We Reveal Our Best Budget Travel Tip!


Recently we’ve been getting a decent amount of emails from readers asking for travel tips and advice. The number one question we constantly receive is “how do you afford to travel?” which really translates to “how can I afford to travel?”


best budget travel tip
Well, listen up because we’re about to divulge our best budget travel tip. This simple tip will not only save you a ton of money, but will actually bring you a more authentic travel experience. Okay, I’m starting to sound like one of those pop up ads that promises you can melt belly fat with one weird trick. But seriously, if there’s one secret that has saved us from wasting our money while backpacking, it’s this: live like a local.

 

Too simple? Hear me out.

 

Even the cheapest countries can be expensive to travel in if you live like a tourist. Restaurants, hostels, tour companies will take advantage of any opportunity to gauge the price up at the sight of a gringo.

Living like a local not only means saving a ton of money, but truly experiencing a country, as well. So how do you live like a local? Try eating at a hole in the wall restaurant and ordering whatever delicacy is featured on the menu (or more likely, hastily described to you by the ladies behind the counter). Find a friendly local who will offer you a spare bed/couch/ space of floor to crash on. Ask that friendly local where he buys his beer and then sneak that beer in a water bottle so you can drink with his friends on the steps of the main plaza. While you’re drinking like a local, your backpacker counterparts will be spending 3 times as much on overpriced shooters at the gringo bar. Suckas.

best budget travel tip

{ enjoy some vending machine beer! }

 

Living like a local is not for everyone. It takes guts and a sense of adventure. You might have to wake up at 4 am just share a seat in the back of a pickup squeezed in between a chicken and a curious toddler. Of course you could be kicking back in an air-conditioned van, but then you’d be $30 short and wouldn’t have met Pedro, your friendly new local tour guide.

Living like a local means traveling authentically. This is where that whole tourist vs traveler idea comes into play. There’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation, spending your days lounging by the resort pool drinking margaritas, but you’re not really seeing the country. Unless you’re taking advantage of a strong currency exchange, why bother traveling across the world to do something you can do in your own backyard?



local5

Not that there’s anything wrong with a vacation. Everyone needs a few days poolside. But traveling, real authentic, living like a local traveling, is so much more than that. It’s not all beautiful white sands and pristine rainforest. It’s smoggy gritty, moto-taxi filled streets, people yelling in different languages, stomach churning food and harsh realities.

Living like a local means not shying away from those parts of a country that make you feel uncomfortable and squirm in your seat. It means examining those parts head on and experiencing them wholly because visiting somewhere as a foreigner means taking that place as a whole, with its good and bad.

So if you’ve got the guts, give it a try. Skip that party hostel and try Couchsurfing instead. Eat the street food, no matter what you’ve been warned. Hop on a local bus, even if you don’t speak the language. Pedro is waiting!

 

best budget travel tip

51 Comments

  • Although I’ve never traveled exactly this way, I do try to find a balance between a “vacation” and “living like a local”. When we were in Rome we stayed at a nice hotel, saw some very touristy attractions but each night we would sit four a couple hours at this hidden piazza where all the locals went to socialize. We loved just listening to the many Italian conversations and observe their interactions. The best part was you could bring your own bottle of wine which saved us money. It was definitely an inexpensive way to enjoy the local night life.

    Great tip!!

  • Calli says:

    Great post Christine! Living like a local is such a wonderful way to travel and explore a new place and so rewarding but sadly so few are even aware of this type of travel – and it’s definitely the cheapest travel option we’ve come across.

  • Christina says:

    Living like a local. What a great advice. It´s true and I love to do it too. But: I wouldn´t do it in India when it comes to food and drinks. I can only say: Delhi Belly. 😉

  • Teresa says:

    I may not always do the full ‘live like a local’ as I do like to have a comfortable bed to sleep in! However I find that even just walking around rather than taxis, taking the public transport rather than coaches etc makes a lot of difference and you see more, talk to people more, find the little cafes and shops and market places that are truly local. But your post has made me think – maybe I should try some couchsufing!

    • Walking around & taking public transportations are great ways to experience a new place! Just being out among the locals instead of trapped inside a tour bus will gain you a sense of respect from people and they will be friendlier to you. We’ve had so many lovely conversations on public transport that we’d never get on tourist trasnport. And definitely try out Couchsurfing- it’s awesome!

  • Dave Cole says:

    Great advice! As someone who has had a chicken for a bus-mate recently, I certainly agree that this is how to travel cheaply. Getting out of your comfort zone definitely is the way to accumulate friends and stories on the road. Where is that beer vending machine?

    • Haha! I’m so glad you had a chicken for a bus-mate because I thought people might think I was exaggerating but not at all! That’s the reality of traveling! And the vending machine was in Havana, Cuba! Just on the side of the road, as you do!

  • Samantha says:

    I hope to do a bit of couch surfing in the near future. I hope to visit a few neighboring countries by train and then stay with hosts to cut the costs. We did it in Myanmar recently and it was so much nicer than staying in hotels. We got a completely different perspective of the area than if we had stayed in a hotel. Great tips!

    • Couchsurfing is great! Accommodation is often our biggest cost so to be able to cut that really puts us under budget. Not to mention we’ve had some really amazing experiences with Couchsurfers!

  • Brad Frankel says:

    All my best experiences have been ‘living like a local’ – so love reading this. the food is usually a millions times better, travel can be a pain but still the same result, and all about the people you meet – and money you save, so you can stay longer 😉

  • Agree! Just would add one more thing to your tips: hitch hiking. In some countries is much faster than local buses and even if it sounds strange, is pretty safe! Plus you are guaranteed to have a local experience (well, not in Africa!)

    • Totally agree Elena! We actually have a post with hitchhiking tips because we enjoyed it so much! It definitely depends on the country but we had some great experiences hitchhiking. Thanks for commenting!

  • Andrew says:

    Some great ideas there! thanks for sharing!

  • Couldn’t have said it better guys. This is THE budget tip, and living with this philosphy not only will save you a ton of money, but will also give you wonderful experiences.

  • Brianna says:

    It’s not my travel style but I give mad props to those of you traveling this way. Cheers to living your own adventures!

  • Samantha says:

    Absolutely agree! It’s the best way to experience the local culture as well. I don’t mind a little luxury now and then but I appreciate being able to gain a deeper insight into how the country works and what the citizens think. Plus the hole in the wall restaurants are always the best!

  • Illia says:

    Couchsurfing always saves our budget and gives more freedom and unexpected ways to explore the town / country / cuisine / whatever. We recently discovered covoiturage (blablacar.com for example), which is a super cheap and convenient way to travel around Europe. Cheaper than the bus!

  • Jazza@nomadasaurus.com says:

    Awesome! Probably the most important travel tip going! It adds so much more to the authentic experience. A lot more fun too! Some of our best memories of Central America were formed on the inside of a chicken bus.

  • Karen Warren says:

    I agree with you about living like a local – I love to try back street restaurants and public transport. But I do tend to live like a tourist when choosing somewhere to sleep at night – I like a comfortable bed!

  • Laura says:

    These are excellent tips for people looking to travel. This is what I did while staying in Iceland, which can be an expensive country to begin with. Living in Iceland, like I would anywhere else helped me save money which let me do extra travelling later. Your advice can be used in any location!

  • You couldn’t have put it better, Christine. I recently convinced a friend to try couchsurfing in Argentina. She was a total brat (sorry if you’re reading this lol), would never do that-sort-of-thing-type-of-girl. She used to travel in decent hotels and take taxis. She finally relented, couchsurfed, did the local thing, and came out forever changed. It’s as if she didn’t understand the person she used to be, and wondered why she hadn’t tried doing this long ago. Then, she wondered how much money she squandered away all these years…

  • Bob R says:

    I’m a big couchsurfing and AirBnB fan; those are definitely the way to go when you can. As for the bigger international bar/restaurant chains, it’s a pretty good idea to stay out of those when you’re back home, too.

  • Anna says:

    I agree with you! Sometimes it’s not all easy, and often not at all comfortable) but living like the locals always gives you a much cheaper and more authentic experience. After all, what is the point in traveling across the world if you are going to stay cocooned from the very country you are visiting! 🙂

  • Great tips. I always love mingling with the locals and find out where they eat and hang out. A way to save money too.

  • Beth says:

    Living like a local is certainly a great tip that many people overlook. It’s how we’ve managed to save a lot living as expats in Asia!

  • Simone says:

    Absolutely agree! Although we have yet to go all out in living like a local, we try to eat like a local as much as possible. This is a huge money saver and you typically run across delicious food!

  • Judy Charlotte says:

    That’s the best budget travel advice I’ve ever heard. Thanks!

  • Maria Waley says:

    I always thought that traveling is expensive but in reality it is not. All we need is good planning.I was dreaming to travel for a long time and now I got a chance.

  • Laura says:

    That really is an excellent tip – no local lives in an all inclusive package hotel and doesn’t leave all week! Thanks for sharing and excellent photos 🙂

  • Alli says:

    Amazing tip that is so simple yet so difficult for many. I believe it opens the door to a plethora of unique and exciting experiences that would have never occurred on the flip side . . . discomfort can really put you “out there” in that you’re bound to overcome many obstacles and challenges!

  • Carey says:

    Your advice of “live like a local” couldn’t have been expressed more succinctly.

    Whenever we do the “tourist” thing, we always end up blowing our daily budget.

    Incredibly practical advice.

    • Thanks a lot Carey, it’s something we try to travel by, but it’s inevitable that you will fall into the tourist trap from time to time. We’re finding our first couple of weeks in Thailand a bit like that as we try to break free from the very well worn tourist trail an find something different.

  • Eric says:

    Love this. More has to be said about this as many, including myself has been so scared to live like a local. There’s so much more that a local can show you than what you look for online. I always watch Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods and the best moments are when they’re with the locals getting shown what their culture is.

    Another alternative to Couchsurfing, if you want to spend a little money for a more comfortable stay, would of course be AirBnB. But i’d recommend getting a shared/private room as opposed to the Entire place. Reason being, what you stated above. You want to be able to connect with the locals and get shown around if possible!

    Great write up!

    • There is so much to be said about traveling like a local. Most of our best travel memories come from these sorts of trips. When you can mix it with locals you really do learn a lot more about the country you’re in. Shared rooms on AirBnB is a great idea, we’ve never thought about that. Thanks for the tip 🙂

  • Nikita yadav says:

    Hello,
    Great post Christine! Living like a local is such a wonderful way to travel and explore a new place.
    Thanks

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