Low Budget

Proper Budget Travel

Deciding to go backpacking stands as a two-fingered gesture to the concept of luxury holiday travel. Hostels, tuk-tuks and street food help keep the budget down and the itinerary far-reaching, but a year’s travelling is still not long enough for some that seek a real life-changing experience.

How do you stretch a modest budget beyond the usual twelve months?

Budget Travel

Your attitude to travel is everything.

For the most complete experience, you must be willing to drop the tourist trail, to take your time and learn to depend on other people’s help. Also, by not taking too many expensive gadgets travelling with you, you will feel more inclined to sacrifice comfort for anti-materialism and the freedom that it brings. The type of freedom that elevates travelling to new and exciting levels.

Depending on your planned route and starting point, you may want to begin with a budget airline and get yourself onto the continent. With flights from as little as a few pounds, entering the first destination is easy and cheap. Once there, with some careful planning via sites like Rideshare – a site for organised carpooling, one option is to move around the continent by sharing lifts.

Hitchhiking from the side of the road is never completely safe, but speaking from experience, I’d say it is also one of the most freeing and rewarding experiences you can have while travelling. To share a good deed with a stranger is to connect with those around you in a very simple way, and although you can connect with people in other ways, these random acts of kindness are very special indeed to help lift the free spirit of travel specifically.

Staying at hostels can really eat into a budget, but unless you’re going to sleep rough on a regular basis – which would just constitute being a bum – you must find somewhere to rest your head at night. In guidebooks, hostel choices generally range from the cheap to the slightly flash. A new generation of ‘flashpackers’ has emerged, and consequently some hostels have renovated and added a few euros to their prices to appeal to those willing to spend a bit extra. But staying at the cheapest of the cheap needn’t be a dark experience. Chances are you’ll meet other travellers that have the same budget-conscious travel mantra as you, and whose experiences tend to come from the people they meet rather than the quality service that some seek. And while treating yourself occasionally is encouraged, travel should perhaps be enjoyed for what it is – moving outside of your comfort zone and discovering new experiences and new ways of life.


One thing is undeniable about hostel travel, you’re always going to be surrounded more often by fellow backpackers than the people of the country you’ve made the effort to visit.


Couchsurfing is a great way to enrich the travel experience. Contacting local people on the Couchsurfing website and arranging a time and place to meet will enable you not only to get in touch with the locals, but will also allow you to stay at their home for free, to see how the locals live. As a backpacker, receiving anything for free is forever preferable than having to pay. I personally stayed the longest amount of time in one location on my last trip when I slept at the apartment of a Couchsurfing host in Kunming, China. The combination of free accommodation, new friendship and a great social experience made that part of the trip especially unforgettable.

The level of hospitality ranges from welcoming to the absolute city guide experience. Certain people feel so proud of their town, city or village that they offer to escort you around as a personal guide, bring you into their own circle of friends and even, in some cases, feed you as well. The rules of Couchsurfing state that only the stay itself should be assumed to be free; anything else is a bonus.

The advantage of having a local friend should not be discounted either. For instance, maybe they could help you find casual work if you need it, or recommend good cheap places to eat, free sights, or might even offer to book activities for you at an occasionally cheaper local rate. Couchsurfing has so many benefits for the budget traveller, especially those that have the time to follow the route of available hosts (of which there are many) rather than a rigid route of his or her own; it will make the trip both unpredictable and hugely rewarding.

For those people that do want to stop and work for a period of time, but do not necessarily have the correct visa acquired, Help Exchange serves as a perfect way to limit spending. In a typical Help Exchange arrangement, you – the volunteer, work an average of 4-5 hours a day in exchange for free accommodation and three meals a day. The nature of the work depends on the individual requirements of the host. It may be general house or garden work, farm work, hostel reception duties, but in most cases it is simply a home owner who needs an extra pair of hands on whatever project they have going on on their land at the time. Help Exchange is available in most Western countries, but also has a small presence anywhere from Fiji to Nicaragua. It serves as a great way of combining local-living with money saving. You can expect a wealth of knowledge on the local area from your hosts too, and there’s always time for day trips.

Working Abroad For A Room

If you do decide to undertake real budget travel, go with an open mind. Perhaps above all, be giving of yourself and don’t make any concrete plans – you may discover new things that are really important to you and change the path of your life for good.