Backpacking on a budget is one of our favourite things to do – but overspending whilst on a holiday is easier done than we’d hope.
8 tips for backpacking on a budget
If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you are planning a backpacking trip and have chosen to do it on the lower end of the spending spectrum.
Thankfully, there are plenty of tips and tricks to travel around the world without going (entirely) broke. While some people choose backpacking simply for the ease and the experience, other people choose to backpack out of necessity, as it is one of the most affordable ways to travel.
Here are our top 8 tips for backpacking on a budget to help your money go a little bit further on your journey.
1. Pick your destination accordingly
When making the decision to go backpacking on a budget, picking your destination is one of the most important factors.
Some countries (think the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) are much more expensive than others. South-East Asia, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, and Egypt are some of the more popular “cheap” destinations. Depending on the extent you want to budget, you may also want to consider what the visa requirements are for the countries you wish to visit.
Some visas can be a little pricey, so you might want to choose somewhere that either doesn’t require one or offers visas at lower costs.
2. Use cheap flight trackers
One of the best flight tracking apps is Skyscanner, as it not only allows you to search and compare, it also lets you view an entire month’s worth of prices so you can see what the cheapest dates to travel are.
Another trick is to put your browser into “Incognito Mode”. A quick Google search can teach you how to do this, and this will prevent airlines from using cookies to track your searches and bumping up the prices due to popular demand.
You can also subscribe to sites such as Secret Flights, which will send a quick email out if any airline posts a low price in error.
3. Daily budgeting
One great way to allocate funds for your backpacking trip is to come up with a daily budget.
This obviously doesn’t include pre-trip expenses such as flights, travel insurance, gear, etc., but it covers what you can spend each day on food, accommodation, transport, and – of course – fun. This number will depend on your own personal definition of “budget”, though most countries will cost backpackers an average of $25-50 USD a day.
You will have to do a bit of research to decide on what amount is realistically going to work for you, and what you will be able to get out of it.
4. Use mobile budgeting apps
There’s almost always an app for helping you to budget your travel.
Applications such as TravelSpend can help you keep track of your expenses, showing you both daily amounts and total expenditure.
Two huge benefits of TravelSpend are that you can set it to work offline and that it will also convert your purchases from local currency to your preferred one. This makes it easy to track your spending and stick to a daily budget.
Other apps, such as Splitwise, allow you to easily split up group purchases. In addition to tracking who pays what, Splitwise also incorporates PayPal and other online payment options to make payback easier.
5. Have a travel plan
When you sit down to make your travel plan, there is a quick and easy way to ensure you save some extra money – use overnight travel as a way to avoid paying for accommodation!
You can book bus or train travel that moves overnight vs. during the day, which will allow you to skip paying for a night in a hostel, hotel, or campground.
Another tip is to take a look at layover flights. Some airlines offer cheaper deals to stop for a few days in their base country (such as Iceland), as this will help put money into the local economy.
If you have a certain country you’d love to see, it’s worth checking this out as an option.
6. Local eats & treats
Eating local is not only usually the cheapest option, but it’s also more often than not the best tasting option!
Particularly in the countries of South-East Asia and South America, street food dominates when it comes to both price and flavour factor. It also allows you to try new dishes that you may not have had before, in the most authentic environment possible.
So next time you travel, look for the long line of people to find the best streatery, and grab a taste of culture.
7. Affordable accommodation
Staying in hostels is a cheap and cheerful way to backpack.
While hostels are cheaper than other options of accommodation, you can sometimes save even more money by offering to work. Working at a hostel for half a day can earn you a free bunk, and sometimes even other perks like drinks or discounts.
Other cheap ways to spend the night are camping, and even couchsurfing depending on which country you are travelling in. Just be sure to remember that safety comes first, particularly when staying at a stranger’s place.
8. Work whilst travelling
Another great way to travel on a budget is to work whilst you’re exploring exotic locations.
In addition to working at bars and hostels, which are the most popular jobs with backpackers, there are other jobs that can allow you to work and travel at the same time. These include teaching English, working as a dive instructor, working on a boat such as a cruise ship (or a yacht), doing a ski season, and even teaching yoga.
If you’re lucky enough to have the time and the skills, there are plenty of opportunities to get out there and use them to see the world.
There are many ingenious ways to budget your money while backpacking and these 8 tips are just a few of them.
When saving for your trip, you will also have to consider the costs needed for things like travel insurance and gear, which you might not want to cheap out on for obvious reasons.
One more important thing to note is that you need to pad your budget a little bit to allow for the unexpected, whether it comes in the form of an emergency, or whether it’s simply something you really want to splurge on. This will ensure you have a stress-free trip, without having to worry about finances!