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How to Travel When You Have No Money

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 11 / 02 / 2016

Gap Year Advice

It’s the #1 reason would-be gap year travellers think they can’t embark on some epic worldwide trip...

You don’t have enough money, therefore you can’t go travelling.

Of course, travelling does require funds. But is the terrifying amount actually as much as you think it will be? And have you considered all of your options when it comes to raising and saving for your gap year?

The reality is, a little can go a very long way if you play your cards right. Here are some top tips on raising money before you go, and keeping your spending to a minimum whilst you’re away...

Get a Job Before You Go

If you're on a gap year, your first instinct will probably be to hit the backpacker trail as soon as possible.

But in actual fact, the summer months can be the perfect time to get jobs and start raising the cash you need. Here's a few ideas to get you started...

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Job Idea #1: Bar Work

The art of pulling pints and projecting a welcoming atmosphere for paying customers are skills that will help you score work anywhere in the world. Head down to your local pub and offer your services.

Hours tend to be evenings and weekends too, which makes it an ideal second income if you have a full-time job during the day.

Job Idea #2: Event Worker

Whether it’s a festival, concert or the horse racing, events need extra staff for everything from security and crowd control to catering and hospitality.

Sign up to a staffing agency that supplies this work - like Off to Work or At Your Service - it’s a great way to make some money.

Job Idea #3: Dog Walker

Is this really a job? Yes it is. Especially in the school holidays, when families go on holiday and look for someone to walk their precious pooch for a few days. You can do it for as little as a couple of hours a day and it will provide cash in hand to put straight towards your savings.

Check out this useful tutorial on how to become a dog walker for more ideas.

Finding work whilst travelling can be very difficult. But not with our popular program 5 Weeks in Australia: Sydney + Safari + Paid Work that gets you sorted on the job front in tandem with a travelling itinerary of the East Coast.
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Make Use of the Bank of Family and Friends

Ok, so not literally asking them to pay for your trip (well, maybe – if you’re feeling brave?), but asking them for money instead of presents when it comes to your birthday and Christmas is an easy way to beef up the stash of cash.

If you want to take it one step further and make this process less awkward, why not create a fundraising page on a website like gofundme.com? That way you'll have a platform to explain to friends and family exactly what you're planning to do and what you'll get out of it, plus it makes it really easy for them to contribute to your fundraising goal.

If you do manage to talk your grandma into giving you some cash after you finish school, hopefully it goes a little better than it did for comedian Anthony Jeselnik...

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Save Your Money Wisely

It’s well worth looking into different bank accounts to see which ones offer you the best interest rates for saving, and the best transaction rates for international use. It’s surprising how much you can save with the right account.

You want to pay as little as possible on top of transactions and cash withdrawals. If every time you use the card, it costs you an extra £3, this will soon add up over the weeks or months.

Also invest in a Terramundi pot. Basically, it’s a one-way money jar. Once the money goes in, there’s no getting it out – unless you smash the thing to pieces (which in itself sounds like a reason to buy one of these things).

There's a whole chapter on fundraising and saving in our comprehensive (and completely free) gap year advice guide The Gap Adventure Blueprint, and plenty more advice besides that will help you get your head around all your options for planning a gap year.
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Borrow What You Can

Research everything you might need (start by reading How To Pack The Perfect Gap Year Backpack) and before heading off to the latest ‘outdoorsy’ shop to buy it all, ask around to see if anyone has anything they can lend you.

Even if all they can offer you is a padlock and five zip-lock bags (believe me, these come in handy), that’s two things you can cross off your list.

Book Your Flights 54 Days In Advance

The key to travelling is to remain as flexible as possible. But if you need to book flights before you depart, then be strategic about when you book to save money.

Kristin at Brokepedia (see video, below) cites 'The Rule of 54', based on research from Cheapair.com, which found that air fares are typically at their very cheapest 54 days before departure.

Of course, 54 days is pretty exact, but try to book between 29 and 104 days before you leave to maximise your chances of a cheap flight. You may also want to download Hopper, an app (more apps coming up in a moment) which analyses billions of flights to help you find the best deals and the best times to fly and buy.

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Also spend time looking at different deals that could save you money in the long run. For example, a multi-destination plane ticket with the ability to change dates may seem expensive at first, but it’s probably cheaper than waiting until you’re away and booking each flight only a couple of weeks before.

Eat Local Food Whilst You're Away

Part of the reason you’re going away is probably to experience new cultures and walks of life. Don’t let this stop at food.

Eating local food is one of the best ways to save money whilst you’re away. It’s part of the experience of being in that country, and is normally a lot cheaper than imported western food. For example, in South East Asia the street food is delicious and will set you back about £1.50 per meal.

Just make sure you're sensible, as food poisoning can also be a quick way to bring your trip to an abrupt halt. Educate yourself on best practices for travellers wherever you're heading - the NHS' Guide to Food and Water Abroad is a good place to start.

Hostels Are Cheaper Than Hotels

Accommodation costs will be one the main drains on your travel fund, so make sure you pick a sensible strategy. For some people, the idea of a hostel is something out of a horror movie. If that's you, then you need to get over this unfounded stereotype as quickly as possible.

Sure, some hostels are a case of getting exactly what you pay for (a creaky bunk bed and a broken fan), but more often than not, the facilities and service match that of a hotel.

Don’t think that you will always be bunked up with nine strangers either. More and more hostels are offering private rooms with private bathrooms for a fraction of the price that you would pay at a hotel.

Most will also come with a communal kitchen, meaning you have the option of cooking your own meals. If you're in an area where it’s expensive to eat out, this can save you a small fortune.

Check out Find the Right Hostel for Your Gap Year With These Tips for further reading on the topic.

Find Alternative Means of Transport

There’s a lot of money to be saved in this area – so listen up. It’s easy to assume that a flight is the only way to cross from one country to another, but that’s not always the case. Look in to bus and train routes as these can sometimes cost a lot less, even if they do take longer to get you there.

For long distances, there’s often an overnight train or bus. If you take this, you’ll also save on accommodation for that night.

Also consider how you’re going to get around each place you visit. Are you going to pay for a 10-minute taxi ride, or walk 45 minutes? Walking (and cycling) are great ways to explore your destination in depth – and stop you from piling on the pounds from all the cheap and delicious street food you’ll be eating.

If you really want to push your limits, think outside the box. I recently wrote a post on this blog called From Skydiving to Helicopters: 5 Fantastic Ways to See the World from High Altitude, which should give you some ideas!

Make Use of Discount Cards

Many cities will offer some form of a discount card if you're planning on visiting most of the attractions there. You’ll be able to find them at tourist information centres and they will save you the hassle of working out the ticketing system for each attraction.

It’s also worth taking your student card, even if it only saves you 10% - every little helps!

Don't Travel in High Season

Ask yourself if it’s essential that you visit somewhere in peak season (you'll need to Google when this is depending on where you're going).

Unless you have to, look at rearranging things so that you’re there before or immediately after the majority of the crowds. You’ll find prices are cheaper and you don't have to book accommodation in advance.

Find Paid Work Abroad

It is possible to earn money whilst you’re away. If you head to a top backpacker spot, there will be plenty of bar work (especially if you've gained valuable experience before leaving home). Failing that, some hostels will offer you free accommodation in return for a couple of hours work each day.

Read How to find a job overseas for lots more information on this.

Download Money-Saving Mobile Apps

If you’re planning on taking a smartphone with you, there are certain apps that will drastically reduce the cost of keeping in touch with family and friends back home, as well as providing you with useful information about your destination.

Here are some of my top picks (and watch the video below for plenty more ideas)...

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Useful App #1: Skype

Free video calling for when the pictures that you’re sending home just aren’t doing your new sun tan justice. You can also add credit to your Skype account and make extremely cheap international phone calls.

Useful App #2: WhatsApp

Providing you have an Internet connection (preferably free wifi from your hostel), WhatsApp will enable you to message as well as send photos and video to other Whatsapp users for free. Meaning you’ll be free of paying high international data charges on your phone bill.

Useful App #3: Viber

Exactly the same principle as Whatsapp, but for making phone calls. Download it from the Viber website.

Useful App #4: CityMaps2Go

If your sense of direction is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, you need to download City Maps 2 Go by Ulmon. If you opt to pay for the pro version, you can download interactive maps directly to your phone before you leave, meaning when you’re away, you don’t have to rely on a lousy (and expensive) 3G connection to determine where you are or get you to where you’re going.

The pro version will set you back a mere £2, which in the grand scheme of things is quite reasonable. Especially if that £2 prevents you from wandering a mile in the wrong direction, with a 16kg rucksack on your back.

Useful App #5: Dropbox

Before you go, scan all of your important documents (passports, visa, insurance, credit cards) and keep a digital copy that you can access when you’re away in case of an emergency.

If you upload them to an online storage facility (for example, Dropbox or OneDrive), and download the app to your phone, you’ll have instant access. Be careful though, and make sure your password is at maximum strength and changed regularly.

Good Luck and Get Saving

And there you have it - a list of ways that make travelling more of a possibility when you think you don’t have enough money. It’s easier than you think, right?

Don’t forget to let me know of any money-saving tips I've missed in the comments section below.

Want to be able to put these tips into practice, but not sure where to start with your trip? Then download our comprehensive gap year advice guide: The Gap Adventure Blueprint, which contains several chapters that will help you get your head around all the options and offer advice on how to raise funds, plus much more.

Photo: © organicfootprint.wordpress.com

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