Budget travel: How to travel the world on a low budget

June 08, 2019

When it comes to travel budget most of us think about waiting for months, lots of planning, dozens of tourist destination and a clear picture of what should be visited. There is an activity for every single day and a constant need to "check off" the things of the travel list.

Thankfully, I'm not so much into that. I have a better idea. Instead of planning how it should be - I just live the way I want. It means always living on the road, combining living and travel at the same time.

First of all, nothing comes for free. Even though we all want to travel our planet for very cheap, still spending money is inevitable. There are some expenses there and there that simply cannot be taken out of the picture. Some expenses might be unplanned too.

Before hitting the road, the best thing is to set yourself an upper limit of spendings each month to avoid running out of money. Nobody wants to run out of money in the middle of the trip.

Okay, once we are clear about the concept of budget travel, let's discuss the available options for budget travel.


This seems like a viable option, however most of the people don't consider it from the beginning. There are plenty of resources to start from, for example volunteer platforms like worldpackers.com or workaway.info. Both have pros and cons, but it's definitely an option to consider.

The main problem with volunteering is that while it provides you with a place to stay, unfortunately it means that you have less time for your online remote work, so you should take it in consideration.

Another problem is that most of the time you will be sharing a room with someone while volunteering, but it can also be the case where you get your own private room.

Other than that, you get a consistent place to sleep without spending your money by exchanging some portion of your day towards some volunteer-based activities. Not bad at all.

Price range: Free, excluding the price of volunteer memberships.



Airbnb flat in Budapest, Hungary

Airbnb became my favorite option for a long-term travel. It usually gets you a better comfort level that hostels because you get your own room (but shared rooms are also an option) at least, as well as you can get your own apartment with a kitchen and what especially useful to a long term traveler - a washing machine.

I think that it's the best way to live somewhere long-term, e.g month or more.

Price range: 15$ to infinity



A view in a typical hostel

Hostels were, are and always will be one of the least comfortable, but at the same time one of the best "last minute" budget option. When I'm not planning much and have not enough time then I check out the hostels.

It's not bad for a day or two, but living with many people for a long time will most likely put a toll on you. I personally recommend checking the reviews before booking a hostel bunk bed. Frequently the hostel reviews tell you more about the level of comfort you are going to experience.

After all, nobody stops you from booking a few nights in a hostels and then taking a break by booking a hotel or Airbnb and then resuming the hostel hunt again. There are always options available!

Also, keep in mind that some hostels allow booking private rooms. This is basically best of both worlds - you are getting a private room to sleep and saving money, right? Well, unfortunately in my experience those private rooms usually compete with hotels already, so it's not always a budget option.

Price range: 7$ to 50$ for a bunk bed. That's what I observed mostly



Van camping in California

Camping is my favorite way of budget travel, especially if you have your own equipment with you and that level of comfort suits you. I prefer to camp in my car and loved every single camping experience that I had.

The only problem with camping is that usually those places are located outside of the city and getting to a city center might be problematic. For that reason, camping is not a best option for city dwellers.

Price range: Free to 100$+. Yes, I saw camping for 100$ and more (hint: Check out San Francisco Bay Area campgrounds)

Hotels in cheaper areas

Hotels are not always the most expensive and out of budget option. Sometimes a proper research may lead you to a places outside of the city center where hotels are more affordable and usually include some additional amenities - breakfast, for example.

Research wisely and decide for yourself if staying in a hotel somewhere outside of a main tourist area is worth it. You might be saving money, but wasting time on driving or taking a public transit to the city center.

Price range: 30$ to infinity

Considerations for budget travel

No matter what type of accommodation you have decided to choose, there is always a formula that makes travel cheaper.

Want to know the formula? Simply calculate the amount of money per day you are comfortable spending including everything, including:

  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Drinks (yes, coffee and wine especially!)
  • Entrance tickets
  • Transportation expenses
  • All other expenses

This formula would not be complete without those additional rules:

  • Mix hotels and hostels the way you want, optimizing your travel budget the way you want
  • Travel on a weekdays preferably, avoid holidays as they price go considerably up on those days
  • If you travel between cities, you can also combine lodging and trains/buses by taking transportation at night. Best of both worlds!

Come up with an amount of money that you are fine spending daily and stick to that plan. For me personally that amount is approximately 40 - 50$ a day. 25$ for accommodation and 15 - 20$ for food.

Honestly, that amount looks frugal only in Western countries, everywhere else it's quite possible to live comfortably on that much money. I try to spend no more than 1200 - 1300$ a month including everything. Your milage may vary.

And the most important thing to remember is that the more comfort you have, the less time you will be on the road. If you want to travel more - have a budget planned ahead.


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Written by Dmitry Yarygin Test Engineer and a Digital Nomad.
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