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?
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 couchsurfing.org 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.
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.
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.
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?