I’ve traveled to over 70 countries developing a large reservoir of tips and tricks to make traveling easier, cheaper, and more fulfilling. My first time truly backpacking was in 2010 and since I’ve encountered just about every situation imaginable. I often use public transportation and prefer to break off the beaten track to find some real experiences outside the main tourist destinations. Read on to learn my secrets.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning is your friend. I am not saying you need to have every day mapped out or even know where you’re staying tomorrow night, but thoroughly planning out how you’re going to travel from point a to b, figuring out what your public transportation options are, and learning to avoid taxis at all cost can save you a lot of money and keep you traveling for longer. Read my guide about using public transportation here.
Wikitravel is like the holy grail of budget traveling. Almost every destination has a crowd sourced wiki page and travelers are constantly updating it with tips and tricks to save money and get around. I never go to a new city without checking Wikitravel. Personally like to open the page for each destination on my iPhone and add them to my “reading list” so I can view them later offline.
Take a Carry-On
In the past three months, I’ve been on 21 flights. At $25 a bag, that’s $525 I’ve saved carrying on my backpack vs. checking it. Additionally getting around is so much easier with a backpack over a suitcase. Just make sure all your liquids are under 90 ml.
You Don’t Need That Much
Similar to the previous point, I’m still surprised by how little I actually need to live on the road. Currently I have three shorts, one pair of pants, and five t-shirts. Even now I still feel like I might have too much. One of the most valuable lessons I learned while traveling is how to live with very little. This transferred directly to my life back home and now I live clutter-free because I can differentiate between what I need and want.
Read About Where You Are
It goes without saying that it’s always a good idea to bring along a good book while traveling, but take a break from fiction every once and a while to read about the history, economy, and current political situation in the countries you visit. It will help give context to where you’re traveling and allow you to learn more and ask more questions than you normally would. It doesn’t always have to be a book either. Wikipedia is a great resource for an historical overview of your destination and so are publications like The Economist for current political and economic news.
Travel Responsibly/Travel Locally
Tourism can sometimes be a great thing for local communities or it can be extremely exploitative. It really comes down to where the money is going. It is better to travel with local guides, eat at local restaurants, and avoid chain hotels. This makes sure that your money is going back to the local community. If you’re really adventurous look into Community Based Tourism organizations and local homestay groups in your destination. This is the best way to see how people really live and all your money goes directly to supporting that local community.
Travel by Yourself
I can’t even begin to explain how beneficial traveling alone has been for my personal development. My first experience traveling alone was forced upon me, but through it I gained more personal independence than I even knew possible. I know who I am now and that knowledge can only be gained through solo travel. Additionally traveling alone will force you to meet new people and open up an entire world of opportunities you can only access on your own.
Get Travelers Insurance
It doesn’t necessarily need to be specifically for traveling, but medical insurance you can use while abroad is an absolute must. International travelers insurance is actually significantly cheaper than insurance back in the US and it covers way more. For example, I recently paid $300 for a five month plan. My baggage was delayed 24 hours on my first flight, and my insurance company reimbursed me $150 to go on a shopping spree for the delay. So glad I got the insurance.
Splurge Once in a While
I am very careful with my money abroad, but sometimes you need to realize you just came halfway around the world to visit a certain place and you will likely never be back again. If the experience is worth it, go for it. When I went to Madagascar, I paid $180 to go on an overnight hike. While this is extremely expensive for Madagascan standards, it is one of my best travel memories and I am so glad I took the opportunity.
Don’t waste all your time partying on the beach. Traveling is all about self-growth. Push yourself to explore new places and do something you normally wouldn’t do. You will grow more confident and independent each time you venture into the unknown. We remember the times we were challenged.