How to travel with a student budget

One of the main limitations when it comes to traveling is the lack of money. I have written a publication about it (read here) and as I have said over time I learned that traveling is not so much a matter of money or time, but of priorities. I decided to write some of the things I do to save on my travels and get to travel with a student budget.

Everyone knows that traveling with little money is not an easy task. You need to organize, plan and calculate better every movement from your bank account and make some sacrifices. For me, everything is a matter of flexibility. I never overreact, but I never get stingy to the point of not allowing myself to enjoy the trip.

Here are some recommendations:

– Plan your own trip

With some exceptions, planning your own trip will always be cheaper than buying a tour or travel agency package. However, now and then travel agencies get some really good prices on tickets, lodging and entrance to tourist sites; there you can go for sure. But it is not always the case; travel agencies are companies that need to generate profit. You don’t need to pay that extra money if you can get organized.

Surely you will have to devote some of your time to find a good deal on tickets, look for a nice place to stay and choose the places to visit in each city. This all requires more dedication, time and organization than going to a travel agency and pass the credit card, but planning your trip gives you the freedom to enjoy your vacation exactly the way you want and not the way someone thought you’d like, and believe me, you’ll end up saving a lot of money.


– Alternative accommodation

There are several ways to save money on lodging. Currently the number of sites and locations that offer this type hosting is growing. In the islands of San Andres (Colombia), a project enabled to the residents of the island make of their homes a place to welcome tourists. So, visitors find locals homestay accommodation, try typical food of the region and experience the daily life of people who live on the island.

Another known example is the Couchsurfing. An international community of travelers that allow you to offer and find lodging in almost any city in the world. Personally, I like and use a lot. Besides of saving some money on lodging, most of the time, you get a great local guide and if lucky will make a friend for life. Before going for this option, you have to know that it’s not valid for everyone. You have to be someone who doesn’t bother to be in the house of strangers. If you’re too shy or has difficulty in dividing space, this alternative may not be the best.

But there are other ways to travel by paying little. There are always the Bed & Breakfast (B&B), hostel, and low-cost hotels. In these spaces, the high spirits is always an advantage. Imagine a place with travelers from around the world, living almost the same experiences that you are sharing a breakfast in different languages, always with a good energy. I recommend a lot. Most hostels offer private and shared accommodation with breakfast included. You can also subscribe to Hostel networks and get a discount on accommodation and other benefits. The best known is the Hostelling International.

When you get to travel often you realize that you only need a place to spend the night and a place to leave your bags during the day, not 5 stars resort that will cost you much and will avail little.

Below are some links that will serve you well in finding alternative accommodation:

– Don’t pay for museums

I believe that art and culture are a right of everybody, and it is the responsibility of governments to give both to the public and the community. Museums do not need your money. So I hardly pay to visit a museum. Of course, there are always exceptions. Some museums are well worth paying the entrance fee, others charge a very low value which also is not worth saving.

Also, I don’t pay to visit churches. Maybe it’s a personal issue or a form of rebellion against the Catholic religion, but being practical and having seen tons of churches in my life, I think it’s enough for me.

– Use public and alternative transportation

One of the things I like to do is learn how to use the public transportation of the places I visit. Generally, before reaching the destination I take a look at how it works and save some routes that will be useful to me. Like how to leave the airport, get to the center of cities or local hosting. Learning how to use the public transportation, it gives me the feeling of getting the experience of the daily life of the city and its residents in addition I get to save some money on a taxi.

As for alternative transportation, everybody knows the famous “rides”. Currently, you can arrange rides through the internet or on social networks, combining a meeting point or even a small amount of money to pay the gas and tolls. Rides work more in some places than in others. In Minas Gerais (Brazil), for example, there are several university towns close to each other so the culture of giving a ride is well-known and used by the population.


– Eat well paying little

This is one of the most difficult things to do while traveling with a student budget. Trying to find typical regional food without paying too much can be tiring at times, you will have to search hard enough, but you always end up finding something. I generally like to make my meals in simple restaurants far from the touristic points. Visiting the restaurants where local people usually attend. That way, I can always try the homemade food without paying too much. As I said, be flexible, save on meals for a few days to have a farewell dinner at the famous restaurant in town you cannot miss.


– Have a break at the supermarket

Besides of always having the lowest prices, you appreciate the daily food (and consumer) culture in a city supermarket. You can see the different things that they usually eat and buy, you can take your time and choose whatever you like and compare and find some food that reminds you of home.

When I arrive in a city, I like to buy some snacks and drinks in a supermarket to take with me, that way I always have food if an emergency (yes, for a hungry person like me run out of food can be an emergency) and avoid spending money in shops or tents with prices for “tourists”.

Another great idea is to visit the public market of the city. There you’ll find all variety of exotic fruits and regional dishes for a very low cost.

– Invest in experiences rather than things

I have mentioned in another post, but I’ll repeat. Depending on the type of travel you are doing, try to prioritize your investments on experiences that are meaningful to you and not in things and objects. Paying US$200 in a parachute jump or in a dish in an haute cuisine restaurant may make sense to different people. If this is what really makes you happy, make sure it’s worth paying for it. Just don’t fill your bags with trinkets and souvenirs that will only make weight in your suitcase, and sooner or later will end up in the trash.



Cristian Figueroa

Versión en Español

Versão em Portugûes



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