11 Overlooked Ways to Travel the World for Free


11 Overlooked Ways to Travel the World for Free

World travel is an expensive endeavor only manifested after decades of hard work for some of us and an unattainable imagination reserved for the rich and brave for others. Traditional advertising taught us that travel is expensive, a once in-a-lifetime experience, and full of dangers or hassles UNLESS you sign up for that special guided cruise deal or through a travel agent all for the low price of an arm and a leg. PSSSHH!

We live in a new world where travel is not only inexpensive, but free in many instances. A little bit of research, negotiation, and patience can go a long way to attaining what was once thought impossible. I came up with 11 overlooked ways that allow one to travel free…. ALL for the bargain basement price of $0!

The explosion of the internet is the #1 reason why travel prices continue to drop. In most big cities you don’t need to wander too far to find a free WIFI connection. Even the smaller cities tend to house a few local hotspots. Coffee shops, parks, hotel/hostels/any place where people lodge, and restaurants are good places to start looking. If you can’t find any locations, ask. Internet and WIFI are commonly understood words in almost all languages.

2. Walking Tours
Want to go on a mind-numbing free walking tour guided by knowledgeable, well-spoken locals that give first-hand experiences, stories, and information of the city your visiting? These tours exist! Of course many free tours work on tips or up-sell paid tours, but that’s your choice to give them money. The Berlin Free Walking Tour and the tour guided by the owner of Hostel Che in Belgrade, Serbia were two of the more memorable experiences on my travels through Europe.

3. Public Libraries
Free public libraries? Whoda thunk? This is one of the more overlooked aspects of travel. In the age of the internet and Google, we tend to forget that public libraries still exist around the world. Hard working university students know the importance of a place that provides a tremendous wealth of organized knowledge and a good quiet place to focus. Travelers should too!

Don’t under estimate the value of your existing relationships. Many times you can score free room and by board just by advertising your travel itinerary to friends and family. Couchsurfing, however, is my preferred method. I’ve blogged about the concept many times in previous posts. A free couch is just the beginning. In addition to the stay, many hosts go out of their way to ensure travelers receive a favorable impression of their city by providing home cooked meals, local hot spots, and good company during the stay. If you want a more adventurous free lodging experience, try camping. I remember two backpackers I met in Croatia who carried full sized tents with them, camping yards away from hostels.

5. Museums
Depending on the day and time, you can visit some of the most world-renowned museums for free. I remember specifically visiting The Louvre in Paris, France, The Museo de Prado in Madrid, Spain and The Acropolis in Athens, Greece for free. All three were a bit crowded during these times, but not unmanageable during the offseason. I highly recommend looking up times and dates online before visiting.
6. Phone Calls and Txt Messaging
How to make free calls

1. Find free WIFI hotspot

2. Dial out through Skype

3. Talk!

I have oversimplified the process, but a Skype account is a must for the world traveler. Add all of your close friends and family to stay in touch for free while on the road. Other free phone and txt messaging favorites include Google Voice, Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage, and oh yeah, that big social networking site Facebook. Download these applications to your smartphone or computer and never pay for a phone call again while traveling.

7. Apps
The mobile app industry has exploded the last few years. Mobile applications are taking over the world, and you can benefit! I thought about making a sepearate blog post of my favorite free applications to use while traveling. However, after a bit of internal debating, I decided to list here. The below applications represent my Top 10 must-own free smartphone applications.

Dropbox (Cloud Harddrive) – Love dropbox. You get 2GB of free storage which is plenty to store important travel documents like passports, bank statements, and still enough room to store a few movies or small music collections. I use everyday.

Evernote (Cloud Notebook) – Similar to dropbox, but used for note taking vs. storing data. Any notes or reminders go here. Also use this app everyday.

Waze (GPS) – Great free turn by turn navigation app for your smartphone. Works great locally in the states, but be careful for roaming charges if you plan on using abroad.

Instagram (Photos) – The premier photo application for smartphones. The camera’s on some of the newer smartphones are closing the gap on picture quality with some of the better point and shoot cameras on the market. Instagram allows you to do on the fly photo editing and sharing. Store travel photos on dropbox or share with friends and family realtime.

Trip-it (Travel Planner) – I use Trip-It a lot while traveling to organize my travel itineraries. In addition, I can log total travel miles and share my trips with friends and family.

Google Maps (Navigation) – Google Maps comes pre-installed on most new smartphones. The high-resolution aerial and satellitle images ensure you won’t ever get lost in most urban areas.

Skype (Phone Calls) – As mentioned above, Skype is a must download for the world traveler. Almost all newer smartphones (post 2010) come pre-installed with an internal camera and microphone.

Pandora (Music) – Pandora is my favorite music app. I happily use the service everyday. A forewarning: You will love this application so much you will be forced to pay for the yearly service upgrade fee, as I did. In addition, due to music licensing issues, Pandora might not work while traveling abroad. Do some research before traveling or use a solid proxy.

Flipboard (News Aggregator) – Aggregates all of the news feeds I subscribe to (websites,blogs,twitter,facebook) beautifully. Helps keep me connected, if I choose to be, with everything going on in the states. A must download, especially on the iPad.

Mint (Banking) – Mint is the best banking app and it’s not even close. All of my bank accounts, investments, and credit cards go here. This truly free app does a great job of reminding you of upcoming payments, low balances, and ways to save money. I use Mint everyday.

8. Volunteer
The world is limitless with volunteer opportunities. I heard a quote recently that has stuck with me. “Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”. While many organizations will not pay you, they will in most instances, cover expenses relating to food, lodging, travel, and supplies. The knowledge and experience gained from volunteering is truly priceless. I’ve volunteered with The Boys and Girls Club, and currently volunteer with Explore Austin. Working with children is an exceptionally rewarding experience. Volunteer organizations looking for selfless individuals abroad include: Global Volunteer Network (work with children), Caretaker’s Gazette (house sitting), WWOOF (organic farms), and Go Eco (ecological projects).

9. Maps and Guidebooks
Yes maps and guidebooks are usually free, and often overlooked. Whenever I arrive in a new location via flight, I make a habit of seeking out a map of the city. Almost all tourist agencies will have them. Your job is to ignore their offers and take the free map or guidebook! In addition, any hostel or hotel will have plenty of these useful pieces of paper to giveaway for free.

10. Transportation
In most U.S states, hitchhiking is illegal. Elsewhere around the world, hitchhiking is not only legal but a highly encouraged safe, free method of transportation. Digihitch is the premier website for everything hitchhiking. In addition to hitchhiking, websites like eRideshare offer you the ability to share rides with others traveling to your destination. Biking, walking and working on crew ships also allow one to travel at no cost. Flights, however, are a bit tricky. I’ll get to them next.

11. Free Flights
Want to know how to get a free flight instantly? Easy, signup for a well-branded travel credit card and receive 20,000 – 25,000 travel miles! (Assuming you have excellent credit. If you don’t I still recommend reading on!). There is a whole sub-community dedicated to “travel hacking” through credit card rewards programs. Flyertalk is the best site for finding out how the experts do it. I recommend scouring the Flyer Talk forums as well as checking out this list of Travel and Airline Credit Cards. Lastly, sign up for all the major airlines mailing lists and frequent flier programs. You could snag the travel deal of a lifetime!

Niche Free Travel

I hope you enjoyed this 100% free blog post. As a special bonus for reading this far, I included 5 additional niche travel opportunities for the low cost of $0.00! The following represent free hobbies that you can do while traveling. I built this list based on my personal interests and experiences. The opportunities here are limitless. Readers, post in the comment section if you have additional ideas!


Want to know how to become a high-end web developer without investing in expensive college courses or training? Code Cademy is your one-stop shop for everything coding. It’s no secret many successful location-independent world travelers have a technology background. The community at Code Cademy includes user submitted tutorials that help the experts develop reputation. I highly recommend checking out this site if your interested in becoming a web developer.

Acting Classes
I’ve been taking improv acting classes for about a year in Austin. Many theaters cannot afford to pay additional staff to run the numerous shows and classes that take place during a week. Thus, teacher’s assistants, stage crews, and tech all are afforded the opportunity to take free classes in exchange for their work. This is one hobby where you need time to hone your skill.

Language Courses
The best way to learn a language is full immersion. Conversations with locals in foreign countries are free! However, many questions will arise in your journey of learning a new language. Websites like Livemocha and Learn a Language provide users with free step by step language learning techniques.

I have one website to recommend for free education, Khan Academy. Khan Academy’s goal is to provide a free world-class education to anyone anywhere. All you need is a decent WIFI connection to browse an immense collection of courses and video tutorials. I love the statistics tracking that scores you as lessons are completed. There are other free education sites out there, but Khan Academy is by far the best I’ve seen.

I learned this trick from a walking tour guide in Granada, Spain. People buy timecards that represent how long they can ski on the mountain. Many times, skiers leave early, with hours of additional time available. During the offseason, locals scoop up these cards and ski for free on someone else’s dollar! I’m not sure of the legalities of this or the security measures in place to prevent the practice. All I know is the locals have mastered this trick in Spain, skiing in the late afternoon when many of the day’s visitors are gone.

Jason Boehle is the founder of GoldenBookTraveler a blog about traveling around the world. Originally planned as a log to his 7 month trip around Europe and Africa. However, after experiencing the trip of a lifetime, a Pandora’s Box of new travel ideas has been opened!

GoldenBookTraveler provides a unique resource for other travelers as Jason logs his trip overseas. As a discount traveler, Jason seeks out the lowest cost possible for his travels. Thus, many of his posts will cater to the traveler on a skin tight budget who wants to experience the truest form of traveling. Visit the Golden Book Traveler

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