We’ve all been there, two dollars left in your pocket and a hungry belly; something cool your friends want to do, one more beer but simply nothing more to give. You are tapped out, the bank has run dry. You imagine a week filled with “not so cheap these days” ramen noodles, shitty backwash beer and eggs, lots of eggs.
At this point in my life I can say I have been living the student life and traveling the world, cheap and no frills for about 4 years now. To be fair that is not a super long time to become professional at anything, but people, I have this down to a science.
Over the years I lived in unique places; Southern Germany, Mexico City, Eugene, Oregon and now Antwerp, Belgium. Each place poses its own unique challenges to overcome from the “no free water complex” that plagues my favorite continent to the “will the street food kill me” problems of Mexico. Here are some of the ways that I have gotten through many rough days while traveling with little options not only with success but enjoyment.
Tip #1: Hostels man….
When traveling on a student budget throw out the idea of staying in a hotel, that’s simply not gonna work. For those Americans out there who don’t know about hostels, they are hotels geared towards young travelers traverssing the world one step at a time. Hostels are hip , fun and most importantly cheap. They normally run anywhere from 6 dollars a night in some of the cheaper locations to about 25 dollars a night in Paris, Copenhagen or Brussels.
Hostels are first and foremost not hotels. You definitely will have to share a room with strangers, lock up your stuff at night and might I say have to rent towels!
Recently, I have found the best way to traveler for cheap. It’s called worldpackers, a company hailing out of Brazil, and its simply awesome. This is the best deal around if you want to see the world for really no cost at all. You essentially exchange your work day whether it be working a night shift, housekeeping or doing social media for a free bed and accommodations at a hostel of your choice. Best thing ever right? I’m currently stationed at the Antwerp Student Hostel, working here and there, living on the cheap and having a lot for fun doing it. Hostels are a great way to meet new people and get those authentic experiences that we Americans find so important now a days.
The cool thing about worldpackers is that they have tons of different places for you to work literally all over the world. I’m probably going to embark on a serious tour through the balkans in January thanks to the program. Nights in Romania, Kosovo and Serbia await!
Tip #2: Forget Restaurants
If you are trying to keep it cheap while traveling you are gonna have to cook or eat street food. Period. Ever since my duration in Mexico City concluded, I have been absolutely obsessed with street food. Simply speaking, the variety of what you can get for less than 3 US dollars is ridiculous.Tacos, quesadillas, huaraches and sopes all waiting for you on some unknown corner cooked up by a smiling Mexican lady with the experience to do it right.
Its true that Mexico City is an easy place to hit up the street food scene but Europe you can do this but in a different way. Obviously there is not street food other than markets so you have to take your talents to the small shops opened mostly by immigrants. You want doner, you want schwarma, the crispy bits, the greasy shit that just makes your soul happy. If you are not into ethnic food and are somewhere in a northern European country, sausage is also good, cheap and really damn tasty as well.
Now why its best to avoid restaurants? In many countries they charge fees we dont have in the states, whether its for bread in Italy or a service cover in Belgium, it can really add to your tab.The tipping policy can also be a challenge because in some places its expected while others it could be seen as offensive. I would just avoid the whole thing if possible although if you are a foodie like me they are hard to miss, so make an exception when you really need to!
Tip #3 Pack Light
If you are traveling like a real student you gotta pack light. Don’t take stuff you wont use. Now that sounds intuitive but I see people always lugging around stuff they never even unfold, weighing you down in the process.
This is also important when you are traveling in cheap planes, buses and trains around Europe because they always charge checking fees for baggage, which may end up being more than your ticket. Now that’s not a smart move! Especially Ryan Air and Wow hit you hard with the charges.
Tip #4 Don’t buy souvenirs
Now there are some souvenirs out there that are definitely cool to bring home but don’t waste your hard earned cash on something that was probably made in China! Unless in this case you went to China and found an awesome antique in the process.
I know you want that little leaning tower of Pisa or bronzed Figuren of Big Ben but they are just gonna end up sitting on some shelf collecting dust. I would recommend bringing back some food, a pin or tons of photos, since these make for the best memories.
Tip #5 Don’t waste money on a cash protector or money belt
Just don’t do it. Keep you wallet in you front pocket if the scene feels unsafe gentlemen!
Tip #6 Jetsetting is possible!
Make sure to check out Flixbus or Student Agency for the cheapest rides around or Skyscanner and studentuniverse to jet set around the world for little more than that souverier you purchased.