People often ask me how I save for all the travelling I do. There’s no one easy answer…
Get ready for a brain dump of all the ways I save money and keep costs down while on the road – and how you can do the same!
The big one
I won’t beat about the bush – saving money on rent is the biggest contributor to my travel savings. Those tips like ‘don’t buy a coffee everyday’ kind of annoy me because a) I know they’re right and I love coffee and b) it’ll take you a long time to save for a world trip unless that’s in conjunction with a load of other bigger things!
From 2012 to 2015 I lived in my favourite city on this earth, London, and had a great job, flat and friends. I gave it all up aged 25 to move to a small town with my parents and no job lined up. Crazy, right? It was a big gamble but it was all in the name of my travel. Luckily, I quickly landed a new job at Oxford Uni which meant I could earn a good wage and have minimal outgoings – the goal. It only took me six months to save enough money to travel for a year around Asia.
So I know I’m really lucky that I have family who I can live with – saving would have been harder if I hadn’t (but not impossible). There are lots of other ways I cut back to save, too…
I don’t drive, I don’t have a car and when I hear my friends talk about petrol and insurance prices I think of the money that saves me. Of course, I’m lucky cus I’ve spent most of my life in Oxford or London where I don’t need to drive – I know in lots of other countries driving is waay more of a necessity but if you CAN save for travel without running a car, do. Around places like Asia, public transport and cheap flights will be your go-to anyway so you probably won’t need to drive!
I basically own nothing
I totally go down the experiences-not-things route. I don’t own a TV and I shop in really cheap clothes shops – and to be honest only do that a few times a year. I’ve never owned anything designer and my annual clothes expenditure is probably less than £150. My make up expenditure is less than £20 a year I’m sure!
When I travel I rarely buy souvenirs, partly because they’re a pain to lug around when you’re on the road for months but also because I’d rather have the experiences than anything physical.
I could easily put all the material items I care about into one small bag.
When I was 19 I paid a ton of money to volunteer in Ecuador. Nowadays not only can you volunteer for free you can actually get your accommodation and food covered by your hosts which is SUCH a money saver.
I did a Workaway in the Philippines where we had an apartment to live in in exchange for doing five-six hours of work a day. The work I was doing was social media and blogging for a hostel however you can get all kinds of placements including hostel work, leading bar crawls, teaching and working with animals.
Sometimes you need to actually earn money rather than just live for free. For those times
- Teach English: If you have English as a language you basically have what a whole load of people want. Take a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language course) and you’ll get paid all over the globe. South Korea and Vietnam are some of the highest paying places to work – you could get up to £2500 a month. Jeez!
- Being a tour guide looks like so much fun – you basically take people drinking and show them around and get paid for it. Loads of companies like Contiki and Busabout employ people for tours all over the world.
- Working holidays: it’s really popular to work in Australia, New Zealand and Canada on working year visas. The minimum wage in Aus is one of the highest in the world so it’s not a bad place to pick!
Like not paying rent, our biggest outgoing isn’t usually the roof over our heads. Not even going into how fun and social hostels are, they can be so cheap. In India I sometimes paid £1 for my room and in Southeast Asia I barely ever spent more than £5 a night on my accommodation and that often included Wi-Fi and breakfast.
I’ve only coach surfed once before but lots of people use it all the time. Even though it’s free, it links up with PayPal for security and there’s a reviewer system to check that the places you’re staying in have been verified by someone else.
More often than not the hosts are super friendly and want to show you around the city, too. Some friends I made in South Africa had coach surfed in Johannesburg and their hosts had introduced them to her friends and taken them on a city tour and barbeque just to make them feel welcomed!
It’s not just sofas and often hosts have spare bedrooms that they let out, too. And it’s 100% free. I’d be less inclined to try in somewhere super cheap like Asia, but in Western cities where even hostels can be £30 a night it could make a huge difference to your finances.
Choosing cheaper locations
Giving some thought to where you travel can make such a difference.
My cheapest month travelling was around India where I spent £500 on everything – accommodation, food, activities, trains, taxis and a couple of internal flights. Let’s compare that to my tour around Africa which set me back £2,600 for six weeks and didn’t include activities, or my super budget month in Australia where I lived on peanut butter sandwiches and still spent nearly £2,000.
Even within the same continent prices can vary hugely – Hong Kong and Singapore have hugely inflated costs compared to other places in Asia, and places in Eastern Europe are a fraction of the cost of the UK.
I have these apps on my phone to make sure I’m getting the best value I can!
I really like that on Skyscanner you can search ‘everywhere’ as your destination and see the cheapest flights – there will almost always be something under £20 for when you want it.
A currency converter
These are really useful, especially if you’re going between countries rapidly as it’s hard to keep adapting. The best one in my books is XE – you can switch between 10 currencies at one time and every time you go online it automatically syncs to the latest rates.
There are a million and one excuses not to the travel. It’s not for everyone. But if you do want to do it, you will find a way!
You don’t have to hitchhike and coach surf to be a traveller. Taking a week’s holiday a year or visiting a new town in your home country is just as cool. That’s what I love about travel – it’s your show and you can do however suits your style and budget.
I hope these tips have helped and inspired you to feel like travel is a possibility for you!
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