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Money tips for backpackers and gap year travellers

Money tips for backpackers and gap year travellers

Ticking off the obvious like organising flights and getting a sturdy backpack (or dusting off a trusty travel bag) is easy, but what else do you need to think of before setting off on your travel odyssey?

Take a look at our money tips for backpackers, gap year adventurers and career break travellers so you get the most from your next big adventure.

1. The when and where

Choose to travel to places off peak and you’ll definitely save money. 

But get the balance right– some experiences are too magical to be solely determined by cost. Do you really want to see the Amalfi Coast in winter or experience a Kenyan safari during the rainy season? 

2. Budgeting basics

It’s important to work out a rough budget, ideally a few months in advance. Think about what you’ll need before you go, not just what you’ll need when you’re there e.g. vaccinations, medicines, insect repellent, replacement passport if yours is due to expire soon (or when you’re overseas).

You don’t need a huge budget to squeeze the most out of every moment, but it makes sense to be prepared for the unforseen. Turning down a once-in-a-lifetime activity because you don’t have enough cash can put a downer on your trip.

Work out roughly how much you’ll need and set a savings goal in NetBank. Take into account things like the exchange rate too. Play that right and it could help your dollar go further.

3. Travelling light

Only pack what you’ll absolutely need. A pair of jeans for every day of the week is definitely not worth the extra weight – clothes will come second to the memories you accumulate from your trip anyway.

Travelling light is also important because over packing exposes you to extra cost. 

Airlines are cracking down on oversized, over packed bags and are within their rights to charge you. Weight restrictions differ from airline to airline so check closely, especially if you’re planning on taking several connecting flights.

4. Cards or cash?

Consider taking a mix of cash and cards. That way you’ll have more flexibility and choice when it comes to paying for things.

A Travel Money Card means you can lock in your exchange rate and load several currencies on the one card then withdraw money without having to pay a conversion fee.

5. Cheap can be costly

Theoretically the cheaper your accommodation, the longer you’ll be able to travel. But getting a cheap deal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a money saver in the long run. 

See if your accommodation includes things like free Wi-Fi, access to a communal kitchen or BBQ areas, and free or discounted transfers from the airport before deciding if you’re really getting value for money.

6. Haggling

It doesn’t always come naturally, but bartering for goods is expected in some countries and can be fun as well as save you money. 

Haggle responsibly though. What you’re saving probably could mean a lot to the seller so go for a bargain, but at fair price for you both.

7. Safety first

Common sense is key. Plan ahead and research local destinations for any potential safety risks and register your travel plans with SmartTraveller.

You know you’ll need local currency to pay for things like taxis, so it makes sense to exchange dollars beforehand to avoid scrambling for cash. But you probably don’t want to carry too much – especially as turning your back, even for one second, could be just the distraction a pick-pocket needs to relieve you of funds.  

And don’t lose sight of your credit card no matter where you are. Handing your card over at a restaurant, for example, so a waiter can swipe it at a terminal out the back is a big no-no. 

Travel insurance is recommended. If you’ve got a CommBank Gold, Platinum, or Diamond Awards credit card, international travel insurance is included with your card but you must activate your cover before you travel. Alternatively, you can get CBA travel insurance tailored to your needs

8. Volunteering

Pitching in as a volunteer has multiple benefits. And will have a lasting impact on everyone, including you.

Offering your skills e.g. teaching English, helping build shelters or contributing to organisations who encourage entrepreneurial ventures can be rewarding, inspiring and meaningful. 

You may get a roof over your head and a free meal or two along the way, but the rewards go far beyond the financial.


CommBank emergency details

  • Lock, Block, Limit your CommBank credit card, Lock, Block your CommBank debit card or lock your Travel Money Card for added security
  • Cancel and order replacement CommBank cards in NetBank or the CommBank app
  • Call us 24/7 on +61 2 9999 3283 to report lost or stolen CommBank cards
  • Call Allianz Global Assistance 24/7 on +61 7 3305 7499 if you’ve got travel insurance included with your credit card or a separate CBA Travel Insurance policy and want to make a claim.


Restrictions, exclusions (including for pre-existing medical conditions and persons aged 75 years or over), limits and excesses apply. If you don’t activate your cover included with your credit card, you’ll receive Base cover which includes personal liability cover and unlimited overseas medical assistance and hospital expenses only. Insurance is issued and managed by AWP Australia Pty Limited (trading as Allianz Global Assistance) (AFSL No.245631 ABN 52 097 227 177) on behalf of the insurer Allianz Australia Insurance Limited (AFSL No. 234708 ABN 15000 122 850) for Commonwealth Bank of Australia. This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice