If you are thinking about gallivanting away to some exotic, or not so exotic, location this summer, then why not consider couchsurfing instead of staying in hostels or hotels, and save yourself bundles on accommodation!
Couchsurfing was established in 2005 as a non-profit social networking site intending to connect travellers and local people with a spare bed or couch for a couple of nights; it acts as a hospitality exchange and is a remarkable way to travel on the cheap and have a more fulfilling and meaningful travel experience. Having set up a profile on the site you can contact hosts from all over the world with your surfing requests, or simply arrange to meet with a local for a drink or some sightseeing if you are a lone traveller in search of company. Whilst being hugely economically beneficial, couchsurfing can create true international friendships and offers the chance to transcend the tourist bubble and genuinely experience local life. If you fancy a cultural exchange, witnessing the generosity and kindness of strangers, then take the plunge and succumb to some sofa slumber.
There isn’t a better bargain way to get across Europe than FREE travel. Hitching hiking is an amazing way to get from A to B; all you need is a good sign, a bit of enthusiasm and a fair amount of patience. In two weeks spent hitchhiking from the U.K to Croatia with RAG, I picked up some handy tips: always hitch in pairs or even threes. Being in a group keeps you safe and puts potential lift-givers more at ease. Space is rarely a problem, if three people and their backpacks can squeeze into an Audi TT, pretty much anything can be done. Just don’t aim for motorbikes unless you spent some time in the circus. Position and body language are key. Find a spot where there is enough traffic, but where they can stop in time for you. If you can make eye contact and wordlessly plea for a lift, all the better! You will meet some incredible people, hear some amazing stories and learn a lot about the country and the locals that otherwise might pass you by! The only problem can be arriving in cities and not being able to find a cheap hostel, so if you can, take the time to do a bit of research ahead – makes all the difference to your bank balance, and your stress levels! Also, avoid service station food; no one’s day is made better by a soggy sandwich that sets you back €7. Happy Hitching!
Scotland seems to always bear the brunt of a grunt but trust me, if you take a venture to this tartan, whisky and haggis fuelled territory and you will be nothing short of pleasantly surprised. For all you culture-vultures, Scotland is full of opportunities for intriguing experiences without gobbling up masses of pennies. First, you don’t usually see men walking around in a skirt with the wind blowing freely around their ‘secret weapons’ now do you!? Secondly, have you ever spared a thought that a deep-fried Mars bar could be not only be a perfectly reasonable combination, but also extremely tasty? Well it is. There are ample more oddities associated with the Scots not least their questionable dialect! When plodding along Edinburgh’s cobbled streets or through Inverness’ beautiful highlands you are bound to hear phrases which appear quite possible foreign: ‘Dinnie fash’ (Don’t worry), ‘Dinnie ken’ (Don’t know), ‘affy parky’ (Why I say, it’s awfully cold!), ‘Will ye mind yer wee self’ (Please watch where you are going). And finally if you haven’t seen one of these before it’s a reason to visit alone! Asides from its peculiarities, it is a great place to walk, fish, shoot, play golf, swim, relax and just soak up the sheer and unique beauty in each of its counties.
The many Brits who spend their time complaining that old Blighty is no good for holidays need look no further than our South-Westerly counties to answer their holiday prayers. Cornwall and Devon have everything that a foreign holiday can offer but without the crazy tourist crowds and rocketing cost. The beautiful beaches that line the coast are sandy, serene and perfect for swimming offering a multitude of water sports activities (wetsuits encouraged!). Croyde and Woolacombe in North Devon are great spots for chilled out beach barbecues, or if you’re after somewhere more lively, look no further than Newquay. With more nightclubs than the rest of Cornwall put together, other highlights are its festivals: Boardmasters in August and Beach Break Live Festival in June. A similar experience to Benicássim but without the sweaty tents! Even inland, stunning scenery envelops the whole of the South West. It’s perfect for long walks in the rolling countryside and ideal for camping. National Park Dartmoor is perfect for anyone who enjoys the outdoors: pack a tent, map, and sense of adventure (no GPS allowed). Hidden in the Hobbiton greenery there are also some great towns and cities to be visited. From the fairly small Falmouth in Cornwall which offers great seafood and an amazing crazy golf course (which I have yet to conquer) to the main city of Exeter, there is a lot to see and do. You can always pick up some great bargains in the numerous little boutique shops dotted across the two counties although I can’t promise that you won’t come away with a tacky dolphin ornament that you’ll never know why you bought. You might not always be able to rely on the weather, but you can guarantee having a great time without using sacrificing all your student loan!
If you’re a music lover, but not so keen on our unpredictable climate, why not head to Europe and steward at some of the biggest festivals for a cheap getaway? Widely renowned as one of the biggest dance music festivals, Outlook in Croatia is searching for on-site volunteers. If available between the 28th August and the 2nd September, you’ll be asked for a £135 deposit, later refunded on the completion of three eight hour shifts. The volunteer package includes four nights of free camping and one food token per shift.
With a line up boasting Rihanna, Blur and Queens of the Stone Age, the Heneiken Open’er festival in Poland is now also accepting applications for volunteers. The festival runs from the 3rd to the 6th July, and all applicants will need to pay a returnable deposit equal to the price of a four day ticket (approximately £100). In return you’ll be provided with one hot meal a day and free camping.
Now into its tenth year, Electric Picnic has established itself as one of Ireland’s biggest festivals, combining music, art, theatre, comedy and food. The festival runs from the 30th August to the 1st September and there are a wide range of volunteer opportunities available from stewards to therapists, receptionists to shop assistants.
Oxfam volunteers and various bar companies do great exchanges for free festival tickets at home, often with separate camping, flexible shifts, and easy work in a feel good atmosphere. A trade well worth your time.
For something a touch alternative, get yourself to Scotland’s historic capital city. Home to one of Europe’s most formidable castles and studded with ancient architecture, the city’s cobbled streets have their own unique atmosphere and rich histories, making it perfect for a short break with a difference. Aside from its history, Edinburgh is also a vibrant hub for the arts. Founded in 1947 and running this year from the 2-26th August, the internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world. Every year hundreds of performance groups take to multiple stages across the city to showcase the best in up and coming theatre, music, dance, comedy, cabaret, and spoken word performance. If you prefer a more literary approach to the arts, the Edinburgh International Book Festival runs in conjunction with the Fringe from the 10-26th August, where writers from around the globe gather to hold workshops, book signings, storytelling and panel discussions. A refreshing alternative to the drones of big name music festivals with less than impressive line ups, this festival is a nirvana for the arts enthusiast and with cheap tickets for each performance, it provides the perfect opportunity to try something new, and hunt for the next big talent.
While school kids sigh, students can fly! With deliciously cheap June flights from Leeds Bradford, it’s almost easier to pop on a plane abroad than get home for any Southerners. For city slickers who like their sunburn with a cool side of culture, a return to Venice is just £41, Barcelona £48 or Milan £46. Beautiful architecture costs nothing to admire, and last minute deals on hotels make for knock down prices. Eat at local restaurants to avoid extortionate tourist prices and enjoy more genuine grub. Alternatively, if you’re more inclined to let off some steam after exams, shiver in the smoking area no longer and head to Ibiza or Alicante, both £70. Whilst Ibiza’s nightlife needs no introduction, Alicante’s summer solstice bonfire festival might also set your heart alight, with parties on the playa all week long. For beaches a bit closer to home, glide effortlessly to Dinard, on the Côte d’Émeraude of Brittany. For just £31 your reward is a milder but consistently sunny climate, with unspoilt beaches that beg for sandy bottoms in need of some R&R. Check out www.skyscanner.net for even more temptations.