Updated February 27th, 2020.
When it comes to travelling the world on a budget, ‘The Broke Backpacker’, (Will Hatton), one of the first South America Backpacker Ambassadors, knows a thing or two! He’s certainly not broke any more, thanks, no doubt, to the mindset that he laid out for us here.
At the time he wrote this article he had (in his own words) “been gallivanting around the globe like a coked-up roadrunner for nearly seven years, surviving on his wits, the kindness of strangers and a stubborn refusal to pay more than is necessary.
He’s learned that it really is possible to have incredible experiences on a shoe-string budget and today, he shall pass on seven tips to you, seven commandments from the high temple of Backpackistan which will help you to head off on the trip of a lifetime, without breaking the bank…”
Without further ado, we present you with…
The Broke Backpacker Shares His 7 Budget Travel Secrets
1. Couchsurf and Make New friends!
If you want to save money, make friends and land on your feet with a social life, Couchsurfing is the way to go! Couchsurfing is where you stay with a local in their home, often on their couch but just as often in a proper bed, for free!
You may choose to reward your host somehow (I usually bake cookies!) but the whole thing is free. Couchsurfing is an incredible idea which will help you save a load of money as well as having some experiences which you would never even know about without local knowledge.
I myself have couchsurfed all over the world; I have met amazing people and stayed in amazing places – once even sleeping for a week in a cave outside the Bedouin ruins of Petra!
2. Get a Travel Buddy!
If you have a travel buddy, everything becomes drastically cheaper. Suddenly, hostel rooms are half as much, rickshaws and taxis cost less and you can even share the odd meal.
Alternatively, simply choose THE most popular hostel you can find online; you are bound to meet loads of interesting people who will be heading in a similar direction to you.
Making new friends and sharing food in Japan
3. Travel like a local
Locals know everything – fact. They know where the best value food stalls are, the coolest bars and they know how to get around cheaply! Take local transport wherever you can – buses, trains, trams, camels – the list is endless.
In almost every country around the world, there will be some form of transport exclusively aimed at tourists – don’t buy into it. Avoid taking expensive tourist transport and instead, stick to the same buses and trains which the locals use.
I myself am a big fan of just packing my bag, hitting the road and sticking out my thumb. Hitchhiking is an amazing way to get around, it’s free, fun and you are bound to meet a whole range of interesting characters.
Back in the day, I hitched from England all the way to Morocco and then all the way through eastern Europe to Romania! More recently, I’ve been hitching in Central America… without speaking much Spanish I must admit this has been pretty challenging BUT it has still been a great experience!
A cheap, comfy (ha) and colourful chicken bus…
4. Eat Local food
From noodle vendors on the infamous Khao San Road to the Dosa Masala lads of Varanasi, local food is delicious, cheap and always available!
Try to avoid eating in expensive restaurants aimed at tourists or in international chains (do you really need to try a Thai McDonalds?), not only are these comparatively expensive but you will miss out on some of the best culture your destination has to offer – the food!
Head to the street; explore hole in the wall eateries, nacho wagons and fruit stalls! By buying local food you will save a hell of a lot of money.
Making friends with dinner
Before you book that flight, do some research on your destination. Travelling to India for a year long backpacking adventure? It would be helpful to know how to book trains in advance as it really is quite complicated!
Hitching through Eastern Europe in the dead of winter? You may be interested to know that it snows… and that hitching is pretty hard if you only speak English.
Determined to hop past Myanmar army checkpoints and get into the Shan highlands? Yeah… you’re going to want to do some research! Before I rock up somewhere new I always at least research how to get out of the airport using public transport – taxis are expensive!
Where to go next?
6. Cook your own food!
You will be surprised how cheap food can be in a local supermarket. Many hostels these days have kitchens, some of them even have really amazing kitchens, so head on down to the local supermarket, pick up a bunch of delicacies and get cooking!
I recently made a kick ass meal of chicken wings, friend plantains and rice with chocolate covered salty popcorn (seriously, just try it) for desert – the whole thing cost around $2 and I was well fed indeed!
Cooking in a hostel in India
7. Pick Up Work Abroad
I am a man of many skills. Sadly, with the exception of writing, none of them are particularly useful. I can do over thirty handstand push-ups, I’m extremely good at finding cheap flights and I’m a damn good swimmer. Unfortunately, nobody seems to want to pay me for any of these but even I have managed to find plenty of work abroad!
I’ve herded goats in Jordan, planted tomatoes in Israel, slung beers in Laos and promoted bars in a whole number of countries! If you’re friendly, approachable and own shoes, it really is very easy to get a job working abroad.
Sure, you won’t save much money but you will probably only work four hours a day and you won’t spend anything – you will be able to effectively live in a cool new town for next to nothing.
Many bar jobs include free booze, accommodation, food and a very small wage so you may even save something. Be warned; unlimited free alcohol may sound like an awesome job perk but it can get pretty deadly! Check out this recent article by Two Monkeys Travel about finding jobs abroad in South America!
Singing for a free beer in Antigua!
And there you have it my budding adventurers, follow these 7 tips and you are bound to not only save a ton of money but to have the trip of a lifetime!
This Article Was Written By: South American Ambassador Will Hatton, AKA The Broke Backpacker! Will first started backpacking over seven years prior to this article and has the dubious honour of being one of the brokest travellers you are ever likely to meet! He launched his website in August 2014 to help inspire others to quit their jobs and hit the road!