Anna Juliet Stephens teaches us the savvy ways of travel: workaway, last minute volunteering and making friends.
Travelling around Latin America for five months last summer taught me the tips and tricks of travelling cheaply. Yet, this knack didn’t come straight away.
Common conundrums when it comes to travelling are how much you need when you’re on the road, and how on earth you’re going to save enough to begin with. One thing my experience has taught me is that as it turns out, you don’t have to worry.
If I learnt one thing during my five month trip it was that you can cut your travel costs down by over half depending upon how flexible you’re willing to be with the type of place you choose to travel to and the style you choose to do it in.
Whilst you might not have the money to sip cocktails in a trendy bar, you can get a grittier, rawer experience if you’re willing to work a little for it, and you won’t regret it.
I decided it was too soon for me to go home and extended my trip by three months.
I never planned to travel cheaply; in fact my travels began with an expensive language programme in Costa Rica. However, that’s because I originally only planned to travel for a limited amount of time. This all changed after two months of experiencing the vibes of Central America and its ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle. I decided it was too soon for me to go home and extended my trip by three months. This was more than double the time I had set aside at the beginning of my trip.
I had only around £500 and a place to stay in Peru. But fear not; through the travellers’ grape vine I had heard that there were secrets to making this last three times the amount of time it normally would. Once I had spontaneously chosen not to take my flight home, I had no choice. I had to see if I could make this happen.
So, defeating the stereotype that travelling is expensive, here are some ways you can make it a bit cheaper – if you’re willing to put in the effort.
A massively underrated method of travelling cheaply is volunteering. This doesn’t have to be a big, preplanned project but can be completely impulsive and still in the place of your choosing. The opportunities for it are everywhere – if you know where to look. I stayed and worked in hostels along the way -although ‘work’ is an ambiguous term. In reality it was anything from cleaning kitchens to simply hanging around and waiting for guests to show up.
If you’re smiling and seem friendly, you’re more than likely going to find your new home in no time.
Nailing this deal is simple: show up in a town and ask around different hostels until you find one which takes volunteers. If you’re smiling and seem friendly, you’re more than likely going to find your new home in no time. Most places expect 4-5 hours of work a day and offer a free bed in return, sometimes meals are provided, depending on how much you’re willing to work. I used to work in the mornings or evenings and spend the rest of the day surfing and exploring the tow. .
find out where the cheapest markets are to buy food
Another money-saving perk of this type of travelling is after sticking around for a few days you soon find out where the cheapest markets are to buy food (be sure to buy in bulk if necessary). You also make friends with everyone who comes through the hostel and get to know the locals. Speaking from my Latin American experience, these are generally the most interesting people you’ll meet, and if you want to learn a language they’re perfect to practice with.
If you’re thinking about travelling this way but prefer to plan out your trip beforehand, a good website is Workaway. Here, you can can find your home as far in advance as you want to (although hosts are often as spontaneous as travellers), and have all types of volunteering from farming to gardening to helping rebuild run down towns. This is a great way to find volunteering while giving back by helping a community or something that more specially matches your skill set.
Once you’ve set up an account you can scroll through hosts who post opportunities from all over the world so it’s a great thing to use just if you’re in need of a little travel inspo. Some people worry about the safety side of this but, as with all kinds of travelling, trust your instinct.
I also found it surprisingly easy to get jobs when I was travelling, particularly in the more touristy areas I was living in
Alongside volunteering I also found it surprisingly easy to get jobs when I was travelling, particularly in the more touristy areas I was living in. Finding out about what’s on offer is best done, as always, by asking around town; being on the look-out for signs offering work and then just having the confidence to go in and ask.
whilst the pay wasn’t fantastic, it was better than nothing, and I made great friends and had the time of my life.
I worked in a laid back beach bar on Nicaragua’s south coast and an English pub in Lima, and found that whilst the pay wasn’t fantastic, it was better than nothing, and I made great friends and had the time of my life.
If you want to be a really authentic traveller you can book to stay in a local’s home. You can do this through various travel companies (STA is one I used) and I’d highly recommend it, particularly if it’s a relatively rural location. I found waking up to a rooster and walking barefoot on dirt paths to be the purest and healthiest way of living.
understanding how the local transport system works can massively help with your saving goals,
On this note, understanding how the local transport system works can massively help with your saving goals, and if you’re with one or more people (for safety reasons) hitchhiking can work in tourist locations. A lot of this knowledge involves bargaining as local taxi drivers will try and rip you off if they sense you’re a foreigner; so get clued up about the going rates.
To travel cheaply the thing I’d recommend overall is just to make friends. Not only will they tell you about the best places to go for the cheapest deals, they’re generally incredibly hospitable (if you’re heading for the South Americas area anyway). a
Be careful doing this if you’re travelling alone though; it’s only worth it if you really trust the person. I made friends with a lovely Costa Rican girl who let me stay in her house when I was passing back through the town she lived in. A group of Australians I befriended also helped me with my travelling costs by letting me hitch a ride down the coast of Costa Rica with them.
I actually found talking to people much more effective than any kind of organisation
In the end I actually found talking to people much more effective than any kind of organisation I could have used. Friendliness when you’re on the road can go a long way, and it will most likely take you where your money can’t.
Do you have any budget-friendly, alternative travel tips to share? Let us know in the comments below, or @e2Travel