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How to travel the world without money

How much money do you need to travel the world?

When people hear about my travels they often assume that I must have rich parents or that I must have won the lottery in order to spent so much money on travel. But the truth is, I hardly spend any money while I’m travelling. While it is true that you need some starting capital to pay for a flight and the visa, once you arrive at your destination it is really up to you how much you want to spend after this.

Since I don’t have rich parents and unfortunately never won the lottery, I chose to travel as minimalistic as possible, to be able to travel for a long time with the small budget that I have available.

For some people it might be unbearable to to think that they should spent their holiday doing hard work in another country to get free accommodation. But from my point of view there is a difference between holiday and travel.

When I talk about travel, I mean seeing as much as possible of another country, learning about it’s culture, making friends with strangers; exposing myself to new experiences and adventures. That’s what travel is all about for me. Therefore I do not need much money to stay at expensive hotels or eat fancy meals or purchase costly souvenirs.

Of course I like a nice lazy holiday at the beach as much as everyone else, but when I set out to TRAVEL, then I intend to explore a country and not waste time and money in souvenir shops and luxury resorts.

For those of you who have the same mindset about travelling and the same hunger for newness and adventure, I will share some tips with you on how to spent the time of your life in a foreign country without having to pay for it.

4 Ways to Travel Without Spending Money

1. Work for accommodation

Working for accommodation is actually not as bad as it sounds. You might expect that you wont be able to see much of the country because you will be too busy with your job and too tired afterwards to do much exploring. But if you choose the right place to work at, the job itself can be an amazing experience. Also you will stay with locals who can introduce you to the native community and teach you a lot of the customs and traditions of the region you are visiting.

In France I stayed with the family of a friend in a very remote mountain village, where I helped with the shepherding and even though it was pretty tough sometimes, I wouldn’t want to miss any of the experiences I had during this time. I got to marvel at magical landscapes from high mountain tops, learned how to survive without electricity and running water and overcame many fears by stepping out of my comfort zone for a while to learn that I am much tougher than I thought I was.


After that I volunteered to work for accommodation in Malaysia and Australia and every time I got involved into the local culture, made lots of good friends and could stay long enough to feel truly at home in another country.

I can only recommend this kind of travelling, because it does not only save you a lot of money, but also gives you the opportunity to stay much longer, so you can truly get involved with and understand the local’s culture, which you can never do, if you just pass by for a week or two.

I had very good experiences with workaway, which I use to get in contact with hosts all over the world who offer work for accommodation and sometimes also food. You have to pay a yearly fee of 23€ to get registered, which is really cheap, compared to the hundreds and thousands of dollars that most volunteer organisations ask you to pay in order to come out there and work for them. Here you can get in touch with the hosts directly without paying any further fees and sometimes you even get the chance to earn some pocket money on the side, if you work more than the hours that are mandatory for your volunteer work (if you have a working visa for the country).

Other websites with a similar concept are HelpX (no registration fee), Helpstay or Hosteljobs, but I never used them myself, so I cannot tell you from personal experience whether they are good or not.

Another thing that you gain from working for accommodation beside more money, more time and more experience, are new skills that you can actually use to spice up your resume and enrich your personal life. You can see at as a kind of internship.

During my stays as a volunteer I learned how to train dogs, how to make cheese, how to ride a horse, how to paint, how to repair a car, how to weld, how to drive a quadbike, how to waitress, how to do housekeeping, how to mix cocktails, how to catch fish and crabs, how to shoot with bow and arrow and slingshots, how to do rock climbing and many many more useful things that are helpful in my professional as well as my private life.


2. Get a free place to sleep via Couchsurfing

If you don’t want to work during your travel but want to meet local people, Couchsurfing  is a nice alternative to doing workaway. At couchsurfing other travellers offer you a free place to sleep at their home, either just to support fellow travellers who cannot afford expensive hotels, or because they are curious to meet people from other cultures. In any case you can be pretty sure that they will be open minded people, so staying with a stranger, as scary as it initially sounds, will quickly feel like staying with a friend. Of course you have to be careful who to trust, but I have only had good experiences with couchsurfers. They can be weirdos at times, but even staying with a weirdo can be quite entertaining and will definitely give you some good stories to tell.


3. Choose a country where you don’t have to pay for visa

If you haven’t decided where to go yet, try to choose a destination where you can get a visa for free.

I know, for someone with a German passport that is easy to say, since we have many possibilities, like going to the whole of Europe if we want, which is a freedom that I am very grateful to have.

But even if you are from another country, take a look at the foreign relations of your country and find out where you can go for free. There is hardly any country out there that doesn’t have any alliances at all.


3. Go with a small backpack

Travelling with a backpack on your shoulders is not the most comfortable way to travel and I admit I hate to shoulder my heavy monster every time I have to pick it up to move to a new location. But it is a kind of love-hate relationship, since I know that it saves me a lot of money.

For one thing, it restricts me to a certain luggage weight, since there is only so much that you can fit in a backpack. This means I can save money on flights, because I can go with the low weight option for my checked luggage, which is a relevant variable that influences what you pay when you fly with low budget airlines like Ryan Air in Europe or Air Asia in Asia or Tiger Air in Australia.

Some people even manage to fly with a bag that is small enough to count as hand luggage. I have to admit that this would never work for me though, because I like to be prepared for any emergency and thus tend to overpack like a scared little hamster.

My backpack also restricts me in how much I can buy, because I have to carry it all on my own back. That makes you think at least twice before purchasing a new T-Shirt as a souvenir, since you know that you either have to throw away something else to make it fit, or that it will add to the weight of that painful huge thing on your back.


4. Go with little money on your account

This might sound a bit crazy when having money is the only thing that can provide you with a save place to sleep while you are in a foreign country. However, if you go with little, you often come back with more than you came with.

The math is simple: When you have a lot, you will be tempted to spend a lot, when you have not much, you will hold onto it.

While it can be rewarding to spend money on special adventure trips or amusements, it can also prevent you from having any meaningful experience on your journey. Sleeping in an air-conditioned single-room might be the most save and most comfortable option, but when you are forced to save on accommodation, it will most likely result in you having to get in touch with other people; dorm mates, hosts, fellow campers, couchsurfers, employers… the less money you have the more you need to rely on the help of other people, which will give you a reason to get in touch with strangers.

The necessity to save money will also quickly turn into a habit of saving money whenever possible and while it might not be as comfortable and will sometimes make you feel like you miss out on things because you can’t afford them – like nice food – you will get more memorable experiences if you are open to the idea of travelling in a more challenging mode.

It is always up to you how much you want to spent on travel.

Being poor doesn’t have to hold you back from going out there. When I was a student I would set out to live in Japan  for a year with not more than 200 Euro on my account after paying for the tuition fees and flight. But I bought a big bag of rice once I was there and whenever I was cooking my plain meal of white rice in the communal kitchen of my dorm the other inhabitants would share their side dishes with me, which led to many friendships that lasted for a long time. 

I didn’t starve and I didn’t end up sleeping on the street. Instead I had a wonderful time and met many great people. It also led to the improvement of my Japanese language skills, because I had to actually talk to people to find out where to work and where to get the cheapest meals etc.



Therefore, even though it might seem scary to go abroad with little money to keep you safe, it is worth to go even with a little budget, as it can make your travel experience ever more interesting rather than just spending a lot and ending up getting nothing more than the usual tourist experience.

Do you agree with me? If you do, or if you think I am just crazy, please tell me (in a civilized way) in the comments below and share your own experience of travelling on a small budget!

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I am Lisa Jarmina, an adventurous outdoor person, writer and traveler who loves nature, science, languages and photography. I travel, explore, meet people and learn how they live under different circumstances. I want to teach people about other possibilities to live life; about different perspectives; about tolerance, humbleness, personal growth and mutual understanding. Don't be afraid to leave behind the things you know, to meet the things you do not know yet!

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