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Backpacking through the world: how to travel cheap.

Travelling through the world for free sounds like an unreachable dream. But it is possible, and you can do that without breaking the bank. There are of course certain expenses that you can’t cut (like travel insurance), but there are many ways to travel on a budget – including many ways to travel for free.

Travelling… is it really so expensive?

Backpacking is not the same as regular vacation. First of all, you have to get used to inconveniences. One time, while I was in a little known city on the border between China and Mongolia, my friend and I ended up in a tiny room with two double beds and paint flaking off of concrete walls. Swarms of mosquitoes were attacking us all the time. The room cost 20 juans, which is less than 5 USD, and was the cheapest room I ever found in China. It was so gloomy that in the middle of the night we snuck out to the real hotel across the street.

The occasional bit of luxury will help you charge your batteries before the next part of your journey. When you get to your destination after months of living on instant ramen alone, treat yourself to a proper dinner (with dessert) and a room with AC.

It’s a long way, which required determination and resourcefulness. It won’t be easy, but you’ll have a real adventure: a journey that literally no money can buy.

Where I went, what I saw and how much I spent

Backpacking to Laos in Southeastern Asia was one of two travels, where I managed to stick to my budget of 15 USD per day, although the accommodation was a bit more expensive than most places in this region and at that time. You can do a lot of interesting things in Laos for not a lot of money. I paid 2,5 USD to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, 7 USD for a whole-day cruise along the Vang Vieng river and 6 USD for an amazing massage with Tiger Balm. You can also rent out a motorcycle for a small price and visit one of the smaller towns, where everything is even cheaper! Thanks to the increasing number of hostels built with tourists in mind, you can find a place to sleep very cheaply. But if you have a bit more money to spend, you can get a very nice room for as little as 25 USD.

More and more tourists also visit Czech Republic, namely Prague, due to its rich history and cheap beer. The prices in Czech Republic increased in the last few years but it’s still one of the cheapest countries in Central Europe. Especially, if you wander out of Prague, for example to towns like Cesky Krumlov and Telc, where you can experience authentic Czech culture at a lower price. Local transport is reliable and inexpensive, and if you plan to travel a lot, you can buy a 3-day ticket for 16 USD.

The Czech cuisine, although not very healthy (most dishes consist of potatoes and meat), is very filling, and thus cheap – you can eat dinner in a local restaurant and not worry about supper. The entrance fees to historical sites and museums can be expensive (18 USD to enter Prague Castle), but you don’t have to always enter the paid part of the site – you can always admire the architecture from the outside and choose to pay for what looks the most interesting.

Probably the most healthy and cheap street food that I ate was in Vietnam. Imagine soup with rice noodles, cilantro, amazing stock and a whole ham hock for 1,5 USD, or a strong, aromatic coffee for 1 USD. When it comes to transport, renting out a motorcycle for a day is the cheapest. But I do understand that not everyone feels comfortable riding one, especially in countries like Vietnam, where traffic can be very chaotic. The good news is, GrabBike is available in every bigger city, and the cost of going 2 km is only 0,50 USD! Busses and long distance trains are also affordable and reliable. Accommodation is comfortable and easy to find.

How to travel cheaply?

CouchSurfing connects travellers and over 400 000 hosts from all over the world, who offer couches, airbeds, or even a floor you can sleep on. If you want to be a couchsurfer, complete your profile and collect reviews. It’s the best for you to start hosting travellers from your city and even surf locally.

Finding cheap flights requires flexible plans, but also spontaneous decisions about when and where you’ll go. I chose my destinations solely based on the ticket prices. Skyscanner and Adioso will help you to find cheap flights (i.e. to Finland, Paris or Iceland) and find out the best time to travel. Plan your trips to expensive places in the off-season, when there’s less tourists and you can to find better hostel offers. You might need to endure heat or rainy season, but you’’ll still be able to find a moment to breathe (in Columbia rainy season means heavy rainfall around noon, but mornings and afternoons can still be sunny and clear).

Sites like HelpX and Work Away offer volunteering work in exchange for food and shelter. WWOOF offers jobs (it might be tiring, but that’s what you’re there for!). Practical skills make travelling easier, and fixing or cooking will surely come in handy.

Pack up and go travelling!

If you want to satisfy your wanderlust without wasting money, consider this type of travel. Just because you’re used to travelling a certain way doesn’t mean that other ways are worse, and they can provide you with new experiences. Take a risk and try the cheaper ways to travel, like couchsurfing or a one-day trip. You’ll save money by choosing cheaper vacation, and the best part is that you might find a new favourite way to travel.

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