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13 ways to afford travelling the world when you’re on a tight budget

Don’t let the cost of travel postpone your dreams. Here are 13 creative money-saving tactics you didn’t know about but should.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  

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.

Just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t travel the world. You may just need to get a little creative.

If you’re willing to travel a little unconventionally, it is possible to travel to new and exciting places.

From volunteering to Couchsurfing, here are 13 services and websites budget travellers use to make travelling the world more affordable. 

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 do 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.

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.” 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.

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, 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 than 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 altogether, you don’t need quite as much money as you thought.

Here are several options for you to consider.

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 sign up to 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 homes 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.

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, families, baby boomers and even people old enough to be 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 or cook food, and you’ll have to share a bathroom. Some youth hostels offer private rooms, too. 

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, and even Booking.com has hostels for you to review.

HostelWorld alone has over 20,000 hostels & budget hotels and 200 campsites worldwide.

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.

Pet-Sit your way around the world.

If you love animals, pet sitting is a great way to get free room and board in countries all across the world. 

Like house sitting, you can look online at sites like trustedHousitters.com for gigs. Sometimes, people looking for pet sitters will also ask you to water the plants. 

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 by 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 is a pretty easy way to get a free flight.

I’ve bought many tickets using the 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 usually would. Try it and watch the points add up. Easy!

Borrow, Get A Loan Or Use Credit

I usually 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 of when borrowing MIGHT be appropriate.

Emergency Fund: Another instance when borrowing money might be okay 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?

Work Your Way Around The World


If you want to spend more than a couple of months travelling and money is an issue, then 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 and 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.

Get A Working Holiday visa.

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 and 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
  • The 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 country’s website to learn about visa requirements.  Here is the working holiday visa page information for France. 

Teach English Overseas

What better way to pay for your travels than to 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.

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


Become a digital nomad and freelance and work anywhere in the world with just your laptop.

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

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 transcribers
  • 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)

Become A Professional Travel Companion

There is a real need for travel companions for the elderly as well as disabled people, children, the hearing impaired, the 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

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 I found it intriguing. Watch the video below to see one woman’s experience using the site to find her first class date.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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