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30 Free Things To Do While Traveling

You don’t have to go out and spend money on expensive tours, admission tickets, and activities every day to enjoy your trip. In fact, you can have an exciting and fulfilling day in pretty much any city without spending any money at all. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. This list outlines 30 free things to do while traveling. Wherever you’re traveling, there is always something free to do.

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Take a Free Walking Tour

Walking tours are a great way to see the main tourist sites and get to know your way around a new city for free. You’ll meet with local guide in a central location. Usually a park or plaza. They’ll walk the group to the most important landmarks, monuments, tourist attractions, and historic sites in the city and explain the significance of each.

Most free walking tours start in the late morning or afternoon and last an hour or two. The guides are usually local students or freelance tour guides. Most either grew up in the city or spent a good amount of time there.

You can usually find information about free walking tours on hostel bulletin boards or online. Freetour.com and Freetoursbyfoot.com are good resources for finding free walking tours.

Walking tours work best in pedestrian-friendly cities. Some popular cities for walking tours include New York, Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, Sydney, and Rome. Almost every decent-sized city has a free walking tour these days.

In some cities, you can find themed tours. For example, brewery tours are common in cities with a big beer culture. Street art tours are common in cities with a large art scene. Some cities offer tours related to one historic event such as WWII.

Jerusalem, Israel
I recently took a free walking tour in Jerusalem. It was one of the best walking tours I’ve been on.

The free walking tour trend started in Europe in the early 2000s. Since then, it has become a popular offering all over the world. I’ve gone on free walking tours in many cities throughout Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

Of course, there is a catch to free walking tours. They’re not 100% free. You’re expected to tip the tour guide at the end of the tour. That’s how the guide makes their living, after all. How much you should tip depends on the quality and length of the tour. Anywhere from $5-$20 in local currency is usually sufficient. Some tours also require that you take public transportation. Tickets might cost a couple of dollars.

One drawback with free walking tours is the fact that they tend to make lots of promotional stops. For example, during the tour, the guide will walk you through a market, local shop, or restaurant. Typically, the guide makes a commission when you buy something or receives a kickback from the business for taking the tour group there. Some tours are too heavy on this. I bailed on one walking tour in San Cristobal, Mexico because every stop was just a sales pitch.

If you don’t want to tip or stop at a bunch of shops, you can go on your own free walking tour. Simply do a Google search for a free walking tour map of your destination. Follow the map and see the sites yourself.

Go to the Beach

Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii
Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

Pretty much every city that lies near a body of water has a public beach that you can visit for free. This is a great way to spend a couple of hours or the whole day. At the beach, you can go for a swim, go surfing, go snorkeling, take a walk along the shore, go fishing, view wildlife, or just sit down and relax in the sun. Some beaches offer free amenities such as volleyball nets, barbecues, and lounge chairs.

Some cities offer a better beach experience than others. For example, in cities such as Los Angeles, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro, the beach is a major tourist attraction. In other cities, the beach might just be a quiet natural area. Even if you’re traveling in a landlocked country, you can almost always find a nearby lake or river where you can spend a day enjoying the sun and the water.

When you hit the beach, be sure to bring some sunblock and a towel to sit on. I recommended you leave all of your valuables and electronics at your hotel or hostel when you go to the beach so they don’t get damaged or stolen while you’re in the water.

Go to the Library

Browsing the library is a great way to spend a rainy or cold afternoon. Head down to the main branch of the local library and thumb through some books. Some libraries also allow you to listen to music or even watch movies. This can be an excellent cultural experience. Libraries often offer free wifi as well. The main branch in big cities usually has the most to offer. Small town libraries and university libraries can be interesting as well.

While browsing the library, look for books about the city. You might learn something about the sites that you’re visiting. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the local language, look for the English language section. Most libraries have one. When you’re just visiting, you won’t be able to check anything out. You’ll have to enjoy the books at the library.

Some large libraries are tourist destinations on their own. Many libraries have incredible architecture. Some are modern and some are classical. Some libraries are housed in historically significant buildings that are hundreds of years old.

A few of the most famous libraries that you can visit for free include the Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City, New York Public Library in New York City, and Vancouver Central Public Library. For more famous libraries, check out this list.

Some famous libraries are not free to enter. Sometimes you have to take a tour to enter. Some libraries are only open to locals who have a library card.

Go for a Hike

A great free way to experience a country is to get out of the city and explore the natural environment. In every region that you travel, you’ll see different plants and wildlife. You’ll view beautiful natural scenery such as rivers, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and forests. You’ll see sites that you can’t see in the city that most other tourists miss. Many cities also have a viewpoint that you can hike to get a bird’s eye view of the area. This is a great way to get the lay of the land.

Hiking the Wonderland Trail in Washington State
Hiking the Wonderland Trail in Washington State. Permits and park entry were free.

While you can simply walk out of your hotel and begin hiking, you’ll probably want to go to an actual hiking trail for the best experience. This may involve some transportation costs. Most cities have some kind of park or natural area within the city limits or nearby where you can day hike. To find a hike, do a Google search for ‘hikes near (your destination)’.

Some trails may cost a bit of money to hike. For example, most national parks around the world charge an entry fee or require a permit. Sometimes there is a way around the fee. Maybe you can walk in for free. Occasionally parks offer free entry on holidays or special occasions. It’s almost always possible to find free hiking options.

Go to a City Park

Pretty much every decent sized city has a public park that is free to enter. Going to the park gives you a nice break from the crowds and noise of the city. You can spend your day strolling the park’s pathways or simply relaxing on a bench or on the grass. If you’re feeling more active, you could toss a Frisbee or kick a soccer ball with your friends. Many parks also have a children’s play area. Going to the park is a great free activity for those traveling with kids.

Nara Park, Japan
Nara Park, Japan

Large city parks have even more to offer. They may have a lake or pond where you can swim, fish, or feed the ducks. Some parks offer free gym equipment, basketball courts, or tennis courts. Some have table games such as chess or checkers. Many parks also offer beautiful gardens that you can enjoy.

Some of the most famous city parks that are free to visit include Central Park in New York, Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, and Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

Not all city parks are free. Occasionally, there is a small entrance fee. Sometimes you have to pay to use certain amenities such as a pool. Some large city parks include paid attractions such as a zoo or historical buildings.

Visit a Free Museum

These days, it is possible to visit many of the world’s best museums for free. Countries offer free museum entry to make their history, art, and culture more accessible to locals and visitors alike.

Many museums offer a weekly or monthly free entry day. You can plan your trip around this. Sometimes entry is free on specific holidays. Some museums offer free entry for students or retirees. Occasionally, museums open for free for a limited number of hours per day. Usually in the evening before closing. There are also museums that are completely free at all times. These operate on donations only. To find when a museum is open for free, do a Google search for ‘(museum name) free entry’.

The Winter Palace in St. Petersburgh, Russia
If you time your trip right, you can enter the Hermitage and Winter Palace for Free

There are lots of free museum opportunities. For example, the Louvre museum in Paris is free on the first Sunday of every month. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburgh is free to enter on the third Tuesday of every month. Almost all of London’s major museums are free to enter including the National Gallery of London, the Natural History Museum, and the Tate Modern art museum. The Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC are also free at all times.

For more free museums check out this great list. The only drawback to visiting a museum on a free day is that it may be crowded. Give yourself a bit of extra time because the crowds will slow you down.

Go Swimming

If you’re traveling during the summer or in a warm climate, you can almost always find a free place to take a dip. Pretty much every city has a nearby lake, river, or beach that is open to the public. Many cities also offer free public swimming pools that you can use.

The beach in Cancun, Mexico
The beach in Cancun, Mexico. A great place for a swim

Before jumping into a natural body of water, be sure to do your research and ask around to make sure that it’s safe. You never know what kind of parasites or dangerous creatures are lurking under the water. Strong currents can also pose a risk.

View Architecture

You don’t have to go to a museum to view art. It’s all around you. Take a walk through the city and admire the architecture of government buildings, religious buildings, bridges, homes, subway stations, and other structures.

Different countries often use different building styles and materials. In older cities, you can see how building styles changed throughout the decades.

Church of the Savior on Blood in St. Petersburgh, Russia
Church of the Savior on Blood, St. Petersburgh, Russia

You can enjoy renaissance architecture in Florence, Contemporary architecture in Dubai, classical architecture in Athens, or futuristic architecture in Brasilia. Check out this list of the best cities for architecture for some more info.

View Street Art

Another type of art that you can enjoy for free while walking around is street art. This includes both illegal works as well as sanctioned works.

Street art includes graffiti, murals, sculptures, paintings, stickers, and installations. Some of these works are of incredibly high quality. You can find street art in almost every big city. Simply do a search online for street art in your destination city to find the best works.

Some of the best cities for viewing street art include Melbourne, New York, Buenos Aires, and Los Angeles. Check out this list of the best cities for street art for some cool examples.

Walk Through a Local Market

Shopping is free as long as you don’t buy anything. Browsing a local market is an excellent way to learn about the country and the local culture. You’ll learn about different foods and products that people buy and sell and see normal people going about their daily lives. You’ll probably see some things that you didn’t even know existed and learn something new. The sites and smells of a large and crowded open-air market are an experience of their own.

There are a number of different types of markets you could visit. You could walk through a local farmer’s market, fish market, tourist market, open-air market, flea market, spice market, bazaar, swap meet, or even a local grocery store. These places are all free to enter.

Some of the most famous open-air markets include the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Floating Markets in Bangkok, and Pike Place Market in Seattle.

While visiting the market, look at the goods on offer. You may see herbs and spices, fresh fruits and veggies, street food, arts and crafts, household items, and more. Look at the items that people are buying. Check the prices of various products and compare them to prices in your country. Talk to vendors about their products. Talk to friendly locals. This is a great way to learn about a country.

My favorite type of market to visit is a large outdoor market. I love experiencing the sites and smells of a crowded market. Of course, I usually end up spending some money. A local market is a great place to score a cheap lunch.

Visit a Church, Mosque, Synagogue, Temple, or other Religious Building

It’s almost always free to enter a place of worship to take a look around. Religious buildings are also some of the most historic, intricate, and beautiful buildings in the city. Even if you’re not religious, you can appreciate the awesome structures and artwork. You’ll see stained glass, murals, statues, and more.

In Europe, you’ll find countless historical cathedrals and basilicas that are hundreds of years old. In the middle east and north Africa, you’ll find spectacular mosques. You’ll find exotic temples all over east Asian cities. In India, you’ll find colorful Hindu temples. Pretty much every city has some kind of religious building that you can visit. The architecture varies greatly by region.

A church in San Cristobal, Mexico
San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

These religious buildings are on every tourist map and are usually centrally located. They often have an incredible history. Inside, you’ll find interesting artwork and artifacts. Also, note the craftsmanship. These buildings were usually built by the best craftsman of their time.

When visiting places of worship, be sure to dress appropriately. In many cases, you’re only permitted to enter if you’re wearing long pants and a long sleeve shirt. Sometimes you’re required to remove your shoes or cover your head before you can enter. Plan ahead so you’re not denied entry.

People Watch

People behave, dress, speak, interact, and express themselves differently all over the world. You can experience these cultural differences by simply sitting down and observing people as they live their lives.

This free activity can teach you about the local culture. It’s also a good way to reflect on your own culture. Good places to people watch include parks, beaches, plazas, markets, restaurants, bars, and sidewalks. Simply sit down in a crowded area and watch people walk by.

The shore of Lake Malawi
On Lake Malawi, I watched people washing clothing and dishes on the shore. They do things different than back home.

While you’re watching people, think about where they might be going. Imagine what their day-to-day life is like. Think about their background and their job.

Behavior that might be strange or unacceptable where you’re from might be perfectly normal in a different culture. Something that a local may find mundane and ordinary might fascinate you. For example, while visiting Lake Malawi, I sat by the beach one afternoon and watched people doing their laundry in the lake. Something as simple as doing laundry is a completely different experience for them than it is for me. Watching people talk to one another can also be interesting. In some cultures, people speak passionately, almost yelling at one another. In other cultures, people speak calmly and quietly. It’s also interesting to look at people’s clothing. People dress completely differently in India than they do in Brazil.

Attend a Free Party, Festival, or Event

Many cities offer parties, festivals, concerts, or shows that are free to attend and open to the public. These events might focus on art, music, food, a holiday, a season, or some kind of activity. They usually take place in a park or public street during the summer or on a holiday. The best way to find these types of events is to search online.

Rio de Janeiro Brazil from Sugarloaf Mountain
Rio de Janeiro, home to one of the world’s biggest free parties, Carnival.

Some of the world’s biggest free events include Carnival in Brazil, Oktoberfest in Munich, Holi in India, Full Moon Party in Thailand, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. These events are all free to participate in. Of course, there might be costs involved such as transport and food and beverages. For more

Go for a Walk

Taking a walk is the best way to get to know a city. You discover places that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see. As an added bonus, walking is completely free. You save money on taxi or bus fare if you walk for transportation.

Walking is my favorite way to get to know a new city when I first arrive. After dropping my bag off at my accommodation, I take a long walk around the area I’m staying. This helps me get the lay of the land. I like to look for a high point where I can get a view of the city.

Prague

In some cities, you do have to be careful while going for a walk. It’s possible to wander into a dangerous area. If you’re traveling around an area where pickpocketing or mugging is a risk, map out your walk first and avoid walking at night.

Work out at a Free Outdoor Gym

Many cities around the world offer free outdoor gyms in parks and public areas. These are sometimes called calisthenics parks. Anyone can use the equipment. These outdoor gyms are a good place to get in a workout and meet local people.

These gyms are like the adult version of the jungle gym. This equipment uses your bodyweight or hydraulics for resistance. Outdoor gyms can be found all over the world but seem to be most popular in Asia.

These gyms usually include pull-up bars, dip bars, balance beams, exercise bikes, chest press, etc. Even though the equipment is pretty basic, you can get a pretty good workout without spending money on a gym pass.

If you don’t feel like lifting weight, you could go for a jog or run. Many cities have free running tracks. You could also run on the sidewalk or in a city park.

Take Some Travel Photos or Videos

Photos and videos make for the best souvenirs. They’re free to take, don’t take up any room in your pack, and they will help you remember your trip years down the line.

As long as you have some type of camera, taking photos and videos is completely free. You don’t need to buy fancy photography equipment to take travel photos and videos. A modern smartphone camera will work just fine.

Spend your day walking around looking for the perfect shot. Wherever you’re traveling, you’ll find something interesting to photograph. You can photograph people, landscapes, animals, cityscapes, bodies of water, buildings, or whatever interests you.

People outside of a building in India
I’m not the best photographer but sometimes I get lucky and snap a cool shot

To improve the quality of your photos and videos, spend some time learning about what makes a good travel shot. Study composition, color, and shape. Learn about ISO, white balance, shutter speed, and aperture and how they relate to one another. Learn how to operate all of the settings on your camera. Modern cameras come with excellent software that can greatly improve the quality of your shots and help you take more interesting shots. Learn how to edit photos and videos. Some basic editing can greatly improve the quality of your photography and videography. This way, you learn a new skill and gain a greater appreciation for the art form.

I enjoy photography but usually don’t take many photos while traveling. I find taking photos kind of distracting. On future trips, I plan to spend more time on video. I hope to put together some travel videos to go along with future trip reports.

Taking photos and videos isn’t completely free. You need to buy a camera. A handful of countries requires you to pay for a permit before you’re allowed to take photos. You also need to be careful about what you photograph in some countries.

Visit Historic Buildings

Many historic buildings are open to the public to visit for free. Some, you can only view from the outside for free. Some charge an entry fee. A few, you can enter and walk around and explore without paying anything.

The colosseum, Rome
It’s free to view historic buildings from the outside.

A good example is Grand Central Station in New York City. This building is a National Historic Landmark. It is still in use and is completely free to enter and walk around. The Pantheon in Rome and Lotus Temple in New Delhi are also free to enter. Of course, there are many historic buildings that you can view from the outside for free.

Have a Picnic

Pack yourself a picnic lunch and find a shady place to sit in a park, waterfront area, or scenic area. You can pack something simple and cheap like a sandwich. If you want something a bit fancier, pack some local cheese and crackers and fresh fruit.

Having a picnic does involve spending money on food. Of course, that is money that you would have to spend anyway because you have to eat. Having a picnic lunch much is cheaper than eating at a restaurant. The view is often better too.

I picnic often while traveling. Before I head out sightseeing, I make myself a sandwich and pack some snacks in my day pack. When I get hungry, I find a comfy place to sit and eat my lunch.

My favorite picnic location was at Teotihuacan in Mexico. After climbing the largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, I decided to sit down right on the top and enjoy my lunch and the view.

Watch a Local Movie or Television Show or Listen to Some Local Music

Turn on your hotel room TV and flip through the local channels. This is an interesting cultural activity, even if you can’t understand what’s going on. By watching local television and movies, you’ll learn what kinds of stories local people find interesting and what they find funny. You’ll also learn some local pop culture. Every country has its own celebrities.

Listening to local music is also fun. Go on Youtube and search for music from the country you’re visiting. Ask locals about their favorite singers, bands, and songs and give them a listen. You’ll also hear local music in restaurants and shops. Take a moment to listen.

I really enjoyed the local music and movies while traveling in Africa. On long-distance bus rides, they would often show movies and music videos to pass the time. They showed things from all over the continent. I enjoyed watching cheezy Nigerian TV shows, crazy Ethiopian music videos, and low-budget Kenyan films. While visiting India, I enjoyed watching Bollywood movies in my hotel rooms.

Cook a Local Meal

If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb, chances are you have access to a fully stocked kitchen. You might as well make use of it.

Spend some time searching for a new recipe and learning how to cook it. Preferably a local dish. Once you find something that sounds tasty, visit the local markets to shop for the freshest ingredients. Haggle with the vendors to try to get the local price. Ask the vendor about cooking techniques. Chances are, they’ll be happy to explain or recommend different ingredients. Spend the evening carefully preparing and cooking up a masterpiece of a meal.

A farmers market in Istanbul
A farmers market outside of my Airbnb in Istanbul

Buying ingredients costs money, but you have to eat anyway. Cooking for yourself costs much less than eating out. You might learn some new cooking techniques while you’re at it.

If you’re staying in a hotel without a kitchen, you can still cook. Check out my guide to cooking in a hotel room for details.

Go Watch a Free Sporting Event

Amateur athletes play in parks and small stadiums all over the world. You can often watch these events for free. To find a free sporting event, you’ll just have to ask around. You could also go to a small stadium or field to have a look around and maybe catch a game.

I did this in Nairobi. My friends and I heard about a soccer game that was going on and decided to go check it out. We thought it was a big game but turned out to be a couple of unknown teams playing in a small dilapidated stadium on the edge of the city. We walked right in for free and watched the game with a couple of dozen fans. It turned out to be a fun free way to spend the afternoon.

Read a Book

Reading a book is a great way to gain some deeper knowledge about the region that you’re traveling in. Find a book that is related to the country you’re visiting. It could be a fictional book that takes place in the country or a nonfiction book about the country. You could also look for a book that is written by an author that is native to the country. Alternatively, you could also find a book that is generally related to travel. Of course, you could also read a guidebook.

Reading is a great activity to kill some time while you’re in transit or before you go to sleep. I carry a book in my day pack and pull it out when I’m on a long bus or train ride, relaxing in a park, or waiting for my food in a restaurant.

These days, I travel with a Kindle. Ereaders are perfect for travel. I can carry thousands of books in a device that weighs less than one book. It includes a built-in backlight so I can read in a hostel room or night bus without bothering anyone around me. The battery lasts weeks between charges. Best of all, there are loads of free books to download.

Write, Draw, Paint, Sculpt, or do Something Creative

Let your travels inspire your art. This could be as simple as writing a diary about your travels. You could also buy some pens and a notepad and draw what you see. If you’re more serious about art, you could get some painting supplies and a canvass and paint a landscape. Alternatively, you could use your computer to create digital art.

If you’re not a naturally artistic person, you can always learn to be. Look up some tutorials on Youtube about drawing and draw some pictures. You’ll learn a new skill and have some fun.

Even if you’re like me and have no creative talent, it can still be fun to try. For example, I enjoy writing. After all, I write this blog. Most of my writing is not creative. It is explanatory. Every once in a while, I like to write out a story about something that happened during my travels. Usually, these fall flat when I post them but I still enjoy writing them. In the future, I would like to learn how to create digital art.

Go Online

These days, you can find free wifi almost anywhere. This includes your hotel or hostel, bars, restaurants, cafes, libraries, and even many public parks. Brig your computer or phone with you when you go out and surf the web.

This probably isn’t the best way to spend your vacation but it is a way to get some things done. While you’re online, research your destination. Book your accommodation for your next stop. Price out airline, train, and bus tickets. Check your bank balance to make sure you’re staying on budget. Watch some videos or read the news. Play games. Arrange a date. Communicate with friends and family back home. Do whatever you normally do online.

Study the Local Language

Being able to speak a few words in the local language can greatly improve the quality of your trip. You’ll be able to communicate more easily with locals. People will also open up more when they see that you’re putting in some effort to talk to them in their language.

Start out by learning the basics such as yes, no, hello, goodbye, how are you, and please and thank you. Next, start learning basic grammar and expanding your vocabulary. If you spend 30-60 minutes per day, you can pick up enough words to get by in a week or so. Of course, some languages are easier to learn than others.

Learning a new language is free. You can use free apps such as Duolingo to learn the basics. You can watch Youtube videos of natives teaching and speaking. After you learn some words and phrases, you can start talking to locals. Ask them how to say different words. Learning a new language is fun, even if you have no use for it.

Browse a Local Art Gallery

If you don’t want to pay an expensive entrance fee to visit a museum, you can walk through retail art galleries for free. Here, you’ll see the works of local undiscovered or up-and-coming artists. You might even get to meet the artist if you attend a gallery opening event.

Have a Conversation With a Local

One of the best ways to learn about your destination is to talk to someone who lives there. They can tell you what day-to-day life is really like. Your new local friend can also tell you about the best places to eat and drink. They can suggest some interesting activities in the city. Maybe you’ll discover a hidden gem that’s not in the guidebook.

Having a conversation with a local is completely free. The only problem is that finding someone to talk to can be challenging. Most people can’t just strike up a conversation on the street. The language barrier can also make this more difficult. I recommend you use the internet to help you out. Try using Couchsurfing, Meetup.com, or a dating app to meet a local that you can talk to. If the language barrier is an issue, use Google Translate to help you communicate. For more help, check out my guide: How to Meet People While Traveling.

Play a Game or Sport

This is a great way to make some friends. A deck of playing cards is packable and allows you to play dozens of games. Many hostels have board games which you can use. Chess is another popular option. Some parks have boards built into tables. You can find someone who knows how to play chess pretty much everywhere in the world. If you don’t have anyone to play with, you can always go on your phone or computer to play a game online. I have even met travelers who travel with a gaming laptop.

You could also play a sport. Buy or borrow a basketball, Frisbee, or soccer ball and find someone to play with. If you’re friendly, you might even be able to join someone else’s game. All you have to do is ask.

Find a Free Campsite and Go Camping

Camping is a great free activity that you can do pretty much anywhere in the world. Spend your day setting up camp, exploring the area on foot, making a campfire, cooking, and relaxing in nature.

One of the greatest things about camping is that it can save you money on one of your biggest travel expenses, accommodation. Most of the time you can camp for free if you’re willing to spend some time looking for a site and rough it a bit.

You can find free campsites all over the world. If you’re in a city try asking at churches, fire departments, schools, or people who are in their yards. Eventually, someone will point you in the direction of a safe place where you can camp.

A free campsite in the forest
If you travel with a tent, you can find some excellent free camping options.

Wild camping is also a good option if you have the nerve. Simply find a hidden place where you’re unlikely to be discovered and set up camp. Try to draw as little attention to yourself as possible by setting up at dusk and leaving before dawn.

Some countries, such as Sweden, Scotland, Norway, and Finland allow you to freely camp almost anywhere as long as you’re not disturbing anyone.

Of course, camping isn’t always free. Sometimes it’s just not safe or possible to find a free site. Sometimes free camping is illegal. In this case, you’ll have to stay in a campground if you want to camp.

Visit National Parks

Most national parks charge an entry fee but there are a few exceptions. You can often enter for free if you walk or bike in. Many countries offer free national park entry days throughout the year. Usually during the summer or on a holiday. If you do your research or travel at the right time, you may be able to visit for free. Some national parks are always free to visit.

Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington State
Most national parks have free entry days

Volunteer

If you want to be productive while traveling, you could consider volunteering. You’ll meet like-minded people and locals while doing some good.

Finding a legitimate volunteer job while traveling is a challenge. Many volunteers end up doing more harm than good. You really have to do your research before accepting a position. You don’t want to take a job from a local or slow down a project.

Stay in, Rest, and Get Organized

If you’re traveling long-term, you don’t need to fill every hour of every day with activities. There is nothing wrong with taking a day off to rest. Sometimes this is necessary after a particularly long or stressful day of travel.

On your rest day, you could sleep in or take a nap, watch TV, read, or take a long hot shower or bath.

A rest day is also a good time to take care of some housekeeping. You could do your laundry, organize your bag, sort and organize your travel photos.

A day off is also a good time to do some planning. Check your bank balance and do some budgeting. You might also need to spend some time researching and planning the next leg of your trip and booking tickets.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take a day off to get all of these little jobs done.

Tip: Don’t Miss Out on Major Attractions Because You’re Cheap and Don’t Want to Pay

Some activities cost money. There is no way around it. Even though you could easily fill your trip with the above free activities, you shouldn’t miss out on the bigger tourist sites just because they cost money.

After spending thousands of dollars on airfare and accommodation to travel to the other side of the world it would be a shame to skip going on a safari or to the Taj Mahal just because they aren’t free.

Zac on safari in Kenya
I splurged on a safari in both Kenya and Tanzania. Even though it was expensive, it was worth it.

In my travels, I have missed out on a couple of experiences because I wanted to save money. This is always a mistake that I end up regretting. I’m still just as cheap as ever but I try to avoid missing out because an activity is expensive.

My biggest regret while traveling was skipping gorilla trekking in Uganda. The tour cost about $1200. That’s quite a bit of money for me. After all, I could travel for 1-2 months on that. My friend went while I stayed back in the capital. When he returned and showed me his pictures and videos, I was so envious and sad that I had missed out. The only silver lining I can think of is that I have an excuse to return to that part of the world now. While visiting Australia, I also skipped SCUBA diving on the Great Barrier Reef because it was expensive. I regret that decision to this day.

At the same time, there are some tourist attractions that are overpriced and not worth it. You don’t have to do everything. Do your research before your trip to help you decide what you want to see and what you’re okay with skipping.

Final Thoughts

Wherever you’re traveling, you can always find something free to do. You don’t need to spend every day on a tour, in a museum, at an event, or participating in some kind of tourist activity. You can have an exciting day without spending a dime.

There are also ways to cut costs on other parts of your trip. For example, to save money on transportation, you could hitchhike. You can also use credit card points to cover airfare. To save money on accommodation, you can housesit or couch surf. For more money-saving ideas, check out my guide to extreme budget travel.

What are your favorite free things to do while traveling? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!

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