“Done to death” – How to travel on a shoe string.

There are so many posts like this. So many blogs purely dedicated to this one topic of how to travel on the cheap. And I’m not above it. I revel in it. I scour websites for tips and tricks and I even have some of my own. So if you bear with me I shall share. And you can share your tips at the bottom in the comments. Enjoy!

Before you go:

  • Get good insurance – Yeah, I know, this isn’t a saving money tip. I’d always go middle ground for insurance, companies usually do “silver” policies which are the ones I tend to buy. However, if you are willing to spend a bit of money to save a lot of money if something goes wrong. Just get insurance ok. 
  • Do your research – I know in Lisbon all museums were free before 2pm on Sunday. In the UK all museums are free (unless there is an exhibit on or something). But do your research! Check out the free sites or places of interest and check if others do student discounts which brings me onto….
  • ISIC card – This stands for “International Student Identity Card” and is a little life saver as some places won’t accept your own university student cards. Carrying proof of nationality can also help with this. When my friend and I travelled Italy there was a lot of “proof of nationality” attractions which got us discounts.
  • Become a HI Member – Hostelling international card (If you’re in the UK you can try a YHA Card) Not everywhere accepts these (my old hostel didn’t) however it’s worth a shot checking online which hostels will accept them as they can be worth the money.
  • Work for Stay – Email your hostel in advance asking if you can do a few hours of work a day for a bed. Normally they will give you morning shift so between 8 and 11 or so just to help with check outs/cleaning/breakfasts. You can save a fair bit of money this way and it’s a really great way to meet people if you are travelling alone.
  • Check out working VISAS if you are going to be around for long enough. A lot of places can do with bar staff/au pairs/field workers etc. (try WWOOF – world wide opportunities on organic farms, for example)
  • Book in advance – Especially with hostels and even more importantly with flights. I’ve mentioned STA travel’s website and they do very good deals on flights etc.

While you’re there.

  • Don’t go over your baggage limit. Little things all add up so wear your heaviest shoes on board your flight and stick to the bare essentials. These hidden costs of outsized baggage are a nightmare and not worth it.
  • If you can’t get work for stay, stay in the larger dorms. They are always cheaper and more fun in my opinion (and I should know, I lived in one for 5 months…)
  • Go out mid-week. Weekends are hugely expensive, even in the UK. Look fr student/ERASMUS nights if in Europe. Buy drinks from bodegas instead of supermarkets or bars and you’ll save money too. This goes for flights and trains too.
  • if you go two streets away from the “main strip” you will find more authentic bars and restaurants and they will be undoubtedly cheaper.
  • Take advantage of the breakfast that some hostels provide. And if you flirt enough with the staff maybe they will let you eat something after the time is over (yes, Todd, this is directed at you). 
  • Bring your own food to hostels instead of eating out all the time.
  • This is a bit of a weird one, but bring salt, bicarbonate of soda and take a little bottle of very dilute cider vinegar (or steal from your hostel if you can be very sneaky) Bicarb of soda is a good (and cheap) alternative to shampoo, and cider vinegar is the same for conditioner. Make sure to dilute them both, you don’t wanna smell like a chippy. Steal hand soap from hotels/take a couple of squirts of hand soap from hostel toilets for the body part of showers. Salt is also a good cleanser for clothes (and makes the colour stay bright if you have access/money for a washing machine!) so you can soak clothes in the sink with some salt, then rinse them off in the shower! 
  • Bring your own towels, flip flops and padlocks on your travels so you don’t have to buy them there!
  • Take advantage of free walking tours. Many cities offer them and they only work on tips. I would always tip, but many other tours make you pay 15 pounds/euros or whatever just to join in.
  • Try this great website – Tripbase. I’m really impressed with the “Cost per Day Calculator” – You type in the name of the city you’re going to and it will tell you the average cost of how much it is to stay there. It’s really handy for checking how much money you need to exchange.
  • Take public transport or walk. You’ll  get fit and save on taxis. Check online or in a tourist office to see if there are any night buses etc.
  • Check out any greeters. These are good people who give up their time to show you around the city! Maybe buy them a lunh or a drink to say thanks but most of them are free! Be careful to let someone back home know when you are going, who you are going with and what time you expect to be done. Just be careful. 
  • Helpx or Help exchange website also offers a similar thing, though it is more along the lines of couchsurfing. Same goes to Coolworks.
  • Check tourist information for free maps or postcards as souvenirs.

Most of these aren’t new to you guys but sometimes it’s nice to have them all in one master post. I’ll most likely add to this!! Share your tips below!


Author: Kirsty

24, severe wanderlust

7 thoughts on ““Done to death” – How to travel on a shoe string.”

  1. A lot of good tips here!! I’d heard of the ISIC card before but never met anyone who actually found it useful, haha, so glad to hear that it does help! I got the Hostelling International membership and earned a free night’s stay but unfortunately never stayed in hostels during the travels I did that year (my friend was against them) so I lost out, but I agree that it’s worth investing in if you’re planning to stay in these membership hostels.

    For asking about working in a hostel – does this work if you’re only going to be there for a few nights? I always thought they wanted more long-term volunteers, but maybe not…

  2. I think they prefer longer stays, maybe up to a week or a long weekend but i’ve certainly met people that dot about for three days in each hostel!

  3. This list of advice is perfect for this site since most people here are traveling on a budget too. Thanks for putting it together, we shared it on our social media – cheers Kirsty!

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