What’s on this page?
Find here some useful tips and advice when travelling around the world to help you choose your activities the cheap and local way.
Travel Visits, Activities & Volunteering Advice page content:
- Must Do Attractions?
- Get Lost
- Local Events
- Souvenirs or Not Souvenirs
- Student Card
- Like A Local
I won’t be the one telling you I passed on all of them because they are too mainstream, etc.
Some places are very touristy indeed but well, they are busy for a reason sometimes. Some must be done I think but watch out the time of the year as some can be very packed in holidays season, almost ruining the beauty of the place. Maybe consider doing some key attractions off season.
Some attractions are popular because people are on holidays and don’t have time to look for equally beautiful and cheaper alternatives nearby. Look what’s around that spot, is it a similar landscape? It might be worth visiting what’s around, you will quickly lose the tourists.
Use a local agency. Many hostels will offer tours and activities. Sometimes it could be a good way because they get special group deals but quite often, you can find better rates or similar ones going to a local agency straight away, and with chance of having less people doing it with you. Get some infos from hostels but go out and search for local agencies too!
Reconsider the way you can do the biggest attractions. For example, doing the Inca trail to reach the Machu Picchu in Peru. Well, it is expensive and very busy (having to book months in advance too). Look for alternative treks around the Inca trail (same nature, cheaper, alone) and do the Machu Picchu the cheap way, independently. You will save a lot of money and still get a similar experience of the Sacred Valley (and still see the Machu Picchu site).
I will try not to repeat myself too much here, referring to what I have already said in the Travel Independently section.
Doing things on your own makes an even bigger difference in a touristy place. Obviously, the more tourists, the more idiot innocent tourists, the more you get greedy organisations trying to make money. So it is even more important to organise yourself your visit to a must do attraction.
It is where you will save the most and it is also the easier! The more touristy the place is, the more posts you can find online (independent blogs) about how to do it yourself. Easy!
Lots of information, maps (cf Maps.me app), obvious path easy to spot on your own, other travellers you could meet on the spots, etc.
The main thing is, think about the freedom that doing things on your own gives you. Freedom of staying longer in a spot, skipping one, going your own way, your own pace. Visiting independently also makes you feel like you are discovering a place a bit more because you have to think more about the way, you are not just following a guide not figuring out the place.
You could justify a guide if the place is so hard to guide yourself that it would become a situation of stress for you, you don’t want to go that far.
“It is the journey itself that is most important, not the destination”. Cliché I know but targeted destinations often have expectations which can sometimes affect your pleasure, but maybe you’ll find something even more eye-opening along the way.
You feel the same in your hometown when you let it go and wonder, feeling new to a place again, giving you sensation you haven’t had for a long time in a place you know well. It is the same when travelling, letting you discover areas you haven’t read about on guides, etc.
Don’t be afraid of really getting lost. Do it but still controlling the situation. Today, offline GPS mapping works well and map all the world so that you can explore the unknown still having a retreat plan if needed. So, feel reassured to wonder around!
Try to take part in as many local events that you can. Events done by locals, for locals. Some local events could be big but won’t be advertised to tourists. I have seen big local carnivals or big village parties that were worth going but were not part of the “tourist trail”. Advertising is not big in some part of the world and because these local events are for locals, and all the locals know about them, there is no need for extra information towards them. It means than you could easily miss a local event next to you. Always ask locals around if there is anything happening.
- Traditional, authentic
- Fun and welcoming, nothing better than locals in a party mood
This a topic that could have deserved its whole section, but I am not an expert unfortunately.
I didn’t take part in volunteering projects during my trip because I found it hard to have an opinion on their legitimacy. I think than real ones necessitate more than few days to organise it, so I was sceptical towards all those that are like a last-minute holiday activity that you book and pay for.
They are lots of very sad stories around money making volunteering businesses (orphanages, wildlife conservation, etc.) that I didn’t want to take part in it.
As an advice, just do some proper research before taking part in anything. Don’t take it for granted, this is not because it is advertised in hostels or anything mainstream that it is legitimate.
Here are some relevant resources if you want to go deeper in the topic and get some information about responsible volunteering:
- Nice article with some advice how to choose volunteering: https://epicureandculture.com/smarter-voluntourism/
- Facebook group reviewing volunteering organisation: https://www.facebook.com/groups/454436357989887/
- Facebook group about responsible volunteering: https://www.facebook.com/responsiblevolunteering/
- Facebook group highlighting good practice and questioning bad practice: https://www.facebook.com/BetterVolunteering/
- Specific group about volunteering in Africa (wildlife related): https://www.facebook.com/volunteersbeware/
- Specific resources about orphanages: http://orphanages.no/
I never really stopped for a long time doing some woofing but I did offer my help for some days to few places to get free accommodation (and sometimes food).
For me, it is all about doing something different and after months on the road, working again feels good ! You always meet a lot of locals while travelling but rarely long enough to really create something, get a local feeling.
There are websites to help you getting such experiences but I think you can also find it yourself, basically, every place is a potential woofing opportunity (even a family could be).
Some websites are good and save you the hassle to go and ask around but it is also where you find some business looking woofing, where they kind of “hire” you. I’m sure these are still very good experience where you will meet many people but it might not give you the live like a local feeling you are looking for.
Anyway, here are the main websites to find some woofing experiences :
- Helpx: limited free version – can upgrade for 20€ for 2 years to see and contact all hosts
- Workaway: not free anymore – 36 €/year or 48€/year for a couple
- WWOOF: same same here – 40 $/year or 55 $/year for a couple
Shopping, tough one. Should you buy and bring back some souvenirs or not?
I think travelling a long time with some souvenirs in your backpack is just a no go. And I won’t list the reasons why, I hope it is as obvious to you than to me.
As a rule, I never buy souvenirs so I don’t get tempted to do so. I do these things when on holidays but not while travelling long term. I could always come back one day on holidays for that.
Buying and Shipping
If there are a lot of things you are interested in a country (crafts, clothes, art) and if you are worried you will never come back, you can consider sending some stuff back home, by the post.
Some countries have easy to access and affordable shipping services (by cargo or plane).
Like this, you can have a go in one country, go crazy, enjoy yourself shopping and then get back on the road without any weight excess in your backpack.
I didn’t travel with a student card because I wasn’t one but I wish I took the little effort of having one. There are not many places where you will get discounts for being a student from another country (countries only giving discounts to local students) but you only need few to make it worth it. Sometimes having a kind of international student card could work better.
Having a student card visiting China, India or Australia can save you quite a bit of money on sight entrances. It will also give you a lot of discounts in expensive Europe (museums, transports, food places, etc.).
So have one, you never know.
How to get a student card if not a student?
If you are not student anymore, trick an old card, make one yourself or get a fake one for not much on Khaosan road in Bangkok. Come on, it is only a student card we are talking about, you won’t get checked for that don’t worry!
What are you looking for while travelling? Getting to see the local way of living, right? Feeling part of it? Live like they do then!
Travelling is fortunately not only about visiting must do sights, museums, attractions. I feel like I have discovered a country if I got to know how the local people live in. What do they do? How do they live? What’s the local farming about? What do they use for transports? Where do they eat? Where and how do they have fun?
Rather it is doing some people watching or trying to take part in their day to day things, I always try to be where locals are.
That can apply to volunteering too. Why not just helping someone, a family in what they are doing, without asking anyone to book it for you or being part of an organisation (and the risk of being a fake one). Just help! You might only help one person rather than many at the same time, but it will be more personal and as rewarding.
So, get out of your comfort zone and try to do things like they do it, it would be the most rewarding experience:
- Really feel the differences between countries
- Get accepted and respected by locals more than not involved tourists
- Local = the cheapest
To do so, as a main advice, get up early! Sunrise is the start of the day for many people around the world and this is when many things are happening.
Read more about getting Travel Information from locals.