The cheap way of funding your gap year

Are you thinking of taking some time out to see the world, but worry about the costs involved? Many travellers have found ways to explore the globe on a shoestring budget – in some cases, for less money than they spend living at home. We spoke to the travelling community and found some excellent resources to get you started. From volunteering for accommodation to part-time work, here’s our guide to seeing the world on the cheap.

Compare flights
Use comparison websites and applications to book your flights. As you start travelling you can begin to save your frequent flyer miles, but to start off, make sure you get the best deal before you book.  Our favourite comparison websites for booking flights are Whichbudget and TripAdvisor.

Organise travel insurance
It is essential to have the correct travel insurance before leaving the country, especially if you’re taking part in any adventure sports such as skiing or scuba diving. An illness or accident could have serious long term effects on your finances if you are not adequately covered. Make sure you get the right inoculations before leaving and carry your travel insurance documents in your wallet at all times.

Manage your money
Make sure that every aspect of your trip is carefully budgeted for, and that you are aware of your daily expenditure. What with the change in currency and the different cost of living, it’s easy to lose track. Try free budgeting tools for travellers, such as Budget Your Trip. GoCurrency has an up-to-date and user-friendly currency converter.

Don’t pay for accommodation
With the help of Internet, communities of travellers have come together to assist one another in cutting costs and making friends the world over. Websites such as CouchSurfing and Global Freeloaders connect like-minded people across the globe. If you’re brave enough to camp out at a stranger’s place or allow a foreigner into your home, then these websites are for you. They provide an easy way to make friends, get to know a city and save on the cost of accommodation.

Get a house-sitting gig
Looking after the homes and pets of local residents is another smart way to avoid the cost of accommodation, and in some cases you might earn a little extra money. Try websites such as House Carers or Housesit World for information, networking and regular notifications.

Volunteer work for accommodation
Volunteering for accommodation (and sometimes meals) is a great way to get to know a country and meet people on your travels. Most jobs are short term, allowing you to move on when you are ready for a new adventure.
In order to keep abreast of these opportunities, subscribe to The Caretaker Gazette ,which provides comprehensive listings of work/accommodation exchanges across the world.

Another great resource is the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, which has been running since the seventies. WWOOF organisations offer food, accommodation and a great learning opportunity for their workers. Both WWOOF and The Caretaker Gazette require an annual subscription fee, but if you’re serious about working on the move then it’s definitely worth it.
For free volunteer opportunities, The Matador Network is a good resource to keep up to date with.

Make some money along the way
In some instances, you may be able to earn a little cash on your travels. Here are a few ideas:

Teaching English abroad
As English speakers, we are lucky to be able to earn money by teaching English overseas. In most cases, you will require a University Degree or a CELTA or TEFFL course. Often, the establishment hosting you will cover all your travel expenses, including flights and Visas. In South Korea, salaries range from around R8000 to R25,000 per month, and often include accommodation. To earn extra money, you can teach private classes to business people in the evenings.

“During the school term, I work hard and save money, especially considering I don’t pay rent. During the school holidays, we travel Asia on our savings,” says Vicky Tompson, an English teacher in Taiwan. “The money we make allows us to visit three or four different countries and live well for up to a month, and I’m still managing to save for my return to South Africa.”

Agencies such as Teach Korea (+27 21 782 5345) will help to you set up by handling your application and submitting it directly to the schools looking for teachers. They do not charge any commission or fees as they are paid in full by the Korean government. Once you are placed, you will get a fully furnished, rent-free apartment and be placed on the National Health Insurance. Successful applicants must book their own flights, but the Korean government reimburses them upon arrival.

Work on the yachts
There is a large community of travellers making their way across the world by working on yachts. Jobs vary from waitressing, cooking and cleaning, right through to entertainment and beauty placements. In most cases, you will stay on the yacht for free and earn extra money for your work. The pay can be good, but often the work is tough.
“After working on the yachts in Europe for a year, my wife and I managed to save R100 000, says Nicholas Hardof. “We worked very hard, but also got to travel most of Europe without paying for food or accommodation. As you get to know the yachting community, there is no longer a need to pay for agency fees, and we were able to find work independently during season.”

Moneybags recommends reliable agencies such as South African Yachties (Tel: +27 82 440 0610) to set you up and get you started, or subscribe to websites such as Desperate Sailors to keep abreast of job vacancies.

Work the ski season
Skiing trips can be vastly expensive for South Africans, so many opt to work a ski season to cover the cost of equipment, ski passes and accommodation. A popular destination is Whistler Ski Resort in Canada. Their season extends from mid-November to April.  The average monthly cost for shared accommodation is around $650 (R 5757.61) per person. The average pay for jobs such as bartending is normally the minimum wage of $9 (R79.72) an hour, including tips.

“The best paid jobs are usually nannies and chefs,” says Amber Sinclair, who has worked at Whistler over the ski season. “General rule of thumb, if you have a degree you can get a good job that pays higher than bartenders and porters.”  For a list of available openings for prospective employees, visit the Whistler Chamber.

To keep up to date with the latest in savings and entertainment, subscribe to the Moneybags weekly newsletter here.

*All prices and information correct at time of publication and subject to change thereafter.