8 Budget Travel Tips for Students

budget travel tips for students by Real Wold Runaway

Travelling is the ultimate dream for many students and with the long holidays and abundance of like-minded friends, university is a great time to explore the world!  The only issue is that student loans don’t usually stretch to endless flights, hostels and activities so here are my favourite budget travel tips to make the little money you do have go a whole lot further!

Pick the Right Destination


Location is everything when it comes to the price of travel and whilst the bright lights of the Big Apple and the laid back Sydney lifestyle are extremely alluring, they can guzzle up your cash in an instant. Don’t just be drawn in by a cheap flight. You must also consider the price of food, accommodation, activities and transport. Your daily budget for somewhere like the US will last you for over a week in Asia, so, even, if the initial expenditure is more, your money will go a lot further in the long term.

For more destination ideas, check out my favourite cities to travel in for under $30 a day!

Be Flexible and Use Deal Finders

The ultimate key to cheaper travel is beng flexible! There are so many great sites out there offering great deals but you’d have to be crazy lucky to find one that fits perfectly with pre-made plans. Don’t be set on a destination or specific dates and you could find a real gem. Some of my favourite sites include:

  • Skyscanner: Perfect for comparing the prices of flights. You can do the normal, boring searches for specific dates and destinations or you can search for any destination at the cheapest time. It’s perfect if you want some inspiration or are free to travel whenever is cheapest!
  • Hotwire: Hotwire sells off empty hotel rooms at cheaper prices under one condition. You only know the vague location and the star rating when you book. They claim it’s because the big hotel chains they offer don’t want you knowing you can get a room there for less, but it just adds to the fun for me. Be warned though that they do like to add on fees at the last minute so it may not be as cheap as you first think.
  • Travel Zoo: Travel Zoo is the ultimate collection of cheap holiday deals across the internet. It’s main use is for European city breaks but they sometimes have great deals on long haul trips and exotic destinations.
  • Secret Escapes: Very similar to Travel Zoo, Secret Escapes curates the best luxury deals around. You can save hundreds on high end hotels and expensive experiences such as safaris and 5* Bali retreats. Go on and treat yourself!
  • Trivago: Once you’ve found the accommodation that’s right for you, check the price on Trivago. They compare all of the prices for the same room on the web so you can always find the best deal.

Volunteer or Work Abroad


4 out of 5 children wanting to take a picture with you is a success right?

Volunteering whilst travelling is a great way to give back to the community and to really get immersed in the culture. It is just an added bonus that volunteering programs can allow for cheaper long term travel. WWOOF is a great organisation that helps travellers work on farms in return for food and board. There are also numerous opportunities all around the world that range from animal conservation to building schools to sports coaching, so keep an eye out!

If you’re planning on staying in one place for a while then it may be worth you looking in to working holiday visas. Loads of countries offer them and they allow you to earn some money whilst your away. Also, casual work is the perfect way to get to know some locals and really explore your new, temporary home!

Eat Like A Local

Eating out for three meals a day can seriously eat up your budget, especially if you’re eating at pricey tourist traps. Go to a supermarket and stock up on food for the week. Most hostels have kitchens where you can prepare your own food and you can take out picnics for lunch. If you do want to treat yourself to some meals out then stray away from the beaten track. Walk away from the landmarks to find better food for less. TripAdvisor and Yelp are great ways to find out where the locals think is worth the cash.

Use Alternative Transport

  • Buses: Whilst the idea of sitting on a cramped for hours may seem like hell, they’re often a tiny fraction of the price of a train ticket. Also, in places such as SE Asia, Australia and New Zealand, you can buy hop-on hop-off bus passes that allow you unlimited bus travel to explore the country freely.
  • Trains: Altough they’re usually more expensive than buses, trains area great alternative to flights. The European Interrailing pass allows you to pick from thousands of trains and hundreds of destinations to craft your unique European adventure. Also, sleeper trains save you paying for a night of accommodation and are a lot comfier than planes.
  • Layovers: Some airlines will offer free layover in their hub city or you can split flights up to save. For example, when booking my flights to New Zealand from the UK, it worked out way cheaper to fly to Singapore then on to New Zealand a week later, basically giving me a free holiday!
  • Car Hire: If there are multiple people in your group then car hire can often work out cheaper than multiple tickets on public transport. Be sure to budget for petrol, parking and tolls though!

More info can be found on transport options and passes here.


Scrimp on Accommodation


My American friends pretending not to be embarrassed by my poor pumpkin carving skills

Accommodation can often be the most expensive part of a trip meaning that there’s plenty of room for saving. If you’re anything like me, you’ll barely spend any time in your room anyway so all you really need is a bed and a roof. The obvious choice for a cheap night’s sleep would be a hostel, but in some cities, even these can be pricey. Don’t panic though, there are some other great tricks out there:

  • House swapping or sitting are great ways to get free accommodation and the place you’ll get will way surpass a hostel bunk. There are some great sites out there that connect travellers with people looking for house sitters and the majority of the time you’ll get the added bonus of a cuddly pet to look after. Find out more in this great article by Nomadic Matt.
  • One of the beauties of travelling is that you often meet people from all over the world who become friends for life. These friends then become gateways to even more amazing experiences! Staying with friends is about as good a deal as you’re ever going to get. A free sofa to sleep on, time to catch up with old friends and a local tour guide right by your side.
  • For those places where you aren’t lucky enough to have friends (probably most places) then sites like Couchsurfing and AirBnB offer great opportunities to stay for cheap whilst meeting a wide variety of locals. Just stay cautious and make sure you check the host’s reviews before booking.


Get a ISIC Card

The ISIC Card is an internationally recognised student card that can get you discounts anywhere in the world. The STA version comes with a build in, pre-paid MasterCard, allowing you to easily manage your money on the road! You can pick one up here.

Do you have any budget travel tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

Katie x