Traveling to a different country for an extended period is a unique, culturally enriching experience.
It can be a little scary to drop everything and decide to travel for months in a row, especially considering the dent it will make in your wallet.
I've been on a three month trip to South America and spent less than $4,000, including plane tickets. I picked up a lot of tricks on how to save money during this journey, and use these tips whenever I travel. Here are ten useful tips on traveling cheaply for a long-term trip.
1. When buying plane tickets, know that prices go up after viewing them once
A little-known fact about looking for plane tickets online: after the first time you look them up, the prices go up.
Say for instance you're trying to find prices for round-trip tickets to Spain, and they are $900 on Kayak. But, you're not ready to buy the tickets, so you log off. A few days later, you go back online but guess what? The same tickets you saw for $900 are now $1,200!
Fortunately, this only happens if you are using the same device to look up tickets. So, I recommend looking up plane tickets on one device to get a sense of the prices and using a different one when you are ready to purchase the tickets. This simple trick could end up saving you hundreds of dollars!
2. Stay in hostels
When some people hear the word "hostels," they assume that the only type of accommodation is dorm-style beds. While yes, hostels are known for dorm-style rooms, they also have private bedrooms with single beds, two beds, and more.
The private rooms are like the typical hotel room, only cheaper. They are usually ensuite rooms with private bathrooms. All the private rooms I've seen in hostels are comfortable and affordable.
Of course, the dorm-style rooms are very cheap and staying in these rooms for your trip will save you a lot of money. But, if that isn't your style, you always have the option of choosing a private room in a hostel.
Staying in hostels over hotels is ideal for a long-term trip, and makes traveling cheaply an attainable goal.
3. Cook your meals
Let me start by acknowledging that yes, eating food in different countries is an integral part of traveling and experiencing other cultures.
However, if you're going on a long-term trip, eating out every day is expensive and unrealistic.
Cooking your meals saves a lot of money, and is a cultural experience of its own. Going to local grocery stores gives a glimpse into what the locals cook for themselves, and all the different foods that aren't usually sold at home.
4. Go out to eat at local restaurants, not touristy ones
Again, yes, it is still necessary to eat out at restaurants and experience the different meals prepared.
There is a difference, however, between going to a local restaurant and a "tourist" restaurant.
By "tourist" restaurant, I mean the ones that display large English menus with signs saying "free wifi" or boast traditional meals. Usually, these are the places where the only customers are tourists, the food is mediocre, and the bill is expensive.
If you can step out of your comfort zone and spend a little time searching, it is worth your while to avoid these restaurants and find a local one instead. The local restaurants have better food, offer a more accurate view of the culture, and are typically cheaper than the touristy ones.
5. Use public transportation
It can be scary to navigate the public transportation systems of other countries, and easy to give up and order an Uber.
But Ubers aren't cheap, especially if that's all you're using to get around.
If you are traveling cheaply for a long-term trip, its necessary to use public transport over Uber. And using the public transportation system in different countries is pretty simple; there are apps, city maps, and hostel staff to help you out and make your life easier.
6. Bring your towel
Most hostels have towels for you to use after a shower, but they cost extra to rent.
While it's usually only a few dollars to rent a towel, if you're renting one every hostel you stay in it can add up over a long-term trip.
Bringing your towel saves a lot of money. Usually, outdoor stores sell light-weight, fast drying towels that are a good investment for any traveler.
7. Traveling cheaply with busses
This tip applies more to long-term travelers who are visiting multiple countries.
There are a few ways to get from country to country: by airplane, train, or bus. Planes, of course, are the most expensive, followed by trains. Buses are a cheap, affordable alternative to get around for a long trip.
I love taking the buses. You can book an overnight bus, and sleep during the journey. Then, you save money on a night you would have otherwise been staying at a hostel, and you don't waste a day traveling.
8. Always take out the max amount of money at the ATM
ATM fees can add up over a long-term trip. Typically, they are around 4-5 dollars every time you use the ATM.
And, if you have a bank like mine, there is a fee for withdrawing internationally and a fee for withdrawing from a non-Wells Fargo ATM.
That adds up to almost 10-15 dollars extra every time you use an ATM. And if you're on a long-term trip, it can quickly add up to a few hundred dollars in fees by the end of your journey.
Taking out the max amount from the ATM whenever you need money ensures you'll end up spending less on fees in the long run.
9. Don't pay for cell service; wifi is always available
Even with the best travel plan, paying for cell service on a long-term trip is quite costly.
On my three-month excursion, I didn't spend any money on cell service and only used my phone when I had wifi. Keep in mind that this is South America, where wifi is probably the least accessible in the context of the traveling world. And guess what? I survived and saved hundreds.
Recently, wifi is so accessible when traveling, even in third world countries. With all the offline navigation apps, apps to call and facetime, and apps to text over wifi, there is no reason to spend any money on cell service.
Plus, a big part of traveling should be unplugging from your phone and immersing yourself in the experience.
Finally, consider volunteering for a bit in exchange for free accommodations.
An easy way to do so is through Workaway. Workaway is a platform for hosts and travelers to connect. Hosts post volunteering opportunities, and travelers can apply for different opportunities available on the site.
Typically, hosts offer free rooms for a few hours of volunteer work. Sometimes they even offer free food or other benefits. Volunteering options can range from a few days to a few weeks.
Workaway offers a perfect opportunity to experience a different country, meet new people, and save some money.