Break the rules and throw away your preconceptions. This page is all about travelling without money. Sprawled across the internet are heaps of pages about free travel and ways to travel the world for free. Normally they relate to bonus schemes or getting someone else to pay for your travel. Getting paid to travel is difficult to do and it defeats the idea of travelling without money. One could ‘easily’ get a difficult job, and then travel with money instead. This page avoids that idea and instead offers you a true way in which you can enjoy travelling the world for free.
What I will say about this page, is that it isn’t complete. It never will be. The idea of travelling without money is more about an idea for life in which material possessions are not really necessary. This is a constantly evolving thought that relates to how you can enjoy yourself and be happy in the world. Sometime in the future, I will be combining a lot of my material into a single article which can be picked up or put down at will and that I hope will help to convey the idea of immaterialism to those who wish to read it. For now, I simply offer you pieces of advice from a long and winding journey.
This piece is about how you can travel the world with the smallest possible amount of money. It doesn’t claim that you can travel the world for free, because unless you are breaking the law, you cannot. If you choose to break the law, I won’t be angry. I simply won’t be held responsible for it. Every country has visa restrictions and although many of them may be free, some of them charge you. I advocate the idea that when travelling the world, there are only two necessary large expenses. Visas and travel insurance. All other expenses need only be minimal or non-existent.
If you like you hotels and your home comforts, this page is not for you. You must go back to your job, work hard, and then pay for your time away from home. This page is tailored to those who do not mind roughing it and having a bit of an adventure.
I have also condensed this information into a video if you prefer to watch, rather than read. Here it is. The extended (text) version follows the video.
I will now break all of this down into manageable chunks so that you can handle it. I detail how you can travel for free, or failing that, how you can travel for the minimal possible expenditure.
There are only five things that we need for survival:
When travelling the world, the list is not so clear cut. I claim that we only need:
- To See Remarkable Things
- To Meet Beautiful People
- To Experience the World
- To Get From One Place to Another
- To Not End Up in Prison
I will begin with necessities. Then I will progress.
What you need for survival
Air. Air is free. No matter where you go or who you’re with, don’t let people charge you for it. The only exceptions to this would be underwater or in space. If you find yourself in either of these locations, pay anything for air. Air is life and life is great. Without it, you’d be dead.
Water. Water is essential to life. Drinking dirty water can make you very sick. Personally, I drink tap water from most countries that I have ever been to without problem. This is because my body has adapted to this existence. You will notice that locals can drink tap water much easier than tourists can. If you are not used to this, it is normally possible to find safe-to-drink water at public fountains from which you can fill water bottles. Simply ask around and people will help you out. For this reason, it is important to carry empty water containers. These containers might simply be empty plastic bottles. If you are not able to obtain safe drinking water, the best option is to boil water in order to kill all of the nasties inside. If you have the resources (a friend’s stove for example), let the water boil for a full minute before you bottle it for consumption. Failing this, take water treatment chemicals / tablets. The cost of these is minimal (compared with buying bottled water) and they can treat large volumes of water. With a little bit of forethought, safe drinking water is free / very low cost to obtain.
Note: if you drink dirty water, it is possible that it is contaminated with E. coli, cholera, salmonella, protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium), viruses (such as hepatitis A, polio and rotavirus), or chemical pollutants. These make you feel somewhat unwell.
Food. Our bodies may be able to survive for a week without food, but that isn’t a very pleasant experience (not that I have ever tried). When I travel, I like to eat. One of the ways I have received great food is by hitchhiking. It is important to never expect food, but when people offer you a lift, it is not uncommon for them to offer you food in addition to a lift (particularly truckers). Expecting something is one thing; graciously accepting is another. If this opportunity arises in any situation, say thank-you and enjoy the food. Never rely on other people’s kindness as a source of nutrition however.
It was only after years of travel that I realised one could eat for free when a friend of mine introduced me to the idea of skipping (otherwise known as dumpster diving or freeganism). This involves going to the waste bins at the back of supermarkets and collecting the food that has been disposed of due to it approaching it’s sell by date. This may sound terrible at first. When this idea was first suggested to me, I was shocked and appalled, causing me to reject the idea. Then I found out that most food in the bins has gone out of date that day and is sealed. Look at what you are collecting and you should be able to find some fantastic food for free. Trash wiki details some of the best locations and techniques to find free food in major cities around the globe. Skipping is a major growing trend and I have found that the people who normally do it, do it not for economic reasons, but for prevention of food wastage. We produce and dispose of far more food than is necessary.
When walking in rural areas, it is easy to find fruit or vegetables. Try not to steal, but in many countries, wild apple and plum trees (amongst others) provide you with delicious and healthy snacks throughout the day.
If you really cannot bare the thought of skipping, you can always buy the ultimate budget travellers food which consists of plain bread or carbohydrates such as pasta (when you have access to cooking facilities). Nutritionally it isn’t very sound, but it will provide you with a form of sustenance.
Sleep. It is possible to survive on small amounts of sleep. I once tried a polyphasic sleep schedule during which I slept four times a day for only thirty minutes at a time. This totals only two hours of sleep a day and I felt fantastic. My friends that I lived with at the time said that I constantly appeared in a state of euphoria, as if under the influence of high amounts of drugs. Thus, this may not be the best idea. However, it is very possible to find free beds around the world. If you want free accommodation, please read my free accommodation article to find money free ways to put your head down for the night. The free accommodation page lists short and long term options. If you only need one to three nights accommodation in a specific location, you should consider couchsurfing or free-camping. Free camping is a wonderful experience in which you sleep outside for free and really start to appreciate life. It sounds less than ideal until you try it. If you are staying in a location for slightly longer, you should consider volunteering or house sitting.
Health. If you lose your health, you have nothing. This, above all things, is the most important part of life. I previously stated that we need air, air is life, and without it, we’d be dead. Without health, food, or water, we’d be dead. Medical treatment is incredibly expensive wherever you go in the world. For this reason I cannot support travelling without health (travel) insurance. This is the first of the two expenses that you should pay. Even if you only get the most basic policy that covers nothing more than medical fees, get travel insurance. I wrote an article about travel insurance in which it explains why you need it and offers suggestions of which travel insurance policy you should purchase. Do I sound a bit repetitive? I hope so. If you go anywhere, get travel insurance. It isn’t a problem until you get sick and your parents have to sell their house to pay for your private jet home. And then you find out that you only had food poisoning. Is all that trouble worth it for the cost of a bungee jump or two? No. I broke my back in France a few years ago and my several thousand pounds of medical bills cost me a total of £65 (in addition to the policy cost) because I was covered for accidents.
Also in the health category is prevention of diseases. Visit your local doctor to see what medication or vaccinations you need for the places that you are visiting. You should get all that they recommend although there are decisions to be made when it comes to rabies injections and malarial medicine because these are optional. If your country has a national health service, many of these immunisations are available free of charge.
What You Need To Enjoy Yourself
To See Remarkable Things. A starry skied mountain top, a waterfall in a forest, or sunset on a beach. These things are beautiful to most people and you can do them for free. With a little bit of effort, you can find some wonderful places. No doubt that wherever you find yourself in the world, many of these things require nothing more than simply taking a little bit of commitment to go and see them. It is far too easy to sit inside and do nothing. However, beauty is in the eye of the perceiver. You do not need to spend every day in the mountains or on beaches to find beauty. You can find it everywhere. Testament to that, look at some of the photo albums that I have uploaded. You may not find them to be to your taste, but I liked the subjects that I was photographing at the time. Keep your eyes open and find beauty in the world. In people, places, or things.
I must now call upon a quote from If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by John McGregor. “You must always look with both of your eyes and listen with both of your ears. He says this is a very big world and there are many many things you could miss if you are not careful. There are remarkable things all the time, right in front of us, but our eyes have like the clouds over the sun and our lives are paler and poorer if we do not see them for what they are. If nobody speaks of remarkable things, how can they be called remarkable?”
Wherever you are now, I challenge you to go somewhere and see something remarkable. I would stake everything upon the idea that no matter where you are in the world, city or countryside, you cannot be in a place where you cannot find something remarkable within walking distance. Put one foot in front of the other and then do it again. You will find something remarkable. Or it will find you.
To Meet Beautiful People. People are everywhere and when you give them time, they can be wonderful. The term beautiful people does not refer to physical beauty. It simply refers to the whole of people in general. I’m referring to that little moment where you make a connection with a stranger because you are open to the world. This connection might be nothing more than a word or a smile; it might be less. If you want to spend more time with strangers, start with hello and a smile. If you are friendly, most people will be friendly back. Many of the people I meet when travelling are through hitchhiking or couchsurfing because they provide instant connections that allow me to spend an extended period of time with a person to see if I like them. Quite often you know that you will never see the people again and that can be quite a liberating experience because you are free to be who you want to be.
To Experience the World. Wherever you go, say yes and try everything. You cannot know if you like something until you have tried it. You do not have to do what every single tourist does when you visit a famous place. On my one trip to Paris, I visited a special bookshop, climbed atop a museum, and camped under the Eiffel Tower. My brother was led into the catacombs via a manhole at night. None of these experiences cost a penny and they are different from what most people do. Throw away your guide books and let both your instincts and the people around you guide you. For certain places in the world, you can also read my beyond budgeting guides which offer free and alternative ways to enjoy specific locations for a couple of days. My country guides offer money saving advice specific to each country as well as advice about what you should see and do in different places around the world. The activities listed on these pages are not always free, but they are deemed good value for experience.
To Get From One Place to Another. Get over your fears and try hitchhiking. I wrote a whole guide to hitchhiking in which I included safety information and how to find a hitchhiking partner online. Rather than repeating myself here, read that guide and remember that hitchhiking is not limited to land. It is more than possible to hitchhike a boat and I have done so several times in the past. Using hitchhiking (the art of obtaining a free lift), you really can go anywhere in the world. I realised this during my 24 country hitchhike in 2012.
To Not End Up in Prison. This is where your other expense comes in. To legally enter a country, you must acquire a visa. With a little bit of forethought, you can visit countries with cheap or free visa entry. However, if you do not want your route limited by the cost of visas, you simply have to pay. The only way to get a visa without paying is to find a job in advance and have your employer secure a visa for you. However, this involves a lot of work and thus, it is not actually free and I do not recommend it as a way to travel for free.
An Addition: Luxuries
Toilets. I put toilets into the luxuries section because it is quite possible to go to the toilet without going to an actual toilet. If you are in rural areas, get over your shyness and go outdoors. In cities, look for cafes and fast food outlets. Walk in like you are buying something and go to the toilet. If there is a lock, you can wait for someone else to use the bathroom and catch it before it closes or look at an old receipt on a table because they often print toilet codes on these. Ideally, just go up to a member of staff and ask for access to the bathroom. It is rare that someone would normally be so petty as to deny you access to the toilet, even if their boss instructs them to do so.
Washing. Cleaning both your clothes and body can be done in one of two ways. Firstly, you can wash naturally in rivers or lakes. I have done this for several days before when hitchhiking and free camping and it actually feels great. Alternatively, find yourself free accommodation and use the facilities while you have the opportunity. If you ever end up in a truck stop or large service area, you may be able to find free showering facilities.
Electrical charging. You can find empty sockets in shopping malls or at people’s houses that you meet along the way. When charging in shopping malls, try not to look suspicious. Simply walk up to a socket, plug your device in and sit down with your bag like you belong there. This works better outside shops and cafes if you can find sockets in the throughways.
Internet. Free wi-fi is available all over the world if you have an internet capable device. You simply have to look for it. A great option is picking up the wi-fi from outside cafes. They normally require a password for access, but most paying customers don’t actually mind helping out a traveller by telling them the password for free. Ask nicely or look at old receipts where you might find the code printed. Alternatively, many libraries and tourist information centres around the world provide a free period of internet. It’s normally around half an hour which is more than enough to send an email to your family and ensure that your online banking is useless due to lack of funds. Once again, if you are staying with people as you travel, use the internet at their homes while you can.
Alcohol. You might just have to learn to get by without this one. When hitchhiking with truckers, I get offered beer fairly regularly. Vodka and whiskey less so, but it happens. I politely accept. Once again, accept generosity but don’t expect it or go looking for it.
Cigarettes. When spending extended periods of time around people that smoke, they may offer you cigarettes. I found this happened an awful lot while hitchhiking. Once again, accept don’t expect. Better still, save your lungs.
As a closing remark, I would like to say that it is possible to travel the world completely for free by not getting travel insurance or skipping country borders and entering without visas. For the safety net that travel insurance provides, I would not recommend travelling without it. As for entering countries without proper documentation, I feel it might be unwise for me to publicly advocate illegal behaviour. If you choose to do so, I didn’t tell you that you should.
Please remember, this page is only a seed for your imagination. Go out into the world, overcome financial barriers and live your life.
Travel free, be free, live free, live life, love life.
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