Traveling on a Shoestring

How to travel the world on a shoestring budgetOne of the biggest lies in traveling is that it requires a lot of money. Too often, people give up on the idea of making their adventures a reality because they are certain the idea is cost prohibitive—so why even dream? This idea is perpetuated by the inflated prices often shared by tour companies (a week-long tour in China costs $2, 000!), which further perpetuates the belief until its bleakness is just accepted.

However, seasoned travelers will tell you that indeed, seeing the world can be incredibly cheap if you know what you want, do your research, and are willing to live modestly.

Do determine your commodity

There are two important commodities in travel: time and money. Few people have the luxury of having a lot of time and money, so most find themselves with scales tipping to one direction. Determine what is more valuable to you and base your decisions off this because actual cost is more than dollars.

For example, traveling from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Arusha, where most safaris take off can take 9-12 hours overland on a bus journey that cannot be made overnight because travel by night is not permitted. A round-trip flight costs 0, and a one-way 0 by the local Precision Air airline.

Cartoon with check markThe best shoestring travel is done when time is your friend and money your commodity. Take the bus. Enjoy the ride. Perhaps break it up and stop in Lushoto to bike in the mountains or Moshi to see Mount Kilimanjaro along the way. If you have limited time, the flight is the better value. Understand your commodity.

Do stay in hostels, couchsurf, camp

In addition to airfare, accommodations tend to be the lion’s share of the consideration for travel costs. Whether you want to go cheap to save money for other activities (skiing and diving are expensive hobbies!) or because your budget is truly limited, hotel alternatives are great ways to cut lodging costs.

All over the world, hostels and small pensions, or bed-and-breakfasts provide modest and clean places to stay, which can be booked via mega-engines like Hostelworld ( or Hostelbookers (www.hostelbookers.com).

Also recommended: walk around town and pop into different places to just ask. Depending on your preferences and appetite, you can often book a room in a dorm for as little as $5 in some countries; in the same places, private rooms may go for as little as $20-30 for double occupancy.

Couchsurfing ( may help link you with a local willing to host you for free. And when climate-appropriate, a place to camp can be secured for free or just a few dollars a day.

Do budget on a day-to-day basis

If you have a Lonely Planet guide, there are often recommendations on how much on average to budget per country per day. On a shoestring, a daily budget (including accommodations, travel and food) should be range from about $15-$50, depending where you are. For example, in Bolivia, where accommodations in a hostel dorm can cost only $6, $9 is more than reasonable to encompass food, a few beers and local transport.


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