7 Ways to Start Travelling Without Money Now

Pokhara, Nepal:  Asians are the best at saving money

Pokhara, Nepal:
Asians are the best at saving money


When I was trying to convince friends to go around the world with me, I got a lot of this: “I’d love to make plans to travel with you.  Just wait 5-10 years while I save up.”  I thought in my head, is it the money or is it fear that’s really holding you back?

When I started travelling, I didn’t have very much savings.  In fact, even after putting all my part time job earnings towards university and I still ended up with some serious looking students loans.  But I left anyways.  If not now, when?

When I was travelling through the more touristy parts of Europe, I saw a lot of retired couples travelling.  In a way it was really sweet.  But it also made me sad to know that some of them had worked hard all their life to save up, only to be too tired to make room for the unexpected adventures; which is where I think the best of what travel has to offer really lies.

Living cheaply actually led me to my most interesting adventures.  And it all inspired me to find ways to make even more money when I got home, the way I wanted to.  I’ve put together my top 6 tips in which all except one I used regularly myself.  With most of them, not more than a week’s notice is needed so I often booked stuff on the go.

Let me lay it out for you:  If you have $2000 in the bank, you have enough to go.  Get out of here!



1. Work and Travel

There’s always the tried and true method of working and travelling: waiting tables, tending bars and minstrel-ing  your way through the world.  This works but it takes some commitment.  Very few places like a person that waltzes in and out, even if they do have experience.  Here are two sites that help you do it the quick and dirty way, no visas required:


Helpx looks like a pretty sketchy place to find work but it’s worth plunking down the 20 euro membership fee for.  I got to live out my dream of working with a herd of horses on a farm in France for a month and had a trailer next to a lake all to myself for a month.  Working at hostels is another common temp job.  The jobs on this site are extremely diverse and easy to search by keyword.


HelpX Organic Farm Homestay

HelpX Organic Farm Homestay


HelpX Job at the Lakehouse at Toyaka Resort near Hokkaido, Japan

HelpX Job at the Lakehouse at Toyaka Resort near Hokkaido, Japan

Both real HelpX opportunities

Left: Organic farm homestay  Right: Lakehouse at Toyaka Resort near Hokkaido, Japan

Where: Middle of nowhere to big cities in most major countries.  Most prevalent in Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand.

Cost:  Either 4 hours of work for free food and accommodation or 2 hours a day for just accommodation.

Watch Out: The hosts on Helpx are not verified by the site.  Make sure to read the reviews of your potential host. Email back and forth a couple times and ask about: type of accommodation, work hours expected, food and type of work.  Also ask ahead about how many people they accept (if you’re travelling with friends) or how many people will be there (if you want to meet people).

Link: http://www.helpx.net


WWOOF or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms is like Helpx but:

  • Only organic farms
  • Countries that have a national WWOOF network verify the hosts so it’s easier to stay safe
  • Better coverage in SE Asian and African countries (i.e. more exotic)
  • Better website


An actual WWOOF farm by the sea.  Source: James

An actual WWOOF farm by the sea. Source: Peter Blanchard

Where: 208 hosts in 46 countries with another 221 independent offerings

Cost:  Either 4-6 hours of work for free food and accommodation

Watch Out: The hosts in WWOOF Independent may not be approved.  See the Watch Outs above and be smart!  Also, you’re supporting a great cause, so you might be labeled a hippie or liberal.

Link: http://www.wwoof.net and http://www.wwoofindependents.org/

2. Couchsurf

Ah, the classic.  Sleeping on a random’s couch.  I’ve ended up in the house of a French bohemian and found a host who is now one of my best friends and her family my home away from home.  The benefits of having a local to show you around the city or even just lend an ear when you come home frustrated with the touts of India makes couchsurfing worth the trouble.  They also often host cool events in the city; most free of charge.


The Holy Grail I think I found the perfect couch... Source:

The Holy Grail
I think I found the perfect couch…
Source: Paul Fisher

Where: 7 million people in 100, 000 cities

Cost:  Free (although small gestures like helping with a chore or buying a beer or sharing knowledge is always appreciated)

Watch Out: CSI plots notwithstanding, couchsurfing is pretty safe.  That concept is proven by the success of the site.  But better safe than sorry: don’t stay with hosts that have bad reviews, few reviews and make sure that the reviews are of people who have actually stayed…some of them only mention having met the person briefly or had coffee with them.  Finally, have a back up plan (a hostel) and go and spend some time with the person first.  If your instinct doesn’t trust them, just don’t surf.

Link: http://www.couchsurfing.org

3. Skyscanner

The cost of flights surprised me the most.  I often flew in lieu of taking the train because budget airlines like RyanAir make it possible.  Skyscanner searches all the budget sites (Kayak, edreams, RyanAir etc.) and provides the option of viewing the month’s prices as a bar graph for easy comparison.  It also has helpful little suggestions like


Escape Vehicle The view on a layover in Belgium

Escape Vehicle
The view on a layover in Belgium

Flying from India to Canada for less than $800 Source: Marissa Wu

Where: All commercial flights.

Cost:  One blogger (Lily Leung, Explore for a year) spent just $4,520 on 19 flights.  What is the biggest barrier to travel for most people is not as bad as you think!

Watch Out: Some budget airlines (like RyanAir) will charge extras (e.g. even 1 piece of checked luggage)that can add up quickly.  Make sure you factor that in.

Link: http://www.skyscanner.net


4. Hostelworld

Honestly, I like hostels better than hotels.  The facilities are as clean as any hotel and in exchange for fancy gyms and pools, you get a space designed for you to meet other travelers.  Hostelworld was the only site I ever needed while travelling.  Both the UX and service are great.


Hostel Hostel

A hostel in Agoudal, Morocco
Source: MrHicks46

Where: 27,000 properties in 180 countries

Cost:  Hostels in Europe were 16-35 euros a night.

Watch Out: Some countries won’t have hostels (e.g. India) but usually the hotels are cheap enough anyway.  If you’re travelling laissez faire, without a schedule, make sure you check that your next destination has something in your price range.  I got stuck once or twice in Europe visiting upscale tourist towns where the going minimum rate was 100 euros a night.

Link:   http://www.hostelworld.com

5. Bike

This is the only thing in the list I haven’t personally tried, but my good friend recommends it highly.  It’s the best way to really see a place and guarantee adventures.

1 2 3

See the world, get butt sore
Source: Ian_Wilson

Where: 21, 394 hosts, all over the world.

Cost:  Free (although small gestures like helping with a chore or buying a beer or sharing knowledge is always appreciated)

Watch Out:  I’ve had friends bike from Europe and overland all the way to India.  But biking travel is not necessarily for first timers.  Get a good bike, know how to fix it and be aware of the culture and political situation of areas you are biking through.  Always have a backup plan!

Links: https://www.warmshowers.org/

For some good advice, start here: http://www.adventurecycling.org/resources/blog/bicycle-travel-etiquette-warmshowers-or-couchsurfing/

6. Budget

Last but certainly not least, plan ahead.  Setting a realistic budget means you have to do a bit of research and check out what other people are doing and how they’re doing it.  You’ll realize that your dream really isn’t that far off; in fact the risks and benefits are pretty tangible.

When establishing your own budget, be realistic; what level of amenities and flexibility are you comfortable with?  Are you willing to forgo some obvious big ticket items to sniff out some of the cool, dirt cheap things a place has to offer?


1 2 3

If planning looked this sexy everyone would do it, right?
Source: Patrick Ng


Software: Mint.com is a cool site for managing your finances and keeping track as you go along.

Models: Lily Leung puts together a budget for flights (http://exploreforayear.com/money/round-the-world-expenses-flights)and a total budget with minimums and maximums based on the Lonely Planet and GapAdventures, respectively (http://exploreforayear.com/reader-questions/cost-travel-world).

Phones: Pausing your phone plan and just grabbing a SIM in the airport when you land can save you money on roaming fees.

Finance: On shorts trips, using a credit card is best.  On longer ones, I found my debit to be most useful  I could use it as a credit card when needed (it was a Visa Debit) or cash (needed in some countries) and the exchange rate was reasonable.  Just be careful you find the right account or bank that won’t charge you fixed transaction fees.

7. Start Small

1 2 3

Breaking off
Looking closely, you might something exciting in unexpected place.  Who knows, you could start something.
Source: Bird Eye

If you still feel a bit daunted, just start small.  Start with a week, a weekend or even a day to get a feel for how things work.  Find couchsurfing events in your local city to get advice from seasoned travelers.  You’d be surprised what you can find, even close to home, when you just start looking.


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