Travel on a shoestring

Over the past few years, I have been very lucky with my travels but money is always a worry. I have generally tended to go away for less time than I could afford to so that its not as much of a concern but that does mean I get less time away.

Travelling on a budget is more than doable. Where there is a will there is a way. You just need a plan and to stick to it.

Hostels are cheap and you meet some amazing people. Markets provide low cost, local cuisine -if you’re ever worried about food poisoning, you can always just lay off the meat and go for the busiest stalls. Public transport is not expensive everywhere and you can get good deals on flights if you know where to look (I use Ryanair and STA- both of which do good sales). Then there’s places like Southeast Asia where you can exist day-to-day on very little, you just have to fork out for flights.

Here are my tips:

#1. Free walking tours
These were something I discovered over the summer: in Prague and Berlin. Technically they are free but the idea is that they work on tips. This means that they are available no matter what your budget is; you just pay what you can and what you think it was worth. Basically, you meet your guide at a prearranged location and they take a group of you around for a few hours, giving you the history of the things you are seeing. Not only do you get to see a lot of landmarks but you learn as well. I usually gave around £5- which may not sound like much but when you’re in a large group, it does mount up.

#2. Hostel kitchens
Often, your hostel will have a kitchen, complete with utensils, for your use. In some countries, you may find that eating out costs the same as eating in, but in places where food is expensive you can save a lot by cooking yourself. Make sure to plan your meals before you go food shopping and you can use the same ingredients for lots of different things (ideas here). If you cook a lot and pop leftovers in the fridge, you’ll also have lunch for the following day. In New Zealand and Australia, where we were constantly hopping between cities and hostels, everyone invested in cool-bags. The hostel fridges were generally giant here so they always seemed to fit! This meant you didn’t have to waste your food. Trying the local cuisine is a must in whatever country you’re in, but when you have to source three meals a day for an extended period of time, you can do the best of both.

#3. Just walk around!
Tourist maps are generally available from your hostel or a nearby tourist information centre. Sit down and plan a route and you can often forgo public transport and get everywhere on foot. This is also a great way of seeing the place you are in. Places like Prague and Paris have such amazing architecture that walking around the streets feels like an activity in itself. The same can be said for Berlin’s street art. Just a note: be careful. If you are somewhere hot, make sure you have lots of bottled water on you, dehydration can make you feel awful and I did get wiped out for a few days once after making this mistake. In countries where you cannot drink tap water, bottled water is not expensive so this is not an area to try and save money.

#4. Research tourist attractions
Some tourist attractions do have a tourism price tag, but sometimes the ones you expect to be pricey are not as bad as you think. London’s museums and galleries have free entry. Paris does great discounts for under-25 EU members. My student card has been accepted in Germany (you can buy an internationally recognised student card if you don’t want to risk yours not getting accepted). You can also sometimes get combo-tickets. In London, you can get them for the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, London Dungeon or the aquarium. In Sydney, you could get them for Sydney Tower, Wildlife World and the aquarium. Some attractions, like Notre Dame or Sacre Coeur in Paris, are partially free. Alternatively, you can see them, take a photo and you don’t have to go in!

#5. Organise in advance
I’m awful for leaving things to the last minute. In Australia and New Zealand, I was used to turning up on the day and booking into a hostel. But when I tried to do the same in Berlin, the cheaper options had been booked and I had to continually move around because nowhere seemed to have more than two nights free at a time. I booked a hostel for my upcoming trip to Venice a week in advance and was seriously limited in choice. The same can be said for transport. I’d decided to go to Paris quite a way in advance but didn’t book a coach until much closer to the time. By this point, it was far more expensive and not really worth not getting the Eurostar.

#6. Look for deals
I’ve already talked about this a bit when it comes to sightseeing and flights, but it also applies to hostels. Base Hostels in Australia and New Zealand do a deal where you can buy a voucher for a set amount of nights at a discounted rate. You weren’t tied down to any dates so if you turned up in a place, found a Base Hostel and they had enough room for you, then you could book in. I’m sure other places may have similar schemes. Deals can also make public transport easier if walking is just not an option. In Berlin, I bought a month’s pass for the U-Bahn (subway/tube/underground), for between 60-70 Euros. I was using it at least twice a day, usually more, so I saved a fortune. The position of my Venice hostel means that we’ll have to get a boat to go anywhere which is worrying money-wise but it looks as though a pass for the three days we are there will be about the same as if we were getting the ferry twice a day. Having the pass will mean we can come and go without worrying.

#7. Guided tours
Booking onto a tour has its pros and cons cost-wise. On the one hand, doing it alone may be cheaper, but on the other you can have all your transport and accommodation covered and then you just have to make sure you have money for food and activities, so you do have less to worry about. You do need to read the fine print, there can be ‘optional extras’ that in reality are not that optional but sometimes these can turn out to be fantastic and you’ll be glad you did them.

#8. Don’t just eat anywhere
Restaurants in touristy areas can be reasonably priced and serve good food but they can also be the opposite. Spend a little time walking around or alternatively, ask some of the locals or your fellow travellers where they have found. In Prague, we asked our free-walking-tour-guide, and he took us to the place he was heading to, where we found plates of cheap, soupy goulash and dumplings. We had our local cuisine at a reasonable rate. Food does not have to be expensive. Also, depending where you are, tourists and backpackers are not the same thing. In Byron Bay, we found a backpacker restaurant bar called Cheeky Monkey’s. Australia is not known for being cheap but here, if you got there before the menu ran out, you could get a plate of food for around $5 (AUD). And that’s just one example. In a bar in Taupo, New Zealand, the night we were there, they were doing a deal where you got free pizza with your drink. I mean, you had to share but if you were in a small group, that was dinner!

No doubt there will be a part two when I think of more! Hope these help and Happy Travels! 


6 thoughts on “Travel on a shoestring

  1. The discovery of free walking tours has been an absolute god-send! I always do them on the first day to get a sense of the place. Definitely a shoe-string essential.


    1. Agreed! I did one on my second day in Venice over the weekend but I wish we’d done it on the first day as our guide had some many handy tips on places to go and we didn’t have time to go to them all!


  2. When I travel with friends we alway get a loaf of bread and pb&j. That will basic cover two people for breakfast and lunch for 5 days, with some snacks added in, and depending if the country has that available of course


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