Traveling the world seems out of reach in 2022. The economy is tight, individual disposable income is shrinking, and people have to work more hours just to make ends meet.
It may come as a shock, therefore, to learn that there are people out there able to travel the world on a tight budget because they have put in the work to make the travel system work in their favour.
The possibility to travel the world on the cheap is out there. You just have to be creative, and sometimes brave, to take the first step.
These 30 hints, tricks, and tips are great starting points to begin your next great adventure and be the envy of your friends, thanks to your Insta-worthy travel snaps from all over the globe:
- How to travel the world on the cheap
- Travel the world on the cheap before the trip
- 1. Credit card points
- 2. 24-hour cancellation policy
- 3. Pick a cheap destination
- 4. Find a travel buddy
- 5. Time your travel to the shoulder seasons
- 6. Explore budget-friendly sites
- 7. Credit cards with travel perks
- 8. Don’t be stuck to one airport
- 9. Learn the exchange rate
- 10. Decide the budget
- Travel the world on the cheap during the trip
- 11. Stick to the budget
- 12. Hostels are huge
- 13. Couchsurf and house sit
- 14. Join the party
- 15. Work your way around the world
- 16. Never turn down a chance to volunteer
- 17. Sport your way around the world
- 18. Sweet, delicious street food
- 19. Pack light when you Travel the World
- 20. Make money from your home
- 21. Local buses & trains
- 22. Travel the World and Camp as much as you can
- 23. Free tours are great
- 24. Overnight travel
- 25. Don’t be in a rush
- 26. Avoid tourist traps
- 27. Ride sharing
- 28. Use the humble bike
- 29. Don’t overpay for a quick fix
- 30. Cheap is good, too cheap leads to regrets
- Frequently asked questions about travelling the world
How to travel the world on the cheap
The basics of how to travel the world on the cheap are simple. You should be looking to enjoy your experiences while not breaking the bank.
The best way to do that is by using resources like apps, websites, and even word of mouth to find opportunities to discount or subsidize your travel.
It is worth noting that you shouldn’t avoid certain expenses. Comparing critical services like travel insurance allows you to save money at the beginning of your journey before you travel the world.
Travel the world on the cheap before the trip
1. Credit card points
The most expensive aspect of seeing the world is often transportation. You can reduce hotel costs by staying in hostels, but a flight from Canada to Europe will still be expensive.
The key to credit card travel is being smart with your spending and having travel flexibility. Having multiple travel credit cards that maximize points in different spending categories will allow you to accumulate thousands of points quickly by using the right card for the right purchases.
When it comes to travel, look for off-peak travel windows where the cost of points is low. This is just a fundamental trick to make those accumulated points go further.
Read more about travel hacking
2. 24-hour cancellation policy
It used to be that if you booked a flight, you were locked in. Refund policies were non-existent, and any attempt to get a refund on a flight would result in hours on an automated phone line going nowhere. That all changed when legacy airlines began implementing a 24-hour full refund policy.
This policy is precisely what it sounds like. If you cancel within 24 hours of booking, you will either receive a refund on your credit card, or your transaction will be cancelled.
This means that if you spend some time playing on flight booking apps and a deal pops up, you can book it knowing that you have a 24-hour window to see if you can get off work, have someone to look after your dogs, etc.
3. Pick a cheap destination
Not every location in the world is made the same way. The average hotel room in Geneva, Switzerland, for example, costs $268 per night. Even with the greatest will, the best research, and the ability to find the best deals, Geneva will be a tough place to travel cheaply.
While nothing is impossible in the world of learning to travel on a budget, it is undoubtedly better to start in a country where your money goes further. Cities like Wroclaw and Gdansk in Poland, Sofia in Bulgaria, and even Athens in Greece are much friendlier on the wallet.
4. Find a travel buddy
Finding someone with a similar sense of adventure isn’t always easy, but it helps when trying to travel cheaply. Every aspect of the travel experience is more affordable when done with a friend. Car rental costs are lower, gas prices are cut, and private rooms in a hostel are divided in half.
Expanding this out from a pair to a group is even more effective. A hidden cost saver with groups is that cooking and eating together is fun. Knocking down just one meal a day from eating out to eating in as a group is a massive cost saver.
5. Time your travel to the shoulder seasons
Trying to travel the world on a budget during the peak travel season for a destination is beyond challenging. Traveling in the off-season is an option, but many exciting places see much of their travel sector close down for months without a steady flow of visitors. Plus, the off-season usually coincides with the worst weather a destination experiences during the year.
Balance this out by traveling in the shoulder seasons. During these times, places are quieter without being deserted, so deals on flights and lodgings are plentiful.
6. Explore budget-friendly sites
Knowing how to get a deal might be the most challenging aspect of budget travel. Thankfully, there are any number of sites and mailing lists that make it much easier to find low-cost flights and budget-friendly accommodations.
My favorite is Scott’s Cheap Flights. This site usually sends an email daily. However, as those emails are for cheap flights based on location, the email overload is more than worth it.
Obviously, you get better deals near bigger airports, but any budget traveler that is flexible with travel dates can get plenty of mileage out of a few mailing list subscriptions with the right cheap flight companies.
7. Credit cards with travel perks
You may figure out quickly that using the right credit card is a great way to maximize your budget on a trip. One of the areas where the right card excels is when it comes to perks that you wouldn’t consider until you need them.
Look for travel-specific cards that cover you with perks like primary car rental coverage and trip delay insurance. These may not seem like budget-saving ideas, but knowing that you have coverage in a car accident will save plenty of stress and money.
- Annual fee: $150
- Interest rate on purchase: 20.99%
- Interest rate on cash advances: 22.99%
8. Don’t be stuck to one airport
It makes sense that larger airports tend to have cheaper flights. The added competition from budget carriers keeps the legacy airlines from jacking up prices at plenty of airports as you travel the world.
You may be within a quick taxi ride of one airport, but getting a train to an airport a few hours away can save you hundreds of dollars on airfare.
This is another tip where research is vital. Use booking aggregator websites that allow you to check for flights within a certain radius of your preferred departure location. You will quickly learn which airlines are cheap out of which airport, and will be able to plan your trip accordingly.
9. Learn the exchange rate
An easy way to spend way more money than you want on a trip is to not fully grasp exchange rates and associated fees. These are areas in which an app can come in handy, as there are many apps for iPhone and Android that provide real-time exchange rate information.
Regarding fees, take a credit card with you that has 0% fees on foreign transactions. One such card is the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card, as well as the Scotiabank Passport® Visa Infinite* Card.
Some cards will charge you a percentage of each purchase, creating a dollar amount that can add up if you are on a long trip through multiple countries.
Also, never travel without cash. You'll need it in case of emergencies.
- Annual fee: $120
- Interest rate on purchase: 20.99%
- Interest rate on cash advances: 22.99%
- 6 Scene+ points per dollar at partipating grocery stores
- 5 Scene+ points per dollar on food and entertainment
- 3 Scene+ points per dollar on gas, transit and streaming services
10. Decide the budget
Cheap travel means different things to different people. Whether traveling on the cheap to prove you can do it or because you have to do it, knowing your budget is an important place to start. This will help guide your choice of destination, your standard of accommodation, and everything else within your trip.
Don’t be too stingy with your budget, either. There are few things more satisfying than budgeting a certain amount for transportation between places and then beating that mark by 50%. Overbudgeting and spending less than expected only makes your next adventure closer.
Travel the world on the cheap during the trip
11. Stick to the budget
You decided your budget before your trip, so be disciplined enough to stick to it. Sure, there are plenty of cheap countries to visit, but even cheap countries have expensive cities. Heck, even affordable cities have expensive restaurants and boutique hotels.
Don’t be tempted to move away from your plan. Look for holes in the wall and hidden food gems by talking with locals and getting their feel for the area. Staying within budget is even easier if you are willing to travel a little off of the beaten path.
12. Hostels are huge
The older you get, the harder it is to justify staying in a hostel. If you are of the right age, or just the right mindset, staying in hostels is an easy way to control your trip's cost.
Hostels can be found for as little as $10 for a bed for the night. Make sure you are in a safe part of town and embrace the hostel lifestyle.
An added benefit is that hostels are great places to meet like-minded travelers and perhaps even find a travel buddy. This is perfect for when you move on to the next city.
13. Couchsurf and house sit
You would be amazed how many people are willing to give away free accommodation in their homes. Couchsurfing has been a craze since the dawn of the internet, with hosts accepting travelers into their homes to exchange experiences and life stories for a free spot on their couch, or even in an extra room.
The next step up from this is house sitting. Sites like TrustedHousitters connect owners of empty houses with travelers to fill the house while the owner is out of town.
Having someone stay in the place and feed the dogs is a cheaper and kinder option than boarding the pups. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship that is great on the wallet.
14. Join the party
One of my favorite travel experiences happened by chance. My wife and I were in Peru to visit Machu Picchu and staying in the town of Ollantaytambo.
By chance, we arrived in the town over the weekend of the biggest festival in the region. The festival included masked dancing, a giant tree trunk set on fire in the town square, and lots of beer.
We could have passed by the festiivities but instead joined right in. Instead of spending money that weekend, we just went along for the ride and had an unforgettable experience. The takeaway is that you should always look for free events where you are traveling, and never to be afraid to join the party.
15. Work your way around the world
Job skills will always be transferable. That holds true no matter what your trade or line of employment.
The caveat to this point is that different countries have different visa and working requirements. You should never try to cheat the system, but you should always be on the lookout for odd jobs and gig work to supplement your travel income while checking out a new country.
Read about places to work without a visa
16. Never turn down a chance to volunteer
Never turn down an opportunity as you never know what it will lead to. Volunteering is an excellent example of this. There are countless chances to volunteer all over the world, and most of them don’t require a specific skill set other than the willingness to work with a smile on your face.
In my time traveling abroad, I have found that kindness pays out with kindness. One volunteer gig can lead to another, which can lead to a paying job, which can lead to a whole new world of life experiences.
17. Sport your way around the world
Jobs are not the only transferable skills; common interests go a long way on this planet. I have a group of four friends who had played rugby for a couple of years in the USA.
They had a chance meeting in a game with a guy who had previously played in Australia. Six months later, the four were living on the Gold Coast, playing rugby every day and hanging out on the beach for the best part of ten months. One is still there!
They were put up in a clubhouse, given a car to drive, and explored a new part of the world thanks to nothing more than playing a sport. If you are part of a club, look for connections and leverage those into a trip you will never forget.
18. Sweet, delicious street food
Restaurants are expensive, but travelers don't want to cook all their meals when they could be experiencing new cultures through food. This is where street food shines through.
Vendors on the street and in food trucks have low overhead, so they are cheaper than restaurant options. They also usually offer authentic versions of local food and, depending on where you travel, you could get to experience items you would not find at home.
19. Pack light when you Travel the World
The cheapest tickets are offered by budget carriers. However, they charge extra for everything.
Furthermore, their additional fees are often so expensive that your extras after booking a seat, ordering food, and checking a bag could cost more than the ticket price.
One way to cut these costs immediately is to pack light. Most places you go will have a washing facility available, so keep those flights on Spirit, Ryan Air, and EasyJet as cheap as possible by taking minimal carry-on luggage and not checking a bag.
This will also let you skip baggage claim after a long flight.
20. Make money from your home
While you are off exploring the world, you may have an empty house or apartment sitting idle. Consider listing your place on Airbnb and put that property to work while you're gone.
Obviously, this will be more effective if you live in a desirable destination. However, given that this is basically a shot in the dark to earn extra money, it is more than worth it.
I live in a fairly dull part of the country, but the house next door was once rented for a month to members of the cast of The Lion King when their show came to town.
You never know who will need a house or where they will need it.
21. Local buses & trains
Taking taxis and using Uber are usually the quickest options to get around a city. That convenience, however, does come with a price.
Cabs, in particular, can be a nightmare for travelers who don’t speak the local language, as it is very easy to be scammed by an unscrupulous driver.
Avoid that issue and save money by getting around like a local. Trains, trams, and buses are much cheaper than taxis.
In addition to the savings, you will be stunned by the sights on local buses around the globe. Nothing feels more like an adventure than getting on a bus in a developing country.
22. Travel the World and Camp as much as you can
One of the best ways to save money while traveling is to take a page from the book of the good old tortoise and carry your accommodations with you. Camping is a wonderful way to see the world, especially if your trip takes you through climates that cool off at night and allow for a good night’s sleep.
Free camping resources online will take you to breathtaking views of nature that you just can’t get while staying in a hostel or hotel. Ensure that you have the appropriate supplies and make sure to leave the camp area cleaner than you found it.
23. Free tours are great
Walking tours are an amazing way to see a new city. Most places in the world have local guides offering free walking tours that will give you much more of the fun history of the place than you'd find online. I have found these tours especially useful when looking for insider tips on the best places to get delicious, healthy, local food.
The best thing about these tours is that the guides giving them are working for tips. This means you'll get a much more involved guide than on some paid tours in which they have their fee in hand before you even set out.
24. Overnight travel
This tip will be perfect for some travelers but not work at all for others. One of the biggest expenses when traveling is accommodation, specifically hotel rooms. One way to combat the need to find a cheap hotel is to make sure you do most of your traveling, especially over long distances, at night.
If you are someone who needs a climate and noise controlled area to sleep, then this won’t work. If, however, you are one of those lucky people who could catch a nap in the middle of Rio’s Carnival and still feel refreshed when you wake up, then this is the best way to maximize your money and time.
25. Don’t be in a rush
This might be one of my favorite overall budget travel tips. Many travelers try to see too much in a region in one trip.
Don’t be that person who travels to Europe and tries to see six major cities in nine days. You will see very little and you will destroy the environment in the process.
Instead, slow down. Traveling between places can be quite expensive, so why bounce around from place to place and miss out on local experiences? Settle into a destination and take day trips to local points of interest. You will learn to love places rather than just visiting them to check them off your list.
26. Avoid tourist traps
Tourist traps are real and spell immediate doom for those trying to travel on a budget. Prices are inflated in these spots, and the trinkets being sold are often produced cheaply in other countries and sold to unsuspecting tourists at massive markups.
The best way to deal with a tourist trap is to avoid it. Online forums will tell you what to avoid in a city, whether a corner of the old town that has restaurants with overpriced food, or a market that sells nothing but counterfeit handbags and electronics. Instead, find better local spots to make your money go further and help out the actual local economy.
27. Ride sharing
This includes hitchhiking, although that can be a dirty word in some parts of the world. There are many sites, including apps like Waze, which can help you find an individual or group to share a ride to your next location.
The advantage of this over hitchhiking is that you can usually vet the person you will be riding with. This makes the whole process safer, and some websites even set this up as a transaction in which you pay a small fee, or cover petrol, for the ride.
28. Use the humble bike
Bikes are an amazing way to travel on the cheap. On the lower end, there are bike sharing stations in most major cities that will allow you to rent a bike for the day and see as much of the city as possible.
I recently did this in Madison, Wisconsin, biking about 30 miles between breweries and riding around the lakes. It was a great day and cost less than $10.
At the other end of the scale, there are travelers who see the world by bike. Bikes are easy to load onto trains and even buses, so a combination of your bike and public transportation can get you around a region. This is also a great way to travel if you like to stay active and want to protect the environment.
29. Don’t overpay for a quick fix
Even the best planning, budgeting, and travel the world with diligence can be undone in an instant by making a spending decision that you later regret. Two areas to really watch out for are transportation and food.
For transportation, avoid going with the big multinational companies for car rental. They are always overpriced, and you will get better deals, often with the same companies, through aggregators like Hotwire.
For food, the issue is often a matter of convenience. The first restaurant you see becomes everything when you're hungry. This could be a huge budget blower if a cheaper, better restaurant is just around the corner.
30. Cheap is good, too cheap leads to regrets
The flip side of overpaying, and arguably the biggest issue for those traveling on a budget, is knowing when not to be too cheap. Travel is about having experiences and making memories.
Memories can certainly be made within a budget, but you should factor in experiences that you may never get the chance to have again.
If you are in Rome and the Colosseum is on your bucket list, then find a way to make it happen. Maybe you will have to stay in a hostel for a night instead of a hotel to cover the cost, but it will be more than worth it when you look back on it later on.
Frequently asked questions about travelling the world
The first step to traveling the world is deciding you want to. Start planning, save up enough money to be comfortable, find some good initial deals on transport and accommodation, then go for it. Traveling the world starts by stepping outside your front door and into the unknown.
There are plenty of jobs that allow you to travel the world. One of the best options is to teach English in other countries. This is a great way to travel because instead of taking business trips for a couple days, you will be immersed in a new culture for months. Additionally, the contacts you make could allow you to move on to a new location and keep traveling.
Traveling around the world should take as long as you want it to. Realistically, it makes sense to go to a single region for an extended time and then go from there. A complete round-the-world trip should never be done in less than a year, and should take much longer.
Travel costs are highly variable. They can be costly if you fly business class and stay in luxury hotels. If you stay in hostels, do some work-share programs, eat at street vendors, and stay away from tourist traps, you will be amazed at how far your money can take you.
The best way to make money when traveling the world is to get a legal job depending on what your visa allows. From there, you will meet people and make friends. It is that expansion of your social network that will then open up further opportunities in your travels to make money and keep traveling. Know a good opportunity when you see it, and avoid scammers to make the most of your time and money as you travel the world.