Travelling on a budget

Find out how to travel the world without it costing the earth

Marcus Webb – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist


Budget travel has a certain reputation – overcrowded hostel dorms, sleepless journeys on smelly night buses and dog-eared copies of The Beach. But saving money doesn’t have to involve sacrificing your comfort – here are eight ways to holiday in style while travelling on a budget...

Sign your name

Most festivals rely upon a small army of volunteers, who get free tickets (and often food, drink and other goodies) for their stewarding, litter-picking and bartending skills. You’re unlikely to require a work permit, you’ll meet lots of new people, and it’ll cost you nothing but your time.

Become a card carrier

An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) will get you discounts at hundreds of attractions around the world, although you’ll need to be a student to get one. If you’re not eligible, consider a Hostelling International Card (HIC), which offers discounts on affiliated accommodation as well as on city tours, bus tickets and car rental in many countries. 

Hatch a plan

Spontaneity while travelling can be thrilling, but as anybody who’s rocked up to a British train station to buy a ticket for same-day long-distance travel will know, it can also be expensive. Book early for the best train and bus fares – and the same applies to theatre, sporting events, and just about anything else where tickets are in demand. 

Travel light

When putting your luggage in the hold costs twice as much as putting your bum on a seat, you know that modern-day travel has become a bit weird, to say the least. Travel light to avoid sky-high baggage fees – although not so light that you spend precious holiday time stuffing coins into washing machines at laundromats. 

Phone home

A vast number of roaming deals are offered by the big phone companies so if you want to get online while you’re away it might be worth shopping around. However, here’s a radical option – not being online all the time. It’s completely free and it involves – prepare yourself! – fully engaging in the present moment. You can always use free wifi in restaurants and hotels when the craving for bandwidth gets too great. 

Take the sleeper train

Sleeper trains are a wonderfully romantic way to travel – drifting off to the gentle chug of the engine, waking to a vivid sunset. Okay, so you will occasionally get people brusquely shouting “passport control!” in your ear in the middle of the night, but a berth in a sleeper cabins will save on hotel costs – and spare you a day of travelling. 

Walk on by

Walking tours are a great way to get to know a new city, and they’re often free. Some tours are paid for by enterprising tourist boards, while others operate on a pay-what-you-can basis: search online for your area of interest, from street food to naval history.

Go out for lunch

Whether it’s a menu du jour, a menú del día or just a plain old lunch menu, a set meal in the middle of the day is often a bargain. Plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants offer lunch at a snip of the evening price, and are often less booked up than they are at dinner time.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.