“I really want to, but I don’t have the money to travel!” is something I hear most college students say every time I ask them where they have traveled to. Granted, travel costs a lot, but with increasing services to make traveling accessible, it is very possible to travel on a budget, if done right. The real question is, where in your list of priorities does traveling lie?
"If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go" – Anthony Bourdain
Even though I have traveled all my life, it took me years to learn how to start traveling smarter. I realized how easy it is to spend not only on plane tickets but also on accommodation, food, and transportation. Not to mention, there is an entire sector of insurance for travel. But to soak a new culture in, you do not really have to be living and traveling lavishly, because anywhere you go, alternative cheaper options are available.
Since this was an issue for so many, I saw a niche and decided to create a blog dedicated to travel hacks for the broke backpacker called "Trot With Arushi." Of the many useful tips, I have gathered over the past two years of travel blogging in seven countries on a tight budget, I have come up with a list of top five tips that help you save a lot of money during travels:
1. Buy Cheap Tickets
Websites like Skyscanner, Travelocity and Expedia are solely designated to making flying across the world cheaper through partnerships with flight agencies. They can be downloaded as apps and used to update you on flight sales through cell phone notification services. These websites also show all the flights and prices available for dates you will be traveling, and that makes synthesizing information a lot easier as a viewer. I recently booked round-trip tickets to Las Vegas from Virginia for only $119 through Expedia.
2. Interact With Locals
Talking with locals not only helps understand the culture through first-hand experience but also oftentimes earns you ways to get around high tourist-rates for sightseeing spots. In India for instance, the high tourist rates are almost always avoided by those who are friends with locals who can speak in Hindi, because locals are charged less to visit the same tourist spots.
3. Cook Your Own Food
Groceries for one week can amount up to $60. That’s the same as the amount for eating out for two days consecutively. To avoid spending a ton of money on food, the best way is to plan your meals out beforehand and buy groceries instead of relying on eating out. Even those times that you do choose to eat out, it is worth eating out during lunch more so than dinner, since lunch menus are cheaper in most places.
4. Use Local Transportation
Uber and taxis are big pocket thieves, even though they create an illusion of cheap-one-time transportation. If it is New York, I’d suggest walking since streets are easy to navigate. If it is Europe, a country with a great transportation system, I’d say take buses, trains and metros. For those who aren’t big fans of public transportation, and their driving license can work internationally, it is worth renting a car, for rentals are still cheaper than taxis/Ubers.
5. Use Alternative Accommodation Services
Cost of living can be the deciding factor for many to travel. Hotels were occupied by both high-income and low-income families due to lack of other options unless you’d have family/friends abroad. Having a roof over our heads however has become the cheapest it has ever been during the past few years. This is because of new tourist-hosting websites like Airbnb, Couchsurfing and Hostels.
Airbnb and Couch Surfing is designed so that tourists could stay at a local’s house in a spare room or couch. Hostels are like dorms with a bunch of bunk beds and tourists cum strangers living collectively. In Europe in fact, it is possible to trade volunteer front-desk services for a few hours in exchange for a free stay. I did that and backpacked around Italy for less than 15€ per night.