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6 travel hacks backpackers use to save money

6 travel hacks backpackers use to save money

How do backpackers manage to stretch their hard-earned dollars so far on their travels?

They must know something we don’t know, right? They travel on a shoestring, but still manage to get around and see the sights without it costing them an arm and a leg.

I’ve discovered that there are plenty of ways to save money while backpacking. Here are 6 travel hacks backpackers use to save money!


Travel hacks backpackers use to save money

Taking yoghurt, bananas, and bread rolls from the breakfast bar in Innsbruck.

1. Take advantage of included breakfasts

If your hostel/hotel includes breakfast, why not be sly and take advantage of the food provided for later in the day? Whoever said there is no such thing as a free lunch didn’t know what they were talking about.

Travel hacks backpackers use to save money

The view from the café at Montparnasse Tower in Paris

2. Find alternatives to tourist sites

Sites that are specifically for tourists are usually expensive. Some entry fees (such as museums) can’t be avoided but others have alternatives that are just as good, and not nearly as touristy! Do your research first, and ask locals or other travellers what they suggest you do instead.

For example, in Sydney you can go up the Harbour Bridge Pylon for $13 to see a great view from the viewing platform, instead of paying upwards of $200 for the Bridge Climb (see How to visit Sydney on a budget for more tips).

Or in Paris you can head up to the café at Montparnasse Tower instead of paying 15 Euros to visit the tourist observation deck on the level above. All you have to do is buy a (rather expensive) coffee, and you get a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower.

Travel hacks backpackers use to save money

Paying 1.50 Euro for a pretzel-like bread ring in Kraków

3. Buy street food or use hostels for cooking meals

Restaurants are great for the occasional splurge, but cooking your own meals is the number one way to cut costs. Why spend $30 on a restaurant meal when we could spend less than $10 at the grocery store? For cooking tips, see my post on Practical Tips for Hostel Cooking over at Global Goose.

For the times that you do feel like eating out, buy street food! This is not only a more genuine experience for trying local cuisines, it’s also about a million times cheaper than restaurant meals.

Travel hacks backpackers use to save money

Learning about Warsaw’s old town history on a free walking tour

4. Do free walking tours

In my opinion, free walking tours are the best thing since sliced bread. Many hostels will have info on local walking tours at the check in desk. The tour guide requires a tip at the end of the tour, but that’s still way cheaper than paying for a guided tour around a city!

Another option is to do cheaper (and more fun!) bicycle tours or hop on hop off tours. You’ll get more from these options than you would a fast paced guided tour.

Packing lightly clothes

5. Pack light, it will save your ass!

The amount of times we had to run through a station to catch a train that was leaving in under 3 minutes, I can’t even count. Luckily we only missed one train/bus/flight while we were backpacking but I’m telling you, the heavier your pack is, the harder it is to run for that train you’re about to miss.

It also takes so much more time to re-pack a heavy/full backpack than a light one, see the art of packing lightly for more tips.

Bali Pool Villa

This villa in Bali cost us only $80 per night thanks to a last minute deal!

6. Take advantage of last minute deals

Leave some flexibility with your plans to take advantage of this hack. The last unbooked seats on tours, accommodation, and even some forms of transport will go up for cheap at the last minute! If you want a 50% discount on that day tour, check it a few days beforehand to see if any deals have come up.


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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

30 Responses to “6 travel hacks backpackers use to save money”

  1. Ashley

    Yes to all of these!
    The extra snacks taken from the included breakfast and buying food to cook at the hostel are some of my favourites!

    Reply
  2. Eden

    So glad to hear I’m not the only one who likes to take away free snack from breakfast to save for later. Love all of these tips! Great post!

    Reply
  3. Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

    I totally used all of these tips throughout my 8 month trip through Europe! Hostel breakfast’s are a godsend, I may have even made lunches with the bread rolls from the buffet. Cooking at hostels could sometimes be a bit painful – I was constantly amazed at how some people don’t understand the concept of sharing the space!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s great Tessa, you’re one step ahead of everyone! I know exactly what you mean with the hostel kitchens, they can sometimes be a nightmare!

      Reply
  4. Jessica C. (A Wanderlust For Life)

    I like to buy the city pass or other type of multiple-attractions-for-1-price type deals if you must see the must-sees. Otherwise, just walking and seeing a city is the easiest and cheapest thing we like to do! Sometimes a drink and a snack (or dessert) sitting outside or window-side can really enhance your travels and is much cheaper than many alternatives!

    Great list! I think it can take time to really get into the save-money mentality, but once you have it, it is SO beneficial!

    http://www.awanderlustforlife.com

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m also a huge fan of walking around a city, easily the cheapest way to absorb local culture! Window side tables are the most underrated travel activity – thanks for sharing Jessica!

      Reply
  5. Meghan

    I am the queen of included breakfasts. I make sure that wherever we stay, there will be breakfast. Then I stuff myself, grab some fruit for my bag and I am good until dinner. 😉

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m glad I’m not the only one Meghan! I always take bread rolls if they have them as they make an easy lunch 😉

      Reply
  6. Giulia

    I absolutelly agree with you!
    For every money you can save, you could have a new journey! 😀

    Reply
  7. Hannah

    So true!! Great tip on the Montparnasse Tower Cafe! I never quite manage to pack light though haha.
    If you’re backpacking through the US (mostly West Coast) have dinner at Souplantation (soup and salad buffet, but with so much more like pasta, bread, muffins etc) BEST place to stock up on sneaky food for the next day.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Souplantation looks amazing, thanks for the tip Hannah! I’ll be on the West Coast next year so will definitely check it out for stocking up 😉

      Reply
  8. Franca

    I think I followed all the above at least once. Me and my partner Dale have been travelling/backpacking for more than two years no stop and the only way we’ve been able to do so it’s thanks to some little tricks to stay on a budget 🙂

    Reply
  9. Lesh @ NOMADasaurus

    Great tips Ashlea. It’s crazy how far you can stretch your cash. We are loving the street food here in Vietnam and it is so cheap. We do our own laundry which saves us a lot of money over time. If we are in a place for a while we buy the large water bottles (5lts or 20lts) and refill our bottles. Saving cash and the environment. Definitely a place with brekky included is a winner for us. Looking forward to all the walking tours in Europe. Travel Safe.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Lesh! Doing your own laundry is a good one – we often turn our room into a chinese laundry as we often wash our clothing by hand in the sink 😉 Water bottles are a great tip too!

      Reply
  10. Leah of The Mochilera Diaries

    I can proudly say I’ve taken advantage of nearly all of these tips, minus the packing light thing (not my forte!). Another one I’ve recently learned of is staying in apartment shares instead of hostels. It’s especially good for long-term travel when you can find monthly rates (for your own private space) that come out MUCH cheaper per night than a cramped dorm room in a hostel.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      This is a really good tip Leah – do you use any particular websites or companies to find the apartment shares?

      Reply
  11. Laura

    These are great! My sister and I traveled Europe a few years ago, and we were so glad we did the free walking tours in nearly every city. It was a cheap and easy way to get oriented and learn a bit about our surroundings. Then, we took note of things we wanted to go back and explore on our own.

    Reply
  12. Petra

    These are awesome tips! I especially love taking advantage of free breakfasts 🙂 Another one (for Southeast Asia – predominantly where I’ve noticed it) – restaurants that are featured in guidebooks like Lonely Planet often have inflated their prices, so if you stay away from those restaurants (there’s usually plenty of other good ones anyway!) you’ll save a lot of cash.

    – Petra @ http://www.theglobalcouple.com

    Reply
  13. kim

    Yes to free breakfast and street food! My number one tip for saving money is: Walk. During city trips I prefer walking to taking public transport because I get to save a lot of money and see a lot more.

    Reply
  14. Karine

    Good tips! In most of the hostel with kitchen there is always a section of giveaway food leftovers.. you often have pasta and eggs enough to save a diner or lunch! While I was in europe i was choosing my destination based on the cost of life. Eastern Europe have to much to offer and is so cheap! Poland was a supprise food is amazing and cheap Plus is full of history! The same with spain and portugal! I was so disapointed in london because i couldn’t afford much and i had to eat KFC to save money… plus the histels are awfull! Could be nice to do a list like this be region!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Ooh good point on the free food box, many hostels have something like that! I used those many times to make basically free rice and pasta meals 😀 You’re absolutely right about Poland (though I had some trouble being vegetarian there) and London too, it’s so hard to find affordable food there! Thanks for your comment Karine 🙂

      Reply
  15. Dave | Jones Around The World

    Great list of travel hacks! I defiintely take advantage of any free meals at hostels! Especially in Europe when breakfasts can actually be pretty decent! In Asia, I just stick to street food to save money.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I love street food in Asia – you can such a good meal for almost nothing! Best pad thai I ever had was in a Chiang Mai market, for which I paid the equivalent of sixty cents Australian!

      Reply
  16. Amanda Burger

    Great tips! It’s so important to point out that so much can be done for cheap or free. Walking tours are my fav. I also love doing my own laundry (when possible), making/using natural personal care products, and last but not least – house sitting! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Aren’t walking tours just the best 😀 House sitting is a great one, and it certainly seems to be growing in popularity between travellers. Thanks Amanda!

      Reply

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