Flights may have dropped in price, hostels are still relatively cheap, food is a bit more manageable but long trips abroad can still work out to be expensive when you start adding things up. Here are a few ideas to consider which might help you keep your costs down as much as possible:

Take a Tent

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Ok, so a tent may sound a bit old fashioned. And there probably aren’t as many campsites as there are hostels these days. And it can end up being a bit heavy to carry. BUT there is a fairly big upside to camping – it gives you plenty of freedom.

If you’re heading off the beaten track, you may occasionally be offered some basic accommodation but if you’re anything like me, I can’t bear the thought of sleeping in a bed given up by someone’s children. I tend to make my way back into town on the search for a cheap hostel but for the cost of a small tent it’s worth the investment, especially if you can find one that weighs less than two pounds.

A tent can also come in useful if you’re offered a farm or an outhouse to sleep in – it’s really so much better to bed down in one than on a cold, dirty floor. Some people swear by Bivvy bags, a sleeping bag that converts into a shelter. The lightest of these start at half a pound or with a little head room for two pounds but they tend to be a bit more expensive than a tent.

Long Stay Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to spend your time while travelling

If you’re heading off on a trip or gap year for several weeks or a few months and decide to do some volunteering or teaching, there are several options for some very cheap places to stay. Depending on where you’re travelling to and the duration of your stay, accommodation can be arranged with a host family, volunteer house or local hostel for as little as $17 per week.

The main advantage is that you’ll make plenty of new friends and learn new skills which will make the trip even more memorable. Find out more about long stay volunteering opportunities.

Typical programs offering volunteering in Africa can also work out even cheaper than staying in hotels. Why? Because there is a law in many African countries than non-nationals pay inflated room rates. This can be three, four or many times what the locals are paying. Ouch!

Try Couchsurfing

A website that connects generous hosts to a global community of travellers, Couchsurfing helps you find a place to stay across 200,000 cities around the world. 14 million members have registered as hosts, willing to share their home and welcome you to their community. You can use the Couchsurfing website to register, find your destination, connect with a suitable host and book your stay. This sounds like a great way to meet new people, learn a language, live like a local and best of all, stay with a host for free!

Help Out for a Free Bed

Helping out can land you a free bed

Why not exchange some of your skills in return for accommodation? Workaway is a website which promotes fair exchange through volunteering between budget travellers and families or organisations who are looking for some help. The Workaway website has a database of people across the globe who have registered because they are looking for people to help out with a variety of activities. Jobs can range from painting to planting, building to babysitting and shopping to sheep shearing. It’s a fantastic opportunity for travellers to gain experience, share skills and make new friends in exchange for food and/or accommodation. Workaway aims to match travellers with like-minded hosts and keep costs for everyone to a minimum.

Research Your Travel Route Thoroughly

Although you can’t be expected to know what you don’t already know, a little research on a region before you visit it will reward you massively. There’s never any spare time when you’re away to search, click and scroll through all the tourism information so it’s best to do all your reading before you travel. A close friend of mine spent $470 on a one-way ticket in from Cuzco in Peru to Buenos Aires in Argentina, only to discover Buenos Aires was an expensive cosmopolitan city which quickly drained her budget and within 4 days she was on the bus to Brazil to ‘get out of there’.

With some careful research, she could have spent half that amount on an overland trip between Cuzco and Brazil with the added benefit of seeing all the sights in between. Unfortunately, she had no idea that flights in South America were so expensive. I would always suggest visiting a website like skyscanner.net and checking all the possible flight routes and costs before you travel and comparing them to the overland (buses & trains) costs to see if there is much difference.

A great website for detailed train information is Seat61 which explains how to travel by train anywhere in the world; with recommended routes, train times, approximate fares, information about what the trains are like and advice on the best way to buy tickets. It hasn’t let me down yet…!

Author: Caroline

Caroline Revell enjoys off the beaten track travel and works at Original Volunteers, a volunteer-sending organization in the UK.

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