In times that are not financially easy, travelling seems to be a luxury, but do not forget that even a small trip helps to shake off the burden of problems and gain new strength. There are many tricks which might help to plan a cheap trip. Since most of AEGEEans are students on a budget, we would like to post about opportunities for travelling cheap.
Plan your trip in advance
It’s better to plan the budget costs on a maximum depending on features of each concrete trip: logistics (including rent of the car, tickets for trains, etc.), accommodation and the minimum programme (exhibitions, restaurants, concerts and shopping trips). This may sound obvious but a lot of people forget about logistics and spend more than they expected. Thus, check out ways and compare prices to get to the city from the airport before your trip. In many EU-cities you can walk to the city centre from the central station, so it would be clever to check out the distance beforehand and save some money and time instead of waiting for a bus. The Internet is ready to suggest the average cost of living in a particular city.
Most likely, the highest expenditure for you will be a flight. It is better not to delay buying air tickets: the earlier you buy them, the cheaper they will cost.
Buy tickets for the plane using airfare search sites like Aviasales, Skyscanner, Anywayanyday, Momondo, Kayak and low-cost like Lastminute. Don’t forget to clear your browser’s cache before every new search: the cookies store information you were looking before and suggest new options depending on what you’ve already seen. If you always start from scratch, they will not offer you more expensive options. Choose off-season flights, so that they will cost even less. Keep in mind that the fare recalculation occurs on Monday, and if you find a good ticket, you have time until Tuesday to buy it at the current price. Some airlines like AirBaltic offer to pay separately for everything: luggage, registration at the airport, your preferred seat and meals on board. If you can put everything in your hand luggage and survive three hours without a cold sandwich – why pay for it?
For trains you might check out Raileurope and Rome2rio, for busses – Flixbus or Fernbus. You can try “planned hitchhiking” by using Bla bla car services, which offer to become a fellow traveller. All operations and payment pass through the company’s website. It is worthwhile to focus on the feedback of grateful (or not) customers, and if there is no doubt, then the trip will hardly be different from calling Uber.
Or actually try hitchhiking! If it is your first time, consider travelling with someone who is experienced in it. You should also read hitchhike forums about destination you want to go to get some tips and visit Hitchwiki.
Staydu or Couchsurfing are great websites where you can find a place to stay and meet wonderful people all over the world. You don’t have to pay for you stay, but it will be nice if you bring something to your host or share some knowledge like showing your cooking skills or having a language exchange. With Couchsurfing you can also find meetups or people who would like to hang out close to you. If you are a girl travelling alone, who has heard a lot of bad things about Couchsurfing, find a travel mate or a host in Facebook GoWonder® – Women Travel. You might also try Hospitalityclub, which is a worldwide network of open doors where you can also find a place to stay for free.
In Airbnb you can find a cheap room or a bed in someone else’s house. If not, try LateRooms or Hoteltonight, the last one is a perfect app for spontaneous booking: the closer is your booking date, the cheaper you will book your room. Check out Hostelworld – don’t be afraid to live in a hostel, it is another awesome way to make new international friends.
If you prefer to be all alone and have no money for a hotel, you might also try to rent a car for travelling and sleeping in it, check out Autoeurope.
Since it is not always easy to find a place for the night through Couchsurfing or other sites like that, one must be prepared for sleeping in a tent. Although in many cities there are not many suitable places to break a tent, if you look carefully, you can always find a loophole. You can, for example, take shelter in the backyard of the church (people who come to visit such places are more tolerant and kind), in a small garden with a lot of trees and bushes. Keep in mind that you do not need a large space to sleep, the area of 2mx1m will be quite enough.
Sites around the world suggest many free events and cheap places to visit with comments from other travellers: starting with the Stay and ending with tourist portals like TripAdvisor. Before the trip it is worth to dig on Yelp, Like a Local Guide or TimeOut and see what interesting and budget places there are in the city. Do not forget about Neweuropetours – free walking tours in the EU.
When it comes to museums, concerts, exhibitions, markets and so on, always try to buy tickets in advance. Also in many countries there is a day of free access to all major museums – at such a date it is quite possible to adjust the trip.
Most importantly, if the budget is small, do not put off the issue of entertainment until the last, when you stand on the street and do not know where to go and what to eat. If you pre-marked on an offline map of the city a dozen of liked places, the problem will disappear by itself.
Long-term travelling opportunities
Become a volunteer in an organic farm. Organic farmers are usually limited in the means to hire professional workers, and as a result, some of them are looking for volunteers. You will not receive a salary, but at least you will have a place to stay at the destination. Many of the owners will even provide you with food. The largest and most used by the volunteers organisation is WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, but this organisation will require you to pay a small fee for joining. For completely free options it will be necessary to comb ads and free forums.
If you are a student, keep an eye for exchange programmes at your university or trainings abroad like ASEF or Council of Europe, which not only cover the travel or accommodation costs but also educate you and give new friends and experiences. You will need a strong motivation and relevant experiences (e.g. organising a Summer University or active membership in the Civic Education Working Group) for this.
Another great way to learn something new is work & travel. Workaway or helpx will help you to find a host, where you get food and accommodation for working four to five hours a day and sometimes even pocket money. Those jobs are usually like babysitting, cleaning or helping with building a house, so you will not only see a country as a local and learn stuff like building a greenhouse, but also improve your language skills. Why pay for a boring language course and a hotel, if you can live in Spain helping someone around?
All this is extremely profitable, but for such a holiday you need to understand precisely that all your “deprivations” are not deprivations at all, but the result of a conscious choice, and consider those restrictions as an exciting quest.
Extra tips for any travelling
- Learn 50-100 of the necessary words of the country’s language before leaving. It’s easier to find out the prices and you won’t be so hesitant to bargain, when you have a small vocabulary. Also locals will react friendlier and maybe even feed you and offer to host you, which happens a lot in Asia.
- Eat where locals eat. The food is more delicious and cheaper there, plus you will feel the city and meet new local friends.
- Travelling does not only mean taking selfies with some nice architecture. It also means meeting locals or other expats. Improve your social skills – do not be afraid of talking to new people in hostels, museums or on the street. You might use apps like Couchsurfing, Meetup, Facebook ( e.g. groups Munich or Lisbon international friends) or even Tinder for those purposes.
Any other ideas how to discover our big world on a budget? Share in comments!
Written by Aliona Sytnyk, AEGEE-Berlin