13 Creative Ways To Travel The World On A Tight Budget

Useful resources and ideas to help you travel the world on a tight budget

Just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t travel the world. You just need to get a little creative. From volunteering to Couchsurfing, here are 13 creative ways budget travellers can afford to travel the world.

When someone says they can’t afford to travel, what they usually mean is they can’t afford their IDEAL vacation or idea trip which usually entails travelling to some popular and expensive travel getaway like Paris during peak travel season or staying at a three or four-star hotel.  It’s just too cost prohibitive for a lot of people, especially for students, families and single income homes.

However, if you’re willing to travel a little unconventionally, you can travel to the places you’ve always dreamt of visiting and maybe some places you never thought you’d visit.

Here are a 13 services and websites which can help make your travel dreams come true sooner rather than later.

Volunteer Your Way Around The World.

volunteer your way around the world

Volunteering is an excellent way to travel to places you might not otherwise visit while also helping individuals and communities in need.

Although fulfilling and less expensive than a normal 2 week vacation, if you amortize the cost over the entire length of your volunteer travel stay which can be anywhere from a week to several months, it’s still out of the price range of many people- especially if you want to go with a second person or as a family.

Did you know it can cost several thousand dollars to volunteer, even for humanitarian purposes?

For example, I found an opportunity to volunteer to teach English in Ghana for 4 weeks and the cost was about $2,900 USD. It gets progressively less expensive the longer you stay, 8 weeks will cost you about $4,080 USD and 12 weeks will cost you about $5,200 USD per person.

The fees you pay to an organization usually does NOT cover your airline tickets or visa however it usually does include…food, lodging, insurance, emergency medical evacuation, pickup and drop off at the airport and maybe some language training. They also organize the entire process for you.

Check out the prices yourself over at projects abroad.

If paying to volunteer is too expensive or you want to find free volunteer opportunities, you still have many options.

1. WWOOF- Volunteer on organic farms worldwide.

Imagine picking grapes in France or olives in Italy. How cool would that be?

There is an organization called WWOOF which is an acronym for “Willing Workers On Organic Farms” and as the name suggests, they help people work as volunteers on organic farms internationally. There are all kinds of things you can do all over the globe using wwoof.net. Many volunteer opportunities even accept families.

Usually, you work 4 to 6 hours per day helping on the farm, and In exchange, you get free room, board and food.

You have to pay for your own transportation to and from the farms and membership on the WWOOFing site costs about 20 to 50 dollars per country where you are searching for opportunities.

2. STAYDU- Stay with locals for either work, money or free

Need more options than just volunteering at organic farms?

  • Do you like horses? Look for horse stables around the world looking for a farm hand.
  • Want to go to Germany and practice your German? You might find a hostel to work at in exchange for lodging.
  • Just want to hang out in Japan? See if a local in Japan will host you for free or in exchange to teach them English.

There is a service called www.staydu.com, and their motto says it all… “stay with locals for either work, money or free”.

You must provide your own transportation to and from the location, and there is a small fee to join the site. It’s less then 25 U.S. Dollars which is a steal if you ask me.

Free Or Cheap Accommodations Around The World

After transportation, accommodation and lodging are probably your biggest expense.

It stands to reason that if you can find free or cheap accommodations or eliminate housing costs all together that you don’t need quite as much money as you thought.

Here are several options for you to consider.

3. Couch-surfing: Stay for free with awesome locals

Want to stay completely free someplace for a few days and have instant friends?

Try Couchsurfing.com! A web-based service that connects travellers like you with people all around the world who are willing to let you stay in their house for FREE.

Couch surfing, stay with locals for free

The idea of couch surfing sounded weird to me too at first. I didn’t think it would work for us because we are a family of five but we gave it a try anyway, and we loved it.

It’s pretty straightforward to find places to stay. Once you signup on couchsurfing.com and create a profile, you can search for homes by location and by the number of people they can accommodate.

There are a couple of things you should know about Couchsurfing.

  • The owners are letting you stay in their home with them in it so you could literally be sleeping on the couch or the floor or all crammed in one room on air mattresses.
  • Many couch surfing hosts, open their home to travellers for free because they want to meet interesting people, so it’s sometimes courteous to spend some time with your host. Eating dinner, going on an outing together etc. In other words, don’t abuse their graciousness by sleeping in their house and then disappearing.
  • Since you are staying for free, don’t wear out your welcome. Don’t plan on staying in one place for more than a few days.

If Couch-surfing isn’t your thing, check out hostels. They can be pretty cheap.

4- Hostels: Stay in inexpensive dorm-like rooms

stay in hostels around the world
Hostel Dorm Room Accommodations

If you are not familiar with hostels, they are hotels with dorm-like accommodations.

There was a time when mainly young and single people under 25 stayed in hostels, but with the demand for affordable travel accommodations, family, baby boomers and even people old enough o be your grandparents are taking advantage of the low-cost hostels.

Most of the time there is a communal kitchen where you can warm up some food, and you’ll have to share a bathroom.

Expect to pay a minimum of around 20 bucks per person per night. Maybe more, maybe less. It just depends on where and the country.

To find hostels, visit hostel portals which aggregate hostels by area. Some of the better-known hostel portals are, HostelWorld.com, HostelBookers.com, Hostelz.com, even Booking.com has hostels for you to review.

HostelWorld alone has over 20,000 hostels & budget hotels and 200 camp-sites worldwide.

6- Pet-Sit your way around the world

5- House-Sit Your Way Around The World

Housesitting cornwall
Photo courtesy: TrustedHouseSitters.com

There are people with huge houses in locations you want to visit who are looking for people to watch their house for them.

What’s the catch?

-Well, you have to buy your own tickets to and from the place.

-You don’t get paid, but you get a free place to stay.

-The owners may ask you to feed their pets, water the plants or just keep an eye on things in general.

It really is a win-win situation.

Anyone can do House-Sitting including families with kids.

You just need to know where to look for house-sitting gigs.

If you want to skip the learning curve on how to House-Sit your way around the world, I recommend you learn the ins and outs of house-sitting by reading books written by other experienced house sitters.

Here are a few house sitting books for you to peruse.

7. Use Miles & Points To Buy Airline Tickets

I won’t get into the specifics of which card to use, but I will say that you could get one free ticket just signing up for one or two credit cards.

All you have to do is wait for one of those deals where they give you 50,000 miles after you spend 500 dollars or something like that. It a pretty easy way to get a free flight.

I’ve bought many tickets using miles I’ve accumulated with my cards. Back in 2011 when we flew to France, I purchased 4 of our tickets using miles.

That alone saved us almost 4,000 dollars for doing nothing more than spending and buying things like I normally would. Try it and watch the points add up. Easy!

8-Borrow, Get A Loan Or Use Credit

Borrow money to travel: under certain circumstances it may be the right choiceI normally don’t advocate taking out a personal loan for a lifestyle choice like travelling however under certain circumstances, it might be appropriate.

Here are a few examples when borrowing MIGHT be appropriate.

Borrow For A Gap Year: If you want to take a few months to a year off to travel before you start college (aka gap year) and you come up a little short on your savings goal.  The benefit and fulfillment you get from that gap year may far outweigh the cost in the long term.

Emergency Fund: Another instance when borrowing money might be o.k. is for an emergency fund. Having an emergency fund can eliminate lots of stress and give you peace of mind while travelling in case something unforeseeable happens.

Borrow to learn a language in another country so you can advance your career or future earning potential: Millions of people invest in their future by borrowing money to pay for college so why not borrow money to travel if it can potentially advance your career and or future earning potential?

Here are several ways you can go about getting a loan to travel.

Credit Cards: You could use your credit card for the bulk of your purchases, but many credit cards have high-interest rates which might make paying back your loan really difficult.

Personal travel loan:  Another option is to take out a personal loan for travel which usually has a lower interest rate than credit cards which makes repaying your loan a little easier. Just remember that getting a travel loan could be a little tricky to get. You need to make sure you have good credit and the ability to repay the loan before any bank will even look at lending you money.

Family: Lastly, you could hit up your family and hope they let you borrow money.

Work Your Way Around The World

Talon taught scuba diving in Central America

If you want to spend more than a couple of months travelling and money is an issue than you should consider working your way around the world.

Many people, including myself, have used this method to afford world travel.

Not only is it a great way to fund your travels, but it’s also a great way to get to know the local culture, language and make local friendships that will last a lifetime.

With that said, here are several ways you can work your way around the world.

9- Get A Working Holiday.

Many countries have a special visa called a working holiday visa which allows foreigners to work in that country for a short amount of time. 

You usually have to be under the age of 35, have a few thousand in the bank to prove you can support yourself while you look for a job in that country.

Most of the jobs are going to be low level, low paying jobs that don’t require a degree or a lot of work experience.

Here are some examples of jobs you can get on a working holiday.

  • Au pair (Many people over-seas want English speaking au pairs to help their kids learn English).
  • Waitress/Waiter ( May require you to speak the language)
  • Scuba Diving instructor: This single dad taught diving in Central America to support him and his son.
  • Tour guide:
  • Bartender
  • Crew on a yacht
  • Cruise ship worker

If you are interested in finding out more about working your way around the world, start by doing a search for “working holidays” and “working holiday visas” for a specific country and don’t forget to check out that countries website to learn about visa requirements.  Here is the working holiday visa page information for France. 

10- Teach English Overseas

What better way to pay for your travels than teach something you know how to do in your sleep?

I taught English off and on while living in Japan through a program called the Jet Exchange Program and made enough money to fund my travels for several years. I worked six months on and three months off travelling and visiting various places around the world.

NOTE: You may need to get certified with something called the TEFL certificate which isn’t that hard to get and does not take that long to get. You may even be able to take the class online within a matter of months for less than $800.

You might be interested in reading Want to Get Paid To Teach English Online From Home? 10 Things You Should Consider.

11- Geo-arbitrage:

Do you have a portable career that could potentially allow you to work from home or while travelling?

Become a digital nomad and freelance and work anywhere in the world with just your laptop.You have what is called a portable career and you could become a digital nomad.

Many digital nomads do something called Geo-arbitrage.

They command western salaries but live in places where the cost of living is far below what it would cost to live in their home country.

For instance, Victoria is a British girl who decided the 9 to 5 life wasn’t for herso she moved to Bali and figured out a way to make an income online. She ended up starting a travel Blog called Pommie Travels. Now she makes a living by selling advertising on her website, freelance writing and handling the media and PR for individual clients.

Here are a few examples of freelance jobs you can do while travelling.

  • Freelance Writer or copywriter
  • Web designer
  • English Teacher ( teach English via Skype or video call).
  • Consultant: ( what skill do you have that you could use to start consulting people and businesses)
  • Transcribers: Video and medical transcriber
  • Virtual Assistant: (very popular)
  • Data Entry

Freelance Work Portals Where You Can Find Work

  • Guru.com
  • Upwork.com
  • Freelancer.com
  • PeoplePerHour.com
  • 99designs.com ( web related design work)

12- Become A Professional Travel Companion

There is a real need for travel companions for the elderly as well as disabled people, children, hearing impaired, visually-impaired or people who are just nervous about flying alone.

The website FlyingCompanions.com matches people who need travel companions with people willing to travel with them.

Just remember, you will be working and probably won’t be able to do any skydiving or climbing Mount Everest, but you will have some time to yourself to explore once in a while so pick and choose your jobs carefully.

Get Paid to travel with other people: become a travel companion

13. Travel Dating: Date And Travel The World:

If you’re single, attractive, low on cash and looking to meet other travellers, try MissTravels.com, a travel dating website which describes itself as a “first class dating site.””

I haven’t tried this nor do I know anybody who has but found it intriguing. Watch the video below to see one woman’s experience using the site to find her first class date.

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I’m A Bilingual North American With Thai And French Canadian Roots Who's Been Living In The South Of France For Over 10 Years. I Love Writing Weird, Wonderful, Interesting, Forgotten, And Fascinating Articles For Intellectually Curious People Amazed By France, French Culture, And World Travel.


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  1. it’s so hard to find a volunteer work worldwide from where I come from. The house sitting looks interesting, although it’s a bit scary because of the responsibility involved!

  2. Wow, was not aware of the Miss Travel-concept. Is there a Mister Travel as well? Got to be some lonely sugarmamas out there as well :) Will definitely look into house-sitting btw!

  3. Great list. It’s crazy how many ways you can travel the world on a tight budget.

    I’d like to add a little bit of info on volunteer travel. Some of them are pretty expensive, but I’ve heard that they are tax deductible. I haven’t actually volunteered while traveling though so I can’t say for certain how much you can deduct. It’s something to keep in mind though. It might give you back some of the money you spent to do it.

    1. It is insane how many ways there are to travel on a tight budget isn’t there?
      You make a good point about volunteering being tax deductible. I will have to look into that because it can be very cost prohibitive but with a tax deduction, that changes things a bit.

  4. All these 13 tips can help in saving money during travel. Staying with local families in free is a good idea but one needs to confirm safety issues first. Teaching is the best idea to earn some money during your travel holidays.

    1. I totally agree Peter. Teaching is very good way to earn money while travelling. Although, I liked working in a bar while travelling too. :)

  5. Have used TrustedHousesitters.com to do quite a bit of travelling around Europe; in fact have managed to spend the last nine months living in France without paying rent which is nice.

    Couchsurfing can be good if you’re travelling alone and want to meet people as well.

    1. That’s awesome that you guys have been in France for the past 9 months without paying rent. I agree couchsurfing is easier when single but we were able to do it with our three kids in tow. there were just less options. We met some amazing people couch surfing..

  6. Oh my goodness Annie, you never leave any stone unturned. When you do your research for a post to share with us you do your research.

    I would have never thought of half of what you shared here. Now I’m not surprised at the expense to go and volunteer because my nephew is going to Brazil at the end of this month to do volunteer work so he had to raise the money in order to go.

    I would much rather sleep in a hostel then on a strangers couch. Some of the other ones, no way.

    I will admit, very interesting stuff you shared with us and boy did I ever learn something.


    1. Thank you Adrienne, I try to do my research. It’s such a shame that volunteering is so expensive. i think many more people would do volunteer work if it were more affordable. A lot of the money paid for volunteering goes to the middle man from what I understand. Maybe there is a way to contact schools or places directly to cut out that cost..
      And couch surfing isn’t too bad Adrienne. i swear. We did it as a family and really enjoyed it..

  7. Awesome resource and some creative solutions, for sure! My favorite happens to be #11, of course ;) But I never even thought about taking out a loan as an option.. Though I wouldn’t advise it either, it’s nice to at least see it on the list as an option. And I had no idea there was such a thing as a travel companion job.. travel dating looks interesting too, but I’d be too intimidated because it reminds me of hot or not.. Being judged by looks and if you think of it like attracting your ‘ideal client’… well, this isn’t my ideal type of guy anyway. I’m not the gold digger type, unfortunately. :/ I like doing everything the hard way and forging my own opportunities.

    1. Your comment made me chuckle. I can’t believe that travel dating exists but then again, I do believe it exists. I’m with you though, i think forging our own way and sleuthing out your own travel opps is better than sponging off some rich dude. LOL

  8. Awesome ways Anne!

    I guess you listed everything there possibly is to travel on a budget. :)

    Well, we have tried out some of the ways you listed when we used to travel a lot with our parents – ages back! Oh yes, we tried staying with the locals the most as dad always had so many contacts around the country, and we even got those loans once, stayed in dorms, as well as tried the ticket coupons. The rest of the things are pretty new to me, or perhaps all of the things we tried for travelling within our country and we used them a great deal.

    I guess being kids, we weren’t really bothered where and how dad took us – carefree like it was. :)

    Thanks for sharing these with us. :)

    1. Thanks Harleena,
      Sounds like you’re parents did a bit of budget travel too. I remember travelling a lot too and never gave the budget a second thought.. Times change cause we care a lot now don’t we?

  9. The au-pair program is another great way to get out of your house and go to see the life in another culture. My girlfriend used to be an au-pair in France. She is from Georgia and go abroad for her was something unreal. So now after a year in Paris she is so fluent in French and has been to almost all European countries. I envy her))LOL

    1. You’re so right about the au pair program. It’s a actually a great way to expose yourself to the French language because the family you are with can help you practice your French.

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