9 mei 2014

Traveling cheap/with hardly any money

Some of you already know: in June 2012 I gave up everything to start traveling, officially homeless, without bank-account and health insurance.
With 550 euro in my pocket, which I collected by selling some of my stuff, I started my travels. A lot happened. For example: getting pregnant and becoming a mom...
But before that, I was hitchhiking through Europe and working in the cities on my way... to wherever and whenever I felt going. Well, as long as my budget allowed it.

I will sum up five things on which I saved a lot of money on and not only that: gave me much joy. I met a lot of great people while hitchhiking and Couchsurfing. Many great adventures!

You get the premier of parts of my far-from-finished book 'Without Borders', which I was writing during traveling through Europe. The names are fictitious for privacy reasons.
In italic lay-out I share those personal stories with you, the ones that are more relevant follow after the more basic information. So, if it's too long for you, and you are in a hurry to travel cheap, you can skip them.

Enjoy, get inspired and make your own adventures! And if you haven't yet, read also after this one my previous blog about traveling and working.

How to minimize your costs:

Well, I have heard great stories about how people not spend any money at all while traveling. I just love trying out veganlicious food and going to a cafe with (new made) friends. But just so you know, it is possible!

1. Sleeping
- Couchsurfing and other hosting/surfing sites
- Friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers
- Housesitting
- WWOOFing
- Hostels
- Tent or just a sleeping bag
There are more websites for surfing (and hosting) people all over the world. Couchsurfing is the most famous one and I have used it a lot. Also it works great just to meet people for a drink. 

I've also stayed with friends of friends through Couchsurfing, or colleagues of my father, or with people from my work, or those I just met at a restaurant, etc. I stayed one month at my chef's place for example. I even asked strangers on the streets. One very friendly guy I hitchhiked with bought me some bread and brought me to a hotel and payed. Some people just really like to help you out.

Other possibilities are house-sitting. You take care of someones house while they are away on holiday or to visit their home country. In return you take care of their plants, dog(s) and/or cat(s). 
There are even special sites for it, but also check the cities special (gringo) websites, or special Facebook pages and such. And of course: ask around. 
You could do WWOOFing, which I've already mentioned in my previous blog. Working on a farm for lodging and food. Or work a bit in a hostel, in exchange for a free bed.

Are you very adventurous and like being outside, in nature? You have special outdoor sleeping bags with which you can even sleep in the rain. 

If you can't or don't want to search for anything free, check out:  
The biggest dorms in hostels are most cheap and staying more days gives sometimes discounts. Don't book online, it can cost extra, or there has to be a 'special', but search on the site I mentioned and then Google the hostel's name and find their direct contact information.

Rent your place at home temporarily to some-one, or leave it all behind like I did...

We are eating watermelon. I've been in Graz for already a couple of days now. A small city, which for me is a mixture of the Marburg in Germany, also in the center a hill on which a castle, and the Vienna in Austria that I know. Smaller than Vienna and less picturesque than Marburg. Both places don't really do it for me, but the combination makes it actually good. 

Mathew is my host. After a few days, a lot more than that, he is my best friend. A straight guy. That's new. I was hoping that at least one time in my life this would happen and now it has.

Immediately I felt so open and relaxed towards him. But somehow I keep a little bit of distance as a precaution that no tension will come between us. Therefore I sometimes look away from him while we talk about love and above all the grief that it can cause.


It will be my second night in Maribor. I almost hitchhiked back, because I had no place to stay for the second night. 
The third place I walk in is an eatery. The waiter outside looks shortly at me. He seems a helpful person. So I take once more courage and walk towards him. 

"Can you speak English?", I ask him. "Yes." I tell him my story and that I would like to stay one more night in Maribor, but that I wasn't able to find a place through Couchsurfing for a second night. "Do you know Couchsurfing?" Again a yes follows. "Do you know anyone perhaps?" He asks me to follow him as he walks into the eatery. He talks Slovenian to whom I assume is his chef. She looks at me briefly and it seems to be a 'yes' right away. 

I introduce myself and she says something to the man sitting at the table nearest to us. The waiter says that I will get the key and have the apartment to myself tonight. Grateful I write down my phone number for her and she gives me hers. They make clear I should follow the man, which seems to be her boyfriend.  

It's a ten minute walk in which he expresses his surprise on how I live and travel. He says he would never dare doing what I'm doing. I look at his muscles, which tells apparently nothing about someones strength.

Once inside the building we have to take all the stairs up. When we're in, he shows me around. It's a small, clean and nice apartment. I'm even allowed to make use of the computer. He is trying to log-in with the password she gave him. However, after several attempts he still doesn't succeed and gives up. "Never mind", I say, "thank you already for so much!"

He leaves. I doze off on the couch. Not long after I hear someones trying to open the door. They are both there, coming to log-in. I almost feel guilty for so much help, but I feel that they like to do it for me. I glance at her. I can tell that she's a powerful woman, a fighter and that she appreciates me and understands my want and need for freedom. 

"Do you need new sheets for the bed?", she asks. "No, it's just fine... or are you really dirty?" She laughs. They leave me with some bread they specially brought with them for me. 
I immediately let myself slide tired, but satisfied, onto the chair and check my emails and chat with my mom, my ex and whoever I feel like sharing with what just happened. I am overexcited. It worked! And even more easy than I thought it would.  

2. Traveling
- Hitchhiking 
- Walking
- Bike
- Car-sharing
- Bus, subway, train
- Plane

Hitchhiking has been such a great experience for me! Met so many interesting and very helpful people. All with their own unique stories. Couples, families, business men, friends, young, old, happy, sad, rich, poor... 

In some countries it's more easy to hitchhike than in others. It's smart to look up some information about hitchhiking beforehand and ask some experienced people for advice. 
When you are a woman and/or traveling alone, it's most of the time more easy to get a car ride, but you also have to be a little bit more careful. 
When you're a guy, having a cuddle attached to your backpack, being shaved and (also for women:) not wearing sunglasses, all helps for example to look more friendly and trustworthy and for a car to stop faster
Check this site out: And for a hitchwiki map, check here: 

I walk a lot when I am staying in a city, even the huge ones. Even with my baby-girl. I have walked many, many kilometers. Someone said I should put a meter on that stroller, just to see...
Besides, it's a healthy way of getting about. It's a good way of getting to know a place. I knew a city after two weeks better than someone who had lived there half a year. 

Sometimes you can get cheap bus-tickets that you can use for more days. Like in Berlin, buying more tickets for the subway at once was cheaper ... well when you do pay... (It wasn't me!)

I was lucky that I got fly-miles from people, which made my flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, really cheap. But I also recently found this very interesting site about traveling and how to find for example much cheaper fly-tickets: 
Just know, if you have time, sometimes making more stops and/or starting in another country, and first taking a bus or whatever, can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars/euros/etc!

I have many great hitchhiking stories to tell... over a drink, outside with a nice fire or on Skype, but for now I only share one of my favorite written ones:

The sun is already low and it's finally cooling down a bit. I let the rays of sun lower my eyelids, making me peer through the thin openings onto the road. Silence.

A car. I open my eyes a bit more to take a better look. I see at least two silhouettes inside the old rusty red car. Looks like men. I do not raise my thumb. They drive by slowly and the men turn their heads with the speed they are going and keep looking at me. A look that would give a shiver down my spine if I wasn't that used of pretending they can't do me anything. I don't want to know what is going on in their heads right now.

When they are gone, I shake the withheld shiver off of me.

Again silence.

Two big dark green jeeps come in sight, I automatically put up my thumb. As if the army would take me with them. That's probably not even allowed. 
I see them coming closer and see that there is also no place for anyone extra. Would be cool though... maybe one time... 

The men are well shaved and with an alert but friendly look on their face. We laugh shortly at one another. I nod, like a man would do to his fellow colleague. My backpack behind me on the ground, my black clothes, my straight back... for a while I feel like I'm understood.

No, now I do not feel a combination of being tough and naif, as I felt before. I am someone with a purpose: adventure, and I will survive whatever! After a long day I finally feel how a sense of security relaxes me, along with a breeze it refreshes me.

Never ever thought something like the army, that has to do with weapons and wars, would make me feel so relaxed.

3. Eating
- Dumster diving (also known as garbage picking, containering and skippen) 
- Cook yourself
- Exchange work for food
- Free drinks/food at supermarkets, during exposition openings... or just dance like me and get free drinks of the bartender. ;)
- Markets

Also ask small stores at closing time if they are going to throw away anything and if so, if you can have it. It's not always allowed for them to give it away, but you can try.

Cooking for yourself is cheaper than going out of course, but try to cook also for someone else in exchange that that other person pays for the food.
I, for example, get lately two lunches for one hour of English class I give to the owners of a restaurant.

Markets are many times cheaper, especially at the end of the (market-)day. Sometimes you can just say "it's too much, but I'll pay... " This depends on the country and person in front of you if it works. But bargain! 
When you're staying longer at one place, sometimes buying a bigger amount of something is much cheaper. 

Ask your host and/or locals (through CS for example) for tips where to get the best buys. 

If you ever buy food you don't like... had it ones in Brazil... give it at least to poor people. Do not throw it away, you can make someone happy with it!

Yes, I want to at least try this once, also to just add a new experience to my list. Also, if I am ever really in need while traveling, I know I can survive in a 'healthy' and environmentally friendly way.


Somewhat in the after-pain of disappointment I return back to my couchsurfing host, a spontaneous and energetic well curved Romanian girl. I tell her about the for her unknown way of getting food. Curious, she wants immediately to take a look in the neighborhood.
By midnight we find a place which isn't closed with a gate or anything. We look in the containers and find between discarded strawberries two apples. We score! 

We walk back with both an apple in our hands. I can't stop giggling. She looks at me slightly puzzled and asks why I laugh. "'Cause it's my first time, first things are special and it's just funny walking with an apple here in the middle of the night." She smiles and nods in agreement.


She comes walking towards me. She's tall, her dress swings around her voluptuous body and a flower decorates her blond dyed hair. 
We greet one another. Soon we're talking about traveling, about work, about vegan life. Yay, she says, as we are the first. 

We stand in front of the ice cream place that has organic and also many vegan ice cream. This morning they're giving it away for free. We are waiting a little impatient until we are allowed inside. "Uh, pear, oh vanilla soy ice is finished, um, then lets take the raspberry." 

We get a huge amount of ice cream on our cones. We walk a bit more before we sit down on a bench. Then we talk on, sometimes distracted by the delicious taste, from where we had left.

(Best ice cream I ever ate, by the way.)


We meet in front of the sex shop. Agnes is also there. "Yes", I tell her, "I have a flashlight with me, I found it quite easy at my host's place". She has a key to the door that leads to the corridor where the storage space is with the waste of the supermarket. (Are you still following me?)

"How did you get it?" She tells me that there are several keys going around, however, that the lock of the other supermarkets waste storages have been changed lately and that she doesn't have the new key yet.

The light doesn't work. She opens the container and the smell of waste meets us. I shine with the flashlight in it while she examines the content. She is much longer than I am and can reach deeper. She finds many useful things. I also start grabbing what I can. We get a loaf of bread, coffee, a plant and some other non-plant-based things.

Agnes is quiet for a change. 
The cover of the container falls on our heads. "Ouch!", we both cry. "That's happened before", she says. I say," let me hold it, while you look". She rips open a few garbage bags to see if there's anything usable inside. 

Our bags are filled as we walk out, into the bright light. 

4. Wearing
- Ask around for free clothes
- Buy second-hand
- Buy at shops with bulk clothes or when there's a discount

I didn't even ask for the stroller, but my host said I could have it. I asked my friends on Facebook if someone had a small backpack... got a fantastic good one. 

Many times when I meet or am staying with women, I ask if they have anything they aren't going to wear anymore, and if so, if maybe I can have it. I've gotten so many good and even never worn clothes because of this. Just recently, I got great expensive quality clothes from the woman I am staying with.

Be alert with second-hand, because in some countries it's way too expensive! But believe me, free clothes when traveling is easy to find. I even sold this way for a short time second-hand clothes, just by asking around and getting nice things, giving me a bit of needed income.

So, you can sell the things you do not wear, or trade it or give it away.

Lawrence stands in front of us and takes off his underwear. Naked he looks for another underpants and puts it on. "Well, well", says Brad, "a free show!", and watches with me. Distracted I nod. 
Brad enjoys my smile. Can't help it, but feel like a kid in a candy shop... a feast for my eyes. 

Lawrence hands me his underpants he just took off. Brad gives me his just bought and still unused T-shirt and gives it to me. I put it on, together with my big walking boots and my jacket. The still wet clothes I put in a plastic bag. 

"You look weird" Brad says. I can not help to think I look actually very artistic and cool, with my high-blond hair in a mess... And that's how I say goodbye to them.  

(Getting a free man's underpants... my kind of souvenir. ;) But not something I would advice... well... but just want to say, you can be surprised how clothes comes to you. ;))

 5. Sight-seeing
- Free entries: museums (special offers), galleries, festivals, bars, etc
- Free walking tours

A lot of big cities have free walking tours. They ask/hope for a tip though. 

Just be creative. Enough fun to have without paying any or hardly any money. Instead of going to a bar, buy a drink at a shop and sit in a nice park and get your vitamin D for free! :)

At the tourist information offices they many times can give better city maps for free than the standard ones. Just ask for it. You can of course always ask them if they know nice things to do for free or cheap.

Mathew's roommate works in the cinema and I can go for free with them to the new Batman movie. It's in German though. Who cares?! As if i am listening to anything that's said... with such a sexy actor, who needs to?


Angela and I shiver from the cold. I, because I'm still sweaty after dancing and she, because her open shoes and bare legs. 
We watch how the view over Graz becomes slowly visible, while the morning commences, silencing us after sharing our very personal stories. We just breathe the fresh air in and out.

I try to support her as she tries to put on her pantyhose. We want to see the sunrise and walk ourselves warm by walking a few circles on the top of the hill. It's already 6 AM and we are very tired. 

It has become totally light, but the sun is still not up and we decide: another time. We walk back, down the hill. I am overcome with sleep, my legs heavy from all the dancing but I feel grateful for her relaxed spontaneity. She takes her bike, gives a kiss goodbye and I start walking, well more stumbling, the opposite direction, towards my 'home'.  


Thank you for reading my tips, my stories...

Links, tips and your own experiences are very welcome to share below.
Hope you share my blog, gracias!


Note: a blog about traveling as a vegan and a blog about traveling as a mom will follow soon.

2 opmerkingen:

  1. For checking out what you need for getting a visa, I always use this handy website-page:

  2. Ik zal de reistips verder bekijken! Ben verwend geraakt door het alten betalen van reis-en verblijfskosten door derden (conferenties). Maar als ik alles zelf regel, moet ik het goedkoop houden. Cheers, Caspar