Travelling with little money

We folk with aussie passports are very privileged to be able to travel the world with such ease. Firstly there is the passport itself, which enables us to access most countries in the world with nothing more than a ‘cheap’ visa and some relatively simple paperwork. This plus the fact that we can earn enough money working a minimum wage job for a few months , to be able to travel for months to years at a time***. As it is relatively easy to generate the cash to travel, many spend it just as quickly. Just by being aware of this privilege, you are bound to elongate your journey.

While stretching out your trip is all about limiting your spending, you have to know when and where it is worth it. For example, by buying a tent you are able to stay in much cheaper camp sites or free-camp. You also have to remember that you are travelling and many unique once in a lifetime experiences do cost money, but they are worth it. For example in the south of Chile we spent 50,000 pesos each on climbing up a Volcano (Mapudungun: Ruka Pillañ, Spanish: Volcán Villarrica). This was the equivalent of two months rent in our house in Valparaiso or around $100 USD, so it was a big spend, but totally worth it. Below are a few general guides to help you extend your travels, while ensuring a deep cultural experience wherever you are travelling.

  1. Travel slowly – In life one pays with money or time. For example if you only have allotted two weeks for your trip and you want to see many places, going by foot and volunteering is not generally your best option. On the other hand, if you travel for months or years there are many options available. The flexibility to travel at a slow pace allows you to wait for that cheaper bus or flight. By travelling slowly you are also more likely to gain local knowledge and be treated like a local, generally lowering your costs as the things that locals do are often cheap or free.
  2. Volunteering allows you to connect with the local culture and travel to interesting places off the beaten track, and goes along with the ‘travel slowly’ guideline . We volunteered through Workaway and Help Exchange which both offer an array of different experiences. There are farm stays, language schools, communities and more wanting volunteers***. We always chose the places where food and accommodation was included. They usually ask for around five hours a day with weekends free to explore, but they all differ. This allowed us to have interesting connections with the locals while learning new skills and not paying for our basic survival and entertainment. Volunteering is also possible by asking around when you arrive at a place, although planning your trip and choosing the experience you want can be made difficult in this way.
  3. Couchsurfing ***is another fantastic way to connect and stay with the local community without spending any money. It is a fantastic website which allows you to stay or meet up with locals for ‘free’. While you pay no money, you pay with your kindness and your cultural exchange and your ability to respect your hosts and clean up after yourself (standard things that you should always do in a paying venue anyway).
  4. Hitch-Hiking enables you to travel and meet the local peoples and environments head on. This type of travel requires some brains and listening to your instincts. We travelled over 5,000 km hitching through South America and had some of the best and most memorable experiences of our lives with people’s generosity never ceasing to amaze us. One time a Chilean guy named Lalo el Hippy*** picked us up, took us 100’s of km, then paid for us to camp with him at a camp site. Numerous people invited us to stay in their homes, where they fed and entertained us, treating us like part of their family. Many truck drivers bought us food and helped us out in any way they could. These were some of the greatest moments of our travels.
  5. Be prepared and independent – Having a tent allows you to stay in camp sites and free-camp, often much cheaper than hotels. Having basic cooking pots and gas allows your to cook your own food at a much lower price than eating in restaurants, plus you eat at your own leisure.
  6. National Parks are fantastic places to spend time, not money. Camping/staying in these beautiful protected areas is generally a great and affordable way to see a country and it’s natural environment.
  7. Speaking the local language is another important part of travel. Tied in with going slowly and getting to know the locals is being able to speak the local language, or at least some important phrases. This gives you much more access to local only experiences and cheap places to eat or stay.****
  8. Staying out of touristy areas is a must for saving your money, generally they are more expensive and geared toward the Western big spending tourist.
  9. Do free activities – Taking free walking tours, or just walking around town is free. Go sit in the plaza and watch the world go by.
  1. Don’t buy crap and spend money wisely – By splitting a coffee with someone or not buying it in the first place, taking a bus instead of a taxi, doing it yourself instead of taking a tour (not always possible or advised), drinking water instead of coke (advised as a general health rule anyway), staying in cheaper less touristy places and generally just spending money carefully your travels will go much much further. Remember the best way to save, is by not spending.

In saying all this, have a good time travelling and know that sometimes it is just better to stay somewhere more expensive if sleeping out on the street is dodgy (and might cost you more money in the long run).


Keep exploring 🙂



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