Is It Really Possible To Travel Without Money?
How Did I Learn To Travel Without Money?
Why I Don’t Travel Completely Without Money
True Stories Of People Travelling Without Money
Knowledge Is Power: How Can You Travel For Free?
What You Need To Survive Travelling Without Money
What You Need To Enjoy Travelling Without Money
An Addition: Luxuries
What Do You Need To Pack?
This Is Not For Everyone
Further Reading And Resources
VIDEO GUIDE: HOW TO TRAVEL WITHOUT MONEY
IS IT POSSIBLE TO TRAVEL WITHOUT MONEY?
Yes! 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 job, and then travel with money instead (teaching English abroad, for example, is a great way to travel and make money), but 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. I am constantly combining a lot of my knowledge into compact articles 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.
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.
HOW DID I LEARN TO TRAVEL WITHOUT MONEY?
In my mid 20s I was teaching English in South Korea. I had more money than I knew what to do with and I would spend it for the sake of spending it, but I wasn’t particularly happy with the money. One night I was in Japan and I missed my bus, but when I went to get a train instead I was told it would be £130. I decided to hitchhike instead and had great fun on the road. This gave me an idea: ‘What if I just started hitchhiking with no plans and no end date?’ I finished my teaching contract and then did exactly that, hitchhiking through Europe. This journey ended up lasting six months and I spent much of my time free camping, staying with strangers, volunteering, and learning other ways that one could travel without money which are shared on this website. Despite having very little money during this journey, I was extremely happy and I ended up writing a book about the experience called The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World. If you want the long version of how I learnt to deal with personal fear and financial restrictions to travel the world, reading that book is a good place to start.
WHY I CHOOSE NOT TO TRAVEL COMPLETELY WITHOUT MONEY
It is possible to travel for free and I have met people who have done so for many years (see below). This post is about how you can travel the world with the smallest possible amount of money – or completely for free if you want to travel for free – and it teaches techniques and tips for how you can do this. It doesn’t claim that you can travel the whole world for free, because unless you are breaking the law, you cannot. But you can travel completely for free in countries where you are permitted to enter for free (which is based upon your passport). If you choose to break the law and enter without paying for visas, I won’t be angry, but I 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. I often travel the world on a tiny budget (a few euros a day, such as in the video), but these are the three reasons I choose not to travel completely for free:
TRAVELLING EUROPE ON €2.36 A DAY
This video shows my journey from Turkey to the UK, during which we ate pizza, drank beer, and saw some beautiful places. It’s a small budget that afforded us luxuries and you can find out more about this journey here.
- Travel Insurance. If you get sick or injured and you are travelling without money, either you get no treatment or you get hit with a big bill which will be a serious problem as you don’t have any money. I broke my back a few years ago and having travel insurance ensured that I was treated and that my medical bills (of over 5,000 euro) were covered. I would have been pretty screwed without the travel insurance. Read more about travel insurance here.
- Visas. Depending on your passport, you will be able to visit certain parts of the world for free, but others will require you to pay for a visa. As a British passport holder I am very lucky that I can enter hundreds of territories in the world for free, however, if there is a visa fee to pay I would always pay it and have never entered a country illegally. I would advise others to do the same.
- Choice. Whilst the advice on this page shows how you can travel for free and get everything that you need without money, I like to not be completely dependent upon others. This doesn’t require a big budget and I have travelled across Europe on €2.36 a day, buying beer and pizza, but having the option to buy something when I want / need it is something I value. One time I was rafting down the Danube and my sleeping bag fell into the river and disappeared. I had two freezing nights sleeping on the river bank with nothing for warmth before I found a shop to buy a new sleeping bag and it would have been really hard for me to continue that journey if I couldn’t afford to buy a new sleeping bag. I also highly value the ability to see my family and having some money allows me to book flights so that I can do this. I would never want to not have that option.
That’s my little explanation of why I do what I do, but it is up to you to choose how you want to travel. This page will teach you how to get everything you need for free (except visas and travel insurance), and you can then choose if you want to take any extra money or not. There will always be purists who think that there way is better than your, or people who ‘travel cheaper, longer, harder’ (whatever that means), but I don’t care much for what they have to say. Find what works for you and do what is right for you.
There are many, many stories of people who travel the world for free online and I have read / watched many of them. I’m not going to recommend a favourite because I don’t have one, nor do I know how much the people in question keep to the ‘zero budget rules’, but I briefly met a guy at a hitchhiking festival a few years ago who had been travelling the world for free for several years.
The guy’s name is Tomi Astikainen and he wrote a book about the experience called The Sunhitcher – you can download it here.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER: HOW CAN YOU TRAVEL FOR FREE?
I will now break all of this down into manageable chunks so that it is more manageable. I detail how you can travel for free, or failing that, how you can travel for the minimal possible expenditure. If you are looking for how to travel in the cheapest way possible (but without having to hitchhike, free camp, and do the other things that I do) you should read this page: Resources For Ultra Budget, Low Cost Travel.
There are only five things that we need for survival:
When travelling the world, the list is not so clear cut, but 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 TO SURVIVE TRAVELLING WITHOUT MONEY
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 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 any problems and in particularly untouched areas (such as when hiking rural Iceland and Norway), I have drank from streams. My body has adapted to this existence and you will notice that locals can drink tap water much easier than tourists can, so I am not suggesting you do this unless you know that it is safe to do so. As a safer alternative 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, but you should try to obtain a metal flask as it lasts longer and is better for the environment. 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 at least a full minute before you bottle it for consumption (although some sources recommend boiling it for longer to be safe). 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 and you do not want this. Clean water is vitally important, so be aware of where you will next be able to obtain water.
For more on this topic, read the full article on How To Find Free Drinking Water When Travelling.
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. As I am a vegetarian I have often turned down food because I have been offered meat. I am always sure to thank them and apologise that I cannot take them up on their kind offer.
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 I was volunteering in Norway everybody on the farm ate skipped food and we would regularly find alcohol, cheese, chocolate, and many other expensive delights on our weekly searches.
When walking in rural areas, it is easy to find fruit or vegetables. Try not to steal from fields or gardens, but in many countries, wild apple and plum trees (amongst others) provide you with delicious and healthy snacks throughout the day. If you want good, free food, try volunteering in exchange for food and accommodation. This is another safe way to travel for free and I have enjoyed almost all of my volunteering experiences. If you don’t like it, you can always leave.
If you really cannot bare the thought of skipping or foraging, or the effort of volunteering, 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. My brother and I survived on uncooked instant noodles and chocolate bars when we hiked across Iceland. It was a pretty terrible diet, but it served a purpose when we needed it.
For more on this topic, read the full article on How To Find Free Food When Travelling.
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. This is quite a big topic, so I have put it onto a separate page. To summarise, 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. These ideas, and others, are discussed in greater detail on the following pages and I suggest you read them for more in this topic.
FREE ACCOMMODATION FOR FOUR YEARS
This is a video showing how I found free accommodation around the world for four years. This was achieved by using a combination of the techniques on this page and if you wish to do the same, you can learn more on the page, How To Find Free Accommodation Around the World.
For more on this topic, please read How To Find Free Accommodation Around the World and watch my video, How I Found Free Accommodation Around The World For Four Years. The first page mentioned was originally a post titled free accommodation around the world which can be read here, but I updated it and made it easier to read. You can also check out the Resources For Ultra Budget, Low Cost Travel if you want to book cheap accommodation.
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. If you spend money on only one thing, this should be it – 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 TRAVELLING WITHOUT MONEY
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. There are many free and alternative ways to enjoy specific locations for a couple of days.
TO GET FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER
For the quickest method of transport, 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. Read more about How to Hitchhike and Is Hitchhiking Dangerous. If you aren’t comfortable with hitchhiking, read my Travel Resources Page for advice on how to book cheap travel.
I would also highly recommend long distance walking (hiking), long distance cycling, long distance rafting, and any other means of free transport that you can think up. The experiences you go through will stay with you forever and the journey becomes the adventure, rather than simply a means of how to get from A to B. These methods of transport (and more) are all covered on my How To Travel From A To B For Free Page.
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. Also be careful about local laws: I got arrested in Holland for camping in a park and arrested in Hungary for living on a raft.
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 (no chemicals). 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. When CouchSurfing, you have the opportunity to take a free shower – just remember not to use people’s homes like a free hotel.
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. I have also experimented with solar chargers (which have a high initial cost) and have plugged my device into people’s cars to charge when hitchhiking.
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, although many cities now offer free internet hotspots. Cafes and bars sometimes 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.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO PACK?
There is a lot of concern about what you need to pack when travelling on a zero budget, or very low budget. I don’t want to generalise for every single trip as it depends upon whether you are hitchhiking, hiking, cycling, backpacking, or doing something else completely, so please go to my What To Pack page where I address different packing needs for different trips. I will briefly mention that a sleeping bag and a beer can stove have been my major priorities on many past trips, but in general, I try to pack as light as possible. Less stuff = more enjoyment!
THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
Travelling without money, or with very small amounts of money, is not for everyone. Sometimes things go wrong and you find yourself hiding under a bridge during pouring rain at four in the morning. For me, it is worth it because the positives I gain from the experiences outweigh the potential negatives. I am able to stay on the road for months at a time without needing vast sums of money and I love that. If you try it, be prepared to rough it, but embrace the adventure and learn to love the ride.
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.
MORE RESOURCES THAT YOU WILL FIND USEFUL
- The Avant-Garde Life (a free ebook about disregarding society and living the life you want)
- The Boy Who Was Afraid of the World (a true story about hitchhiking and learning to live without money)
- Travel Insurance Advice: Because You Wouldn’t Want To Need It And Not Have It
- How To Find Free Accommodation Around the World
- How To Find Free Food
- How To Find Free Water
- What To Pack
- A Guide to CouchSurfing
- A Guide to Free-Camping
- How to Hitchhike
- How to Hitchhike a Boat