Back in 2016, I decided to go on a backpacking adventure for an entire year. My plan included visiting countries like Australia and New Zealand, and I knew these countries were quite expensive. But yet, I left with $5000 convinced that this budget would be more than enough for an entire year of traveling. If you want to start traveling and think you need $30.000, think again because you don’t. In this post, I will show you how you can travel for an entire year for as little as $5000.
Slow travel and frugal living
The best way to travel cheaply is to travel slowly. I am a slow-traveler (even a super slow one), I haven’t seen tons of countries but yet I’ve been traveling for over 5 years straight. I’m just not the kind of person who stays in a country for 2 weeks and then leaves. I’m in no rush, and I love to explore every street of every town, discover the culture, and the people. I simply want to experience the country. That being said, if you stay at the same spot for 3, 6 or 12 months, you will get to know everything about the place and you will definitely save money. How? Well, transportation can sometimes be expensive, especially if you fly. So the less you move, the more you’ll save.
Another important thing when you travel on a tight budget is to learn to live simply. On my backpacking adventure, I kept the same clothes for an entire year, I cooked instead of eating out, and I didn’t spend money on anything material. I’m pretty sure my simple life helped me save a few hundred dollars, which means I had more money for attractions, tours, excursions, and activities so I could enjoy my travels to the fullest.
One of the best ways to save money when traveling is to get free accommodation. Honestly, free accommodation will make you save loads of cash. I think I’ve stayed in a hostel for a total of 7 nights in the whole year of 2016. Can you imagine how much money I’ve saved?! All I did was going from one Help Exchange to another.
What’s Help Exchange? well, it’s a fantastic platform that connects hosts seeking help in their house, farm, or boat with volunteers seeking free accommodation (and free food most of the time). Helpers tasks often include gardening, painting, cleaning and other odd jobs. As far as I’m concerned, I did gardening 90% of the time. Helpx is a great way to meet the locals, and you will also get to discover “secret spots” that arent’ in travel books. Most hosts will ask you to stay at least one week, sometimes more. I found that one week was a good length of time to discover the area and the people.
Your hosts will usually ask you to work in the morning, and you will have the afternoon free. However, the deal might be slightly different depending on where you go. Some people will ask you to work 8 hours a day, and in return, you will have a full day off. Be careful though, you should not be working full time! Actually, you should not work more than 20-25 hours a week. Most of the time, you will work for food and accommodation, which is good because then you do not spend a penny for weeks. However, some hosts only provide accommodation.
Having done a lot of Help Exchange, I’ve had many different experiences. Honestly, most of them were good, even great, but sometimes personalities don’t match and this can make the experience quite difficult. The most popular Help Exchange websites are Helpx and Workaway. You will have to register to be able to contact the hosts.
Help exchange is not the only trick I used to save money, In fact, I have a few unusual ways to save money when I’m traveling.
Travel to cheap countries
After 6 months in Australia, my boyfriend’s visa was coming to an end so we had to leave the country. Lucky for us, we had a little bit of money saved so we decided to book a flight to the Philippines. We chose to travel to South East Asia knowing the region has a relatively cheap cost of living. We backpacked all over countries for two months – we paid for food and accommodation the whole time. Overall, this trip is when I spent most of my money in the year 2016. I spent around $2000, all expenses and return flights to Australia included.
Going to Asia felt like a break from Helpx, and it’s an awesome experience. The best part about exploring cheap countries? you don’t have to count every penny! South East Asia is a very popular destination, especially amongst backpackers. In places like Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia, you can eat for less than $2 and sleep for less than $10. These countries are totally safe, and the culture is so different you can only enjoy the experience!
In Australia, I worked on a lemon farm where I was paid great money, and lucky for me, the rent was super low. Australia has really good wages, so it’s actually one of the best countries to go to if you want to save tons of money quickly. If you don’t want to go to Australia, that’s fine too. You can just travel to any country with decent wages and save some cash.
Working abroad has always been a great experience, and I’ve learned so much from the country, the culture and the people wherever I’ve worked. If you can get yourself a visa that allows you to work abroad (in my case I did a Working Holiday Visa), then working is a good way to save money for more travels. Technically you are still traveling – well you are abroad! – and you are making money. What more could you ask for?
Travel budget example
You might be wondering exactly how I spent my $5000. Well, I’ve made this small list to help you understand where my money went and what cost me the most during this year. Accommodation is up to $700 because when I worked at a farm in Australia, I had to pay for my accommodation. Other than that, what cost me the most was obviously the trip to Asia and transports in general.
Visa for Australia: $315
Flight to Australia: $450
Trip to Southeast Asia (food, activities, flights, accommodation): $2000
Activities in Australia: $500
Travel Insurance: $450
Other ways to save money while traveling
There are many other ways to save money while traveling. In fact, here are a few other ideas you might consider trying for your next adventure:
House sitting is becoming more and more popular. Even though I haven’t tried it yet, I’m definitely going to give it a shot in the next year or two. There are hundreds of house sittings everywhere in the world, so pick your destination and look for a housesitting job! You can check the popular TrustedHouseSitters and Nomador for more info on housesitting and a list of homes in need of a housesitter. You’ll have to pay a registration fee, but hey, think about all the money you’ll save along the way!
Couchsurfing is also a great way to save a few bucks. Basically, you stay at someone’s place for free for a night or two, sometimes longer. Hosts have reviews, so you can rely on them to choose your next Couchsurfing experience. You can have a look at the Couchsurfing website for a list of hosts.
Rent an apartment
Renting an apartment long-term in a cheap country is a fantastic way to save money. Right now, I’m writing this blog post from Turkey where why boyfriend and I have rented an apartment for the next 3 months. Renting an apartment is definitely cheaper than a nightly room rate, and you can cook for yourself which keeps your food budget down. The best part is, you have the place to yourself unlike in hotels or hostels where you have to share kitchens and/or bathrooms with other travelers.
There are countless ways to save money and travel on a budget. In fact, I’m pretty sure you read it on many other travel blogs, but I’m going to say it too: traveling isn’t that expensive. There are always ways to do things for free or for cheap. I definitely recommend to have a certain amount of savings before you go anywhere simply because it’s better to be safe than sorry, but there is little chance you will spend all of your money if you travel smart.
Please note: all prices in this post are in United States Dollars.
Are you traveling soon? Don’t forget your travel insurance!
Travel insurance is the only thing I don’t go anywhere without. Your travel insurance covers you against travel risks such as lost or stolen luggage, trip cancellation, and most importantly, unexpected medical costs abroad. I like WorldNomads because they are backed by reputable insurers, have 24h assistance providers, and are affordable. Get a quote and read the policy details to ensure that it’s right for you. For more information, read my travel insurance page.
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