Travel the World

How To Travel The World For $1.94 Per Day

Derek Travel Costs, Travel Tips & Advice 46 Comments

Travel the World

Wait. Is this really possible?

No. Well, yes. Well, maybe.

If you look at travel as most of us do, an activity that involves the standard transportation, accommodation, sampling of the local cuisine and visiting sights and attractions, then it’ll be somewhat of a challenge to even imagine how your daily spending budget could be as low as $1.94 per day.

However, if you’re able to approach travel from an entirely different perspective, you may suddenly find it difficult to understand how you could possibly spend MORE than $1.94 per day during your adventure.

As for me, I have months where I spend well over $1000 USD and I have months where I spend well under that amount. While I don’t maintain a strict travel budget and I don’t watch every dollar I spend, I would estimate that during some months, I may only spend $300 USD or so.

How is this possible? How can I spend so little while paying for accommodation, food, activities and more?

I can’t.

The months where I spend so little are months where I’m not paying for a room or activities or transportation. They are months when I have managed to eliminate some of those expenses.

Again, how is this possible?

Here’s a few ways:

Make New Friends
Some people think that staying with friends while you travel the world, or staying with friends of friends or friends of friends of friends, is cheating and that it’s not honest to say that traveling can be so inexpensive if I stay with friends for free, some of the time. My response to that is that there is nothing stopping anyone from making friends all over the world. Get online, join forums, go on and communicate with locals, find blogs in the countries you are about to visit and email the writers. Connect with people, start building bonds and before you know it, you’ll have friends all over the world before you ever start traveling. You could also ask your current friends if they have any contacts in any of the countries you will visit, even the most distant of contacts, as that tiny little connection can lead to great benefits.

Make New Friends

Of course, don’t interpret this the wrong way. I’m not saying that you should make friends all over the world so that you can crash on their couch and not have to pay for accommodation. Make friends in order to connect with new people. Make friends in order to learn from their way of life. Make friends so that you can dive a little deeper into the destination.

And then, yes, you may also benefit from being able to stay at your friends’ places while traveling, of course with the understanding that they can crash with you as well when they happen to end up in a place you’re living or hanging out at for a while.

Do What You Love
The other day I heard about an Argentinian couple currently staying in Mexico that has been traveling the world for one and half years, drastically reducing their expenses by offering to paint the interiors of hostels, cafes, restaurants, etc, in exchange for a place to stay or meals. They love painting and so this kind of exchange works out quite well for them, saving them a great deal of money each month in the process.

Can you cook? Maybe you are staying at a hostel, so why not organize a group dinner where everyone contributes some money, you buy the ingredients and cook a great meal. You eliminate your food costs by being the chef and everyone gains from the experience.

Can you teach yoga or dance? Can you teach web design or an instrument? Offer classes for a few bucks so that you earn back your accommodation expenses. Teach a hostel owner how to improve his or her website in exchange for a place to stay. Offer what you can, offer what you love, offer anything at all and create a mutually beneficial situation.

Carry a Tent & Stick Out Your Thumb
Camp and hitchhike. Sleep in hammocks in the backyard of hostels or on the rooftop for less money than a dorm bed. Try to catch a ride with a passerby instead of using the bus or train. Sleep on the beach for a night or two each week. Find the most local transportation possible instead of the nicer, more direct, and more expensive, option. Hard core travelers can really cut down on expenses and I’ve met many people over the years who do just that. And they certainly have no shortage of interesting stories to share as a result of their ultra-budget style of travel! It’s not for everyone of course, but for those who truly want to experience the world on a tight budget, it’s another option to consider.

Carry a Tent

Research & Ask Around
There are promotions, deals, coupons and discounts everywhere. You just need to find them. During South Korea’s “Visit Korea Year” campaign in 2012, many of the country’s sights and transportation options were offered at heavy discounts for foreign tourists. In Playa del Carmen, Mexico, simply stating that you are a local (as in living there instead of just visiting for a few days), will get you discounts on meals at restaurants, at car rental agencies, on entrance fees and more. If you take the airport shuttle bus from Cancun, you’ll find a coupon on the bottom of your ticket for 14 pesos off your next airport shuttle ride. And while 14 pesos ($1.16 USD) might not seem like too much, that will get you a huge, tasty taco at Playa del Carmen’s most famous taco stand.

Many businesses offer discounts if you like their Facebook page or interact with them in other ways on social media and there are always 2×1 specials, or something similar, to be found on meals, activities, drinks and plenty more, all over the world. It’s all about being aware, not being afraid to ask for a discount everywhere you go and talking to both locals and other foreigners to see what kind of ways they might have found to save some money in a particular destination.

Travel the World - Riga Card

Like anything, this all takes some effort and it’s not for everyone as we’re not all comfortable with the same things. That’s why the purpose of this post is just to, once again, show that you can travel the world for much less money than you might imagine if you simply change the way you approach your trip.

You really could spend one month in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, for example, visiting destinations such as Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Valladolid, Merida and Izamal, for around $250 USD, or $8.33 per day. This would involve hitchhiking around, using Couchsurfing for accommodation and eating at local food stalls. Yes, you also have to pay for your flight to/from Mexico (which can be as low as $250 USD from certain cities in the USA), but if you stayed for two months, including that flight, you could still manage to spend a mere $750 USD in total, or $375 per month. Not bad for two months of exploring a foreign country.

Again, that may sound extreme to many of us and you probably won’t go and incorporate every money-saving tip that you hear about on your next trip and you probably won’t travel for $1.94 per day either. But you can take the ideas that suit you, the ideas you are comfortable with, and create your own travel style that allows you to save as much money as you possibly can.

And when it comes to travel, any amount you do save can make a major difference.

Also, before I end, I will state that, yes, $1.94 USD per day is an exaggeration. I’m sure it’s possible somehow and I’m sure there are people traveling for that amount or even less, but for the majority, that’s definitely on the extreme low side, a level that won’t be possible to achieve.

So take some time to create your own budget and to determine how much you can spend each month while wandering the world. Then, examine each individual potential expense and try to figure out how you can reduce or even eliminate it, knowing full well that, when it comes to travel, there are always ways out there to save some money.

Do you have any other simple tips to share that can help us save money while traveling? If you’re planning a trip, any questions on how to lower your expenses?

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Comments 46

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Travel Blogs | The JetSetting Fashionista

  2. The most impressive budget traveler I ever met was chilling out at the Flying Pig Palace in Amsterdam in 2004. The guy went to A’dam with two weeks of cash, then worked at the hostel for something like 8 weeks for free room and breakfast, then his parents sent him two weeks of rent, then, and then he just hung out for two weeks, like part of the furniture, he just seemed to belong there. The guy was also a master scammer and met girls who bought him dinner every night. He also came up with some type of board game which he may just have found on the internet, claimed to have invented it and then went to the hardware store, bought a piece of wood and started hand carving these boards for people for about $50 a pop. The energy and the ingenuity deserve eternal props. I still stay in touch with the guy who is hanging out in Vegas gambling for a living. He doesn’t look as thin now so must be doing ok.

    Character building experience for sure.

  3. Hi Derek,

    My and my husband are starting to plan our sabbatical (that can continue indefinitely) for the summer fall of 2015. Reading your site and looking at your pics have made my day.
    Ive been siting after maxillofacial surgery, at home, for 4 days and still having trouble eating…..chewing specifically.

    Thanks for all your posts, words, advice, ideas, suggestions, and thanks for being you!

    I donated twenty dollars and I promise to keep in touch as we start our journey. We will need your tips and we may bump into each other someday somewhere somehow.


  4. I am agree with the comment above, that it all depends on which is your travel style. I personally never ever in my life (ok, I m too young so far))) traveled on reduced cost. On the contrary I am always surprised by how rapidly all the money can vanish in the air……So tips of this kind can be very helpful for me just to change a focus:)

  5. Well, an attention grabbing headline but not remotely true. 🙂 Interesting points though, particularly the one about ‘make friends’. I’ve stayed at many people’s homes I’ve met on my travels and it’s a great way to not only travel cheaply but you get to see more of the ‘real’ place you’re visiting as the folks you stay with will often show you the locals’ haunts.

    1. Hey Michelle – As I mention in the post, it is an exaggeration, however, since writing the post, I have received emails from readers who have traveled for basically free for long periods of time. Couchsurfing, hitchhiking, dumpster diving – $1.94 is actually possible!

    2. Exactly – I find the most economically friendly way (and my favorite way to travel) is through/with friends. Meeting and becoming friends with other travelers and locals is the perfect way to find out about the local spots and more fully immerse yourself. It’s a great trade-off for worldwide travel. When I am in their territory, I stay with them. When they are in my territory, they stay with me.

  6. You know, my biggest money saver has always been “drink less beer”. It sounds simple but sometimes there are things we do when we travel that add up.

    Of course you can hitchhike, you can couchsurf, you can do whatever… but simply watching where your money goes and adjusting it would help save us all a lot of money I think!

  7. Point 1 is absolutely true for me. I went for a month in Europe back in 2007 and spent only around USD 300. But that was because I stayed in my relatives’ places most of the time. Had I had friends all over Europe at that time, I probably would have spent even less. 🙂

  8. Great tips! I’m glad you told us that $1.94 was an exaggeration, because I was about to say, “Wow, where did he go that was so cheap??”

    Also, I hate when people think that if people stay with friends or whatever, it’s “cheating”. It’s nobody’s business if a person has friends or family or a friend with benefits somewhere that will put them up, feed them and show them around. If a person can find such a situation, lucky them. I hate how some travellers judge other travellers for the way they do things.

  9. Great post Earl! And of course, it’s an exaggeration but hopefully people get what you mean. It’s possible to go low on budget. Some of the time.

    My tips: Find where the local university students hang out. Most likely they know the smartest places to go to at little or no cost. This is how I was able to sleep at a university hostel in Prague for €2.00 per night.

    Follow the locals. Where they go. You go. I did this in Hong Kong and I admit that I didn’t completely like all of the food, but it was certainly an experience LOL!

    In Europe, look for local magazines and newspapers (depends on language skills of course), but they tend to have discounts and free offers. You can eat quite well doing this in nice places as “the first meal is free” or 2 for the price of 1.

    Ask for reductions. I have a son. I always ask for a discount. Oh, and smile lots. It always opens doors!

    1. Hey Victoria – All great advice and I appreciate you sharing it with us here! I’ve used the university concept myself as well and often end up at great little eateries with very inexpensive lunch specials or even bars/pubs with ridiculously cheap student deals for drinks. Follow the locals as you say!

  10. You are a living proof that the world can be experienced without a lot of financial resources. Great post and an inspiration to others.

  11. I think another thing you should consider is what KIND of traveler you are and what KIND of travel you enjoy. While it’s awesome to travel inexpensively, you could quite literally hate what you have to do in order to do it.

    The only way to find out is to go out and try different things out. Figure out what parts of travel you can skimp on and what parts are truly exciting to you.

    For me, I don’t really need/enjoy organized tours and adventure packages and would rather get lost on my own with my camera, so that allows me to save a good bit of money.

    On the other hand, I enjoy being around like minded peers so sleeping in a tent alone on the beach is only enjoyable for so long. Knowing this, I don’t mind spending the money to get into a hostel and sleep on a bed and be surrounded with people to talk to.

    1. Hey Dave – Absolutely true. This was just to show that you can travel inexpensively but you’re right, that style is definitely not for everyone. You do have to find your own travel style and then budget according to your needs.

  12. Great insight! I too live very cheaply inexpensively to fund my adventures. It is funny how when you redefine your priorities how simple and rewarding life, especially one of travel, can be.

  13. This post reminded me of watching some of the Michael Wiggie videos. He managed to travel all the way down to Antarctica hitting many countries along the way without having any money to start. He just created odd jobs along the way, relied on the kindness of others, and went to extremes when necessary.

    It is proof that you can travel the world without any money at all as long as you are willing to put forth the effort and deal with the rough and raw nature of life.

    I sometimes question how I will get through a month myself… then I realize, I still have $500, may not be much, but it is plenty to get by just about anywhere so long as I am willing to deal with it.

    1. @PassportDave – That sums it up quite well. It’s not so much about the money as it is about the shift in perspective about how far that money can go or what it can be used for.

  14. Man, one really needs a kind of courage “overdose” to travel like the monks to Jerusalem in the 11th century. Especially when you are like Sam’s Russian girl having no knowledge about the language spoken in different countries. These guys, like you, Eearl, are indeed phenomena, believe me. Congrats!

  15. I have definitely managed to travel cheaply by hitchhiking, camping, HelpX-ing, couchsurfing and ridesharing. It wasn’t on $1.94 a day granted, more like $37 a day, but this was in Canada and the States and I still ate out a fair bit and it included a cross country flight. You definitely have to find your comfort level because you want to enjoy your travels, not endure them.

    1. Hey Katie – Agreed. Ultra budget travel is only for those who want to travel that way but the good news is that whatever one’s comfort level or budget might be, there is usually a way to travel to most parts of the world within those parameters!

  16. Well, i managed to make a long trip just for 5€ / day. Just by walking from Serbia until Macedonia. Traveling by walking saves huge amount of money. Just need to spend for food. Slower you travel, less you pay.

  17. Love this Earl! Travel is so much cheaper than most people realise.

    Especially if you are willing to experiment, and do things a little differently. I love the emphasis you made that Couchsurfing is for building friendships, not for free accommodation. From my experience using it, I met some of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever met and made friends for life.

    Using Couchsurfing, ride-sharing websites, a bit of willpower and being willing to use public transport rather than “arranged tourist routes”, I was able to travel Europe for two months on under £1000. It was amazing!

    Keep it up Earl 😀

  18. I donno about $2 per day but I’ve been going on around $10 per day for the last 5 years very comfortably. In fact I actually find this kind of travel MORE comfortable than the normal style.

    Going to a bus terminal, haggling to buy a ticket and then running around trying to find unmarked places, not knowing if you might have missed your bus or not is 100x more stressful for me than just going to the motorway and sticking my thumb up. And staying with a couchsurfer who often treats you like a welcome guest as well as giving you all the advice you could ever need is a lot nicer hunting out cheap hostels which who often don’t even have a map of the area for you to look at…

    But the best part of all is that I get to travel 5x longer without needing to go do any work 🙂

    1. Hey Dan – All good points and for some of us, that style of travel definitely brings the most rewards. Here’s to 5 more years of traveling for you!

  19. In our travels in South America, we’ve found the costs of groceries to be quite variable. In some places you may as well just go out and enjoy dinner at a food stand or market, other times it’s worth it to buy groceries and make your own delicious meal at your hostel.

  20. This is an attention catching title as most of us travelers are interested in cutting costs and making the most of our money. One thing you didn’t mention and a great way to save money is housesitting. We’ve done housesits so far in Antigua, Guatemala, Atenas, Costa Rica and are currently doing our third in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. In addition we’ve been contacted by other homeowners in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Europe offering us housesits. It’s a terrific way to save, live in a comfortable home, meet the neighbors and interact with the local community.

    1. @Anita and Richard – I did miss giving housesitting a mention and it certainly is an ideal way to cut costs. I know of travelers all over the world who are doing this right now and once they start, they tend to get addicted to this expense-free (at least in terms of accommodation) lifestyle quite quickly.

  21. Great article! When I travelled, I towed around my 13′ camper with me everywhere, and when cash was low and I needed to save, I would boondock. Believe it or not there are several places all over the United States that allow FREE camping. Of course there aren’t any utilities or bathrooms, but you get a place to hunker down for a bit 🙂

  22. Another great read Earl. I’m on the cheap road in Mexico at the moment. I’ll be hitchhiking, commando camping, and CS’ing as much as possible throughout the country for the next few months. It is really not too hard to travel like this but damn it does take time adjusting yourself to it. Dealing with the anxiety, uncertainty, and jitters is tough! There are many lessons to be learned on the road when you travel like this. Hopefully someone takes your advice in this article and jet sets out to do it!

    1. Hey Shane – I’m certain that those initial challenges leads to some great benefits though and at the very least, a greater understanding of yourself and what you want to gain out of life. Enjoy the next stage of your adventure and looking forward to catching up again at some point!

  23. There is also the simple matter that it can be quite boring and unhealthy to live on $2 a day. – Often i save money to travel and plan how ‘simple’ im going to live, cheap room, cooking etc which i do, but often i just want to get out and enjoy the local food, have a coffee, buy some nice things. No point saving money by not enjoying the place where in. mentally-starving outselves for some digits on an electronic screen

    1. Hey Kieran – That’s true and I think it depends on the individual traveler. Some would thrive living on an ultra-budget and others would not. But again, the point of the post is not to promote traveling on $2 per day in the end, it’s just to show that you can reduce your expenses so that you only end up spending whatever amount of money you can spend.

  24. This is the shit Earl – thanks so much. It is articles like this that show people just how easy it is to set sail and see the world. Your articles are always a fascinating read!

  25. It’s all a matter of tastes, I think. When I was living in Spain, I had a Russian girl couchsurf with me who was travelling around Europe only by hitchhiking and either couchsurfing or sleeping in parks, and she barely seemed to eat anything. I’ve kept in touch with her and now she’s been in South America for about 15 months doing the same, plus camping and dumpster diving and she’s still going! Given what she told me she earned working in a hostel in Russia before she left, she can’t have a lot of money, so she’s definitely making it go as far as possible. I admire her for doing this, but it’s definitely not something I would want to do – partly because I’m too lazy, and also because I’m a control freak – but it is indeed possible.

    1. Hey Sam – Don’t worry, I think that style of travel isn’t for most of us! But if it works for her and she enjoys it, then why not? But for the majority, a little more comfort and stability will be needed…it’s just good to have examples of the extreme as well so that we understand that anything really is possible!

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