A lot of people ask me how can I afford all of my trips as a college student! The answer is that I never stop seeking for the best deals: cheap bus tickets, flight offers, train passes,…
This is how and where I find the deals:
Find the longest trip. If you are planning to visit another country, you should look for this journey first. My advice:
Skyscanner. In my opinion the best flight search engine all over the internet. If you are flexible about your destination or dates you can put wherever in the destination and it’ll appear the cheapest flights. Once you know the airline, go and search for the flight in that airline, you may find a better price. Do it when using Ryanair (I love travelling with Ryanair since it is the cheapest and almost never delays its flights.)
Megabus: a bus company operating USA and Europe. I went from Barcelona to Brussels for just 1€!!! Search in advance for the best prices. Remember, it will take a long time (my journey to Belgium was a 23 Hour journey) but it is totally worth it!
PROS: Bus stops are in the centre of most cities, so you will save airport bus fares, train tickets,… Also, if you find offers it could be way cheaper than planes or trains.
CONS: Not the most comfortable, WIFI does not work sometimes, it takes a long time to go anywhere.
if you want to backpack in a certain area or country you must go and look at their train railway website, or buses too, to see if they have any rail pass available that fits your needs. When in Belgium I got a 10 journey rail pass for 25€! The best thing is that you can take any train at any time you want, you don’t have to plan or schedule. Completely recommend this! If you have journeys left you can always sell it to another backpacker.
BlaBlaCar, Uber,… It is kind of controversial but I really like these apps, especially BlaBlaCar. You can go to places where there is no bus or train stop, or go faster than with classical methods. And for a really competitive price. Always be careful, and if you don’t trust the driver or accompanies do not get into the car! I never had a bad experience using it, but you should be always careful! Like when hitchhiking, I have never done it personally, but it can be an option when travelling.
Also, I use Rome2Rio to know the cheapest way to travel from a place to another, and an estimation of the bus,train, taxi,… price.
You can also hire a car, use Rome2Rio to know the cheapest rental house.
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A few months ago I decided to change my life. I realized we wait all week for Friday, all year for summer (I was in that stage, and I am still working on it) and all life for happiness. I decided while in economics class to go online and look for a ticket somewhere far, trying to escape from mundane.
My surprise: I found a bus ticket from Barcelona, my hometown, to Brussels in Belgium for just 1€!!! How could I not get it? So I did, at age 18 I bought my first ticket. My excitement in that moment cannot be expressed in words. All I ever wanted in life was to explore the unknown and is becoming a reality. I was doing instead of dreaming.
When I told my mother I was going to travel through Belgium alone, and that I only had a single ticket without return, she got really nervous but after several days showing her where I would be, the places, couchsurfing (I will talk later on this topic),… she let me go.
First of all: How did I get the 1€ ticket? There is a company called Megabus that sometimes has tickets at that prices in Europe and USA. You can get the tickets 3 months in advance. They charge you 0.5€ as a fee so the final price was 1.5€! The trip was 23 hours long, with a 4 hour stop in Paris.
Two weeks later I received an email from Ryanair, they had offers, so I checked it and voilà, Brussels-Barcelona for 14.99€. Can you believe it? So I got it.
The new challenge: I had to carry all of my stuff for 14 days in a 30L backpack.
Advice, bring a lot of things to keep you distracted, it’s a loooong trip. Every 4 hours or so the bus will stop so you can go to the bathroom, and walk a little bit, get some groceries,…
Crossing France was a delightful experience, it made the hours seem minutes.
Also, even though they say they have free WIFI, they don’t. They tell you that it doesn’t work, in both of the buses I went on.
Furthermore, I arrived in Brussels at 3 am, so I was alone, in the freezing night of Belgium waiting outside of the North Station for 2 hours since they opened the station, and they let us sleep in some benches till 6 am, then they woke us up, because people were starting to use the transport.
I spent 3 hours wandering in Brussels, I visited Mannekin Pis, the Grand Place, la Bourse, Mont de les Arts (my favourite view),… This is the link for the post where I talk about the attractions, seesights, activities,... (my next post is just for the activities, places to see, things to do,…)
Then I went to meet my Couchsurfing host!!! It was my first time doing Couchsurfing! And I only have to say one thing: It is the best discover on this trip!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the feeling of welcoming, and unity that gives you couchsurfing is inexplicable.
I stayed with 3 different couchsurfers:
First in Brussels with “Querido” an experienced host with over 270 references and the greatest heart. He has been the main point in this chapter of my life. He taught me to be more confident, to love myself, to be different. I cannot put into words how much meeting him has changed my life. While I stayed with him (the first time because I missed him so much and told him if I could go back and spend some time together) I stayed with a lot of people, one day we were 7 surfers and the host. We were all from different places, Brazil, Russia, Quebec, France, Spain and so on. Home is where the heart is, and a piece of my heart will ever stay at his house.
Then in Brugge I spend 2 nights with Tom, a 30 year-old wise man with an amazing taste in music and health knowledge. He lived and alternative life, outside of what society was expecting him to be. We did a tour in Brugge and took the bike and went to Holland (yeah I was exhausted hahaha)
Finally, in Dinant, I stayed with Valerie, an amazing girl who prepared an improvised room in the garage for me, so sweet. Even though she was sick, we got to know each other one night while we played the guitar and talked about degrowth and alternative economics, really deep hahaha. And her terrace had the best view ever.
To sum up with, please try Couchsurfing, it will make your heart and soul grow, but don’t use it as an hostel. Couchsurfing is about connecting with people, so talk, cook, play, sing, dream together. You won’t regret.
Food and other expenses:
I spent, more or less, 20€ in food. I ate very little, I should have planned a little bit more. So my advice, keep in mind what to eat and how much you eat while traveling.
I had normally dinner at home (couchsurfing) and when I was out I went to a supermarket and grab some piece of fruit and bread, or a bag of salad. I carried some food in the bag so I had snacks and cereal. I went twice to an Italian takeaway place in Brugge, a nice pasta bowl was only 3.5€ and I went to Subway in Ghent once.
I walked 160 km in 10 days just to save money from the transport hahahha. You don’t have to do that. If you are under 26, a Rail Pass all over Belgium (10 trips) is 51€, if you are older is 76, if I remember well. But I got mine from a girl who only used 3 trips, for 25€.
Also, in Brussels there is a place called USE IT, where there is free WIFI, free lockers, free maps and guides made by locals (they saved me from getting lost too many times, so worth it and they tell you places to get free water, cheap menus, free museums,…), free coffee and tea, chargers, computers, and free tours on Monday noon, I talk here about it. Please go if you can, you will see the city as never before, with all his secrets, and uniqueness.
Please put in the comments below any question you might have! And let me know what you think about the post and future post you want me to do! Thank you! :)