How to Travel The World For Free (or Close to it)

If you want to see the world, don't let money (or a lack thereof) stop you.

For those of us with constant wanderlust, we’re ready to travel right now. Unfortunately, it’s not always in the budget. In fact, it rarely is. More often than not, the main thing stopping people from seeing the world right this minute (or traveling at all) is a lack of money.

But if we let affordability stand in the way of where we want to go, we risk never going at all. Money will always be an issue in one way or another, but it doesn’t have to stop you.

If you’re serious about globe-trotting but you don’t have the money, the solution is not to give up. And if you’re waiting around for money to fall into your lap, you could be waiting forever. Make your biggest money goal to save enough to get where you want to go. Whether you are traveling by plane, train, or car, how you arrive at your destination will likely be your biggest expense. In some cases, it could be your only expense.

Once you have enough to reach your destination, it’s time to find ways to make travel funding a nonissue, or at least much less of an obstacle. Some of the most well-traveled people around are masters at saving up with a big trip in mind, but not all of them. Believe it or not, it’s possible to travel anywhere in the world on a very tight budget and without a travel fund at all. You just need to know how to do it.

Here are 4 tips that will help you travel the world for free, or as close to free as possible.

Volunteering

If you’re planning to travel with next to nothing in the bank, now is the time for research. Your goal will be exhausting your resources, and volunteering is a wonderful place to start.

There are organizations that will give volunteers a free place to sleep and free meals. Plus, volunteering is a great way to learn about the locals and help out the community. You’ll get a unique and intimate glimpse of where you are, and likely develop a deeper connection to your surroundings than had you passed through.

Primary School students read English books to volunteers
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For instance, have you heard of WWOOF? That stands for “worldwide opportunities on organic farms.” Many of my friends have done this and they say it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they would definitely do again. While living on a farm and helping out where you’re needed, you’ll be given free lodging and food.

For those looking for a working visa, organizations like WWOOF always come highly recommended. And there are plenty out there to choose from.

Couchsurfing

If you haven’t done it yet, you’ll be amazed at just how memorable Couchsurfing can be. All you have to do is make a Couchsurfing profile and start connecting with hosts.

Those who swear by this free lodging method say the hospitality of the hosts often makes the experience priceless. Many hosts are happy to show couch surfers around the town and make them feel truly at home.

Cute Golden Labrador Retriever on a couch
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One of my globe-trotting friends always talks about the time she Couchsurfed in Brazil. The family she stayed with prepared her a home-cooked meal and they talked for hours until they felt like old friends. The experience opened her eyes to the culture in ways that only a welcoming local could do. With that said, not all experiences on Couchsurfing will be equally enjoyable. Look over these 9 safety tips for Couchsurfing before booking any free accommodations.

If the idea of staying on a stranger’s couch unnerves you, look into a hostel instead. They’re usually significantly more affordable than hotels, bed and breakfasts, or Airbnbs. And in certain cities (especially overseas), they can be downright luxurious.

Read More: Best Destinations for Traveling on a Budget in 2022

Shop at Local Markets

This is one of the budget-friendly traveling tips that I swear by now. While it might be tempting to eat out morning, noon, and night, you’ll save a lot of money if you stock up on groceries. Before you travel, learn the lay of the land. Find out where the local grocery stores and farmers’ markets are. Then search for produce stands and pop-up shops once you get there.

JAVA, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 18, 2016: Sales woman selling vegetables on the market on Java Indonesia 18th december 2016
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Think of food as fuel and shop accordingly. With that said, if you are somewhere known for its food scene, don’t skip it. If you’re anything like me, when you go somewhere, you are there to taste the local flavor in every way. And buying groceries that will last through the trip can help you achieve that goal.

The more frugal you are with most of your meals, the more money you’ll have for those special meals in a special place that will always be worth every penny.

Book Your Stay in Rural Areas

Finding affordable accomodations is another key reason to learn the lay of the land, including its surrounding area.

Cities come with city prices. Oftentimes, staying on the outskirts is much more affordable. No matter how big a city might be, there is always a smaller town nearby, and in most cases, a rural area is synonymous with significantly lower prices on everything.

Rural house garden tree and meadow flower nature-filled landscape
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Not to mention, seeing the world shouldn’t mean only seeing the most tourist-heavy, concrete-covered parts of it. Staying in rural areas will give you the opportunity to see it all and then some. And isn’t that the point?

There’s a big difference between how much it will cost you to stay in Paris versus what it will cost to stay in the quaint countryside just beyond it. And if you find something affordable enough, you’ll have enough left over to see both.

Read More: 11 Travel Hacks That’ll Put Money Back in Your Pocket

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