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Travel Hacks: How to save money when backpacking

30th August 2019

If you're planning a backpacking trip, chances are you are looking to travel on a budget. Either that or you love lugging 20kg around on your back and sleeping on a bunk bed in a room full of strangers. 

Aside from the obvious choices to stay in hostels, fly low costs airlines and not eat five-star meals every night, we've put together a list of 20 things you can do to save money while backpacking. You can put every dollar you save towards an extra day of travelling, and that is the ultimate goal. 


1. Limit yourself to carry on baggage

Low-cost airlines are cheap until you need to add on luggage. Limiting yourself to carry on not only saves you money but also prevents you from packing and buying anything unnecessary. Sure, a three-month backpacking trip with only 7kg luggage is daunting, and may require you to wear a few layers at the airport to ensure you're under the limit (been there, done that) but once you get into the swing of things, it's pretty liberating. It also means you spend less time packing your stuff at a hostel and waiting for luggage at the airport. 

2. Coordinate your climates

The more climates you are visiting, the more clothes you will need to pack to accommodate. The more you pack, the more you spend. In other words, don't plan to backpack through the humidity of Thailand before jetting across to Iceland's wintry landscapes. Plus, if you're sticking to one region, you'll pay less for transport and are likely to be on the same route as other backpackers (aka friends for the trip!).

3. Eat a supermarket breakfast

Eating breakfast out is expensive, like insanely expensive. $15 for some bacon and eggs? No, thank you. Buying breakfast staples from the supermarket are far more affordable and allow you to splurge on other more exciting meals throughout the day. Better yet, choose hostels that offer a free breakfast. 

4. Find alternative ways to do day tours

Organised day tours, while efficient, will chew through your budget faster than a hungry labrador. Quite often you can copy their itinerary yourself using public transport or a hire car. Sure, it might be slightly more effort, but what's backpacking without a little bit of sweat? You'll often find people at your hostel want to see the same things so you can easily coordinate a trip with a group. 

5. Lock in your exchange rate with a Travel Money Oz Currency Pass

Exchange rates fluctuate, which means you can either luck out or get screwed by the value of the Aussie Dollar. When I was backpacking through Europe, the AUD hit a one year low against the euro (lucky me, hey?). Thankfully I had loaded my Currency Pass a few weeks earlier and had locked in a much better rate. 


6. Have a water bottle

Bottled water might seem cheap, but the $2 a day you end up spending can add up quickly. Plus or that plastic is just really gnarly for the environment. Save money and the turtles by flexing your water bottle and filling it up at the hostel in the morning. Just be cautious in less developed countries where the water is not as palatable, there is nothing worse than getting knocked out by water poisoning for a few days in Asian humidity - trust me.

7. Check what events are on

When backpacking through Europe, I unintentionally followed the Pride parade from city to city. Don't get me wrong, it was an incredible experience and meant I witnessed places in their most colourful state, but it also meant I was paying top dollar for accommodation. Researching what events are on in cities will allow you to make the most of them while dodging any peak dates where prices could be higher. 

8. Do free walking tours

These are the best way to get your bearings in a new city, see the sights and meet some new people. I still recommend tipping your guides at the end of the tour because they generally do a ripper of a job, but a small tip is far cheaper than other alternatives. 

9. Bring sunscreen and repellent from home

These are both super expensive overseas, especially in tourist hotspots. I also found in some countries that their quality is far inferior to that of Australia. Example - I paid $15 in the Philippines for 'SPF 30+' sunscreen that turned out to be tanning oil. My skin still hasn't forgiven me. 


10. Share your resources

If you're travelling with a partner or friend, it is straightforward to share supplies like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and food. It saves you both having to take up space in your bag and keeps you from buying more than necessary. 

11. Try volunteering for free accommodation at hostels

If you are planning on staying in one place for a little while, consider volunteering at a hostel for free accommodation. You'll get the chance to meet heaps of epic people, save on accommodation costs and feel like somewhat of a local as you live in a city for a few weeks.

12. Avoid eating in tourist traps

The ultimate rookie error. Eating in that super cute restaurant next to the Colosseum will generally be double, if not triple the price of a place a few blocks away. Vendors aren't stupid and know how to maximise their profit, so make the extra effort to travel a bit further. Chances are the food will be more authentic as well. 

13. Walk as much as possible

Walking is free, you'll see more of the city and get a chance to burn off those holiday carbs; a no-brainer really.

14. Take overnight buses

While the journey might not be the most comfortable, overnight buses are far cheaper than flights and save you one night's accommodation. Just pack a few snacks, roll up a jumper for a pillow and Bob's your uncle. 


15. Snacks 

You're not you when you're hungry. Having snacks on hand (think muesli bars, pastries etc.) from the supermarket will save you heaps of money when you're out and about, and probably save you from having a hanger induced argument with your travel buddy. 

16. Avoid tacky souvenirs

They're generally useless, expensive and take up unnecessary room in your bag. Trust me when I say you're not gonna use a shot glass from every city you've travelled. The best souvenirs you'll get are the pictures you take and the memories you make. How's that for an inspirational quote. 


17. Take advantage of Rate Guard

When purchasing your currency from Travel Money Oz before you leave, make sure you add Rate Guard to your transaction. It's free, and if the rate improves within 14 days of purchase we will refund you the difference*!

18. Travel Insurance

Sure it isn't always the cheapest or sexiest part of your holiday, but it is perhaps the most necessary. Overseas medical bills aren't cheap. Travel insurance has your back and gives you (and your mum) some peace of mind. Side note - don't rely on your credit card either. Make sure you read through the policy inclusions to determine if it covers you for everything you need. At Travel Money Oz, our experts can tailor a policy specific to your trip with Cover-More insurance. 

19. Cook as much as possible

Eating out for lunch and dinner every day can get incredibly expensive and, to be honest, the shine wears off quick. The charm of hostels is that they have kitchens, so take advantage of the amenities and whip up a feast. Better yet, it means you get to explore the local supermarkets, which is always fun. 

Top tip: Have a Tupperware container on hand so you can keep leftovers for lunch the next day. 

20. Book in advance for busy periods

If you are travelling in peak season, it is best to book certain things in advance. While part of the joy of backpacking is to go where the wind takes you, quite often this can lead to you paying more than necessary. If you have a vague itinerary, you can at least book the places that are expected to book out in advance. 

Keen on more travel tips? Check out our destination guides or ask the experts in your local Travel Money Oz store

This blog is provided for information only and does not take into consideration your objectives, financial situation or needs.  You should consider whether the information and suggestions contained in any blog entry are appropriate for you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.  While we take reasonable care in providing the blog, we give no warranties or representations that it is complete or accurate, or is appropriate for you.  We are not liable for any loss caused, whether due to negligence or otherwise, arising from use of, or reliance on, the information and/or suggestions contained in this blog.
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