Travelling on a shoestring

Travelling on a shoestring

The prospect of travelling on a shoestring tends to create one of two responses; the first is one of romanticism and liberation where the prospect of getting down and dirty with the local culture feels enriching and enlivening in comparison to staying in a sterile yet comfortable hotel. The second response is one of frustration and agitation – where what “should” feel like a holiday ends up feeling like an endurance test.

In reality, money is the fuel that gets you from where you are to where you want to be, and without money, your travel adventure will feel like a plane grounded on the runway without the fuel to take off and take on all the world has to offer.  Then, the worst case, of course, is that the fuel runs out halfway through the journey and you end up in trouble.

Unfortunately, money in this context is as essential as the air we breathe.  Yes, you can travel on a budget and still have a wonderful time but the key principle is making sure you have as much disposable cash as possible.  Now, when it comes to this, there are two ways to look at this – increasing your budget and reducing your expenses.

The first is by increasing your budget; there are plenty of ways to do this – from tapping into savings accounts, selling unwanted stuff, or at the more extreme end dipping into an overdraft.  The best way, however, is to increase your income – and that doesn’t mean you have to work all hours.

You could, for example, simply download a free tenancy agreement template, put an advert on Gumtree, and rent out your spare room for a few hundred pounds each month (particularly useful if you’re going on a long trip).  Similarly, you could increase your income by monetising your blog, setting up a side hustle, asking for a pay rise or getting a conventional part-time job.

In many ways, making money is a very simple formula – it’s quite simply a value exchange, meaning the more value you create for another party the more money you will be able to earn.  The other thing to consider is that when money is tight, most people think their problem is a lack of financial resources, whereas, it’s often down to a lack of resourcefulness because where there’s a will there’s a way… and we hear so many inspirational stories of people that set out on a dream with nothing yet somehow made it happen.

The other side of the coin from increasing your budget is to reduce your costs; in the sense of squeezing the most out of your travel budget by saving on certain aspects in order to experience more from your trip; as an example, staying in cheap accommodation and riding on buses rather than hiring a car but getting to go on a scuba diving safari.

In that vein, this article concludes with looking at how to reduce the two largest expenses; flights and accommodation.

Find Cheap Flights

If you’re looking to travel internationally, then flights can take a large chunk of money from your travel fund.  However, if you can be flexible with your flight dates then searching for cheap flights via comparison engines such as or that compare hundreds of flights by almost every airline in the world to present you with the cheapest deals for the dates and destinations you are looking for can save you a heap of cash.

Another factor to consider is being flexible with your departure and arrival airports; as an example if you were flying to Laos it might be worth searching for flights to other parts of Asia; like hub airports such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok – then getting a cheap AirAsia flight (the equivalent of Ryanair) direct to Laos, or even, to the North of Thailand where you get a local bus to the border for just a few pounds.

Similarly, if you were to be living in America wanting to visit London – if there were a flight to Manchester that is $200 cheaper – it would make financial sense to book that flight and travel to London on a cheap train ticket.  The other thing to consider, if travelling to somewhere like Paris there are a number of airports all within range of Paris; as an example, Paris Orly tends to be cheaper than Charles de Gaulle (for flights within Europe).

In summary, the more flexible you can be in terms of time and location, the cheaper the flights you will be able to find.

Work for your accommodation

A further huge expense when travelling is accommodation; even in countries known for being cheap such as Malaysia, a basic room can be around £10 a day – which adds up to £300 per month.  There is the option to rent a property for a few months, which can work out a LOT cheaper than staying in hotels or even hostels.  Then, if you’re particularly enterprising you could always rent a three bedroom house in a convenient area which you sublet via AirBnB to other travellers.

The other thing to consider, if you’re really on a budget, are sites such as workaway that essentially allow you to volunteer for four hours a day, and in return, you get free accommodation and food.  This is not just a cheap way to travel, it’s a great way to be part of a community and meet other people whilst making a difference – particularly if you were to be volunteering somewhere like an orphanage or animal sanctuary.

In summary, the key point is to increase your budget by increasing your income and at the same time (or in the alternative) to keep your costs as low as possible – particularly in terms of the big-ticket items such as flights and ongoing expenses such as accommodation in order to have more disposable income to enjoy your experience.

Charlotte x