Your Insta feed has heaps of no filter hashtags and everyone from home is fed up of your envious posts. You’ve finally got to grips with mixed dorm hostels and can tackle sharing a shower (you now know flip flops are mandatory). You’ve just landed somewhere incredible and no longer have the safe haven of 7/11 the McDonald’s dollar menu, heck even a bottle water is now 4 bucks. You’re supposed to be living the dream, but your bank account is as red as your sunburn and the realization is setting in, you’re broke and seemingly a million miles from home.
Don’t panic! Here are 25 travel hacks to help you survive (and prevent you from calling the bank of Mum and Dad)
1. Stay in hostels
By far one of the greatest creations when you’re traveling on a shoestring. Bunk with eight other like-minded nomads and ditch the swanky hotels for budget accommodation. Not only will you be getting the authentic backpacking experience, but you can often grab a bed for just a few pounds a night.
2. Hostels often have free food
Putting an end to the saying there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most hostels will offer at least a free breakfast spread. Fill your pockets with croissants to snack on and make ham baguettes for beachfront picnics.
3. Work in a hostel
Okay maybe this section should be called hostel hacks…working in a hostel often means you’ll get free accommodation. Bunk for free and become an expert in the city/town/farm that you’re staying in as, for a few hours on reception or house keeping work a week, most hostels will give you free board.
4. Get to know the locals
Avoid overpriced tourist traps by making friends with locals and get them to share their insider tips. Why pay to take the tram to the top of the Christ Redeemer when there is a hiking trail instead? Forget climbing the Sydney Harbour bridge, hop across the pedestrian walkway. Blue Lagoon on the bucket list? Ditch it for Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths, half the price, less cramped and boasts panoramic views over an idyllic lake.
5. Shop locally
Forget overpriced franchises and big name brands, head to farmers markets, vintage stores and thrift markets to leave with quirkier gifts and fatter wallets.
6. Take free classes
Whether it’s channeling your zen at free morning yoga classes, evoking your inner Van Gough at art classes or fine-tuning your Tony Hawk skills with skateboarding lessons, hostels and cities around the globe offer a whole host of free classes to enjoy.
7. Travel at night
Not only are fares cheaper, but your sleeper train doubles up as your accommodation for the night meaning more money is left for activities!
8. Turn off notifications
Who needs Facebook buy and sell notifications when you’re out petting Kangaroos, taking selfies with snakes and diving with Great Whites? Turn off your notifications, say no to excess data charges and say yes to adventure!
9. Do your research
Whilst I’m a true believer that the only way to truly see a city is by getting lost in it, I make sure I do my own research before I travel. Forget a militant itinerary, I make sure I know what things should cost, where the tourist areas are and when’s the cheapest time to visit.
10. Make friends
Having run out of money in the last part of my round the world trip, I’d slept in a bus station for three days, slept on overnight buses for five and desperately needed a bed and a shower. With little more than 10 Reais in my pocket and heading to the Brazilian capital days before the Fifa World Cup final, I didn’t back my chances and was prepared to nap on Copacabana beach. Enter my backpacking guardian angel, a fellow traveler overheard my conversation and hooked us up with a hostel bed for a few nights until I got back on my feet. He even bought me a few beers as we kicked back and watched the final!
11. Happy Hours
Ah, the golden hour. Home to $5 Tacos and $3 Schooners – take advantage and tuck in.
12. Bring a hammock
Apart from being ultra bohemian and Instagram lust worthy, hammocks come in handy when hostels are full and they’ll often let you pitch up in common rooms/the beach/rooftops for practically no charge at all!
13. Lunch is important
If there are restaurants on your bucket list that you just HAVE to eat at (wait for your food to get cold before you snap the perfect pic) then try eating there at lunchtime. Often a lunch menu is cheaper than the evening offering.
14. Learn to haggle
Although haggling is sometimes uncomfortable, in a lot of Asian and Middle Eastern countries it’s completely normal. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and soon you’ll be playing a game of snap to settle a 100 Baht bar bill!
15. Learn the language
Being able to converse with locals will not only extend your worldwide friends list, but it’ll also mean you’ll receive a whole heap of tips and can prevent you from being overcharged. Even if you get your please and thank you’s slightly mixed up, they’ll appreciate the effort and will laugh with (at) you!
16. Sell your stuff
Having spent four months playing farmer, packing bananas in Queensland, and spending far too much money on a Friday night on goon, I took to opening my very own marketplace in my hostel. I sold sundresses, Levi shorts, flip flops and just about anything others backpackers took a fancy too. My backpack was no longer bulging, but my wallet (finally) was!
17. Walk 10,000 miles
Walk when you can, it’ll help you take in the scenery and get a feel for the land. If you must, grab an Uber to maximize time and energy.
18. Check your visa
There’s nothing worse than overstaying your welcome. Check your visa requirements to ensure you don’t incur financial penalties for overstaying.
19. Look out for quirky transport
Flight to Fortaleza? £149 Flight to Rio? £210 Bus to Recife? Fully booked… penniless, (but fabulously tanned) and stranded in the hippie infused Jericoacoara. Enter donkey kart for 103km, dune buggies for km and bartering our way onto the front driver’s seat of a bus. We got from A to B in the most unlikely of ways, and for less than half the price!
20. Digital Detox
Avoid outrageous international phone bill and data charges by switching off. You didn’t come to see the world through a four-inch screen, so switch off, literally.
21. Memories over materials
Forget filling your backpack with overpriced souvenirs and learn to relish memories over material things. You can’t put a price on watching 5am sunrises with new friends or playing football through the favelas with giggling children.
22. Claim your tax back
A lot of countries that offer working holiday visas give you the option to claim your tax back. Don’t be fooled into using a third party, the process is often really simple so do it yourself and enjoy extending your time in paradise.
23. Check your travel insurance
Nobody wants to blow their traveling funds on paying a hospital bill because they’ve burnt themselves on the fire skipping rope in Koh Phagan and alcohol-induced injuries aren’t covered (ever) by travel insurance. Keep your wits (and pennies) about you and double, triple, quadruple check what your travel insurance covers.
24. Be strong
Traveling is the best form of education, but it can also be mentally challenging. Juggling homesickness, loneliness and stress can affect your trip. Take some time out to talk to someone, international friends will often extend global hands and help you.
If you are still worried, then check out the FCO’s guide to traveling with mental health.
25. ENJOY IT!
Make the most of your trip of a lifetime and enjoy every second. Say yes to everything, be adventurous, be spontaneous, revel in your freedom, laugh all day and dance all night.