How I saved over $4,000 on accommodations in one year of travel
This is not a financial advice but recently, I’ve realized that I haven’t paid for any accommodation since I started travelling South America. 17 months of travelling paying for nothing (accommodations) is all because of volunteering and making friends on the road. I slowly computed all these, analysed the different methods I used and I found out that I saved over $4,000 USD on accommodations!
So here it is. I am going to tell you the history of my accommodations for over one year of travel. I am not really good in Math but I tried my best to explain each item by including the host, accommodation type, number of days, hostel price per night (by city) and the amount of money I saved. I also included a brief history on how I met these people while travelling. The connections are amazing and I am quite surprised I made through friendship!
Couchsurfing in Sao Paulo, Brasil[us_single_image image=”746″]
Sao Paulo was my first destination when I went to South America. It was a very strange period of my life so I didn’t really have a lot (financially) and I was gambling on something I wasn’t sure of. Going to a place where you know no one and you don’t speak the language is very challenging but I pushed myself to survive a different environment.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Sao Paulo: $10
Family stay in Barranquilla, Colombia[us_single_image image=”13267″]
Barranquilla is not always in the list of places to visit in Colombia but I decided to go there to stay with the family of one of my friends. A small city where Shakira hails, Barranquilla is located in the northern part of Peru and relatively close to the famous port city of Cartagena.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Barranquilla: $12.22
Volunteering in Medellin, Colombia[us_single_image image=”13268″]
Medellin rings as the home of the infamous Pablo Escobar, the star of this hit series Netflix but I honestly didn’t think that it will emulate the same TV setting. Bagged as the city of eternal Spring, there is no perfect time to visit Medellin but every day.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Medellin: $11.91
See also: Colombia to Ecuador border crossing
Volunteering in Quito, Ecuador[us_single_image image=”13271″]
Colombia-Ecuador was my first real hardcore overland crossing so I was pretty excited to get to Quito. I didn’t have any plans to go to Quito. The idea of the trip was to get to Colombia and Quito was the easiest (and most popular) option.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Quito: $10.50
Homestay with a friend in Lima, Peru
Lima, the capital of Peru is full of life and of course, gastronomic choices. Always in the ranking of the 50 World’s Best Restaurants, Lima is one of the food capitals of the world that we don’t know much about. Aside from that, the nightlife is alive as a lot of young people opt to live here.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Lima: $6.30
Volunteering in Paracas, Peru[us_single_image image=”13484″]
Just 3-4 hours drive from Lima, Paracas is one of the coastal towns that are often skipped by tourists. It’s very small, quiet and home to Paracas National Reserve, the so-called mini Galapagos of South America. Most visitors come here for a Kitesurfing Holiday as its strong ‘surf-able’ waves have a good reputation around the world.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Paracas: $10
Volunteering in Cusco, Peru[us_single_image image=”13485″]
Finally, I arrived Cusco with the dream of climbing Machu Picchu (I did it twice but that’s a different story). I signed up for a 3-week volunteering gig because I want to get used to the altitude of Cusco. If you are climbing Machu Picchu and you are not physically fit like me, you need to acclimatise because you might have a difficulty with the Machu Picchu trek if you do it right away.
Cusco’s used to be a very sad and cold place for me but when I stayed longer, I got to discover a lot of many ‘young’ things in Cusco. It really is so much fun!!!!
Nightly hostel bed rate in Cusco: $15
Volunteering in La Paz, Bolivia[us_single_image image=”13487″]
Straight from Cusco, I crossed to Bolivia by land together with my friends whom I volunteered with in Paracas. 7 of us wanted to travel together and we started our luck in La Paz.
Nightly hostel bed rate in La Paz: $11
Homestay with friends in Sao Paulo, Brasil[us_single_image image=”13488″]
After spending 90 days in Brasil the first time, I went back the following year because there is one event that I’ve been dreaming of attending: The FIFA World Cup. I was already familiar with Brasil then so it wasn’t hard for me. It didn’t feel strange. But so much excitement ignited. It was my first year traveling South America and this point was the time I said, “Wow, I really am doing this and I am good at it.”
Nightly hostel bed rate in Sao Paulo: $10
Couchsurfing in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil[us_single_image image=”13490″]
A sporting event like the FIFA World Cup will entail double the usual prices. Everything was so expensive because Rio de Janeiro was kind of the main host city as it is home to the Maracana. Even if I did have enough money to go through a full month of not working, it was still quite a heavy load because everything was unreasonably priced.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Sao Paulo: $25
Family stay in Montevideo, Uruguay[us_single_image image=”13089″]
Uruguay is definitely not on people’s bucket list and I honestly did it because it was on the way of the route I was taking. But when I came, I realised there were a lot of things to discover and cultures to savour in the unknown grandeur of Uruguay.
Nightly hostel bed rate in Montevideo: $15
Homestay with friends in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Did you know that Buenos Aires is one of my favourite cities in the world? I was really excited to be here. I had so much fear that I won’t be granted an Argentine visa because I don’t have a job and proof of funds is slowly declining. In the end, the Argentine consulate in Montevideo gave me 72 days!
Nightly hostel bed rate in Buenos Aires: $12
I can go on and on, and continue to the second and third year I explored South America but the key ingredients for then beginner long-term travelers like me were:
- Volunteering/Work Exchange
- Being genuinely friendly and building meaningful relationships while traveling
In summary, I paid $0 on accommodations for over a year of travelling. How amazing is that?! With this, I am really thankful for all the people who took me in. Thank you for accepting me in your home and always being enthusiastic about my visit. Even if there isn’t enough space, you’ve pushed beyond your means to make me comfortable during my stay.
Aside from saving money while traveling, it’s about making friends and eating, breathing, speaking and living a culture that is far away from yours.
I promise you all that you are always welcome in my home (actually my parents’ house because I don’t have a house at the moment) when you visit the Philippines.
Cheers to kindness, love and friendship! Save on accommodations and try these methods. Let me know how it will work for you!
How do you save on accommodations when traveling long term?
Leave some tips on the comment box below and help other travelers make it!