A lot of people that I’ve met have unrealistic ideas about what it costs to travel. They often think that they need $5,000 to $10,000 in the bank before they can go, even though nothing can be farther from the truth. If you’re on a budget, you can find ways to travel for way less than people tell you.
One problem is that when you see an estimate of what it costs to visit a city, that estimate is often much higher than the real cost. It may include guided tours, fancy dinners, or lodging at a hotel instead of a hostel. Screw all that. If you’re on a budget you don’t need any of it. You can live so cheap and still get a full experience.
Take Berlin for example. The Lonely Planet guide says you’ll need up to 100 Euros per day to get by. That’s crap! I know, I was there, and I did it for a lot less. Let’s break it down.
Hostel: 20 Euros a night (for a nice hostel, there are cheaper ones)
Breakfast: 4 Euro all you can eat breakfast at the hostel
Lunch: fresh air and sunshine
Dinner: 10 Euros for a sandwich or doner or bratwurst
Metro: 7 Euros for an all day pass
Other random expenses: 10 Euros
That’s only 51 Euros a day. And if you were being really tight, you could get it down to 40 and still have an awesome time. Every city has parks, memorials, beaches, museums, and lots of other awesome things to do that don’t cost a dime. Hell, the Metro in Kiev costs about $0.10 for a ride. Now that’s a deal!
Granted this assumes you won’t want to try German beer or eat somewhere cool, but still. If it’s the choice between seeing the city or not seeing it, I’d always rather visit it and live a spartan existence, versus only see the pictures that someone else has taken.
How Much Money Do You Need?
Probably a lot less than you think. Once you get somewhere you will find a way to make it happen. Maybe you’ll volunteer at a hostel, volunteer through Workaway, start working online, teach English, or whatever else. If you have the drive and you’re willing to do what other people aren’t, there is a way. In my own case, I would do the following…
Go to South East Asia with $500
Go to Ukraine with $700
Go to the cheaper European countries with $1,000
Go to an expensive European country with $1,500
Those are just starting amounts. I would work online to keep the bank account alive, or volunteer at a hostel to make the money last a while. While I can’t say this is the ideal amount of money to have, if it’s the difference between going and not going, I promise you it’s always better to go. At one point I was down to $0.47 in Bangkok. I had less than $5 in my bank account, not even enough to cover the ATM withdrawal fee. Was it scary? Sure. Was it optimal? Hell no. Did I learn from it? You bet I did.
So go out there and do it! Save some money, buy the airplane ticket, and whenever you read somewhere what it’s going to cost to visit a city, cut that amount in half and you’ll be fine. The world is waiting…