Can You Travel Abroad on a Budget? 5 Tips for the Prudent Traveler

backpacker walks down European street

When I was younger, I believed that travel was a luxury reserved for only the richest. Whenever I witnessed someone pulling their luggage behind them, I’d eye them with envy, believing that I would never be among the ranks of the world explorers.

As a young adult, I felt the travel bug tugging at my heartstrings. Fully expecting to be faced with prices that I couldn’t even dream of affording, I began to research what it would take to save up for a trip, any trip, that might satiate my travel desires for a bit. 

I was happily shocked to discover that I could explore far-off lands without a stockpile of cash in my coffers. No longer did I picture my travels as few and far between, allowed only when my savings account had been painstakingly filled. Suddenly, the world was my oyster.

While I acknowledge that travel is a privilege that’s denied many—and if you’re able to travel at all, you should count yourself among the lucky ones—I am here to say that travel can be more accessible than you might think. 

Here are five tips for travelers on a budget.

1. Shop, shop, shop for airline tickets

There are loads of expensive flights out there, but for every price that makes you want to cry, you’ll find another one that will make you jump for joy. But, it does take some sleuthing.

Compare many different airlines and third party ticket sites. Download an app, like Hopper, that tracks the best time to buy. Give yourself time to truly shop around.

Person Shopping Online
Take plenty of time to shop around for plane tickets. You might score something amazing.

You should also check different arrival/departure cities. Sometimes, a five-hour bus ride is worth saving a few hundred bucks.

Not gonna lie, I’m a bit of a pro at finding cheap tickets. Read more of my tried-and-true methods to finding budget flights here.

2. Stay a little outside of the city center

Of course, when we picture a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Rome, we want the Instagram-worthy views of the Colosseum, the majestic balcony, the whole nine yards.

But, if you’re a budget traveler, those accommodations aren’t going to be feasible.

Instead, choose a neighborhood a bit outside of the city center (once you do your research to ensure that the area is safe, of course). Often, you can find rooms or even entire apartments for half of the price that you’d find in the more touristy areas. And, you don’t have to be in the boonies; inexpensive accommodation is frequently located in neighborhoods only 15 – 20 minutes from the center via public transport.

European flat
Adorable accommodations are available at half the cost a little outside the city center.

Bonus: You’ll get to experience a more local vibe in the less touristy spots, giving you a full cultural experience that you might not have if you only stay in the city center.

Looking for a great Airbnb? Read my tips for scoring amazing Airbnb accommodations here.

3. Choose cheaper destinations

You likely have a bucket list of destinations that you want to explore. They may include places like Paris, London, Copenhagen—the beautiful cities that riddle your social media feeds, calling you to visit.

But, there are loads of other places that have similar vibes at a fraction of the cost.

At the in-demand destinations, you can quickly run up a huge bill. Instead, consider the equally beautiful cities and countries that are a bit off the beaten path.

I’ve been to a few countries that blew me away, and I had never even considered them before. Montenegro, for example, offers gorgeous mountain views, beach life comparable to Croatia, and stunning architecture. And, not only is it cheap, but it immediately found its way into my heart as one of my favorite countries to date.

Don’t write off places like Estonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, and Georgia just because they aren’t high on your bucket list. Places like these will allow you to travel on a frugal budget, and they may just become your new favorite place.

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Places like Mostar are gorgeous and inexpensive.

And, Europe doesn’t have to be your only destination. Explore countries and cities in South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and more. Getting creative with your travel bucket list can widen your world without lightening your wallet.

4. Take those self-guided tours

When you’re wandering a new city, especially one that’s steeped in history, you probably want to learn all about it. Guided tours are a great way to get to know the finer parts of a city, but if you take them daily, that expense can add up.

Instead, try out some self-guided tours. There are quite a few self-guided tour apps available, each offering a different type of tour, so you can easily find the perfect tour for you, whether you’re a foodie or a history buff.

5. Meet a local

Meeting a local is the easiest way to find the must-see locations and restaurants that only the locals know about. Places that cater to tourists are always more expensive than local hotspots. On top of that, local recommendations, in my experience, are 1,000 times better than any recommendations I can find online. 

Four people cheersing
One of the best ways to find a new local friend is at the pub.

Hanging with a local also gives you access to prices that they might reserve for those who speak the language. Guides, restaurants, and other services may charge more for travelers. If you have a friend who speaks the language, they can often negotiate a lower rate for whichever excursion you’re interested in.

Finding a local to show you around isn’t always easy, but it is possible. Hang out at a bar and strike up a conversation with your bartender. Ask your Airbnb host if they have any recommendations. Use apps, like Bumble BFF, to connect with people in the city. I can say from experience that befriending a local on a quick trip won’t always happen, but it can. Just put yourself out there and see who you meet.

Traveling on a budget might not award you five-star hotels and a first-class experience, but you’ll still have the adventure of a lifetime. And, it may even be better than sipping on a cocktail at a resort.

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