A common question I am always being asked is: “How are you able to travel long term on such a small budget?” so over the next week or so I’m going to walk you through the five areas of budget travel that I have found to drastically minimise my weekly, monthly and yearly expenses for Europe and South America.
Depending on your part of the world traveling by train, bus or plane can be a relatively inexpensive exercise. Gone are the days that a travel agent was an essential part of your holiday organisation plan and personally the last time I booked any flight through anything other than an online broker was back in 2009 before my maiden European adventure.
Just recently I was having a conversation with an American friend regarding the prices of flight within the US. It struck him as unfair that I was able to fly from Las Vegas to Miami for $94, which I saw as expensive because had I booked it a few days beforehand I would’ve saved an extra $40USD on that price. A few weeks prior to our conversation he had purchased a flight from San Francisco to Phoenix, Arizona for $240 USD, which is simply a stupid amount to pay considering the flight is less than two hours. Where did he book it? Through the airline of course.
The first lesson of finding the cheapest flight possible is to avoid the following methods:
*Booking through a travel agent (They’re almost always making a significant percentage of commission per sale).
*Booking through a tour company.
*Booking directly through an airline (Unless of course you work or know someone who works for an airline and can be hooked up with a sweet deal)
This is the broker I can generally count on. It has clever and easy to use features and is well laid out. For example it allows you to compare the fares by airline, narrow down your preferred departure times on both legs, and you’re also given the option of finding the cheapest fair for a particular week, month or even year.
Another site I use to compare fares is www.kayak.com although the pricing is generally slightly higher, I have found some fares to be cheaper through this site.
Now it would be much easier living in a world where you could generalise and say that taking a bus or flying is always the cheapest option, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. South America is a good example where taking a bus is almost always going to cut your travels costs in half as long as you’re okay with making yourself at home on a comfy-ish bus seat for 15+ hours at a time.
I recently had the pleasure of taking multiple buses from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Lima, Peru rather than taking a flight in order to save myself $250USD. It wasn’t the most amazing five days I’ve ever spent whilst on my travels, there were some moments where it seemed somewhat torturous, but I’m in the cheap travel game for a reason. I mean 250 bucks is 250 bucks and can easily be justified as having some extra cash for staying another week in an amazing foreign country.
There are a few good options for cheap bus fares throughout South America.
These are companies owned by backpackers and they have a fairly straight forward website detailing what they have to offer.
In most of Latin America it’s easiest to book your bus tickets the old fashioned way. You’ll find a large array of ticket stalls conveniently located at most bus terminals within South America and in my experience it’s the cheapest and easiest way of getting to your next location.
Europe for me was a relatively easy part of the world to get around in. As its countries are so condensed into the one area getting from one side to the other isn’t going to break your bank.
When I first arrived in Europe I was convinced to go through a hop on hop off bus company called busabout. I’m not here to tell you that this is a no-go, however I found this company to be quite a bit more expensive than flying.
Eurail also seems to be a popular option with first time travelers to Europe, but with 600 euros buying you just one month of train travel, it is once again comparitively pricier.
100% of my flights throughout Europe were booked though these sites during my 2 year stay and with flights as low as a few Euro they’re a tough lot to beat.
In summary things such as flights and bus tickets no longer have to take such a large chunk of your travel funds like they used to. There are always cheap deals waiting to be snapped up by a clued up travel enthusiast so there’s no reason to pay more than you have to in order to continue living the dream.