Long-term traveling on the cheap can be difficult. It requires a degree of dedication to the mindset that you will at all times maximize the bang for your buck, and make decisions based on the best ways of managing your funds. All too often, it’s easy to seek out comforts and luxuries that give short-term satisfaction but cut into your budget for later. While we’re all for enjoying everything and not being afraid to shell out a little cash for once-in-a-lifetime unique experiences, here are some of our top tips for the traveler that wants to live a little more frugally:
1. Live like a local
The cost of living in many parts of the world is only a fraction of what we pay every day in the West. Adopting local habits such as eating street food, walking or biking rather than taking taxis, riding public buses and lower-class trains for long-distance travel, and so on are easy ways to save money. They also allow you to see things from an entirely different perspective. Stop being a tourist holding a camera trying to capture the way locals live, and experience a little bit of it firsthand instead.
2. Fly smart
While air travel is much cheaper than it once was, for most it’s still the largest expense on a trip by far. Start looking at fares as far in advance as possible so that you’re on top of their fluctuations and trends. Using (but not relying on) flight aggregator sites like SkyScanner will give you an idea of some of the top airlines’ prices, but many companies opt out of these searches and force you to go through their websites individually. The best deals are generally found about two months before an international flight, though exceptions of course exist.
3. Save on accommodation
After the flight, finding a place to sleep at night is generally the most expensive component of long-term travel. Cheap hostels and family-run guesthouses are a great start, and will give you an insight into both the backpacker scene and the hospitality of locals that have opened tourism-related businesses. However, you can make your travel money go further by taking advantages of services like Couchsurfing or AirBnB. Once again, in addition to saving a sizeable portion of your budget, you’ll also get to have many genuine human interactions with locals that transcend the normal superficial level that most backpackers interact at.
4. Use your resources
While blazing your own trail offers potentially unlimited freedom, utilizing the research of others that have come before is a great way to learn what things should cost (especially in areas where locals are known for taking financial advantage of foreigners that don’t understand exchange rates or the cost of living), where the best deals are to be found, and how to efficiently go from place to place. Whether you get your information from a guide book, a website, or the advice of a personal friend, you’ll always save money if you go into the trip better prepared.