How to Travel Cheap (Or for Free)
First thing I should say: not every trip can be made with not a lot of money. It is a painful fact, I know. But if we are very careful with the money we have, we can find ways to travel cheap, which means we can travel more! You-hou!
Here we have several tips to travel very, very cheap that I’ve collected with my experience as a traveler in 2015.
GETTING TO YOUR DESTINATION
Nowadays, there are times when it is cheaper to get a flight than travelling by train or car (And faster!). It is true that flights are destroying the ecosystem of several cities and areas, but sometimes it is the only reasonable way.
There are people who think that it is the best to reserve your flight 21 days before departure (for regular flights) and over 3 months before for international ones. It is kind of true; however, we need to be flexible, because we may find good offers. And talking about offers, the best way to find them is regularly checking the airlines websites, but for sure also use pages like Skyscanner, Lastminute, Kajak, and E-Dreams in order to find the cheapest connections with a lot of flexibility. If you have never heard about these, you better check it out for you next trip (especially Skyscanner). They are the new travel agencies, but for free!
TIP #1: On websites like Skyscanner you may find a price and minutes later… find it gone. Try to clear your cookies and that will not happen! 😉
TIP #2: Be flexible with your days’ travel (as much as you can). Play with the scales; for example, let’s say that you hope to fly from Italy on a Monday. Maybe you check and it’s cheaper to fly out Tuesday. Maybe you could stay one night in Italy if you don’t spend much money there (at least you can eat an amazing pizza).
The most comfortable way to reach your destination is a car or van (no matter if it is yours or rented). You don’t have to be on time or sit next to a smelly fella. Renting a car is usually more expensive in the richer countries, but if you do, for example, a round trip by car in the Balkans, it is definitely a good option for saving money. For sure you must have friends to share the cost.
You can use the trunk for all its advantages, like share the cost of gas, transport food … or using it as place to sleep or a party room! If you organize yourself, you can save a lot of money with a car. However, when we rent a car there are a couple of things to take into consideration: how the renter charges for excess mileage, the kind of gas it runs on, the deposit … it is better to compare conditions with several companies and don’t go to the closest one. There is no one company, from my point of view, which deserves be highlighted. Just choose the one that fits you better in your travel’s details.
TIP #3: If you take a car and have free seats, take hitchhikers! You will have amazing memories! 😉
It is not very common in Europe, but there are platforms where you can find carriers that need someone to get their vehicle to some other point, and you would travel this distance for free!
Talking about hitchhiking, it is an alternative way of traveling by car. There are special points (usually close to bus and train stations, cities’ outskirts, etc.) where you can wait patiently and show your finger. No more than 2 people is best. Be patient. And do it now that you are young, you will remember it forever and, who knows, you may find really good people to connect with.
Also, I will name blablacar (although there are other similar services), especially for drivers.
Nowadays, travelling by train is relatively expensive, especially in developed countries like Germany. Low speed trains are disappearing, and with them, the low prices. Maybe because of this, companies are creating packs, and you can travel with these tickets during a determined number of days though huge areas. Interrail is the most common because you can travel through a lot of countries in Europe, but there are also tickets for particular areas; like for the Balkans, Balkans Flexipass.
Something similar is offered for buses: with Eurolines, you can book either 15 or 30 days for 50 trips and you will save a lot of money. Of course, there are a lot of offers for single journeys. Today, it is easy to find a trip from England to France for less than 15 euros (although be prepared, you will live in the bus for many hours).
ONCE YOU REACH THE PLACE: HOW TO GET AROUND
If your destination is a small city or village, there is not much to say. Just explore every single corner and forget about buses, trains, trams, etc. Things change if you go to a big city, and my advice is getting to know the ways of moving in the city in advance.
First of all, you should check how the bicycle trail system is in town. Every city is different, but most of them are quite cheap; Barcelona, for example, has an amazing system.
If you plan to visit places far away from each other and if you are the type who never stops, it is nice to have a card for unlimited trips. In London you’ve got Oyster, in New York you’ve got Metro Card … You usually save money, but you should compare prices with individual journeys.
A highly recommended way of seeing the city is with a Free Walking Tour. In the big cities you can find several companies which will offer this. A young guide will bring you around for three hours to get to know a particular area or quarter, and you will hear funny references to the past. Price is what you want to pay.
But for me, the best way to get around is on foot (either with or without the last tour). There are times when one is lost, and you find yourself at incredible sites not listed in the guidebooks!
TIP #4: Forget about tour buses! They are very expensive and you can look for municipal buses which actually do the same path and are cheaper. Maybe they do not have audio guides, but you can find them for free on the Internet! (search Woices on Google).
WHAT CAN I CARRY IN MY BACKPACK TO SAVE SOME MONEY?
When the time to think about the food arrives, it is clear that the less you eat, the more you save. However, you need to eat well to maintain energy. If you bring food from home, easy to pack and carry, and that’s not fragile, you will save money. Nutritious and easy to transport food: nuts, tajini, fruits, energy bars, dried food.
TIP #5: Be patient, do not eat anywhere that calls you with its smell, and go onwards. And in the end, McDonald’s is still expensive!
If you bring soap from home you can wash clothes and yourself anywhere, anytime. Also bring a knife or razor to cut open cans and bread and fruit on the street.
THE SUN GOES DOWN (OR GOES UP): WHERE TO TAKE A REST
Couchsurfing! This is not only the cheapest, but the nicest. Even sometimes, if you are lucky, you’ll have your own room and bed. Other times, maybe you will have to share the living room with more people. Trust me, both are amazing, especially taking into account that this situation is temporary. You will meet new people and you will be into another atmosphere for some days, which will make you feel better. Also, you will taste new food (for free) and obtain a guide (again, for free, if they have time). But you have to offer your help all the time, and don’t forget a final present! Remember: when you use couchsurfing, you enter in a traveller’s community, where being respectful is mandatory. Search for people with good references. Read the whole profile to see if you can meet their conditions. If you are not an expert level 100, I recommend to set filters in your search, like availability or last login date.
TIP #6: Be with the locals, don’t be shy and don’t miss a chance!
Maybe you want to be as generous as your host will be. In that case, you might use webpages like HomeforHome, where you swap your home with someone from another country or region.
Another way to keep money in your pocket and get some sleep is to work for the accommodation in shelters and hostels. For example Hostelworld provides this capability on its website, if you look in its news and its blog.
Also, it is becoming very popular to go on holiday on farms and similar sites and work in exchange for room and meals. Almost all intermediaries have a price of about 20 or 30 euros to register, but still a good experience. Examples, WWOOFing, Helpx or HelpStay.
Last one: Hostels. The most expensive compared with the previous ones, but still a great experience when you know what you are taking on. Use Hostelworld to find the most appropriate, and don’t be afraid to share the room.
OTHER PERSONAL ADVICE TO SAVE (OR EARN) MONEY ON YOUR TRIP
- Grab a tent; you will never be afraid of sleeping in the street.
- Keep your student card, no matter if it is expired.
- Never exchange your money in the airport.
- Use your credit card if it is possible.
- Shorten or eliminate tips.
- Learn the noble art of haggling.
- If you are smoker and drinker, buy these in the airport.
- Maybe you can earn some money though jobs, juggling, music, painting, freelance services, etc.
- Don’t use roaming data, only free Wi-Fi and booths.
- Check the days to visit for free the things you want to see.
- Take a lock to keep your things safe.
- Contact AIESEC people, they will help you as well.
- Avoid shopping for: cheap clothes, presents, souvenirs, etc. It is money and space in your not-empty back pack.
- Go dumpster diving (you never know).