Here we present our small low cost guide for backpackers.
In broad terms we are going to explain issues and questions that are important, so this trip stretches like chewing gum and continues.
This might take a while. So, take notes and prepare something to make you company.
We will make this as friendly as possible and we promise to extend only the important and necessary things.
After many hours sitting in front of the computer, we decided to divide this guide into 3 parts. One for each of the points that we consider most relevant. So you don’t want to kill us reading so many things at once.
In this first part of the guide we will speak almost exclusively about transport.
We return to the same thing, what everyone thinks. Traveling is just for the rich people.
If we go into the debate, the first thing to say is this:
This thinking represents generalities, conversations with acquaintances, some comments that we read and opinions from strangers, too.
Let us say that this is a misconception and that they are more than wrong.
You can travel with less, even with nothing.
You can travel with nothing, of course. But that is another subject and we will leave it for later.
As many others believe, think and know, we also tell you that traveling is not only for rich, traveling is for the one who wants to do it.
Travelling is the exclusive property of those who dare and those who want.
It is more than clear that there are some tactic details. We can not organize your pockets or your tastes, we can simply advise you from our point of view. But each one of us know on what we spend more or less and on which things we should start to save.
So, with a couple of low cost details, based on our experience and specific examples that have happened to us along this road (this has happened to us, and is not a “somebody told me”) we are confident that with this guide we will convince you of how is possible to travel like this.
Less money = more fears
First things first. Let’s say that money is not an essential element.
Although in some cases we can say that having some money will help in your first steps. The tickets, the insurance, the visa, the accommodation, the backpack … When is time to start and leave, money is going to give us some security and calm.
But this is just for a while and depending on your intention and your travel plans, as well.
There are some general sayings that scare us like: “Without money you can’t go anywhere.” That makes our fears and insecurities appear.
But we have already said it somewhere else. What is the amount of money needed to travel? The answer is: the one you have. If you have 0, go and travel with 0.
You will see that along the journey you will find the way.
If you think about going out with 0 don’t worry. You can read all of this and see that you do not necessarily have to choose an option that involves expenses, your account can go in 0 throughout this guide. If you do not believe us, read it and then tell us.
In this case, we consider that a trip is not a vacation (or is it?).
When we write this, we think the intention is to extend a trip or stay on this trip as long as possible.
Assuming we have some, our money is going to be spent in the following things:
Shall we give ourselves some luxury?
Mixing the previous points, we can add some other luxury.
To define a luxury is very subjective, and it is a matter of space-time. Determined by each place you visit, each way of living and each wallet. It is also what will make the difference between those that want to go on a vacation and those that want to travel longer, managing along the way their needs, consumption and priorities.
For example, in some parts of Bolivia and Peru, the luxury is having hot water or bathroom that works.
If you’re in the middle of the desert, luxury becomes water and toilet paper.
In the south of Argentina or Chile a place where it is allowed to make fire can be a tremendous luxury.
Buy sangria in Spain, wine in France, or beer in a bar in Ireland ,would become permitted but beware! At the Temple Bar the beer costs between 6 and 8€.
It can be said that there can be necessary luxuries and that sometimes they have to do with money and other times not so much.
There are some days that will come and situations in which more amount of money, if you are in the middle of nowhere, means nothing. You will not be able to eat it or drink it.
Clarified this corner of luxuries, we can continue.
A Long trip
We suppose that the trip you plan is long, so pay attention to what the guide has to say.
There are different options, we go to the best known and recommended for the wallet of the ladies and the pockets of the gentleman.
If the trip is long, the time is abundant and the weather is nice, we have to tell you that you have to avoid: spending on transportation.
Saving on transportation is necessary and logical.
If you do not want the first ticket you pay to mean mortgaging those beers of Temple Bar.
The option we use and we recommend, supposing that you know what you do and why is: hitchhiking.
Hitchhiking is free
Hitchhiking has hundreds of variants.
You can have to go to work to the next town or to study and not just to travel for leisure. Or you want to go around the world one or two times by going into the transportation of other people.
Here you have to have first of all, patience and willingness.
We say “know what you do” because it doesn’t mean just saving on a ticket and cramming a place in some transport.
The culture of hitchhiking goes beyond that. We have to go with some sense of wisdom, disposition and knowing what our options are.
On the other hand, we should know you can hitchhike any type of transport. And when is necessary, even a bike, a convertible or a cart will be just as useful.
If you want to know what we think of hitchhiking in different countries, enter this way.
Some people trust Hitchwiki. We always check it, but the experiences are usually very personal so we trust in making our own experience. We choose place, go there and hope it will turn out good.
If you want to pay …
Among the options you pay, we will make a review of what we consider more convenient. That is, if you want to save a bit in transport but are not sure about hitchhiking, there are several recommendations in this guide as well.
If you want to travel long, talking about distances and flights, searching for tickets in advance can be a great ally.
Normally we use Skyscanner. Always checking from incognito window, flights to “any destination” and the cheapest month, clearly.
Although we have searched and found flights, we are far from being experts in that, far from it. But we know that a little freedom with the dates will give you some ease.
It is said that flying on Tuesday is cheaper … you have to buy tickets on Saturday, and many other things.
We believe that the detail is being prepared to risk, if you see something that has moderately convinced you, bye. Here I go. Click, I get on the plane, arrange the days and that’s it.
The cheapest thing we found lately was Malaga-Oslo for 20€. And some point from Norway to Serbia for €15.
The dates did not suit us, so we changed that wait of a few days for 30 days on the road and our way Granada-Stavanger-Belgrade gave us much more than a couple of hours of flight.
For short and medium distances
In Europe the use of low cost airlines is more than developed and there are lots of offers.
In South America, in Colombia, there are the best options to fly within the country and also you can find connections with other countries and destinations (Peru, Panama) at reasonable prices.
Brazil has cheap options, and in Argentina, although the transport is expensive we have read that in the last time flights and travel by buses are in the same price rate.
If you try to go from Argentina to any other part, you should consider that flights from neighboring countries are cheaper.
In my case, I went from Buenos Aires to Iguazu hitchhiking. I flew from there to Lisbon for a price that was the 3rd part of what would have been if I flew from Ezeiza.
There are some pages that present error rates.
What is that? Basically someone loaded the offer by ignoring some rate, or some zero or there is a system error and for a while that will be going around the sites like that.
There are search engines and pages that are dedicated to do precisely that: seek them, find them and offer them neatly so that somebody adventurous or fortunate find them in their search in internet and use the opportunity.
The famous small print
A detail! Remember the small print of the low cost airlines. The ones that can complicate things the most: check in and luggage.
The ticket is cheap, but the trick is in that if you want to ship your luggage in the cellar you have to pay. Rates range from 15 to 30€ or more.
Also pay attention when checking in. Although in most airports you can scan the QR code, it is advisable to bring a copy made on paper.
If the flight does not include luggage, you can try some of this tips:
1-a normal backpack of 50/55 lts passes as carry-on baggage. As long as the dimensions are reasonable and weigh less than 10 kg.
2-A second small backpack is allowed. You can carry an anvil, which weight normally will not be controlled.
3-You can go with all the clothes on. Yes, you can. As you laugh at this, others laugh when they pay a few more coins for a ticket.
4-Variation to clothing. You can go up with two bags of the free shop. And nobody cares what you bought or if you asked for two bags. So instead of a couple of perfumes or bottles, you can put some clothes.
5-If there is two of you travelling, check in only one luggage. Putting everything in a single backpack will be half less expensive.
Another point to take into account is what kind of service you take and what you can expect from it. For example, there are long distance flights that do not include food or luggage. Also others that leave you at the airport which is 50 km from your destination. And there what you saved in ticket, you’re going to spend in the other way.
Travelling in a shared car
We know it exists but we don’t really know its functionality and we never actually used it.
Although we have done searches, this option never finished convincing us and hitchhiking has always been our choice.
We know they are many variants of this transport spread everywhere, and also that there are countries where their use is more normal and safe, but honestly we did not use them . So in this guide we just wanted to mention them, so that you can keep them in mind as an option of travelling.
In other countries there is no need for any blablacar.
For example, in Bolivia, Peru, Romania or Albania it is normal for any taxi or remis car to take you in exchange for some money. This makes it difficult to hitchhike sometimes, but it is not an impediment to doing so. You’ll have to sharpen your eyes a little, and clarify some issues.
On the other hand, to use BlaBlaCar, you need credit card or PayPal, it is very rare to be given the option of payment in cash.
You also need to be okay with the price of the trip, find and contact the person and also wait to accept you as a passenger. It’s clear why we didn’t use it, right?
There is also the option that a user of BlaBlaCar who did not publish his trip for some reason will find you there and take you.
Of the use of buses in South America there is enough to write a book.
Besides living in a town and traveling to study in another city, my first trip to Machu Picchu was mostly with buses and from there I can say some things about this way of transportation.
Let’s go from one end to the other. We will try to be concise and see both sides of this way of travel, without extending too much.
I think it has better transportation conditions than the rest of South America. Although there is something to complain about, buses and routes are reliable and many times they are in good condition.
We’re talking about long-distance! If you are that unlucky to take an intermediate bus, besides of possibility to break thousand times, it will take you 3 hours to cross 80 km. The downside is that the price is very expensive.
The cheap choices attract, so you’re going to look for the best price anyway.
The classic Villazon-La Paz, about 800 km.
You cross almost all of Bolivia at once and you can find the price of the ticket from 70 to 100 BLS. (approximately 10 dollars), depending of your negotiating skills.
Routes and drivers have improved in the last time and there are more controls.
But their driving capabilities may not have evolved at the same pace. This mixed with the bus full of people plus the inexperience of the drivers results in a terrible equation.
The cheaper you pay, the closer you’re going to be to die. That’s my description. So it is preferable to pay more or try in places that generate more confidence.
In other countries like Colombia, Brazil or Guyana, it is logical that there are other conditions of buses and other structure. It is known that travelling by bus can be tedious in some regions, so it is on everybody to decide.
Long distances by affordable prices make it an interesting option. Depends on the country, if you are not very patient for hitchhiking or your travel dates have limits, buses are the option that will give you good results.
Speaking of Bolivia, there are people who say the buses are not that bad. There are those who have good experiences and take it as an adventure.
In my experience, the last time I traveled, before getting into the bus I called my home to say bye, just in case.
Like the option of flights, there are also low cost bus companies like my enemy FlixBus or Megabus, among others.
It is possible to find very cheap buses that travel long distances.
Although many do not believe it, in Europe there are countries very close to our idea of South American chaos.
There to get a ticket or a schedule becomes terrible. Like some parts of Poland or Albania. Even in Spain, when we arrived at a ticket office, we realized that there are no buses going after 7 pm, until the next day.
In general the bus companies are expensive. Almost always looking for a flight can be better if you compared prices and time of travel.
Unless it is more than necessary, we avoid the buses, but everybody knows which is the most convenient option for him.
The plus is that transport hours can be used as accommodation. We travel during the night, sleep in the bus, wake up in another city and there is no need for paying the hostel.
In South America I have only traveled by train in Argentina, from Rosario to Tucumán. It is the most known way and one of the few that works.
Córdoba-Rosario-Buenos Aires is also an active way.
Prices are convenient, if you have time. But the tickets have to be bought with some anticipation.
In Bolivia, we went from Villazon to Uyuni, a basic train in pretty good condition. Far better and safer than the buses. That same train arrives from Villazón to Oruro, a couple of hours from La Paz.
Unlike South America the train has endless options in Europe, big surprise!
From high speeds of the train to different passes like Eurail, InterRail and others.
In principle this is something that is expensive for us. But again, in this guide we consider it as a good option. It may seem more or less convenient, but the way of travel is simply your choice.
Depending on the country the prices are higher, although it is necessary to say that the conditions and the service are excellent.
I don’t know in other countries and even in other regions, but I did use this in Duisburg. Germany. I was told this works in Cologne as well.
Students and teachers can bring a companion without paying a ticket.
So we’re just going to approach any person who looks like that and wants to help us. We can ask him nicely if he would do us a favor.
In our case, when we come to a big city in Europe, the easiest option has been to get out of there by train and hitchhike from the outskirts of the city or from some nearby town. These connections are sometimes easier and more frequent than the buses.
For long distances, except in the case of Bolivia, choose the train, because the rest of the options would be seen as a VIP option or luxury in our budget.
There are many stories and tales about this. To climb on a cargo ship and cross from Japan to Central America …
To tell the truth we still did not implement them thoroughly, but our day to cross great distances by boat will arrive and we will tell you all about it.
If we go to northern South America is much more common that the most reliable and fastest route is by boat or canoe. In the Amazon region, it is often the only possible option .
In the majority of the cases, the ticket is not so accessible in terms of price, although it will make the road much easier. The good thing is that you can bargain and lower the price. Even if your trip goes well and you convince someone, it can be free too.
In my case the connections between the Guyanas, and the ship by the Amazon River came from above.
I do not know if I had pint of “this is my last hope” but I traveled without expenses which was the important thing.
In the south, in Patagonia, there are also many options. If you don’t have a vehicle for example, the ferry to cross the Strait of Magellan from the Chilean side will cost you 0.
In Europe, the ferry connects many countries, especially in the south and north. We did not travel by ferry in the south, but in the north we were in Norway and from there we share with you some data.
Most of the internal connections are free, you just go in the ferry and get off at the other side, if you get on by walking.
If you go as an additional passenger you will not pay an extra for the ticket. That was our way of getting to know the Norwegian fjords.
Those ferries that connect different countries may be more expensive and you will have to pay something extra. But here’s our tip:
We were crossing from Denmark to Germany, we had couple of bad days of hitchhiking, so we came to the port willing to pay. We arrived at the station door and they said:
-Passengers crossing by foot have to go on the other side, the ticket is 20€.
We asked-and if we go as extra people in a car, how much is the ticket then?. (If we had to pay already, we were looking to pay the least possible)
–Nothing, is free. Just pay for the vehicle.
You can guess what happened. We stopped in front of the port and hitchhiked our vehicle that made us cross for free. After this, we read that in most of the ferries is like that. You can have the free pass as long as you arrive as an extra passenger of a vehicle.
Here are our records
Unfortunately sometimes we can not escape from having to pay a ticket, but when we do, we try at least to use an offer that is impossible to refuse. In addition to many that have been a gift or free, some of the things we paid were:
Train Ticket Rosario-Tucumán
The price was 32 Argentine pesos. That train has crossed about 800 km, it took us around 24 hours and I can say it was a an utopia of transportation.
We know that the prices changed and that seemed unreal. Although on this trip I felt like I was 5 years old and it was the day of my birthday. The nearest and closest I’m going to be to the time machine.
Flixbus, I don’t know why, but for some reason he’s in the first place of my enemies. In internal conversations, we have to recognize that it was a cheap trip and we needed it.
€5 each ticket on a night bus, 350 km in total. If we consider the prices in Sweden and one whole day without anyone taking us, this was a good option.
Even, if we pretended we fall asleep, we would have ended up in Copenhagen or Berlin, but our honesty made us reach Berlin by other means.
A flight from Brussels to Romania for €3.05.Yes, 3 euros with five cents!
It is obvious that: the flight was on 31st of December, I got the last seat and I had ¾ of my clothes on, but I had to move fast and there was no way to refuse that offer.
From this moment, this became my range of cheap. If you want to sell me something, it should be under that price-convenience. 1800 km for less than 70 pesos.
Among all of this, you have to choose
We left you a few options.
In our case, we know that all of these options exists and we still prefer to travel hitchhiking. It is possible in South America and in any country in Europe. You will save at least a 40 or 50% of your budget simply daring to live a different experience.
Until here we arrived with this first part of our small guide low cost and although you have not noticed or maybe yes, Magic! Suddenly our budget is higher for 50%!
Even choosing to move by some paid options, if you follow some tips that we leave you in this guide I assure you that you will spend less than you imagine.
See you in the next part, where we’ll talk about how to save on accommodation.
If you have any comments or questions do not hesitate to write them!