now let’s dive into this ultimate guide with practical tips about how to travel with little money.
Choose a cheap travel destination
If you want to travel on a low budget I would choose a destination with low cost of living, meaning cheap food, cheap accommodation , and cheap transport.
Travelers with low budget often travel to Asia or Southeast Asia. Africa might seem like a good option too, however, foreigners are often charged extraordinarily high rates for safari tours and visits of national parks, which isn’t an option for travelers with no money.
I would not advise traveling the US, Australia, New Zealand or any north European countries either if you have no money. My last trip to Iceland cost me a small fortune.
India, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar or Malaysia are on the other hand very cheap destinations to travel to. Last winter I spent a few months in Thailand and even during the high season I spent only €350 for a one-room apartment on a tropical island of Koh Lanta. Dorms start from €5 a night or even less.
When it comes to choosing the right travel destination, you should certainly look into the seasons. High seasons are typically more expensive as there is a higher demand for accommodation. You also don’t want to spend weeks in a place during the rainy season or during the “burning” season in the north of Thailand.
Exploring a place during the off-season can save you up to 50% on accommodation. Have this in mind when looking for a budget-friendly travel destination.
Find cheap transportation
As soon as you choose your destination you should start planning your transportation. The more you wait for the more likely the price for the flight to your destination increases.
If you find an error fare from a trustworthy and known airline, don’t think too long and get it before the prices increase.
When looking for flights I tend to use skyscanner.com or Google Flights. When comparing flights you can also use kiwi.com or kayak.com.
How to save money for flights
1. Book through a trustworthy company
Skyscanner allows you to book through many “brokers” with dodgy reviews.
I suggest to always book with the airline directly. You save yourself a lot of hassle.
2. Look into the airline reviews
Spotting a cheap flight might be exciting and you might want to book straight away. First, I suggest looking into the reviews of the airline. If you can find many negative experiences from fellow travelers, the chances that you will have a bad experience as well are quite high.
Trust me, I have been there too. My trip with Wizzair from Vienna to Reykjavik, Iceland was a nightmare and turned out to be more expensive as with a non-low-cost airline.
Have in mind that low-cost airlines might charge you extra fees for anything, even if it’s not your fault but a system error.
Paying a bit more for your flight might , in the end,n cheaper as if you would go with the lowest airline.
3. Travel light
Since I started working online in 2017, I was always traveling with carry-on luggage only. That saves me a lot of money on the check-in luggage. Additionally, the less you have, the less you need to take care of.
Extra service increase the price of your flightAt the end of the day, you are going on an adventure and you don’t need the entire closet with you ;)
4. Avoid additional options
Many airline companies want you to buy extra insurance, meals, upgrade your seat, pay for extra luggage or book a car and hotel while booking your flights.
This is just a way for companies to increase their margins. If you are on a tight budget I suggest avoiding those options.
- You can always buy better food at the airport and bring it with you to the airplane.
- I use the N26 black card which covers lost luggage and some light travel claims.
- I always book my own accommodation via hostelworld.com, Airbnb or booking.com
- For car bookings I use rentalcars.com as this has worked out the best for me.
How to save money while touring around a country
There are several options on how you can save some cash on transportation while exploring the country.
Here are a few of them:
Depending on the destination you can look up trains and buses online.
Use public transportation
In Asia, you can use a popular website called 12go.asia to look up and book connections between cities. I have used this a lot while exploring Vietnam. In Thailand, however, I tend to book directly with travel offices.
If you happen to be in a new country, I would suggest going to book train tickets on the train station (if that’s not too far from you) as sometimes online bookings might not be available.
In some countries, like in Russia, you are better off avoiding scammy websites and book directly through the official Russian Railway Site RZD.
Traveling with buses and trains is often a very affordable way to explore a country on a budget.
On some continents like in Europe, traveling with buses is even cheaper than taking trains. A popular bus company operating in most of Europe is called flixbus.
Hitchhike for free
Hitchhiking is another way to travel for free while getting to know the locals. I haven’t heard of any country, where this wasn’t possible. I have been hitchhiking myself in the Balkans and Greece a few years ago and it was an amazing experience.
A great way to explore a country, particularly in Southeast Asia is to rent a motorbike. If you stay longer, you can get really good monthly rates. The prices vary on the country and the condition of the bike.
Find cheap accommodation
Accommodation is usually quite a big part of everyone’s travel expenses. If you want to travel with no money, you should be looking into options about how you can stay somewhere for free.
You can use volunteering organizations or websites such as workaway.info to find volunteering opportunities where you can stay for free. You will need to sign up and pay an annual fee of $42 to get access to the platform and contact hosts. Workaway shows volunteering opportunities all around the globe.
Save money with Couchsurfing
As an alternative, you can also sign up at sites such as couchsurfing.com where locals host travelers with the aim of cultural exchange. Note , however, that the aim of this service is not to exploit locals but to connect and learn about their cultures. Don’t expect the same comfort or privacy as you might have with Airbnb.
Stay for free in Monasteries
You can also stay in many monasteries or religious temples in Southeast Asia for free (or a small donation). Here is a great guide on how this works. If you decide to use this strategy always be respectful and show gratitude towards the locals. It isn’t meant for people who just want to stay for free.
Many young travelers use platforms such as Trustedhoussitters to take care of a house and the pets while the family is traveling. It might be hard to gain trust within the community if you have a new profile without any review, however, if you make efforts it can save you a lot of money while traveling.
Many families use house swapping sites such as homeexchange.com to swap their homes with other families on the platform. This is a great way to go on a vacation without paying for accommodation. If you happen to have an apartment, you can swap it with other members and stay at their homes for free while traveling.
Stay in dorms
Many people that travel with little money stay in dormitories. This means that you will book a bed in a dorm with 8 or more people. The more people in the room, the less comfortable it gets. If you are on a low budget, however, this is a good way to get the cheapest accommodation if Couchsurfing won’t work.
Staying in dorms allows you to connect with many other travelers, you can cook together or share some costs for fun activities. When it comes to booking hostels, I only use hostelworld.com or booking.com. If you travel to Southeast Asia, you can also check the rates at agoda.com.
How to save money on food
After transportation and accommodation, food is the next big expenses while traveling. Saving money on food can , therefore, allow you to stretch your budget and travel longer. Here are some tips on how to save money on food while traveling with little money.
Cook your own meals
This is obviously a no brainer. Buying your food in supermarkets and cook it yourself can save you some money. This is, however, only possible if you have equipped place to cook your own meals and some basic supplies such as salt, pepper and cooking oil. Without basic groceries, your food will taste quite boring.
Eat Street Food
Particularly in Southeast Asia the street food is often cheaper as compared to buying your own groceries and cook by yourself. If you decide to buy street food, make some research and go to a crowded place that is visited by many locals. This is a good sign that the food is fresh and you might reduce the chances of belly issues afterward.
In Thailand, you can usually visit one of the many street food markets that allow you to buy really cheap and tasty food. Here is a list of delicious street food you can try in Asia.
Eat from Buddhist Temples
Many Buddhist temples in Asia allow travelers to eat with them for free. Usually, you can get two to three meals a day for free. If you are looking to get to know this religion better and want a free place to sleep you can apply for volunteering in one of the temples.
Get a job and pay your bills while traveling
Apart from volunteering you can always find a job abroad to pay for your travel expenses.
Here is a list of popular jobs amongst travelers
- Teaching english
- Become a diving instructor
- Work at cruise ships
- Become an Au pair
- Become a Lifeguard
- Work as a bartender
- Work in hostels
Note that some of the jobs require some payments abroad.
To become a diving instructor you will need to pass the previous certifications as well as the final exams. Often you will need your diving gear, which isn’t cheap as well.
If you decide to become a Lifeguard you will also need to pass the exam and pay your ticket to the chosen destination.
Young women often travel abroad to become an au pair and take care of kids. This is often managed by a third company that helps set things up. These companies usually charge some fees for this service.
Teaching english is also a popular option to pay for food and accommodation while traveling. I have met travelers that taught english in Japan, Vietnam and even in Africa. The requirements are usually not as tough. If you are a native speaker your chances to get accepted are obviously higher. You can google for english schools and reach out to them directly, asking if they would give you a job.
As a last resort you can always work in hostels or as a bartender. In most cases you will be paid cash in hand. I have met plenty of people who did this to pay for their travels.
How to get cheap travel insurance
Eventhough you don’t have money for traveling you should not avoid a travel insurance. You never know what can happen while traveling. Your body isn’t used to the new environment and you might get sick more often, even though you are super fit at home.
There are two options to go about it. You can either look up travel insurances, offered by companies in your home country or at international travel insurances for travelers by companies such as Safetywing or Worldnomads.
A good travel insurance should cover at least all your medical costs abroad. When choosing the travel insurance you should have a look at the deductibles / excess. This is the amount you will need to pay by yourself if you happen to have an accident or get sick. I usually don’t get additional travel insurance for delayed flights etc. as this just increases the costs.
You can apply for travel insurance from Worldnomads and Safetywing even when you left your home country already.
Worldnomads have a higher deductible and are generally more expensive. If you travel on a budget the Safetywing medical travel insurance will be the better option for you.
How to get a free bank account for traveling
Anywhere you travel, you will need a debit card to withdraw money and pay some of your bills. Ideally you want a card that
- Has low withdrawal fees
- Has no fees for card payments in foreign currencies
- Won’t get declined or locked by your bank
- Is safe to use (protected against scams)
- Has no annual fees
- Has no foreign currency fees
If you happen to be from Europe, I can recommend the Revolut free bank account for travelers. I have been using for some time now and there isn’t anything to complain about. You can apply here. If you are in doubt, feel free to read my in-depth Revolut review. Currently it is the best cards for budget-friendly travelers.
Things you should consider when traveling for free
Traveling for free isn’t for anyone. It can be often very exhausting. You will need to talk to many people to get yourself safe.
It isn’t always comfortable
Free accommodation isn’t always as comfortable as at home. You might often sleep on couches or with many people in the same room.
Cheap food and poor hygiene can often get you sick. You should be aware of the quality of drinking water in the country you travel to. In most Asian countries it is not advised to drink tap water for instance.
Be on the safe side
Having a first aid kit with some charcoal, probiotics , and disinfection should be part of your packing list.
Having proper medical travel insurance will also save you a lot of money.
I used my travel insurance in almost every other country and I am very grateful for this. I would not like to cover the expenses for a hospital visit in Australia by myself.
Do fun activities
Traveling on a really low budget means that you won’t be able to afford a lot of fun activities such as scuba diving, local tours, safari tracks, etc.
It always comes down to the purpose of your travels. You can have an amazing experience while traveling with no money.
I suggest , however, to set a budget aside for some fun activities. It would be a pity not to be able to go on a boat trip in Whitsunday Islands while visiting Australia, go scuba diving with Manta rays in Bali, snorkeling with dolphins in Egypt, swimming between continents in Iceland or paragliding in Turkey.
Who knows when you will be able to visit these places again. Doing those fun activities should be part of your travel experience.
Now. If you still hesitate to go traveling even without money, there is no excuse really. There are many options that make this possible. If traveling the world is your biggest dreams, make it happen as no one else will do it for you. Remember, traveling isn’t about money. Get out there and have the best experience of your life.