Everyone seems to have this idea that travel has to be a big, expensive hassle. It doesn’t. Not only can travel be cheap, it can often be free or almost free. All it takes is some flexibility and creativity. In the end, it will be worth every penny of the little you do spend for the enriching experiences you have and the priceless memories you make. Here are a few sites and pieces of advice to make your journey cheaper.
These dogs have mastered the art of couch surfing.
If you haven’t already, you should sign up at CouchSurfing.org. The site lets you sign up to host fellow travelers in your home, and in turn to find Couch Surfers to host you in their homes around the world. Basically, after you sign up you can select the level to which you could host a couch surfer – do you just have a couch, or a whole bedroom to spare? There’s also the option just to be available to show travelers around, if you don’t have room in your house for someone to stay. This is a good way to meet fellow travelers even if you can’t host them.
Then, when you’re traveling, you can search for CouchSurfing members in the city you want to visit. You can specify what type of accommodation you’re looking for (a bed? a couch? a spare few feet on the floor?), the gender and age of the host, and more. Then you’ll find CouchSurfing members who match your specifications, and you can get in touch with them through the site to see if they’d be willing to host you.
There’s no obligation involved – you can choose who to host and when, and you can search through potential hosts to find people you think you’ll get along with. I’ve known of some great friendships starting through connections made by couch surfing. Plus, it’s free.
WWOOF & Workaway
If you’re down to get dirty on a farm, WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is the thing for you. It’s simple – you volunteer on an organic farm of your choosing somewhere in the world, and you get housed and fed, and may even get paid a little. All you have to do is get your plane ticket.
Workaway is similar, but with a wider variety of work opportunities, not just farming. You can find hosts from all around the world at Workaway.info who are looking for volunteers in hostels, restaurants, farms, and more. Then you can volunteer in exchange for room and board, all while spending time with locals and learning more about the local culture. Some Workaway locations also offer to pay. Like WWOOF, the only thing you’ll have to pay for is transportation to your workaway location.
Learn a Useful Skill
If you’re reading this, you already have at least one useful skill: English. English teachers are in high demand in many countries around the world, especially in Asia. If you want to go somewhere and stay there for a while, consider taking an English teaching course and becoming a teacher, or just offering your services tutoring English.
For some people, the downside of this arrangement is that it usually requires a time commitment – you’ll probably have to commit to staying in one place for at least a few months. The upside is that you’ll get to know a new community well and probably make lots of friends. Teaching might help you pick up more of the local language, too!
If teaching isn’t your cup of tea, there are tons of other skills you could learn. Show up in an unknown town with carpentry skills, musical ability, or auto-mechanic know-how, and it’ll be a lot easier to find work if you need a few extra bucks for your travels.
They say it’s the journey, not the destination, that really matters. That’s especially true for you, fellow budget traveler. Why fly everywhere when you could take a scenic bus or train ride? Generally, taking busses, cars, even biking between cities is going to be a whole lot cheaper than flying, and more interesting, too.
Carpooling with other travelers that you meet or hitchhiking are also good money-saving ideas for the bolder of heart. If you’re outgoing and friendly, chances are you’ll be able to find a friendly local to give you a lift. Arranging a carpool ahead of time is generally a safer option, and there are some sites dedicated to helping travelers find rides, like Erideshare.com and Hitchhikers.org.
Sometimes hitchhiking, carpooling, and busses aren’t going to cut it, and you’ll need to fly. Flying still doesn’t have to be expensive, though. At Flyertalk.com, you’ll find forums about everything you need to know about budget flying. Fellow thrifty travelers will post deals they’ve heard of, loopholes in fare rules, and tips and tricks to get your flight tickets on the cheap. I once used some tips I found here to get a cheap flight to Mumbai, India.
Now go! Spread your wings!