Want to travel without breaking the bank? Then you’ll want to keep an eye out for those bargain destinations! The countries listed here are all among the cheapest places to travel, offering not just great value but also some of the greatest sights and experiences in the world.
While 2017 looks to be an uncertain year, it may be a great year for many budget travelers. The US dollar and Euro are strong against many other currencies at the moment, making some places especially good value now.
Need some ideas for where to go? Then grab your bucket list and read on…
If you’ve thought about visiting Mexico, now is the time! While you could get just 16 pesos to the dollar in 2015, that’s now risen to 22 pesos. (It’s a similar story against the euro.)
Backpackers will find it easy to travel in Mexico on a budget of under $25 a day. Dorm beds are as little as $7 a night in many places, while seemingly every street corner has a little cart selling delicious tacos, tamales or tortas for what is basically spare change (if you’re from a high-income country).
If you’re not a backpacker but simply looking for good value on a mid-range budget, then Mexico is equally a great choice. Popular beach resort destinations like Cancun and Cabo get very pricey, but you can make your money go further in lower-key beach towns such as Tulum, Puerto Escondido, Zihuatenejo, and Mazatlan.read more about mexico »
2. The Balkans
I’m shamelessly lumping together a number of countries here, but the Balkan region as a whole really needs to be mentioned. If you’re on a budget, don’t stay for too long on the increasingly jetsettey Croatian coast, as places like Dubrovnik can get murderously expensive especially in the July/August high season. For true bargain adventures, be sure to head into Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, or Montenegro.
(Want to see Croatian highlights on the cheap? Many budget travellers now stay in Trebinje in Bosnia and take day-trips to the old city of Dubrovnik.)
And then there is Albania. It may be hardly developed and the roads are in a terrible state of neglect, but it takes the prize of being the cheapest country to visit in Europe, with a beautiful Adriatic coastline to boot.
Popular? Very. But Thailand can still be one of the cheapest countries to travel.
Of course, not everywhere is cheap. Koh Samui and Phuket are heavy on luxury resorts, Ao Nang and Railey Beach are creeping up the price range (budget travellers have moved to Ton Sai beach), and Koh Phi Phi has arguably jumped the shark (try Koh Lanta or Koh Chang).
But the further away you get from the most commercialised beaches, the better it gets. Head all the way north to the Chiang Mai region and you’ll be in budget travel heaven. Here amid the rice fields, Buddhist temples and hill tribes you can find some of the best-value accommodation anywhere—whether you’re looking for a backpacker bed (from $5) or a comfy hotel with swimming pool (from $30).read more about thailand »
Having spent the last few months in Portugal, I’m going to say it’s one of the best under-the-radar bargain destinations in Europe.
Lisbon is blissfully untouched by the stag dos and lads’ holidays that have blighted Prague or Barcelona, instead appealing squarely to travel romantics with its gorgeous river views and vintage trams. And with glamorous beaches in the Algarve, charming cities like Coimbra, Aveiro, and Porto, and a lovely vineyard-clad countryside, you wouldn’t soon get bored in Portugal. Prices are very reasonable (the 60 eurocent coffee is not a myth).
5. South Africa
Even if it isn’t this list’s cheapest country in absolute terms, South Africa will give you excellent value for money in 2017. Compared to 2012, you can get almost double the amount of South African rand against many Western currencies.
Day-to-day travel costs such as lodging and food are surprisingly low for a developed country. You’ll probably end up spending on a dazzling menu of adventure activities instead, which includes safaris, canopy tours, shark diving, caving and, hey, even ostrich riding (yep!).
Getting there will be your initial challenge, as for many travelers it’ll be a long haul, but airlines based in Doha, Abu Dhabi or Dubai regularly have fantastic deals on flights between South Africa and Europe or North America. I recently found a return from Europe (Madrid, in my case) for just 600 Euro. That’s not bad for going half-way around the world and getting a chance to spot the ‘big five’!
Neighboring Costa Rica may be getting all the attention, in part thanks to its tourism board launching elaborate TV ad campaigns featuring singing sloths and toucans, but Nicaragua offers many similar experiences at easily just a third of the price. Stable and relatively safe, it nevertheless remains an emerging travel destination. I loved the colonial town of Granada, the surfer hangouts along the coast, and the opportunity to climb an active volcano.
You can still use the better-connected Costa Rica as your entry point to fly into. Grab a cheap flight to Liberia, from where it’s just a 1 hour drive to the Nicaraguan border.read more about nicaragua »
Fantastically cheap and fascinating sights: Vietnam has it all! Eat local and you’ll struggle to spend more than a few dollars per meal. Activities and tours, such as those to Ha Long Bay or the Mekong Delta, are all reasonably priced, especially if booked locally.
While I think there are better beach destinations in the region (go to Thailand or the Philippines instead), both the cities and countryside in Vietnam are dazzling. Keep in mind that Ha Long Bay can get overcrowded these days; if you have the extra day to spare, consider going to the less-visited Bai Tu Long Bay.read more about vietnam »
The most stable country in North Africa and just a stone’s throw from Europe, Morocco is a fantastic budget getaway. That is, if you manage to steer clear of the pushy salesmen trying to sell you expensive rugs!
If you’re a backpacker, you’ll be happy to know Morocco has a small but growing network of hostels. If you have a little more to spend, consider staying in some of the famous riads—traditional hotels with garden courtyards offering wonderful relief from the buzzing city streets.read more about morocco »
While travel in Bolivia can be uncomfortable sometimes, it is also South America’s cheapest country by far—and one of its most exciting ones. Apart from its wonderful people and traditional culture, it has some of the continents’ most amazing sights, including the world’s highest lake Titicaca and the stunning salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, which stretch as far as the eye can see.
Accommodation and food prices are so low as to be comparable with Southeast Asia. If you’re an adventurous traveller and not so easily fazed by Bolivia’s remoteness or the high altitudes in the Andes, you might just want to book your tickets straight away. Itineraries combine well with Peru, which is also easier to fly into internationally.read more about bolivia »
From white sand beaches to jungles and savannahs, from blue flame spewing volcanoes to remote rainforests where you can meet orangutans in the wild… Indonesia is a whole world to discover.
Bali is the main tourist hot-spot thanks to its many beaches, Balinese Hindu culture, and easy access via Denpasar International airport. But consider exploring other regions as well: adjacent Lombok and Java are equally fantastic in different ways, and last year I had a phenomenal time exploring the Komodo islands and Flores.read more about indonesia »
As with other destinations in this list, Colombia is now much cheaper to travel for Western tourists. Thanks to currency exchange fluctuations, it’s 30% cheaper to go there now than when I visited just over two years ago.
It’s sometimes said that Colombia is like South America in miniature, as you have both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the Amazon rainforest, as well as the start of the Andes, all within relatively easy reach. I absolutely loved the culture and the incredibly welcoming people. Forget about Narcos; today’s Colombia is a totally different and much more positive place.
Oh, and don’t miss seeing the world’s tallest palm trees!read more about colombia »
This list has been heavy on Asia and Latin America so far, but I would be amiss to not mention Central Europe. In this case, let me highlight wonderful Hungary.
Budapest is mainly known as party central among younger travellers, but it’s also one of the Europe’s most beautiful cities with its scenic setting along the danube, grand historical architecture, and famed thermal baths. Beyond the capital are landscapes with glowing hills and quaint villages, with the warm waters of Lake Balaton just an hour’s drive from the capital.
Many come to Cambodia just to see the epic temples of Angkor Wat — often on limited excursions from neighbouring Thailand or Vietnam. But it’s worth visiting Cambodia for more than just one tourist site: for instance, its coast has some fantastic beaches and islands, and the cities of Battambang and Phnom Penh make for interesting stops along the way. While it’s one of Southeast Asia’s least developed countries, it’s also quite possibly the cheapest of them all.read more about cambodia »
Cuba has long had a see-it-before-it-changes appeal, and recent thawing in relations with the US makes it feel like the clock is ticking. (Americans still aren’t legally allowed in as tourists, by the way, though there are – cough – ways to get around this.)
With internet access still rare, you shouldn’t rely much on online booking sites. Instead, a great way to travel in Cuba is to use its extensive network of family-run B&Bs. Any house with a blue sign on the door has a room for rent, and these casas particulares cost upwards of $20 a night. Get ready for some rum, sun, cigars, vintage cars, and salsa dancing!read more about cuba »
While Costa Rica and Nicaragua have a somewhat better reputation for security, I can’t help but recommend Guatemala as a true adventure travel paradise. Hidden in the northern jungles are the Mayan temples of Tikal, a stunning sight especially at sunrise. Equally breathtaking is the highland lake of Atitlan, ringed by volcanoes and quaint villages where the pace of life is delightfully slow. And don’t miss Semuc Champey, a fantastic place to explore river caves by candlelight and swim through cascading pools in the jungle. Many a traveller ends up spending under $25 a day in Guatemala.read more about guatamala »
In many ways, Nepal is still healing from the devastating earthquake in 2015. But it’s ready to receive tourists again, with trekkers in particular showing up again to head down the famed Annapurna Circuit. Nepal’s second city and trekker’s base of Pokhara is known for its ultra low prices, even beating Thailand’s Chiang Mai to the no. 1 spot in recent backpacker price indices. By visiting now, you’ll also support a country that can use the extra tourist income.
17. Great Britain (lol?)
Okay, I’m trolling here, as the UK is hella expensive. But it’s a bit less expensive now, thanks to the country’s surprising decision to leave the E.U. Since its peak in 2015, the Pound Sterling has dropped about 20% to the dollar and euro, making the UK more attractive for international visitors.
While hardly a shoestring destination, London can make for a cool city break, especially considering its amazing offering of free museums.
What country is top of your list for 2017? Don’t be shy and leave your comments below!