It’s something I’ve never been able to fully instil in my non-travelling friends back home: just how cheap travel can be. The myth is that travelling the world is expensive; the reality is that it’s often cheaper than being at home. Travellers don’t pay taxes, or electricity bills, or student loans. Travellers live cheap.
So what if we took it one step further? Today, we’re talking about how to travel the world for free!
The best things in life are free, or so it’s been told. Everything we need is right here. Maybe these things are true, I’m not sure. What I do know is…
Life is as simple as we choose to make it.
Nothing in this list of tips for travelling without money is complicated (except maybe frequent flyer miles – goddamn credit cards). Everything in this guide is easy and actionable – the more you apply, the more inexpensive your travelling will be. With enough practice and ingenuity, you may even find yourself spending $0!
Did anyone say “Take a vacation for free”? Yes, me, right now! Weren’t you listening? Well, you better start because I’m about to teach you…
How to travel for free!
Dis shit is gonna get cheap, yo!
A Big, Sexy Disclaimer
Folks, this article is not about how to travel the world like a dickweed. Anyone can travel for free if they take advantage of people along the way, lying, cheating, stealing, and being an all-round douchenozzle.
Similarly, though we’ll cover some of the more crusty methods of travel, as well as tackle that sticky topic of ‘begpacking’, THAT’S not what this article is about either.
This article is about learning how to live a low-cost lifestyle of travel. One that’s sustainable in the long-term as well as financially independent. Travelling until you run out of cash and move back in with your Mum or Dad is cute in your early 20s, but that’s not what we’re about at The Broke Backpacker.
At The Broke Backpacker, we’re about teaching you how to live a lifestyle of indefinite travel in a responsible way – responsible to the world, yourself, and those who love you. Go out, travel, see the world, and do it for as long as you like, but do it right.
Don’t begpack, don’t abuse your privilege, and don’t ever expect a handout. Free travel is NOT about exploitation; it’s about travelling without burning through your savings in a way that’s more authentic and less insipid than simply blowing your funds on all the cheap booze and drugs .
Oh, and it shouldn’t have to be said, but, please, don’t ever go travelling with literally $0 in your bank account. That’s just bloody moronic.
The Best Ways to Travel for Free
Let’s start by talking about how to travel for a living. These options for free travel mean exchanging your time and energy (i.e. working) for the freedom of being on the road. (And probably somewhere super-duper pretty too!)
Yes, ok, they aren’t all strictly ‘free trips’ but you’re away from home, not burning through your savings, and, potentially, maybe even saving some money too! If you disagree with my criteria, well, shush your face! Go travel the world for more than three years with your savings still intact like I have and then come back and we’ll argue semantics.
Still with me? Good because I want to travel the world for free and you should too!
Travel the World for Free Volunteering
Volunteering abroad for free – ahhh. This is where it all began for me and, sometimes, when it all becomes too much, it’s back with the hippies in the fields, shoes off and muddy, that I return to. For me, this will always be one of the most authentic and best ways to travel for free or otherwise.
The name of the game is simple: you work some agreed subset of hours, you get a place to sleep and food in return. Hopefully, a washing machine too!
Travelling free by way of volunteering could mean a lot of things: hostel work, farms, working with kids, charities, construction, kitten sanctuaries (god yes). The only way to find out what’s out there is to get out there! (You could also start by reading this review/guide/informational post on Workaway.)
Interested in travelling the world for free volunteering? Here are some excellent platforms:
- Workaway – The biggest in the game. Follow the link and sign up to receive an extra 3 months on your subscription!
- HelpX – The oft-forgotten cousin of Workaway.
- WWOOF – Exclusively for organic farm work.
- Talking to people – In the 21st-century? Get outta my house!
- Facebook and other platforms – Plenty of groups for this stuff but it’s best to search by the country or local area.
- Worldpackers – Follow the link or enter the code BROKEBACKPACKER to get $10 off your subscription. We’ve also reviewed Worldpackers!
Note: Most of the platforms have an initial subscription fee (nothing in life is truly free). It’s a small price to pay in exchange for a year of travelling and volunteering around the world for free.
Work and Travel for Free Teaching English
If you’re reading this sentence, then you probably speak English. Awesome! Step one complete! What’s step two?
Get your TEFL certificate. With that in hand, it’s time to discover another one of the best ways to travel the world. Didja guess yet?
Yup, teaching English!
There’s a whole host of ways to get involved teaching English overseas and what an experience it is! Impart wisdom, see cute Asian kids smile (yay), and learn how to travel abroad for free. Well, not free… you’re actually earning money – oh snap!
If you want to take it a step further, you can teach English online. You’re entering the realm of the digital nomad which is certainly a different way to travel but that’s ok because – BOOM, SEGUE!
Ditch Your Desk for a Different Way to Travel
Now entering the realm of the digital nomad. If you really want to learn how to travel more, nothing will give you quite so much geographical freedom.
Anywhere your laptop (and stable internet connection goes), your source of revenue goes. Living the vanlife? Easy.
Renting a nudists-only Airbnb by a beach somewhere? Why not tinker with your cryptocurrency while tanning your best bits?
Volunteering at a kibbutz in Israel? Now you’re actually travelling for free, costs covered, WHILE earning money. Level-up!
Learning how to travel the world for a living is a whole new ball game. It’s the holy grail for many travellers but beware of the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome: it’s a lotta work and a lot to take on and, at times, your brain will hate you. Is it awesome though?
Fuck yes it is.
So, yeah, this may be stretching the how to travel for free concept but it’s an important mention for anyone looking at opportunities to travel free and extend their already indefinite adventures. Theoretically, we all gotta grow up eventually and make some cash, right?
I dunno, don’t ask me. I’m still Peter Pan-ning it up over here.
The bossman (and OG Broke Backpacker himself), Will Hatton, has a whole other side project dedicated to just this topic. Head over to Ditch Your Desk to learn how to… well… ditch your desk!
Or Just Work for Inexpensive Travelling
If a job that glues you to your laptop isn’t appealing but adopting the low-cost travel lifestyle of a working traveller is, then maybe just get a job-job. You know, one that sounds better on your Tinder profile than “influencer”.
What kind of job? Well, potential travel jobs is a long-ass list (which we conveniently have right here), but if you’re starting from scratch and need to know how to travel the world with no money, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Busker – Traveller-life and street performance go together like drugs and sex.
- Bartender – A extremely internationally-transferable trade and lucrative too… if you know how to bat those eyelids just right.
- Scaffolding and stage construction – Construction/labouring is good in general, but the stage construction and scaffolding industries are very international.
- Picking/Trimming – Also a lucrative industry IF you’re fast.
- Flight attendant – How to travel around the world for free 101.
- Cruise ship work – The money can be good contingent on the company and you’ll always have the added bonus of copious amounts of drugs and sex!
- Tuk-tuk races in Sri Lanka – I dunno; my cousin does them and he seems to be doin’ alright!
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How to Get a Free Vacation
Free international travel is about to get hacked! Ready to hack? It’s time to hack with these hacks!
Did I say ‘hack’ too much? Righto, moving along.
These following ways to travel the world for free are more courtesy of the convenience of the 21st-century. Being a “nomad” these days is very different from what it used to be. No longer do we have to hunt elk and forage for berries in the woods – now we can just order a pizza with UberEats!
Now, we have a whole host of tools and platforms to uncover and exchange free travel opportunities!
Catch Flights Right: How to Travel Overseas for Free
It doesn’t matter how cheap you live when you arrive, you’ll still have to pay for an expensive-ass flight to get there… right? Wrong!
Learning how to catch cheap flights is going to be integral to learning how to travel without money. Error fares, mega-discounts, turning on incognito mode… booking flights does my head in – truly. I just want to travel the world; I don’t have time for this humdrum!
I’d suggest reading the above-linked post because it’s really a whole other Pandora’s Box.
To take it one step further, you can sign up with airlines to earn frequent flyer miles. Accrue enough of these and you’re looking at a cheap or even free trip overseas. A travel rewards credit card is going to stack up points in much the same way until, eventually, you get a free trip.
All of this credit stuff does my head in but the point is obvious. Do your research and find the best program to sign up in. Don’t you be wasting them points!
Or, if you’re like me and credit cards and booking flights gives you anxiety, just do what I do – overland it! Planes are for fools; border crossings are where it’s at. And cheaper!
Apps and Platforms with Opportunities for Free Travel
Ok, now it’s really time to hack this open, right to the gooey, delicious centre. Oh, sorry, I made it weird, didn’t I?
No matter. It’s the 21st-century and now the smartphone has paved the way in much the same way that the wheel once did. These days, a lot of good platforms exist online that offer their own free ways to travel the world:
- Couchsurfing – Where to go when you have no money… to a mate’s couch! Except now all your mates are strangers and internationally based. Check out our Beginner’s Couchsurfing Guide for more info but it’s basically a platform where travellers asked to be hosted by people with a sleeping space to spare.
- Housesitting – You’ll need to build up a few references and pay a membership fee but then you can get all kinds of free accommodation… and in a private home too! Travelling by housesitting is a fantastic way to travel for free with the bonus of never having to share a hostel dorm with fatty, unshowered humans.
- House swapping – It’s kind of like housesitting except your swapping homes with someone. That means it’s a bit more nuanced – you need to actually have a home to swap away. HomeExchange and HomeLink are two platforms that cover this.
- Au Pair – If you enjoy the company of miniature-monster-gremlins hiding in the bodies of children, then consider working as an Au Pair. Travel around the world for free, connect with a family and their spawn, and make some money too!
How to Travel When You’re Broke
Yay, ok, my speciality! I may get anxiety from credit cards and fancy hotels but the broke-ass swashbuckling backpacker lifestyle is my answer to the emptiness of existence. Life gets simpler.
Real quick, these tips can be also found in our Budget Backpacking 101 article – some crossover is inevitable in the world of low-cost travel!
There’s a whole host of good advice in there if you’re not just specifically looking at how to travel for free but also at the cheapest way to travel the world. Yeah, these two posts may crossover a bit but hand-in-hand they make for some excellent reading (self-plug) if you’re dedicated to learning about how to backpack around the world with no money.
Consider this your Budget Backpacking Light.
Believe it or not, there is a lot of free food out there! The first and most common way (arguably) to eat for free is dumpster diving. People throw away a lot of perfectly edible food and useful stuff (half my wardrobe comes from late-night scores) and getting good at harnessing this awesome power of wastage is going to go a long way if you want to travel for free.
From the humble park trashcan up to the almighty power of the supermarket skip, free food is everywhere. Alternatively, you can acquire food before it hits the bin by asking for food wastage: bakeries, fruit and veg shops, food markets especially. Then there’s tablesurfing too – eating someone’s leftovers at a restaurant.
It’s an excellently fun game!
You’ve also always got food giveaways (we’ll touch on that tentative topic of begpacking in a moment) and religious shindigs too. The Hare Krishnas love, love, love feeding travellers for nothing or next to it.
I’ve eaten free Prasad in the streets of Varanasi and in Gurdwaras in Agra. There’s free food near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and free bread at every turn in Jerusalem (it might be for the cats…). Hell, there’s even an online platform dedicated to helping us intrepid raccoons find excellent freegan sources (urban fruit trees are shockingly common).
The point is if you’re travelling without money, there are still heaps of ways to fill your belly. You just gotta get creative!
This one is a pretty basic tip for free travel. I’ve already mentioned Couchsurfing but option two is to just sleep where you land. It’s a big, wide world out there with ample floor space!
For this, except for truly warm and rain-free climates, you’re gonna need a few things. In my personal order of importance:
- A sexy-warm sleeping bag
- Backpacking sleeping pad (the floor is cold)
- A budget backpacking tent (you could get really nice tent but I’ve always found it to be overkill)
- A sleeping bag liner
- Or, alternatively to the tent and pad, a backpacking hammock
With a combination of these things, you can sleep free while travelling pretty much anywhere. Camp out in the woods, in urban environments, or if you think the cops will get funny about you pitching a tent, sleep under a bridge or in a bus station or abandoned building. As my dirtbag travel companion in New Zealand always said: we can sleep anywhere!
This, however, is not a commentary on safety. I’ve never had an issue but also I’m a white man covered in tattoos that looks like he sleeps with a knife in his pocket. Be smart, be safe, don’t go past your limits, and learn what a good pitch looks like.
Pro-tip: No one goes into graveyards at night. Oh, and on that note, leave no fucking trace.
If we’re talking the most literal definition of the term, there’s only one way to travel for free that I can think of: hitchhiking. I love hitchhiking! It’s free travel to places, you meet local people – people you never would have met otherwise – and see many worlds from the inside (or outside) of many vehicles.
Hell, sometimes people invite you over, offer to let you stay the night, or to go on an adventure. I don’t do it as much as I used to but sometimes, when I’m just needing a holiday from the work and travel life, I take a break from the tech and hit the road.
I see who picks me up and sleep where I land – no schedule, no itinerary. Simplicity at it’s finest. Hitchhiking is grand!
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Travel the World for Free: Is It Possible?
I guess that’s the last big question:
How can I travel for free? Is it really possible? Teach me sensei that hasn’t bought a new piece of clothing in almost-three-and-a-half years!
Yes! It is. Buy a plane ticket on miles, choose a visa-waiver country, hitchhike from the airport to your volunteering gig, eat only the finest cuisine from the dumpster! It’s a free trip!
Ok, look, that may not be your ideal vacation (free or not), but it’s a portrayal of an extreme circumstance. This isn’t a strict guide to travelling the world for free; it’s a handbook. Take what works, when it works, and apply it at will.
Practice makes perfect and pretty soon you’ll be finding that you’re having some pretty dope-ass adventures on some pretty low spendings. Hell, why not set up some passive income at home and then earn a bit while you’re volunteering abroad cheaply. (Or just Couchsurfing.)
I met a dude in New Zealand way back near the beginning and he said something very insightful.
“You don’t need a lot to travel. A plane ticket, $500, and you can be gone for a while.”
He was so right.
Why travel without money?
Because it’s fucking awesome!
Seriously, the stunning sunrises and sunsets I’ve seen only because my days hitching ended where they did. The adventures I’ve ended up on just because I was asking around for a spot of work. The things I’ve done because I was working for a bed and feed… I milked a goat once!
Learning how to start travelling abroad for free opens up a lot of doors, both in the world and in yourself. Pretty soon you start to realise that you’re pretty damn capable! That in all likelihood, you got dis.
And, on the off-chance you don’t, chances are there’ll be someone around to lend a hand.
Give it some time and you’ll start to find that there’s always somewhere to sleep and something to eat. There’s always a spot of work that needs to be done by a willing hand.
After a bit more time travelling the world without money, you may start finding you already have everything you need. If not the best, then at least some pretty insanely spectacular things are free, and, best of all…
Simplicity is so damn blissful!
“I want to travel but have no money.” – Voluntourism, begpacking, and tact.
I said we were gonna touch on this, yeah?
Voluntourism is one can of worms; one that I feel fewer people take issue with. There are some points against it, and some validity in these points, but nothing that I truly believe is able to undo the sheer amount of good that comes from people travelling through volunteering overseas.
Connections between local communities and travellers are made and something is returned while travelling around the world. It’s a symbiotic relationship – if you’re heart is equally in it for the work as it is for the free-living – and it works, usually for the best.
Begpacking gets stickier – it’s a modern-day complaint against a style of living that has existed much longer. That, somehow, choosing to travel with no money makes you self-entitled and undeserving of the kindness of strangers. However, even the name “begpacking” itself stands as a bit of a misnomer.
I’ve never “begged” for something and I don’t know anyone who has. (However, travellers who do quite literally “beg” exist and they should promptly hand in their backpacker card).
I’ve hitchhiked but I’ve never even directly asked someone for a ride. I’ve never asked someone for a place to stay and certainly never for money. I have eaten at free food giveaways but only ones that were welcoming and warm to travellers and wanted me there (sometimes, with some volunteering on the side).
Usually, if someone wants to offer you something, then that’s a gift of kindness (except when ulterior motives may be at play). As a traveller, a long way from the comfort of home, a bit of kindness goes a long way.
I know there are people out there that abuse this kindness in their attempts to get a free trip. This is a reminder not to.
It’s about having tact and moving with grace; leaving places in the world better than when you arrived. Be a little bit of good in the world wherever you go. Considering all the places you’ll go, that’s a lot of good.
If you’re choosing to travel without money, then remember that’s your choice. A long way from home or not, no one owes you a hand, so be grateful when they lend it.
Remaining Tips for How to Travel Free
Before I tie up the ‘How to Get a Free Vacation Handbook’, it’s time for the final bonus tips. These may not individually rock your boat, but together they’ll groove it a bit for sure!
- Don’t burn out – Always stressing about money, looking for the cheapest way to travel to your next destination, and racing against yourself: it can be exhausting. Don’t push yourself too hard. Take a rest sometimes, go slow, and remember that when travelling without money gets stressful, home is always waiting.
- Every country is unique – Every country has its own nuances. What food is cheap, expectations on people volunteering abroad, even the hitchhiking hand signals! It takes time to learn a new place and mistakes probably will happen so cut yourself some slack, alright?
- Mistakes do happen – On that note, so as much as free travelling around the world may be the goal, it pays to stockpile a little rainy day money. Unless you don’t mind calling in financial favours from the ‘rents.
- There’s free food in more places than the dumpster – Many countries have food growing in abundance that isn’t privately owned (or in a bin). Learning edible plants and how to forage is pretty goddamn top-tier Broke Backpacking, but it’s certainly possible.
- Know your rights volunteering – While it’s important to put the hard work in for your hosts when volunteering, it’s equally important that you aren’t being exploited either. Not all hosts are top blokes and some do seek to take advantage of backpackers. Remember that no one is doing anyone any favours: it’s an exchange.
- You’re broke but you’re not poor – This is especially true when travelling in developing nations. It does get tiresome feeling like you’re being targeted as a tourist by touts and beggars, but you are a tourist. Travelling without money doesn’t bring you down to the level of the legitimately homeless and impoverished; one party chose to be there, the other did not. Just keep that in mind.
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Oh, and one last tip… Get insured before embarking on your free travel adventure!
Yeah, ok, insurance isn’t free (or cheap) but when you’re lying in a hospital bed with some truly astounding food poisoning from the dumpster diving, at least your treatment will be! Seriously, travel insurance is a super important consideration for any journey.
Members of The Broke Backpacker team have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re an easy to use and professional provider that the team swears by.
If there’s one insurance company The Broke Backpacker trusts to cover them while roaming the planet’s furthest reaches, it’s World Nomads. To find out why we recommend World Nomads, check out the World Nomads Insurance review.
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Closing Thoughts on Free Travel
You don’t need a lot of money to travel: that’s the takeaway! Maybe eventually you’ll need some money so leaving the country with $0 in the bank account isn’t necessarily smart. That said, I have a friend that got his working visa in Australia by photoshopping his bank statement, so, really, anything is possible!
Even if the low-cost world traveller game isn’t for you, I still think everyone should try it. It changes your perspective a lot.
It changes your perspective on the idea of what you need and what you need to be happy; on what is possible. I have a friend that lost it all in Australia (a different friend) and spent months as a hammock-hobo in Melbourne. He says it was the happiest time of his life.
I can relate. My first experience travelling still remains some of my sweetest memories. It was free travel in New Zealand – a smelly backpacking vagabond volunteering, hitching, busking, dumpster diving, and sleeping in parks – and It taught me how beautiful life is. It taught me how kind people are and how simple things can be, should we so choose.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough.
To close, I’d like to repeat what a friend said to me today as we bid farewell (at another hippy farm). He said:
“No, I won’t wish you ‘safe travels’ because everywhere you go, you are safe. You have a good heart and many adventures ahead. I wish you to be free because that is the most important thing.”
And I smiled because I understood (and because he’d just written my outro for me). That’s all it is: be free, travel the world with a good heart, and learn what joy there is in nothing. You don’t need anything to learn how to travel for free.
And you don’t need money to travel.
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