Tips for low cost travel in the United States


To travel you have to train yourself. It is easy but not so easy. As a low cost backpacker you have to learn to adapt at all times, to engage in conversations in the language of hands and gestures, to eat new things every day, to constantly introduce yourself to strangers, to be adventurous, cordial, friendly, to lose your embarrassment, to let yourself be helped… The list goes on, but the only thing you do not have to be to travel and “adventure” is a millionaire.

You need money for some things, but walking down streets of New York you don’t need to make calculations of eternal zeros. To organize a good trip, full of anecdotes, the best dinners in the living room of a local host and to travel thousands of kilometers discovering not so touristy but unforgettable places; what is needed is previous research and several hours of search with some websites that facilitate and economize trips.

First and foremost is the flight. Surely you already know Skyscanner, a general ticket search engine that then leads to multiple websites to make the purchase. My recommendation is not only to look for the final destination you want to go to, but also the area or state. This way you sometimes find super deals. The most popular destinations are very well connected to their surroundings. That is why if you want to go, for example, to San Francisco, it can be a good idea to fly to Oakland (from the same airport the local train, BART, leaves, which arrives directly to downtown San Francisco in fifteen minutes and costs between 3 and 5 dollars) or to San Jose (it also has an international airport and good bus connection).

Another option is to visit to see prices offered by some companies both for short trips and possible Relocation offers, which I will talk about later.

In my experience, the best friend of Karta and low cost backpackers is Rome2Rio, a worldwide search engine that covers all available means of transportation from one place to another. It is specifically useful to understand whether the combination is profitable or not.

The United States is one of the most expensive destinations in the world. I remember when I was still struggling with this concept and thinking how expensive it can be and then immediately going to the supermarket and paying a dollar for a banana or $2 for a single tomato. In Hawaii it was cheaper to get a burger and fries at a fast food restaurant than to buy a bag of bread at the supermarket. They do not have a great offer of low cost flights (although little by little it is growing) and to see the prices of lodging per night is discouraging. No, but do not despair, now comes the best part of adventurous discounts: paper and pencil in hand.

Getting Around

Yes, the distances in the U.S. will be great. For those of you who are used to low cost backpacking around Europe, I have a bad tip for you: the few trains that are available are very expensive and do not go everywhere. I started this article saying that it was not easy and that you have to adapt to new situations. That’s right, here you will be able to put it into practice.

Chinatown Bus

This is one of the cheapest bus tours you will find (and a very good option if you want to know what it feels like to be in China for a few hours since all the instructions and signs are only in your language). It leaves from Chinatowns and arrives, obviously, to the Chinatown of the destination city. For example, from New York to Boston you can pay 20 dollars, while a plane ticket costs more than 80 and a train ticket more than 100. Also, if you search early, you can find some great deals on Megabus.

Carpooling or “conscious hitchhiking” (as I like to call it)

There are several websites where individuals publish their future car trips both to share expenses and not to travel alone. It’s a matter of searching for the destination and approximate date, looking at those that are posted and getting in touch to coordinate the meeting and the method of payment (sometimes you pay in advance, others in the car, depending on the website).

I must clarify that I am a big consumer of this service because it is an excellent way to meet local people, it is usually faster and sometimes even cheaper. I must also say that in the USA not all pages ask for a user, so they do not have neither comments nor driver’s rating (unlike Blablacar which is used in Europe). In case of any doubt you can contact the driver, ask for information or Facebook and ask everything about the trip: schedules, departure, price, companions, how many stops, how many passengers are going, if they smoke or not, pets …. In short, everything that is necessary and makes you feel safe and comfortable to enjoy.


It turns out that car rental companies need to relocate cars that were taken from one destination and delivered to another. That’s why you can get regular cars or even a motorhome for free or $5 a day. Someone once asked me: Can you go from Europe to America by car? Personally I think it is not profitable although it is possible. This option I tell you about is much more feasible and economical.

Advantages: all of them. Disadvantages: you have to comply with the deadlines given by the company (they can give from 3 to 8 or even 10 days to go from one place to another) although sometimes you can rent a few more days (at normal price) and stretch the trip to destination. Some companies pay for gasoline and full risk insurance. Each car has its own specification of number of passengers. It is necessary to sign up well in advance and be attentive to the new publications on the web.


Well, it is not the cheapest option but it is a good way to visit unusual or very small places and arrive at a destination well eaten, well slept and with some party on top. In there are great deals and last minute discounts for this kind of trips.


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