By Jaclyn Snow

I recently spilled my secrets for getting cheap flights and free flights, but many people don’t love to fly and seek alternate modes of transportation. Whether for health reasons or fear of flying, travel by air isn’t for everyone – and if it’s because of the environmental impact, then car travel isn’t a great option either. There are extensive opportunities to travel near and far using various modes of transportation including boats, buses, and trains. Find your next adventure with my newest set of travel tips!

How to Get Free or Cheap Transport Without Stepping Foot in a Car or a Plane

View of the train track running alongside the harbor in Faro, Portugal

There are so many ways to travel free/cheap without having to get on an airplane or sit in a car! While I could entertain you with stories I picked up while backpacking – hitchhiking in a Gypsy caravan in the Balkans, exchanging cans of Red Bull to ride a stranger’s horse from Switzerland to Austria, working on an art collective sailboat in return for transportation around the Greek islands – I am here today to share resources that anyone can use to travel without busting your budget to create unique experiences of your own!

Warning: Some modes of transportation are slower than others.
(A woman does a headstand on a surfboard in a canal at Venice Beach, California)

⛵️ Catch a Ride on a Boat!

⚓️ You can get a free ride or even a paid gig for being crew on a boat! If you actually have experience operating a water vehicle, then you’re nearly guaranteed a position. However, there are also many positions available to amateurs who know little to nothing about boats. You can get a spot on the crew if you have another skill or provide a service they are seeking, such as a mechanic, navigator, child-care provider, chef, or sometimes even just an extra set of hardworking hands.

⚓️ Here are a few reputable websites where you can get started, and more opportunities will arise once you start networking with mariners.

⚓️ Find A Crew is free to browse listings, but you need to pay for membership to message and exchange contact information with other profiles. It operates in over 200 countries, and lists everything from paid positions to working-passage trips.

⚓️ Crew Seekers International operates the same way. A six month membership is less than half the price of Find A Crew, but it’s only available in 50 countries.

⚓️ Float Plan is the same type of website. It is not as professionally formatted or as easy to search (in my humble opinion), but it is totally free!

I took this picture on a free boat ride around Costa Brava, Spain.

🚌 Hop on the Bus!

🚍 It’s slower to ride the bus for a long distance than to travel by train, but it usually costs a fraction of the price. If you have time to take the bus, it may be a pleasant and inexpensive way to travel like a local.

🚍 Every region has its own bus system, so it is definitely useful to research the local companies in the region you’re traveling. Many offer excellent deals, so keep your eyes peeled!

🚍 Although I highly recommend researching bus companies by specific location, here are a few websites I recommend which compare prices of multiple bus lines all over the world.

🚍 BusBud is a great website for comparing bus companies. They regularly offer $1 bus tickets traversing between states and even countries at their Dollar Bus Club!

🚍 In addition to comparing multiple bus lines, Check My Bus allows you to search for particular amenities onboard such as wifi, extra leg room, or a bike rack. They also offer big discounts on their blog

Picture taken from the window on a $5 twelve-hour bus ride from Montenegro to Serbia

🚂 Travel by Train!

🚆 Trains are usually not the cheapest mode of transportation, but there are ways to make train journeys more affordable.

🚆 Book your tickets well in advance to get the best prices. If you can’t, sometimes even booking hours before travel online will save you a lot of money. I learned that the hard way when I was buying a bus ticket in Portugal from Lisbon to Faro. Ticket sales online ended an hour before departure, and the internet was weak so I decided to wait and buy the tickets at the counter. Much to my chagrin, the price of the ticket quadrupled last minute at the counter.

🚆 Avoid buying tickets for trains that go in rush hour! Tickets are less expensive outside of peak hours.

🚆 Often there are slow and fast trains that take the same route. Take the slow train for major savings on the ticket.

🚆 Most train companies offer tiered tickets for various “classes”. You can save a lot by not reserving a seat, and in some countries you can buy the ticket for pennies if you’re willing to stand for the duration of the journey.

🚆 Research local railway companies in the countries where you are traveling! Like I said about buses, you will find that train travel may vary greatly between regions, and you are more likely to get a great deal using local companies.

🚆 For extensive information and resources related to train and ferry travel, there is no website better than The Man in Seat Sixty-One, which has won over a dozen awards as a top travel resource. This website allows you to compare and directly buy train and ferry tickets around the world, and has a great deal of information about popular routes and how to make the most of your money.

This is the train station in Reggio Emilia, Italy, where taking the slow train
(about 40 minutes slower than the fast train) saved me half price on the ticket.

Today I told you all about how to get the best prices traveling by boat, bus, and train, and I strongly advised to research local transportation in any specific region that you are traveling. Come back in two weeks to read my report of affordable public transportation available on every continent (except Antarctica – I assume that if you get that far, you aren’t traveling on a shoestring budget)!