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How to travel on a budget

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Travelling isn’t just for people with lots of disposable income. With a little bit of know-how, even those on a tight budget can visit incredible destinations and still come home with a wealth of amazing memories.

Here are 8 tips on how to travel cheap and still get the best experiences overseas.

Travel to More Affordable Countries

There’s a few benefits to getting off the beaten trail – and making your money go further is a big one. For instance, Western Europe can be quite expensive due to the high cost of items and exchange rate. But in Eastern Europe, the exchange rate will help stretch your budget further.

You can also live on approximately $25 a day around Southeast Asia, Central America and India and still see most of the main attractions.

Travelling to more affordable countries means you can spend more on cool and unusual experiences and stay on the road longer.

Vietnam travel on a budget experiences

Travel in the Off Season

If you’ve ever tried to book plane tickets to Bali at Christmas, you’ll know that prices in peak season can skyrocket. Accommodation, transport, activities – all of these have a premium cost when the crowds are buzzing.

A great way to save money is to travel in the off-season. You can usually get better deals for big expenses like accommodation, and as a huge bonus, many popular destinations are much quieter, meaning you can have a more relaxed and intimate time in the country.

Sure, you might experience less than perfect weather, but it’s a small price to pay in order to have some of the world’s best cities all to yourself.

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Fly in the shoulder season for great deals on flights.

Join the Free City Walking Tours

Many major cities around the world offer free walking tours (often run by enthusiastic local volunteers) to give you the perfect introduction to a new destination.

These are a great way to discover a city, learn about its history and meet awesome people as well. Take advantage of having a local guide and ask them for their insider tips, favourite bars and restaurants, and places not to miss that may be off the tourist trail. While the walking tours are free, it’s still customary to tip your guide. Bring a little cash to say thanks.

Vietnam travel on a budget Walking tour
Walking tours are an inexpensive way to explore the city you're in.

Stay With a Local

There is no better way to get to know a place than letting a local show you around. But how do you do that without hiring a guide? Try staying with one!

Couchsurfing is a community website where people offer their couches, spare rooms or spaces to travellers to stay for free. You create a public profile, verify your identity, and then you can start hosting or surfing around the world. It might seem odd at first, but this concept has been around for years. Most people that offer places are travellers themselves.

We’ve used it all over the world, and it isn’t just about getting ‘free accommodation’. You get to spend good quality time with a local. Our first Couchsurfing experience was in Halifax in Canada, and what was meant to be a one-night stay turned into 7 nights, filled with hiking, cliff diving, days spent at the beach, and just getting to know our host. In fact, 9 years later, he is still a good friend of ours.

If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, we recommend AirBnB. It’s often cheaper than hotels, especially if you stay somewhere for a week or more, and depending on your booking you might end up sharing the space with the owner anyway. Much more personal than staying in a hostel or guesthouse, and often leads to much more memorable experiences.

Vietnam travel on a budget stay with a local
Get off the expensive tourist trail with advice from the locals.

Choose Experiences Over Accommodation

Following on from the topic of accommodation, one of the best ways to make the most out of your travels is to spend your money on awesome things to do rather than fancy hotels.

For the most part all you really use your hotel room for is storage and sleeping (you’re going to be out hiking and sightseeing all day, right?). So why fork out hundreds of dollars for the nicest hotel in town, when you can get something much more affordable and have money left over to do something epic?

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Save your pennies for epic memories.

Look For Special Deal Websites

There’s a bunch of websites who specialise in good deals across activities and accommodation across the world.

In New Zealand there’s one called BookMe, where you can book big ticket activities like bungy jumping, jet boating and rafting for a fraction of the full price. We used this a lot during our recent trip to NZ, and it meant we got to do way more activities than we otherwise could have afforded.

In Australia you can use Red Balloon to do things like sky diving or climb the Harbour Bridge, and again this is often cheaper than booking directly.

Eat at the Street Markets

Eating local cuisines is one of the most important, and enjoyable, things you can do on the road. And if you’re in Asia or Latin America, the best places to delve into traditional delicacies is on the streets.

Street food markets are big business in these regions, and this is where many of the locals will go to eat. Not only is the food cheap, fresh and delicious, you’ll get a great view into local life.

Let your inhibitions down, pick a popular place with a high turnover of food, and dive into whatever it is they are selling. Grab a plastic chair, get chatting with the people, and eat the night away.

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Head to the local markets for cheaper, more authentic food.

Travel Slow

This is our absolute best tip for travelling cheap while maximising your life changing experiences.

If you want to keep your budget down, and get deeper into local life, then you need to slow down. If you’re rushing from one destination to the next you don’t have a chance to really learn about the places you are in. If you can stay somewhere for a week, or more, you’ll find the best cheap eateries, hidden parks, and might even make some friends with locals or join a couple of community projects.

Vietnam travel on a budget travel slow
Travel slow in more ways than one. Train travel will let you get from A to B and see the country in a completely different way.

Want your travels to never end? Read 7 ways to make money on the road..

Alesha and Jarryd are professional photographers, writers and the founders of Australia’s biggest adventure travel blog, NOMADasaurus. They’ve been exploring the world together since 2008, searching for culture and adventure in off the beaten path destinations.