stacks of change

Budget Travel Tips For Backpackers in 2020

Traveling around the world, especially while living out of a backpack teaches several lessons in the course of a backpacking adventure. These budget travel tips for backpackers and independent travelers will hopefully give you a head start before hitting the road.

Most of my budget travel tips come from many experiences on the road and I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely possible to travel internationally long term by limiting silly purchases and planning ahead.

It doesn’t get much more complicated than that. I’m going to break each section down and give you my ultimate list of long term budget travel tips for backpackers.

Go Where It’s Cheap

At the top of my list of budget travel tips is what I’ve come to believe as the most important rule when traveling on a budget.

Travel to countries that match your budget. If you can’t afford to spend $74 a night on a room you better adjust your destination accordingly. They are not created equally.

Do you know that in places like Vietnam and Thailand that you can get a hostel bed as low as $3 USD a night. Coming from the US that’s an extremely good deal as long as the sheets are clean.

You can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner all for as little as $10 – $15 a day if you’re determined to eat like a local and hunt out the genuine local cuisine.

Southeast Asia isn’t the only place you can travel dirt cheap. India, Eastern Europe, and South America offer budget travel opportunities galore and shouldn’t be excluded when deciding on budget travel adventures.

Booking Flights

Many websites offering budget travel tips will tell you that booking your flight months in advanced is the best way to keep the price of your trip down and in about 98% of instances, I’m going to say that’s correct because once you factor in the discounted price of rooms and any other transit you can book in advance, you’re going to have to get a great last-minute deal to balance out the last minute accommodation price you’ll most definitely be paying.

Booking flights with a paid email service such as Scott’s Cheap Flights can help save money on trips to international destinations that you may not have ever thought of traveling to.

Some of the amazing deals that come across my email are to places like Sri Lanka, Panama, Iceland, and even Alaska. It’s hard not to dream of far off and exotic lands for rock bottom prices. These deals come in every day.

The trick with Scott’s is that your dates of travel have to be extremely flexible because flights going all over the world come up every day for any given calendar day of the year and these deals don’t usually last very long.

You have to be ready to act! It’s no joke. The deal of a lifetime will be there ready for booking and when you go back to book after discussing it with your travel partner the deal is no longer available.

It’s a great service for deals and spontaneous travel but it is a paid service and I think it fits in great with our list of budget travel tips because for a small upfront subscription fee you’ll be sent some of the best flight deals available daily.

To Plan Or Not To Plan

I book some of my accommodation beforehand. It takes away some of the spontaneity of the trip, but you’ll save loads of money overall. I’ve always been a budget-minded trekker so this way of travel suites me just fine.

day of week

I’ll book the first week of my trip, minus the transport. I like to wait to book trains and buses until I’m there. Then I start plotting the rest of my trip from the road so I don’t book too far out and end up wasting money when I want to stay a little longer at a destination after that first week.

It’s really up to the individual and their budget. I imagine if I had a bigger budget, I might take more chances and show up in a city with no reservation and see what rooms are available. But since I’m trying to stretch my dollar and I know what cities I want to visit, I choose to book ahead.

Travel In The “Low” Season

These budget travel tips helped me afford plane tickets to most of my adventures abroad to date. Especially the first time I traveled to Europe and just about every time I’ve been to Thailand.

I have a hard time paying too much $ for anything. It’s a real pet peeve. So when searching for plane tickets and accommodation, I want the very best deal I can find.

Traveling in the low season has the benefit of lower rates on accommodation, cheaper airfare, shorter lines at attractions, and can offer a more authentic or “travel as a local” type experience.

Spending the holidays in Paris or Amsterdam is much more budget-friendly than visiting in the height of the tourist season of July and August. You can find amazing deals on hotels that would be out of reach to most during the summer.

This also works in a place like Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia during the summer months.

If you like your beaches and different destinations to yourself or let’s say “minimal tourism” compared to high season then you want to visit these places in the low season. The high season offers more activities but also more tourists and higher room rates. It might just cost a little more to eat too.

Prepare Your Own Meals

When staying in hostels or Airbnb’s I like to prepare as many of my own meals and in some cases small picnics to take out with me while exploring when possible. If you shop at the local markets and groceries you can find amazing local ingredients for budget-stretching prices.

Eat with the season. Eating what’s in season is another excellent budget travel tip that will help make your money go further while giving you a true experience of local culture.

If eating at restaurants and cafe’s is why you travel, try only eating one meal a day at such places. Saving money by limiting your sit down dining experiences is a great way to stretch your cash.

A great caveat to this tip is to try and book hostels and hotels with a free breakfast. That’s one meal you don’t have to pay out of pocket for or prepare. Leaving more budget and time for travel and exploration.

Take The Bus

This is one of those budget travel tips I picked up after my first couple of trips to Europe and was trying to avoid paying the outlandish weekend hostel rates that western Europe has to offer.

I conjured up the idea of using night buses on the weekends to move cities. I would stay in a city and when the weekend would come around I’d order up an overnight Flixbus ticket and cram on to a bus for up to 24 hours sometimes. FlixBus is a popular German brand bus company that offers intercity bus service in Europe and the United States.

Trains may be more convenient and faster but they often come priced at a premium compared to standard cross country bus fare. It’s hard to not take a bullet train ride when given the opportunity if the budget allows though.

If taking a bullet train in any country, it’s better to book them well in advance if you don’t want to pay inflated last-minute fares.

Don’t Pay Atm Fees

This pro tip is so legit that I don’t know why it’s not closer to the top of my budget travel tips list but here it is. If you’re in the United States, get a Charles Schwab Investor Checking Debit Card.

This tool is free but does require a Hard Hit on your credit score. I’m not sure why they check your credit but they do.

This debit card is great because Charles Schwab refunds all Foreign Transaction Fees and Atm Fees with their free “Investor Checking Account” at the end of the month.

These fees can add up. Especially in a place like Thailand that has an automatic 200 Baht or almost $6 USD fee, not including your bank Atm fee and Foreign Transaction fee.

With the Charles Schwab Debit Card, all that is refunded every month. It’s almost too good to be true but let me tell you it’s the real deal and I’ve saved so much money since I started traveling with the card.

The only downside I’ve found with this card is that it take 4+ days to transfer money from my main bank account to the Charles Schwab account. Other than that, I have nothing but good things to say about this debit card.

You can also notify the bank through their online portal that you’re leaving the country or moving destinations so you’re card isn’t flagged when you try using it in an unfamiliar country.

Do The Free Stuff!

Most tourist destinations have a long list of free activities or attractions that can be taken advantage of to stretch that budget and still get a true sense of the destination you’re visiting.

Budget travel tips come in many forms but this is one that hits close to home. I’m cheap and I like to take advantage of all the free things I can when arriving in a new destination.

You’re hostel or hotel should have a stack of information on free walking tours, museum days and free points of interest such as parks, markets, gardens, sporting events, live music, cemeteries, and places of worship.

Fitness

This should be at the top of the budget travel tips list and at the top of your daily well being list as well because it’s really the most important thing you can do leading up and during your trip when it comes to independent world travel.

I like to walk. I own a dog and I walk her about 3 miles a night 3 nights a week on average. It’s a great way to keep the blood pumping and train for extended periods of time up and moving on your feet.

stretching green frog

If you’re not fit it can make for long plane flight also.

You could pull a muscle during your trip or after departing the plane after a 15-hour flight to Thailand. It happens to people all the time. Training for an upcoming trip is important. Even if it’s just a short walk and stretch at the start or end of your day.

Keep it in mind and make it part of your daily routine, after getting lost during a leisurely stroll in Paris or Bangkok for 6 hours, you’ll thank yourself for doing so.

Travel Insurance

This is one of those budget travel tips that I didn’t know existed until I started research on my first trip. It’s a fairly inexpensive way to guarantee that if you are robbed, brake a leg, die, or many other travel mishaps that there is someone on your side monetarily and for plain old’ piece of mind.

budget travel tips

Travel insurance comes in a few different forms. I recommend World Nomads. They offer affordable insurance that covers you in cases of the unthinkable. Check them at our World Nomads travel insurance portal here.

Pack Light

You’ll see them as soon as you’re dropped off at the airport. Now, I can’t say where everyone is going or what’s on their mind, but I do know that the majority of travelers pack and carry way too much crap around and if you’re checking a bag every leg of your journey, that’s going to add up real quick.

I’m serious, you don’t need 40 LBS of clothes for a two-week trip. You don’t need 3 different pairs of shoes either. I bring 3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and 4 pairs of socks and underwear for whatever the duration of my trip is.

Do them in the hostel or hotel sink for free. That’s the real budget travel tip!

man hiking alone

Sometimes they’re signs or warnings telling you not to wash your clothes in the sink or shower but what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Paying to do laundry while traveling long term will add up. Make the most of the hostels and hotels you’re paying for and get that laundry clean.

There are laundry mats and affordable laundry service pretty much everywhere I’ve traveled so dig in and wash your clothes with the locals from time to time if there’s no way to get them done for free.

Adapt To A Budget Travel Lifestyle

When I started to save for my travel fund the first time, I had to totally change the way I thought and acted toward money. It was rude awaking but once I mastered the art of “cheap”, my travel fund began to grow exponentially.

These budget travel tips should start you in the right direction by preparing your thought process to accept the fact that nothing else is worth spending your money on but travel if you can help it.

I had to teach myself to cringe when spending money on anything that isn’t absolutely necessary outside of daily living and stashing in my travel fund.

This is the only way to gather and then hold on to any expendable income. It’s too easy to spend at home and on the road.

Creating a thought process that puts whatever you’re striving for before everything else worked for me when I wanted to save big $ fast.

Remember To Enjoy Yourself

I’ve thought long and hard on this list of budget travel tips and I hope they’ve shed a little light on how to travel the world cheaply but without sacrificing quality.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the rat race of catching flights and rushing from one country to another other and it can happen where we forget about why we are really traveling for.

two beers cheers

Budget Travel Tips For The Ages

Take some time each day and really just clear your head and breathe and remember why you are where you are in life and the world. We can get great insight when we just take the time to clear our minds and breathe.

These are just a few budget travel tips for backpackers and independent world travelers.

Creating this list of budget travel tips has been fun and I hope you can use something from this list to make your next trip that much better!

We appreciate your comments and feedback. Please share any budget travel tips you may have in the comment section below! I always appreciate learning about new budget travel tips and hope to hear from you below!

If you enjoyed these Budget Travel Tips please head on over to our Saving For Travel (7 Tips & Tricks) post for more Budget Travel Tips from the road.

Here’s a video I made of a $6 a night private room with a private bath I stayed at in Da Nang, Vietnam.

A true testament to what kind of deals can be found in some of the coolest places in the world.

Budget Travel Tips
Da Nang, Vietnam