How to Travel on a Budget: Ultimate Budget Travel Guide (2024)

Wondering how to travel on a budget?

You’ve come to the right place as I’m a full-time budget traveller and I’ve visited over 20 countries on a budget.

If you’ve never done it before, it can be hard to know how to travel with less money, but thankfully, there are lots of ways you can cut costs down while travelling.

From simple things like not staying in a fancy hotel, to more advanced tips like making use of travel points, there are so many things to learn about travelling on a shoestring budget.

So make sure to read all of this post as I will tell you everything you need to know before planning your first trip.

How to Travel on a Budget

When travelling, regardless of your budget, there are four main factors which will affect how much you spend. These are accommodation, transport, activities and food.

Depending on where you are in the world will affect which factor costs the most. For example, if you are visiting London on a budget, accommodation will be the largest. But if you’re in Thailand, it will likely be activities.

A picture of a young man with brown hair in front of Big Ben in London.

To understand how to travel on a budget overall, it’s important to understand ways you can save money on each factor individually. So I’ll now break down the four categories in more detail.

By the way, I’ve got lots of budget travel tips later in the post, so make sure to continue reading for those.


One of the cons of backpacking is that you have to give up lots of comforts and luxuries, and your accommodation is where most of the compromising will happen.

When travelling on a budget, you can’t afford to stay in a hotel. There’s not much room for debate there; I’ve never met a budget traveller who stays in hotels, as it’s simply not viable because they’re the most expensive form of accommodation.

Airbnbs are usually too expensive too. Depending on the country, you can sometimes find really cheap options, but personally, I much prefer hostels. There are so many benefits.

When you stay in a hostel, not only are you saving money, but you’re surrounding yourself with like-minded people. I’ve made so many friends from staying in hostels, lots of whom I still speak to on a regular basis.

A picture of a typical hostel dorm room with bunk beds. Staying in hostels is one answer to how to travel on a budget.

Hostels also help you to save money on activities and food, but I’ll speak about that in their respective sections.

Sometimes hostels have a reputation for being unsafe, but this is untrue. It’s safe to stay in a hostel 99.9% of the time.

There are so many reasons to stay in a hostel, but in this case, the money you save is the best reason. I’ve found hostels to cost as low as 5% of the price of a hotel. It’s a no-brainer!


Transport is one of the easiest ways you can cut costs while travelling. I see backpackers make so many mistakes all the time, for example when I was backpacking Copenhagen, a guy from my hostel got a taxi from the airport to the hostel.

Copenhagen is notoriously expensive, and it was such an unnecessary waste of money. The train was only 20 minutes as well!

When you’re staying somewhere, you want to walk as many places as possible. Or if it’s too far (everyone has their own definition of “too far”, mine is a 1-hour walk or more), then take public transport.

Pathway lined with lush green trees, under a cloudy sky in Washington, D.C.

Taxis are a big no-go, they’re such a money-drainer. Unless it’s an absolute necessity, like getting to the airport at 4 am or something, I avoid taxis at all costs.

For getting between destinations, for example when you’re backpacking the Banana Pancake Trail and you want to go from Krabi to Bangkok, then it’s much cheaper to get a bus or a train than it is to fly.

In my opinion, I’d rather spend an extra 5 hours travelling than spend an extra $200.

If you want to take it to the extreme, you can even try hitchhiking. Depending on what country you’re in, you might see some success or you might not. Plus, there’s no way to guarantee safety. It’s one of those things I recommend to “try at your own risk”.

To summarise, budget-friendly modes of transport: Walking, Buses, Trains, Trams, Subways, Tuk-Tuks, Rickshaws, Cycling and Hitchhiking.

Not budget-friendly modes of transport: Planes, Taxis, Ferries and Car Rentals.

Densely packed bicycles parked under a bridge in Amsterdam, with sunlight filtering through the structure above


From my experience, the biggest factor which determines a backpacker’s budget is activities. What I mean by this is that ultra shoestring backpackers will do only free activities whereas higher-budget flashpackers will do lots of paid activities.

I find the nice balance to be somewhere in the middle. So I, as an average backpacker, will do mostly free activities but I’ll sprinkle in some things which cost money every now and again.

Finding free things to do is actually easier than you’d think. All you need to do really is Google “free things to do in [insert place]” and you’ll have a ton of results.

Some common free things to do include:

  • Museums (depending on the country, some countries have an entry fee)
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Sightseeing
  • Churches, Cathedrals, Temples (again, depends on the country)
  • Parks & Gardens
  • Street markets
  • Monuments, Memorials, Statues
A picture of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

But make sure to always do your research as you never know what you’ll find. As a random example from my travels, in Basel, Switzerland, there is a free zoo you can go to.

That being said, there is one main free thing to do pretty much anywhere in the world, and that is a free walking tour. Personally, I always use FreeTour.

The name is slightly misleading as you are expected to give a tip at the end. But compare a $5 tip to the usual price for the same tour at $50 and it’s a bargain.

Hostels are another great way to find free things to do. Some hostels will run their own free walking tours for a start, but good hostels will also organise events like a pub quiz, movie night, and things like that. Not only are they free/cheap and fun, but they help you make new friends too. I always choose a hostel which organises events.

I don’t just do free activities though- I recommend treating yourself every now and again. For example, it would be a shame to visit Vietnam without taking a Ha Long Bay cruise. Even if it’s just a cheap day-tour.

There’s nothing wrong with spending money on things to do, the key to travelling on a budget is simply limiting yourself and making sure you aren’t spending $30 a day on activities.

A cascade of waterfalls amidst lush greenery, with crystal-clear turquoise waters flowing in the foreground under a bright blue sky.


Food is another easy way to save money while travelling on a budget. Just like with transport, there are places to eat which are budget-friendly and places to eat which aren’t.

When I’m backpacking, I always stay in a hostel which has a free breakfast. For an extra few dollars each night, I can actually save money long-term as I don’t have to spend money for 1/3 of my meals for the day.

At lunchtime, I usually just grab something quick. Something like a croissant from a 7-Eleven or a sausage roll from a bakery, things like that. Again, this always only costs a few dollars at most.

And at dinner time, I either eat street food, find a cheap fast food place, or make my own meals. A top tip is to always see if there are any locals eating there. If there are, then it’s not going to be overpriced and aimed at tourists. Usually, the food is better too.

A picture of a chicken noodle dish from a street food vendor.

This is where hostels again can save you money, as hostels have communal kitchens where you can make your own food. Naturally, making meals is cheaper than eating out every night. Plus, it’s probably better for you too.

I pretty much never eat in a proper sit-down restaurant. They’re simply too expensive.

As I said at the start, when you learn how to travel on a budget, you learn to compromise, but food isn’t as big of a compromise as you think. If you’re eating street food, most of the time it’s tastier than a restaurant’s meal and it’s a fraction of the price. Win-win!

Josh’s 10 General Budget Travel Tips

Budget travelling is a fine art, and it takes a lot of practice to get used to. I’ve given you specific tips for each of the four categories that affect your budget, but I have some tips which are more general and can help you travel on a budget.

There are so many things to learn, and while I’m a believer in learning on the job, these tips can help you to get started. It would be impossible to include all of my backpacking tips, but I’ve put together a range of tips from basic beginner advice to advanced ways to save money.

1. Visit Affordable Countries

The most obvious way to keep your budget at a minimum is to visit countries which are affordable. I’ve got a list later in this post with the best countries to visit on a budget.

It’s pretty self-explanatory, if things are cheaper, and you’re spending less, then you don’t need as large of a budget.

That being said, there are some countries that are more expensive but are still possible to visit on a budget as there is an extensive network of hostels, street food stalls, etc. Singapore is the best example I can think of.

2. Travel for longer

One of the best ways to travel on a budget is to travel for a longer period of time. By travelling at a slower pace, you are able to stretch your budget as you aren’t doing as many activities, you aren’t travelling between places as much, but you also don’t need as many things.

For example, if you’re visiting France for one week, you need to buy some shampoo. If you’re visiting France for one month, that one bottle of shampoo is probably going to last the whole month.

The longer you travel, the less initial expenses will impact your overall budget. Plus, I think travelling at a slower pace is better anyway as you get a more authentic feel of places rather than just visiting the tourist sights.

A picture of a young man travelling on a budget sitting on a graffiti-ed wall with a view of Porto in the background.

3. Travel in the off-season

When people ask me “how to travel on a budget?” one of the easiest tips I have is to travel when no one else is travelling.

If a country is popular to visit in summertime, visit in winter. If it’s popular in winter, visit in summer.

There are lots of benefits such as the lack of crowds and fewer touristy attractions, but of course, the main reason to visit in the off-season is because prices are lower. Supply and demand means that the less people that visit, the cheaper things will be.

Visiting in shoulder seasons is a nice middle ground if you don’t want to visit in the so-called “worst” time to visit a destination. But I’m a strong believer that there’s never a bad time to visit anywhere, destinations just offer different things at different times of year.

4. Leverage Points and Miles

Leveraging points and miles is one of the best ways to score free (or very cheap) flights.

How it works is you use credit cards that have perks such as American Express where you get points/miles every time you use the card.

Then you convert these points into flights. It’s a great way to keep your budget down, especially for international flights.

Unfortunately, this one only works best for Americans and Canadians. It is possible to do it in other countries, it’s just not as easy.

I’m from the UK, for example, and we have nowhere near as many perks with credit cards as they do in America. British Airways is the best one for us.

Virgin Atlantic airplane parked on the tarmac at dusk with dramatic clouds in the sky, viewed from the airport terminal

5. Get a local SIM card

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When you’re travelling in other countries, especially for a longer period of time, it’s so easy to rack up a huge phone bill.

An easy way to avoid that is to simply buy a local SIM card. It’s super easy to do, all you need to do is swap out your current SIM card for a local one.

It’s really cheap. For example, in Vietnam, you can find 20GB of data for like $10. It’s so much cheaper than paying extortionate fees from your current SIM card company just to use your phone abroad.

Or, if you’d prefer, you can buy an eSIM which essentially means you have a local SIM card without the physical SIM card. I recommend using Airalo.

6. Work or Volunteer

If you remember I said the four expenses you have while travelling are accommodation, transport, activities and food. Well, it’s actually possible to get 2 of those for free.

Using platforms like Worldpackers, you can do a few hours of work each day in exchange for free accommodation and free meals.

If you ask me, it’s a pretty fair trade-off and both sides benefit. They get the work done and you get to travel for much cheaper.

Most programmes leave enough time for you to do your own thing most days and at the weekends too, so you still get plenty of free time to travel properly.

But I really enjoy using Worldpackers, you make lots of good memories as well as keep your budget low.

7. Use a carry-on sized bag

Some people choose to travel on a budget with a suitcase, but I really don’t recommend it.

Firstly, it’s really inconvenient and a hassle to move from place to place. But secondly, you get charged every time you take a flight because it needs to be checked in.

Instead, I always recommend taking a backpack as hand luggage to avoid any extra airline fees. I also think it’s much easier to travel with just a backpack.

This is pretty much the single difference between being a budget traveller and being a backpacker, though most people use the terms interchangeably.

A dark blue carry-on backpack with the 'Cabinmax' logo on the front, placed on a carpeted floor against a wooden wall.
My backpack I use for shorter trips.

Plus, it means you don’t overpack. One of the biggest mistakes I see among first-time backpackers is overpacking. There aren’t many things you actually need to take to a hostel.

Before taking my first trip, someone told me: “Whatever you have packed, half it”, so I did, and I still felt like I brought too much.

It’s pretty hard to bring too little, especially since you can buy things during your trip. But it’s really easy to bring too much.

8. Take advantage of Student Discounts

If you’re under 30, this is one of the best tricks you can use to travel on a budget in my opinion.

Using your Student ID can get your discounts all around the world, especially for tourist attractions. Don’t forget to bring it with you on your travels- it’s on my backpacking packing list for a reason!

I’ve found discounts as high as 60%, especially in Europe. Just think how many extra activities you could do if everything was half-price.

And I’m not telling you to make a fake ID, but what I’ll say is that people in other countries won’t know what your local university’s student ID will look like…

Close-up of a hand holding an Ulster University student ID card on a busy street, with European architecture in the background

9. Use your network

When you’re travelling, especially if you’re solo travelling, you’ll meet people all the time. And these people will be from all around the world.

For example, when I took a trip to Washington DC, I met at least one person from all of these countries: USA, UK, Thailand, Turkey, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Germany, Greece, Finland, Switzerland and Australia.

What this means is that now if I visit any of these places, I know someone there; someone who might offer me a place to stay. In fact, I’m meeting up with the guy in Thailand in Bangkok in a few months from writing this.

But you might also have family connections too. If your mum’s cousin moved to New Zealand, why not ask them if you can stay for a few nights?

Travelling develops connections worldwide, you may as well use them! Just make sure to stay in touch with people- I always use Instagram personally.

I recently created a Facebook group where you can make these connections with travellers all around the world. It’s a backpacking group where you can share tips and tricks, ask questions, and even arrange meetups if you want, maybe you can find somewhere to stay using the group!

A promotional image for my Facebook Group. If you click the image, you will be taken to my group.

10. Use Revolut

In my opinion, Revolut is an essential must-have for any budget traveller.

We’ve all been there where you’ve been in a country, paid in a different currency using your card, and when you’ve checked your bank account, you’ve been hit with a huge currency exchange fee.

Well, Revolut pretty much avoids this charge. You can pay in any currency anywhere in the world, and you won’t have a fee for converting currencies. Plus, the exchange rates are usually better too.

I use it everywhere I go and I’ve never had any problems. I genuinely can’t recommend it enough!

Hand holding a purple Revolut Visa card in front of the Colosseum in Rome, with tourists and clear blue sky in the background. Using Revolut is key to how to travel on a budget.

Best Countries for Budget Travel

There are so many popular backpacking routes around the world, and while many of the cheapest countries in the world are in Asia, I’ve given some countries which you can visit on a budget from other continents too.

But what I mean is, for example, if you are visiting Thailand or Vietnam then you should also visit Laos and Cambodia which are very cheap. And if you visit Mexico, also visit some countries in Central America on a budget.

I just didn’t want to have a list of the best countries “in the world” and have them all be in Southeast Asia, or Latin America, so I’ve put together a variety of countries from different continents, all of which are affordable to travel.


Tens of thousands of people backpack Thailand every year, and there’s a good reason why- it’s an extraordinary country which is very affordable to visit.

Thailand genuinely has a little bit of everything, it’s one of the most “complete” countries I’ve ever visited, and I really recommend it as your first country to visit on a budget because of how easy it is.

The backpacking community in Thailand is also really strong, so it’s incredibly easy to meet new people and make new friends, especially in popular destinations like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Tao, Phi Phi islands, etc.

A picture of a boat sitting on a Thai beach with green jungle in the background.


Vietnam is a close second behind Thailand for the best countries to visit on a budget. Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in the world to visit, so it’s an obvious choice.

But it’s a beautiful country to visit too. Just like Thailand, it has a little bit of everything from beaches to jungles, and everything in between. And of course, a load of culture too. Backpacking Vietnam is an unforgettable experience and I loved every second.

If you’re visiting Thailand, you may as well visit both Thailand and Vietnam. You can easily get by in both countries with $1000 a month.

A picture of a lake in Vietnam with luscious mountains overlooking it.


Heading over to the Americas, and Mexico is another favourite for budget travel. Lots of people begin their Mexico backpacking journey before continuing on to work their way through Central America and even down into South America.

You’re guaranteed to leave Mexico with a lifelong love for the country. It’s jam-packed with culture with the likes of Chichen Itza, but it’s also filled with natural beauty such as the cenotes.

And of course, one of the biggest selling points for Mexico is the cuisine. For us budget travellers, it’s even better because the best Mexican food comes from street food markets, and that’s what’s the cheapest.

A picture of the famous Chichen Itza pyramid in Mexico. Mexico is a country where you can learn how to travel on a budget as it's so affordable.


Visiting Pakistan on a budget is not only easy but also an incredibly rewarding experience.

This beautiful country, often overlooked by mainstream tourism, offers an abundance of cultural, historical, and natural wonders, all accessible on a shoestring budget.

It’s not quite as easy to navigate as the previous three since it’s not as popular, but if you fancy a challenge, Pakistan is one of the best budget countries to visit.

Sunset view of an ancient Mughal-era structure with a domed silhouette, against a pale sky in Pakistan


Morocco has so much to offer but what really sells Morocco for me is the people. The people are so welcoming and so friendly, and they always have time to talk to tourists and share an insight into their lives.

It’s not uncommon to be invited for meals and the host refuses to take anything in return.

Visiting Morocco is also pretty affordable, and even after the earthquake, there is still so much to see and do.

A lone camel standing beside a palm tree in a desert landscape with red sandstone hills in the background in Morocco. Morocco is a great country to learn how to travel on a budget.

Ways to Make Money while Travelling

If you want to take it one step further, you can travel on a budget and make money while travelling. Lots of backpackers will find ways to make a bit of cash while they’re on the move, which can allow them to travel for a bit longer.

There are plenty of ways to make money while travelling, and it’s actually easier than you would think, especially in today’s world, where you can make money online. For example, right now, by reading this post, you are helping me to make money while travelling. Want to do the same? Here are some ways you can earn on the go.

Work in a hostel

Some hostels will allow guests to stay long-term for free in return for working in the hostel for a few hours each day. I’d enquire about this when you’re staying in the hostel. It’s not really a thing in Europe, more in the Americas and Asia.

Work in a bar or restaurant

Another way to earn money while travelling is to work in a bar or restaurant. Pretty self-explanatory really. This tactic works best in countries where tourism is popular, but the locals aren’t great at speaking English. Mexico is a good example, as you would be ideal for serving tourists, assuming you speak English.

Teach English

And speaking of English, teaching the language while travelling can be a source of income. This can be in person or online. Sites like VIPKid allow you to teach English online and you can actually make a decent amount of money helping fund future travels.

A notebook page with handwritten text introducing someone named Josh who likes to travel and play football.

Tour Guide

If you have a real passion for a country or a destination, you could consider becoming a tour guide. For example, one of my friends fell in love with Bangkok and now he’s a tour guide there. You don’t even need to speak the local language as you could offer tours in English.

Social Media

In today’s world, everyone uses social media every day. The chances are, you’re already posting about your travels on social media anyway, so you may as well try to monetise it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really hard to become an “influencer”, but if you have a few thousand followers, you can start to generate a small monthly income by using affiliates and the like. An added perk is you can get things for free while travelling.

Travel Blogging

My favourite way (I’m biased) to make money while travelling is by running a travel blog, i.e. this site that you’re reading right now. I make money on my site through ads, affiliates, sponsorships and SEO work. If this all sounds alien to you, don’t worry, it did to me once too. I recommend looking into SYTB if you want to start as a travel blogger.

Laptop on a desk displaying a travel blog page, with an airport waiting area and windows showing a cloudy sky in the backdrop

Freelance work

Before I started travel blogging, I used to do graphic design and video editing work. I was completely freelance which meant I had no binding contracts, so I could work whenever I wanted and wherever I wanted. There are lots of options for freelancing such as writing, web design, social media management (you could combine this with the last one) and virtual assistant work. Pretty much any service can be done as freelance work.


If you’re travelling, you’re probably already taking photos as you go. Well, why not try to make some money with it? Sure, it helps to have an actual camera, but you can definitely make a start with just an iPhone. Look at this photo I took in Iceland, it looks like a stock photo, right? It was actually taken using my iPhone 13!

A picture from behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland with a sunset in the background.

Translation work

If you speak two or more languages, first of all, nice; and second of all, you could be using your skills to make money. Translation work is a very in-demand service, and you could actually do it as freelance work, or you could work remotely for a company. Since you speak both languages, it’s not very difficult work, but it can be time-consuming. Nonetheless, it’s a way to make money on the go.

Work in a resort

Last but by no means least, you can work in a resort. Usually, this means you have to stay in one place for a few months at a time, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gives you a chance to really thoroughly explore an area. I would recommend TUI who have a number of jobs within resorts such as holiday reps, entertainers, sports coaches, kids club workers and more. It’s a great way to get a free trip (flights included!) and make money at the same time.

How to Travel on a Budget: FAQ

Below are some questions related to how to travel on a budget along with my answers to each question.

How can I travel a lot for cheap?

The easiest way to travel a lot for cheap is to go to an affordable country, stay in hostels and travel slowly, doing mainly free activities and eating street food.

How do I plan a cheap trip?

To plan a cheap trip, you first need to set your budget. Then find a country which is affordable to visit, and estimate the daily budget. You can save money by staying in hostels, eating street food, and only doing free activities.

How to travel for 6 months on a budget?

To travel for 6 months on a budget, you need to compromise your luxuries. Staying in hostels, eating street food, doing free activities and walking everywhere are four simple ways to save money on travel.

Is 10K enough to travel?

Whether 10K is enough to travel depends on a number of factors. What country are you going to? How long are you going for? What sort of accommodation are you staying in? Will you do many activities? These questions determine whether 10K is enough or not.

Final Thoughts: Travelling on a Budget

And there you have it, a complete guide to how to travel on a budget.

As I said in the introduction, it can seem hard when you don’t know how to do it. Hopefully, it looks less scary now.

But to be honest, it is also a case of practice makes perfect. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll learn from them, just like I did.

Ready to take your first budget trip? Make sure to use my budget trip calculator to see how much money you need to bring.