Learn how to travel the world for free!
Do you dream of traveling long term, but your budget is really tight? Here’s all you need to know to travel longer and better on a budget!
Ok guys, you asked me for it – I wrote it!
A super comprehensive guide of my tricks and tips for long term travel on a super limited budget.
I get daily doses of emails and messages from people asking me: “But how do you manage to travel for so long?”, “where is your money coming from?”, “I would like to travel like you, but I have no money, can you help me?”.
Well, sit tight and grab a coffee, because this is a long article filled with insights, long term traveling on a budget is an art!!
First of all, I live lightly, ALWAYS! I don’t spend money on things I don’t need and whenever I’m tempted to buy something I always ask myself first: “Do I prefer to have this or do I prefer to add this money to my savings for my next trip?”, depending on the priorities, I know if I need that thing or I don’t.
I WORK WHILE I TRAVEL
As you might know from previous posts, I’ve been an Au-pair and this is how I started traveling long term. I was 18, just finished senior high and had absolutely no money. I didn’t even have a bank account. Here’s my complete guide to becoming an au-pair.
So I worked my way around and moved to London, one of the most expensive European cities. I got paid to live there and I worked part time doing childcare. When things went sour with my horrible host family, I signed in for another Au-pair gig in the USA, where I lived for a whole year and earned around 6.000 dollars, back in the year 2000. That money lasted for years.
This year, I decided to spend the winter somewhere new, so I headed to Switzerland.
I was an Au-pair in Switzerland and managed to live at one of the world’s most expensive cities and get fully paid to do so. I earned 400€ a month, absolutely all expenses covered, including my airplane ticket.
Although my time as an Au-pair is over, I strongly advise you to give it a try. You won’t just travel for free, but you’re going to get paid for it! For me personally, this is the best trick to travel long term on a budget.
YOU CAN TEACH ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
The most profitable way to travel long term, is by teaching English as a foreign language. If you speak perfect English or you’re a native speaker (lucky you!) you can easily find jobs and make seriously good money. For all the info you need, check out my friends Nick and Dariece’s amazing guide to teach English as a foreign language.
WORK AT SUMMER CAMPS AND TRAVEL THE WORLD
Summer camps can be a great opportunity for you to travel to the States and have all your expenses met. Every summer hundreds of American summer camps fill up with children wanting to have a great time. Summer camps are quite popular in the States and some of them hire young foreigners, who want to have a taste of America, meet people from all walks of life in exchange for daily activities with kids. You won’t make a fortune and you might not be able to save much, but you’ll be paid and have zero expenses.
After the summer camps are over,, you have the opportunity to travel all over the United States with the money you made. You’ll probably team up with other people you’ve met at the camp so You won’t be on your own.
I wanted to do summer camps after my Au-pair experience, but my expenses wouldn’t be all covered from Portugal, where I was living at the time, so I ended up not going for it, but I truly think this could be a wonderful experience.
WORK IN CRUISE SHIPS AND SAIL THE WORLD
This is hard work and you’ll be living with the people you work with, chich is not always easy, specially if you don’t like or don’t get along with someone. But it’s a great opportunity to travel and making good money at the same time. Your ability to have time off when the ship arrives at a certain port, depdents on your type of job and duties. If you’re in the cleaning department, you might have to work, but if you’re working with other departments like entertainment, massage, hairdresser, etc, you might have time off.
Every year many cruise lines around the world recruit people from all walks of life. If you want to sail across the world, get a CV ready and check for hiring dates.
Make a google search and check which cruise lines fit you better, which routes you’d like to do and who’s recruiting. There are also forums where you can ask questions to people who work or have worked aboard cruises. Good Luck!
BECOME A TOUR GUIDE OR TOUR LEADER
Are you extrovert, communicative and have patience to deal with people all day long?
Well, I believe being a tour guide or tour leader can be one of the best ways of exploring the world, get paid and have no expenses. You might get to experience things you wouldn’t otherwise. You’ll meet people from all over the world and live a wonderful adventure.
Some tour companies specialize in adventure travel, budget travel, spring break type of travel…. you’ll find something that relates to you if you search for it.
Contracts usually last for a year or more, so you’ll have to be a very available person with to attachments, no pets, no wife/husband (unless you don’t want to see them more than once a year! hehe). This is easy for the early 20’s, but more complicated for the older folks. I think it’s a chance you could grab if you’re totally free.
Some tour companies who are always hiring:
WORK AT HOSTELS AROUND THE WORLD
This is nothing new, right? Lots of young travelers work on youth hostels in exchange for accommodation, so they save some money while they’re on the road. You have to see if this is a good deal for you or not. I have strong mix feelings about it.
I believe people should be compensated for their work, ALWAYS! In this scenario, we have a business that is profiting on a daily basis, while saving money with their work force. In a way, I see this as slavery. You’ll be working and sometimes, full time, which can be quite frustrating as you see other travelers having fun.
If a hostel can have unlimited free workers, they won’t be providing jobs for the locals, and if this is happening in a country with a high unemployment rate, like Greece or Spain, it feels quite unethical to me.
You have to see what is best for you and the situations as a whole. Maybe you’ll make more money if you work back on your home country for a bit, and then have total freedom to enjoy your destination.
FIND TEMPORARY AGRICULTURAL JOBS
I’ve done this one as well. I’ve picked up grapes in France for 3 weeks and then I had money to travel for a year (on a super low budget, not luxury traveling for sure!). Besides the usual payment, bosses are required LEGALLY to give you a free daily quota of good quality wine
Usually the money is great and the work is temporary. The pay per hour in France is over 8.5€, not bad! You’ll meet other people from all over the world, usually travelers who are also gathering some cash together and you usually get a free place to stay and wine. Everyone I know and who did grape picking in France said the job was super easy, relaxed and fun. I must have been a very unlucky person, because I really struggled and the bosses were assholes, who tried to fool us with money and the wine quota they are legally required to ofer.
I haven’t repeated this experience, but many friends go to France every year specially for this. Australia and New Zealand usually need temporary workers in these fields, check out info about work holidays in Australia and New Zealand.
Check out for forums online, you might get contacts. I just drove around the country side of France and asked the farmers, if they needed workers.
WORK AT TULIP FARMS IN HOLLAND
Unfortunately I couldn’t find any info about this one online, but I know every year, people go to Holland to pick up tulip flowers and get really great money for it. Do a few google searches, talk to people and try to find out about it!
EUROPEAN VOLUNTEER WORK
Have you ever heard about the EVS program? EVS stands for European Volunteer Support and this program sends young people aged between 18-30 years old to participate in all sorts of volunteer work across Europe. The costs of the flights are covered, as well as all expenses. You can chose a wide variety of projects in different countries. Check out the official website for more info: www.europeanvoluntaryservice.com/
YOU CAN WORK EXCHANGE WHILE TRAVELING
Another strategy I’ve used to keep my long term travel adventures, was doing work-exchange. This however, is not my favorite way of traveling because of how much time consuming it is, in most times for very little in return.
I was a volunteer in Thailand for 17 days. I didn’t do it for the money, but as a cultural experience. What I found out is that most hosts are actually making a business out of it, charging for money (which is 100% against the rules) or refusing to offer food. Do I really want to work for free and have nothing in exchange other than a bunk bed? Hmmmm, not me, unless the experience would be absolutely out of this world.
Volunteers have to value their time and work. By accepting anything, they’re lowering the value of our work, making it impossible to find a good deal.
There is a free new website called Volunteer Base where you can find hosts and projects around the world. In case things go wrong with your hosts, as it went with mine, you have nothing to lose.
But I have to be really honest, I prefer not working and have lots of free time when I’m traveling, so after seeing a couple of friends living for free around the world, I’m now becoming a house & petsitter too and Travel the world with no accommodation costs. But more about that in detail later on…
SHARING TRAVEL COSTS IS THE BEST WAY TO CUT TRAVEL EXPENSES
Many people I know hitchhike in order to save money, have a great adventure and meet new people. I did a bit of hitchhiking back in the day, but I confess waiting for rides is not my cup of tea! Carpooling or ride-share can be a great option, specially for solo female travelers and for people who hate flying. If you have a car, just post an add searching for people to share the expenses with. If you need a ride, scoop through the ads and write whoever is doing your route. Bla Bla car is a good one.
TEAM UP WITH TRAVEL BUDDIES
Other option is to check out the Couchsurfing webpage and see if someone wants to team up as a travel buddy. Although traveling alone is (in my opinion) the most empowering experience in the world, traveling with a buddy or a group it’s generally cheaper, since you can share both transportation and accommodation expenses. If you pay for a hotel room (not per person) it gets 50% cheaper.
TRAVEL OFF SEASON – THE BEST BUDGET VACATIONS TRICK
A good old one and always high on my list. I only travel off season – you can check my 6 month trip to India where I spent 600€ only – that’s it!Prices for accommodation and flights can drop as much as 50%. In most cases you’ll be avoiding the crowds and you can have the beach for yourself! I search for a cool destination within my budget limits off season only.
If you are a long term traveler who likes to settle in one place for a long period of time, you can negotiate hotel rates and drop them even lower.
BEST PLACES TO TRAVEL ON A BUDGET
What is your budget limit? What are you searching for – exotic. relaxing or adventure?
Make sure you know what you want to experience first and then start searching for your destination, be flexible! South East Asia, as well as India and Nepal are some of the cheapest place in the world for long term traveling. If you want to explore Europe, head to Eastern Europe and if you’re after something exotic but not too far from Europe, go to Morocco. Once you’re there, your money will last forever!
If you can’t fly there, then be really adventurous and check out all flying companies in search for the best deals, no matter what the destination is. Choose the cheapest destination and go for the adventure of unpredictability!
AVOID DIRECT FLIGHTS!
This is one of my favorite tricks! I rarely fly directly to my destination. Usually, direct flights are more expensive and you might be missing the chance to visit another country for free on the way there.
Yes, that’s what I did when flying to Thailand, I had a 24 hour layover in Istanbul on my way there and a 48 hour on the way back. I never even thought about visiting Turkey, but the cheapest flight had a layover there, so I extended my stay for free! I payed nothing to fly to Turkey, a perk that saved me a few hundred $$ if I would have decided to visit it another time.
A couple of months ago, I flew to Greece with a 3 day layover in Rome – Italy! Now, i’m heading to the Philippine, the cheapest route I found, had 2 layover; 1 in Bulgaria and 1 in Dubai. Great! I’m staying 5 days in Bulgaria and 1 night in Dubai! I get to explore these 2 destinations for free, because I’d have to pass by anyways, so why not extend the visit in a couple of days?!
USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION ONLY
Buses, trains, trams and other forms of public transportation, will always be cheaper than renting a car or taking a taxi. It’s also a great way to experience the culture and meet people.
The very best option to travel the world without having to pay for hostels or hotels is to become a housesitter or petsitter. I love animals and have been a foster family for many years, so being a pettsitter is actually a pleasure for me. There are houses and apartments worldwide waiting for a sitter: from the most expensive European cities, to the most exotic places like the Caribbean Islands. Since I don’t like to spend money while traveling, I just signed up with Trusted Housesitters, the biggest housesitting and petssitting website. It cost me €65.88 for a year membership (the price of a hotel night) and I can sign as many housesitting gigs as I want, wherever I want. I signed with them HERE
Couchsurfing is also a wonderful option, with the down side that you can usually stay with a host for 3 days only. So Cs is great for very short stays whereas Trusted Housesitters have longer term opportunities.
HOW TO GET FREE FOOD
There are several ways in which you can get free food. Trust me, it’s not hard, I spent years without buying much food.
- Visit the local markets before they close and ask the vendors for fruits and veggies they’re about to throw away. They’re usually very generous and will give you lots, of free food!
- Most bakeries, pizzerias will throw away everything they couldn’t sell that day Ask them for the left overs. This strategy won’t work with big food chains, but with small family business.
- Exchange favors! I had a neighbor in Spain who owned a take-away business. One day she approached me and asked if I’d like free food in exchange for window cleaning once in a while. This was a wonderful deal! She saved lot’s of fresh food for me on a daily basis and I cleaned her window 1 every 15 days or so. It took me about 15 minutes to do the windows and it was a great way to live without paying for food.
When I travel I only eat local foods.
And I’m vegan which means, my food will always be cheaper than if I’d eat meat dishes. Maybe you should consider trying to go vegan!
EXPLORE FREE ATTRACTIONS FIRST
Why spending tons of money on museums or certain monuments right away? First try to explore everything there is on offer for free. You might be surprised! Also, many European countries offer free museum visits for free on Sunday morning, so make a good google search before paying for tickets.
BUDGET EUROPE TRAVEL
In Europe, I basically only travel by van. Ok, you might say: but I don’t have a van like you do!
Well, I also didn’t have my van before I bought it!
Now seriously, this was the BEST financial investment I’ve ever done throughout my traveling life. It was not easy, I worked 12 hour shifts, 2 jobs simultaneously, from Sunday to Sunday, no day off for 4 months. I lived at a friends living room, so I didn’t pay rent and cut seriously on food expenses. It was a bit crazy, but I managed to buy my second hand van really fast and later transformed into a mobile home. I’ve lived in my van for extended periods of time and loved it.
I can tell you I never paid for a hotel or a restaurant in Europe. I can cook in my van, sleep in the van and wake up wherever I want at my own pace. I can share fuel expenses and gather free food from the bakeries and stores along the way. How much money have I been saving so far? Thousands of $$$! Seriously, thousands of $$!
Are SQUATTS free hotels?
Please, don’t go around searching for squatts, like some ignorant people advise on travel forums. Squatts are HOMES, NOT free hotels! It’s not only disrespectful but seriously annoying. Be mindful that squatts are NOT free accommodation and people living in Squatts don’t usually live for free. Most people pay for the bills in order to gain rights, spend hundreds of Euros in Lawyers to protect them and don’t want to be disturbed by strangers passing by or find their addresses in Travel forums.
If you don’t go around knocking on random people’s doors asking for a free bed, why the heck should you do that on squatts?
Wow, if you made it to the end of this article! Hope these tips were helpful!
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