So, by now you should know that we love sharing budget travel tips. Why? Because we believe that everyone – aside from your personal financial status – should be able to travel. That’s why we decided it was time to share our list of free activities you can do anywhere.
Exploring new places stretches your mind to new dimensions. Your perspective on life changes, realizations occur, you come across motivation and inspiration that fuel the mind and soul in ways we only can dream of.
Generally speaking, the most common expenses when traveling are transportation, accommodation, consumption and then on the fourth place, we would opt for activities. Activities such as visiting museums, going to the famous tourist attractions and so forth.
When traveling on a budget we generally avoid the parks and attractions that require an entrance fee or at least limit them to a bare minimum.
Why? Mainly because of two reasons.
- We favor the off-beaten-path, the fewer people (and specifically the lesser stereotype tourists) the happier we are. This is, of course, a personal preference but we tend to take our travel-hit better in the most authentic environment we can get.
- We don’t want to waste our money on over-rated attractions, we would rather use that for an extra night accommodation or a good meal. We love food, lol.
When do we spend money on attractions?
Well, when it’s obviously something you can’t miss out on. You’re not going to visit Beijing and not go the Great Wall (that being said, there are back routes and other parts of the wall which are cheaper (free) and less populated… yaaay!). So, whenever we experience that tad bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) chances are we’ll consider paying the entrance fee.
Let’s get back to business. We are here to discuss the activities you can do almost everywhere FOR FREE. And these are always on our list of things-to-do when visiting new places.
If you follow us on Instagram (if you don’t, you should, you’ll love it). We’re sure you’ve read our opinion on getting lost a.k.a. in our opinion the main ingredient to having the best travels. On our off days, we’re either doing all things self-care (gotta do what you gotta do) or we’re getting lost somewhere.
So, we’re not mentioning it on this list – cause even for us – it sounds a bit random. Hey you, get lost! But do it, you won’t regret it.
Without further delay.
Here is our list of free activities you can do almost anywhere
1. Visit the markets
Visiting markets are number one on the list of free activities for a very good reason. The vibes (the people, the smells, the colors) tell you so much about a country and its culture and it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss out on.
Besides it being a completely free activity, a few more reasons you should go: it’s probably the best spot to go for culture photography and if you like to chat with locals this is the place to be. Furthermore, markets are hands-down the best place to get authentic and cheap souvenirs or food if you want/need them.
There are tons of markets out there, do your research (some markets are only open once a week, others every day) and find the style you would like to visit. All cities have the popular and practical food market, but you also often can find: vintage-market; flea-market; textile market; flower market; antique market; book market; night-market etc. etc.
Some cities even have market-halls (normally with mind-blowing architecture), being a fun activity to visit on them rainy days! Two beautiful market halls I can think of I visited and was blown away are the Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) in Budapest, Hungary and the super modern and impressive Markthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
2. Stroll through parks
Never underestimate the value of a proper park. Escape the buzz of a city and stroll through a park, find a tree for some shade or a bench to accompany you whilst reading your latest favorite book. Most city parks are free and totally worth your time. You’d be surprised by the vast variety of plants, flowers, trees but most of all you can allow yourself to connect with nature.
For small chit-chats and to get to know the locals a bit better the park is your place to go. In Chinese parks you’ll see people dancing, singing and playing games in the Netherlands you’ll see people working out and walking their dogs. Really, it’s so much fun to hang out, observe and be in the moment. Indulging in people watching can be such a great entertainment and inspiration.
Never mind the season, a good park can set the mood for a day of either adventure, total relaxation or anything in-between.
3. Free or donation based walking tours
Nowadays you can find a bunch of free walking tours online and I definitely recommend you to check a couple of them out for the destination you’re visiting. The good ones have a map with the directions and include the fun-facts about buildings and streets you walk past or on.
Some places also offer free, donation based or dirt-cheap walking tours guided by a local. Even though you might be in a small group, the information the guide provides can be very interesting and intriguing. The best walking tour we ever did and we would recommend to everyone is the Heritage walk in Ahmedabad, India.
Hmm… ok, this particular one wasn’t 100% free but I remember it being ridiculously cheap (₹ 50 = $0,73 = €0,63). The guide was an intelligent and spontaneous local student. We walked for about an hour (roughly 4/5 km) and he showed us secret passages, told us unknown facts about the architecture and some history about the city. We felt so rich and content afterward like we had just read a book. Gosh, it was amazing! Highly recommended! We even gave him a tip because it was so great!
Free activities like these can be just as much (or more) worth ones you pay for. As it’s free/cheap people share it with you because they love the area and want to share it with you. Very touching if you ask us.
4. Free museums / Art galleries
Visiting a museum can be pretty expensive but it doesn’t have to be. We’re not going to encourage you to sneak in through the back entrance, nothing illegal so no worries…
Did you know that many large museums have certain days you can visit them for free? Yes, really! Just have quick look on their website to figure out if and when the museum of your choice has this offer. It will be something like first Tuesday of the month free entrance.
That being said, almost every city has its more artistic neighborhood and chances are you’ll be able to visit a handful of art galleries and get inspired and touched without spending a dime. If you ask us, creativity is something that should always be supported. So why not visit those galleries? If you can’t buy something to support them you can definitely support them on social media by following, sharing or reviewing.
Visting art galleries are one of our favorites on this list of free activities. Many artists have their own way of how they implement the city/ country/ style in their art and it’s a lovely, creative way to connect with your surroundings.
If I had to pick two cities right here right now for their exclusive and abundant scenery of art galleries it would be Berlin and Hong Kong. But really, artists are everywhere, and they all have a voice which should be heard.
5. Explore the local scenery
Go hiking if there are mountains. Enjoy the beach if you’re at a coastal city. Maybe even ask a local to recommend you the spots where normally only the locals go?
Pull up those walking socks or strap on that bikini. Nature is the world’s gift to us, we better enjoy it!
6. Places of worship and other local landmarks
Churches, Temples, Mosques and all other places of worship generally don’t have an entrance fee. And they are an absolutely magical and must-see place to visit. It’s enchanting to experience how faith is being practiced, to take in the architecture and sense the peaceful vibes.
Besides the religious buildings, many cities also offer free entrance to certain areas of their government buildings, palace parks and of course the public squares.
Libraries can also be an amazing place to visit and totally free. There is something magical about the silence and all the knowledge that is collected in that one place. Not all libraries are an amazing piece of architecture, but some of them are, so even if you don’t read the language it will be worth your while and your wallet won’t mind.
Unless you decide you visit the worlds’ biggest and most famous (Taj Mahal, Sagrada Familia), you’ll always find the smaller, lesser known places you can add to your list of free activities.
7. Free Street Performances
Whilst many performances do ask for an entry fee, with a bit of online research you are likely able to find some free performances. These tend to be outdoors in public areas and are a fun way to get accustomed to the performing arts scene. Examples of performances would be anything from a street-side performance to a stand-up comedy.
With a bit of luck, you might even just bump into one like we did in Cape Town. We just hopped off the ferry and found us all of a sudden on the front row of an epic and funny dance act. It was great and cost us the couple of dollars we put in the hat afterward because they deserved that!
8. Local celebrations
Depending on where and when you visit you may encounter free fairs, parades, and other festivities. German Christmas markets, Brazilian parades, park concerts, firework shows and other free forms of entertainment designed for locals and visitors.
If not a celebration it could even be a regular thing. Every evening at 8 pm you can enjoy a vibrant multimedia show with lights and music in Hong Kong for free. It’s really impressive and inclusive, we watched it in the pouring rain and were sharing an umbrella with a local Hong-Kongnese, something we’ll never forget!
9. Window shopping
If the summer heat is unbearable, city malls’ air-conditioning is your best friend. Window shopping is basically the same as shopping, but without buying anything. You can get a sense of the style and fashion of the city you are visiting and get inspired for when you are back home.
Be careful, in some countries the sellers can be extremely persuasive and pushy. So be clear in your intentions that you’re just looking and not interested in buying anything. Before you know it, you ordered a tailored suit or you’re sending a ‘cheap’ carpet back home.
10. Enjoy the sunrises and sunsets
Whether you are a morning person or a night owl you should be able to schedule some time to enjoy the city’s – free – sunrise or sunset. We are suckers for those golden hours. We usually just look at the map and try to figure out where we should have an epic view or do a quick search online.
Whilst taking it all in, often magical experiences occur and we find ourselves in truly special spots.
Not so long ago we visited Beihai, a coastal city in the south of China. We figured out a spot on the map we thought would have the best view for sunset and guess what, we found this adorable secret stroke of abandoned beach. It even had rocks you could do some climbing on. Just before the sun got that really pretty haze, local photographers joined us. We’d had found their best spot, without having a clue.
We hope you enjoyed this list of free activities. Do you have one we can add to this list? Let us know!
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If you looking for more travel budget tips, make sure to check out our post on Budget Accommodation and/or How to Earn Money Whilst Traveling.