How to travel on a low budget

Are you up for an adventure but you don’t have the money to cover your travel expenses? No, worries! In the era of smartphones and social media it has become much easier to find affordable accommodation and means of transport..
In this article, I will show you some ways of cheap travelling so that there is no excuse for you anymore to just stay at home. However, if you are the type of person who prefers staying in all-inclusive hotels this article will not help you any further. On the other hand, if you like doing backpacking and getting in touch with local people in unfamiliar places you should keep on reading. I will provide you with information about ‘alternative’ ways of travelling, all based on my own personal experience.

 

COUCHSURFING

Sure, if you want to travel to the other side of the world you need some money to pay the flight. However, you should also consider visiting neighbouring countries or maybe even your own. There might be many hidden treasures which you haven’t been aware of. And by the way, it is much better for the environment to not use the airplane. In my case, my home country is Germany and I haven’t visited many places there for a long time. Therefore, I decided this summer to do a journey through Germany. To spend as little money as possible I decided to solely do couchsurfing during my trip. Couchsurfing is an online platform where you can find yourself a local and crash on his/her couch. After having created a couchsurfing profile you can send requests to locals at your destinations and ask them if they can host you. The great thing is that you will be staying with someone who is an expert of the area and you won’t pay a penny for it. Besides, couchsurfing also offers the possibility to create events and meet other couchsurfers. I have used couchsurfing already several times and have had only good experiences. One of my favourite ones was in the harbour city of Hamburg in Northern Germany where our host took us to the famous musical house of the Lion King. Because a friend of his worked there, we could get a free tour behind the scenes. Another side-effect of couchsurfing is that you can travel in a more socially responsible way. What I mean by that is that cultures are very distinct and yet we often go to other countries and behave as if ithey are our own. We only need to think of places which are run over by mass tourism like, for example, Amsterdam. People go there, get high and drunk in the streets, make a lot of noise, etc. Or think about places like Thailand and Bali which are overrun by visitors who party and behave in a way that doesn’t seem to fit the culture. Couchsurfing, as well as Wwoofing and Workaway (which I will explain more thoroughly below), give you an insight into a local’s everyday life and make you aware of how to respect other ways of life.

 

Tips for Couchsurfing

  • Read the description of the host and send a personalized message, many people don’t like getting copy and paste messages

  • If you have a last-minute request send messages to many hosts since many people don’t check couchsurfing regularly

  • It’s always good to contact hosts at least one week in advance since the reply rate is sometimes low

  • It's not necessary to pay the verification fee. You get three months of verification when you host someone yourself!

  • Many hosts prefer hosting people who already have reviews. If you don’t have any yet, ask a friend (who is also using couchsurfing) where you have stayed to write one for you.

  • If you don’t feel comfortable sleeping at a stranger’s place alone you could do couchsurfing with a friend first. Most of the time it is no problem to find a host for two people.

 

WWOOFING AND WORKAWAY

The idea of both wwoofing and workaway is the exchange of labour for accommodation and food. Usually, you work for about four hours per day, five days a week and in return you get room and board. The length of stay can vary from a few days to a year. The abbreviation wwoofing means “worldwide opportunities on organic farms”. Thus, the kind of work you will find on this global online platform is mainly farm work. Workaway, on the other hand, offers a much broader variety of activities. There, you can find any kind of work, like working in a hostel, babysitting, helping with restaurations, etc. I already did both farmwork (in Thailand) and babysitting (in Italy). Both experiences were great. Next to working, I also learned how to prepare Thai/Italian meals and the stay in Italy helped me to improve my Italian, as well. If you want to learn a new language or improve your language skills doing Workaway is the perfect opportunity. Furthermore, wwoofing and/or workaway give you an authentic insight of a culture and the possible problems society is facing concerning tourism. By living with locals you also get an idea of the origins of the problems and how to solve or at least how to not make them worse.

 

Tips for Wwoofing/Workaway

  • It’s an exchange! You should not need to pay for it!

  • Read the reviews

  • You have to pay a fee to register at the workaway-website but it’s totally worth it! in the end you save way more than you pay for the registration (36USD). The fees for wwoofing vary from country to country

  • Even if you don’t fulfill the requirements of the host you want to stay with, you can always ask if it’s possible to do wwoofing/workaway there anyway

HITCHHIKING

Last but not least, you also have to get to the places where you have found accommodation. Although there are already relatively cheap possibilities like blablacar or Flixbus in parts of Europe, public transport is often expensive and prevents us from travelling. However, you can still always try the ‘oldschool’ method hitchhiking which, by the way, can be considered environmentally friendly because you fill up a seat which would have not been used otherwise. I just tried it a few times myself (together with a friend) in Europe and it worked out surprisingly well.

 

Tips for Hitchhiking

  • If you find it scary to get into a stranger’s car don’t do it or only do it together with a friend (not just because of safety but because it’s really boring when you have to wait a long time)

  • Never leave the big streets, it’s hard to get back on the highway or ‘autobahn’

  • Let them drop you at a gas station or at places where you just go into one direction (e.g. gas stations on highways) otherwise it’s hard to find someone who has the same final destination as you

  • Trust your guts: if you have a bad feeling about someone, don’t get into the car!

  • Talk to the people in the car, they all have interesting stories to share!

  • Be aware that many people will give you a weird look, make offending gestures or just ignore you

  • Don’t give up! Most of the time it doesn’t take long until someone gives you a ride (in my experience about 5 to 20 min)

It’s true that this way of travelling is much more effort than just booking an all-inclusive hotel for a week. Also, it might be scary for some people to stay or drive with strangers and of course there is always a risk. Yet, in my experience it’s totally worth it. Luckily, I’ve never had a bad experience but many priceless good ones. You’ll come across interesting people, secret places and get an authentic insight of amazing cultures.

 

by Janina

TheGreenGrasshopper