One thing is certain: thanks to vaccines, travel will eventually become a lot easier in 2021 than in 2020.

But where and when can we travel? That is still very much unclear as border closures, quarantines, and other measures are likely to stay with us for some time to come. (Tip: use the IATA COVID-19 travel regulations map to stay informed when the world gradually reopens.)

I’ve kept up this list of cheap countries to travel for 8 years now, but this time I don’t actually know which countries will be open for tourism, or when it will be appropriate to travel. So, think of it more as a wishlist.

 

Hopefully, 2021 will give us a few more opportunities to travel, to heal, and to come together again.

Laos

If you’re budget-conscious and want to travel more for less, then the best way is truly to choose your destinations wisely. It still blows my mind how your Dollars, Euros, or Pounds can get you much further in cheaper countries.

For example, for the price of a single meal in London or Zurich, you could easily cover a whole day’s worth of traveling in cheap countries to travel like Indonesia, Argentina, Vietnam, Mexico, or Turkey — to name just a few.

Got the itch to travel?
My inspirational book will teach you how to travel cheap and travel far — whether it’s for a few weeks, months, or even an entire year!

The cheap countries I selected here are not just great destinations for budget travel, they are great destinations period. I’ve traveled to all of them and I can tell you from first-hand experience they’re not just great bargains, but are also among the most exciting to explore.

 

 

Cheap countries to travel

Cheap countries in Asia:
Vietnam, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Philippines

Cheap countries in and near Europe:
Baltic States, Romania, GeorgiaArmeniaUkraine, Turkey

Cheap countries in the Americas:
Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil, Cuba, Bolivia

Cheap countries in Africa:
Morocco, Cape Verde

 


 

1. Mexico

Mexico is one of the cheapest places to travel in 2021 thanks to currency exchange fluctuations
Chichen Itza

Mexico is often associated with cheap beach resorts, with many tourists going to places such as Cancun, Cabo, or Tulum. Well, these tourist-priced locations are only ‘cheap’ if you compare them to, say, Miami or Hawaii. If you really want cheap, you have to explore the rest of Mexico.

Whether you’re looking for a beach holiday or wanting to dive into the local culture, there is so much to discover in this huge country. One classic travel route runs from the buzzing Mexico City to Oaxaca and ending on the Yucatan Peninsula. If you’re on a tight budget, check out Chiapas state: it’s filled with jungles, waterfalls, and epic Mayan ruins — and travel costs are among the lowest.

The Mexican peso continues to have a favorable exchange rate against Western currencies, making it quite the bargain at the moment. It’s easy to get to for Americans, but European travelers take note: I’ve seen bargain flights to Cancun (around 300 Euro return), making Mexico an even cheaper destination to visit in 2021.

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $60 a day

 

 

 

2. Colombia

Colombia is an amazing country to travel (and no, it’s luckily nothing at all like Narcos, a show that is set over 50 years ago!).

What I love about Colombia is that it has a little bit of everything from South America: you have both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the Amazon rainforest, and the start of the Andes mountain range. That’s not even yet mentioning its two buzzing cities in Medellín and Bogota, or the warmth of Colombians and its vibrant culture.

Exchange rates between the Colombian peso and USD or EUR are very favorable at the moment: I remember when I traveled to Colombia I got about 2000 pesos for a dollar, while now it’s around 3500.

Backpacker Budget: $35 a day
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day

 

 

 

3. Romania

 

Leave your preconceptions at home and discover one of Europe’s travel secrets — and ultimate bargain.

Whatever you think Romania is, it probably isn’t. The spectacular Transylvania region, in particular, defies expectations — with its cute medieval towns, ancient fortified churches, and spectacular Carpathian mountain range. It’s actually one of my favorite destinations in Europe.

You can easily get by on a backpacker budget of about $30 – $40 a day. If you’re on a holiday, you can find stylish B&Bs starting at $30/night. Even in a fancy restaurant in Brasov, I struggled to spend more than $25 a person.

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $60 a day

 

 

 

4. Republic of Georgia

On the verge of being discovered as an international travel destination, Georgia is not just one of Europe’s cheapest, but also among its most interesting destinations.

In its eccentric capital, crumbling façades of traditional wooden Georgian houses stand next to Soviet-era architecture and daring contemporary designs. I loved my stay in Tbilisi and was surprised by its wonderful soul and character. From Tbilisi, you can explore the stunning Caucasian Mountain range, take a dip in the Black Sea, or visit ancient hilltop monasteries (and a few of them inside caves) all over the country.

Oh yeah, Georgia is super cheap. In parts, it’s even cheaper than in Southeast Asia. 

With the introduction in 2020 of a 1-year visa for remote workers, Georgia could well become the next digital nomad hotspot.

Backpacker Budget: $20 a day
Mid-range Budget: $40 a day

 

 

 

5. Brazil

The world’s fifth-largest country is filled to the brim with amazing travel destinations. From the gob-smackingly huge waterfalls of Iguaçu, to seeing the bay of Rio de Janeiro from the top of Sugarloaf mountain, and on the colorful beach towns of the Bahia coast, Brazil is a whole world to explore — and that’s just highlighting a tiny corner of it! 

Brazil has suffered turbulent political times and has had a bad time with the pandemic, though its borders are open and it’s cheaper to travel there now than it’s been in years, thanks to a highly favorable exchange rate. When the situation allows, it’ll be the perfect time to take advantage of the lower travel costs in Brazil.

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $70 a day

 

 

 

6. Thailand

Thailand remains one of the cheapest holiday destinations in the world. While the southern beaches have quite a few upscale resorts with higher prices, they represent great value if you’re after some luxury on a budget. If you’re more of a budget traveler, then you should know the travel costs in Thailand get lower as you go inland.

Make your way to the northern Chiang Mai region and you’ll be in budget travel heaven. There 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 dorm bed (from $5) or a comfy hotel with swimming pool (from $30). It’s no wonder that Chiang Mai is still the world’s go-to place for nomads and expats looking for super low cost of living combined with high quality of life.

Backpacker Budget: $30 a day (* inland)
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day

 

 

 

7. Cape Verde

Can an entire country be labeled a ‘hidden gem’? If so, then Cape Verde is definitely one. You may not have heard of this small archipelago off the coast of Africa, but it’s such an incredible country to explore. Its location and climate make it an especially great winter escape for Europeans.

The island of Sal is known for its inexpensive package holiday resorts, though if it’s culture or nature that you’re after, then it’s truly all about the island of Santo Antao. I did some of my best hiking and trekking there in years. The landscapes are just unbelievable.

Cape Verde offers great value for money, while also being safe and developed. I spent about $45 a day as a budget traveler, staying in B&Bs and eating the local food. Don’t miss my 7 reasons why you should travel to Cape Verde.

Backpacker Budget: $45 a day
Mid-range Budget: $70 a day

 

 

 

8. Vietnam

Vietnam is among the cheapest Asian countries — and highly underrated, in my opinion.

The famed Ha Long Bay is certainly impressive, but Vietnam is really at its best when you go just a little off the beaten track. Away from the crowded tourist sites, Vietnam has some of the most fun places in Southeast Asia. The northern province of Ha Giang is still as pure as it gets and the limestone landscapes at Tam Coc are not to miss. The town of Phong Nha is a fantastic adventure tourism hotspot, home to the world’s largest cave.

The costs in Vietnam? Simply put: very low. Eat local and you’ll struggle to spend more than a few dollars per meal, while locally brewed beers cost as little as $0.20 a glass. Hotel rooms offer incredible value; as little as $10 will get you a clean and comfortable place to stay.

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $45 a day

 

 

 

9. The Baltic states

Often overlooked on the European travel trail, you’ll find the three small Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania tucked between the Nordic countries and Russia. 

Why go? Think ‘Scandinavia on a budget’.

Squint your eyes and the Baltics may well remind you of Finland with its many woodlands, peat bogs, lakes, and log cabins painted in deep red. The people are similarly fond of cross-country skiing, saunas, and vodka. One key difference is that the costs are just a third of what you might find in the Nordics.

I enjoyed traveling in Estonia last year, which has a ton of history and charm all the while also being a tech startup powerhouse. While I was sampling some local craft beers in Tallinn, some friendly Esti’s were regaling me with tales of cryptocurrencies and IPOs.

While the half-square-kilometer old center of Tallinn can be a bit pricey, elsewhere it’s not. Dinner might cost under 7 Euro or a hotel room for 30 to 40 Euro a night.

Backpacker Budget: $35 a day
Mid-range Budget: $70 a day

 

 

 

10. Laos

4000 Islands, Mekong River

You can think of Laos as Thailand but without the mass tourism. It’s sparsely populated, mountainous, and has nearly 70% forest coverage, and this makes it a paradise for outdoor activities like trekking, climbing, kayaking, zip-lining, and hot air ballooning — all at extreme budget prices. 

Thanks to improved infrastructure Laos has become more accessible, without losing its low-key rural vibe. If you want to escape the crowds and crave some authenticity, skip the Thai beaches and go to Laos. You won’t regret it.

Don’t miss: sleeping in tree huts and zip-lining through the jungle canopy at the infamous Gibbon Experience, or Laos’ most epic waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau.

Backpacker Budget: $20 a day
Mid-range Budget: $40 a day

 

 

 

11. Nepal

Oh, Nepal… you had me at “namaste.” The kind-hearted nature of the Nepalese and the wonderful bustle of Kathmandu instantly enchanted me when I visited a few years ago. Nepal also happens to be one of the world’s cheapest places for mountain trekking, whether guided or independent.

There are routes throughout the Himalayas that are very well-supported and have many tea houses where you can eat and sleep. When doing the epic 7-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp I spent just under $20 a day.

Backpacker Budget: $20 a day
Mid-range Budget: $40 a day

 

12. Indonesia

The Komodo islands, one of the top destinations in Indonesia
Komodo islands

Most people associate Indonesia purely with Bali, a beautiful (but arguably somewhat overrated) resort island. But the Indonesian archipelago is wider than the United States and offers a whole world to discover. Consider Bali’s neighboring islands of Lombok and Java, the spectacular Komodo islands and rural Flores, or go further into Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara, or Sulawesi.

From white sand beaches to jungles and savannahs, and from blue flame spewing volcanoes to remote rainforests where you can meet orangutans in the wild… Indonesia is a budget traveler’s dream.

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day (* outside Bali)
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day

 

13. Armenia

Geghard monestary in Armenia
Geghard monestary

Something incredible happened in Armenia in 2018: the people peacefully protested its dictator, who eventually issued a polite mea culpa and promptly resigned. There’s now a real sense of positivity in Armenia and among its global diaspora, which makes now a great time to visit, despite a brief conflict last year. 

It’s still a poor country; its landscapes dotted with Soviet-era relics and ladas still drive the streets. It might not yet have the more mainstream appeal of neighbouring Georgia, but you’ll love Armenia if you’re into places that are off the usual trail. I had the great fortune of visiting during Vardavar, when the entire city of Yerevan fights each other with water pistols, balloons, and buckets. Even the police and fire brigade join in!

Learn more: don’t miss my top reasons for visiting Armenia.

Backpacker Budget: $20 a day
Mid-range Budget: $40 a day

 

 

 

14. Bolivia

Salt flats of Uyuni

If you’re looking for 5-star luxury then maybe you shouldn’t go to Bolivia, as life there is simple and travel can be slow and a bit uncomfortable. But… it’s also South America’s ultimate cheapie destination, where you could easily get by on about $20 a day. Not only that, Bolivia has some of the continents’ most amazing sights, such as the world’s highest lake Titicaca and the jaw-dropping and otherworldly salt flats of Salar de Uyuni. 

If you’re an adventurous traveler and not so easily fazed by its remoteness, then you might just want to put Bolivia at the top of your travel list. Not many airlines fly directly to Bolivia, but the country combines pretty well with Peru, where Lima has many international flight connections.

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $45 a day

 

15. Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the cheapest country in Southeast Asia
Temples of Angkor Wat

You’ve probably heard of Angkor Wat— a vast temple complex that was once the heart of the ancient Khmer empire. This sprawling site is highly worth a visit, especially if you take the time to go beyond just the central temples. But there’s more to Cambodia. Its islands remain pleasantly undeveloped (for now) and towns like Kratie along the Mekong River will give you a true taste of Asia. 

Don’t miss: swinging in a hammock on the quiet island of Koh Rong Sanloem, or river boating and hiking in the Cardamom Mountains

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day (* outside of Siem Reap)
Mid-range Budget: $45 a day

 

16. Philippines

Batad rice terraces

If you ask me, The Philippines has some of the nicest beaches in Southeast Asia. With over 7000 islands, the Philippines is the place to go if you want to chill on a picture-perfect beach! But besides having plenty of unspoiled coastline, it’s also a culturally fascinating place, with its mix of Asian and Spanish/US colonial influences, incredible ancient rice terraces in the north, and amazing nature.

The island of Palawan has become well-known in recent years, though I also highly recommend the less-hyped and more diverse central Visayas (like Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor islands) or Batanes province. You won’t be disappointed.

Backpacker Budget: $35 a day
Mid-range Budget: $60 a day

 

17. Ukraine

I haven’t yet been to Ukraine, but rave reviews from my traveler friends compelled me to add it. I think it deserves a spot on this list, as it’s possibly the cheapest country to travel in Europe.

Yes, there is still a simmering conflict with Russia in the easternmost region. But if you avoid this remote area you’ll find that everything in Ukraine is perfectly fine. The coastal city of Odessa on the Black Sea is a traveler’s favorite, while the beautiful city of Lviv (close to the Polish border) is hotly tipped as offering some of the best value in Europe. Some digital nomads told me about renting a beautiful modern apartment in Lviv (pictured) for 200 Euros. Not per night, but per month.

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $40 a day

 

 

 

18. Cuba

Havana

“See it before it changes,” is the familiar refrain when it comes to Cuba. Following US policy reversals that day seems a little more distant again now. Cuba was once known as an expensive place when it was focused mostly on promoting its state-run luxury hotels to high-spending tourists. These days it can be quite a decent bargain, especially when using its huge network of family-run Casas Particulares offering affordable and charming local accommodation.

With none of the typical signs of globalization, vintage cars still driving through the streets, not to mention all the rum, sun, and salsa — spending some time in Cuba is guaranteed to be a unique experience.

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $65 a day

 

19. Guatemala

Costa Rica is clearly the star tourist destination in Central America, known for its abundant wildlife and highly developed eco-tourism. But if you ask me, Guatemala deserves consideration as well. It may not have nearly as developed a tourism industry, though its landscapes have a wow-factor that few countries can match.

Hidden in its northern jungles are the Mayan temples of Tikal, a stunning sight especially at sunrise. Equally breathtaking is the highland lake of Atitlan in the south, ringed by volcanoes and quaint villages where the pace of life is delightfully slow. And don’t miss Semuc Champey, a great place to explore river caves by candlelight and swim through cascading pools in the jungle.

And the best part? Many a traveler ends up spending under $25 a day in Guatemala. 

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day

 

20. Turkey

Istanbul has many cheap flights from around Europe and is great value for travellers
Istanbul

Turkey is a fascinating travel destination. Better yet, you get about twice as much lira for your Dollar or Euro now than just two years ago. I revisited Turkey last year on a stopover in Istanbul and was reminded of what a great cultural destination it is. Located between East and West and once home to the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, you’ll find Roman ruins, cave cities, buzzing bazaars, and of course plenty of Mediterranean beaches.

Backpacker Budget: $30 a day
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day
 

 

21. Morocco

Morocco is just a stone’s throw from Europe and quite cheap to travel. That is, if you manage to steer clear of the pushy salesmen trying to sell you overpriced rugs and trinkets! If you know how to travel on a budget, you’ll find it quite easy in Morocco.

If you’re a backpacker, you’ll be happy to know Morocco has a growing network of backpacker hostels. If you have a bit more budget, consider staying in some of the iconic riads—traditional hotels with garden courtyards offering a pleasant relief from the buzzing city streets.

They say the Sahara has more grains of sand than there are stars in the universe, which is a wonderful idea to contemplate while you’re camping under a clear Milky Way sky in the middle of the Moroccan desert.

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $60 a day

 


 

P.S. I have an amazing inspirational book that’s all about how you can travel more and travel cheaply. Check it out if you want to travel more but not sure where to start!

P.P.S. Keep in mind the budgets listed here are only suggestions. It always depends on how you travel. The suggested budgets are per person per day and don’t include one-off expenses like flights or travel insurance.

Backpacker Budget: this assumes you’ll stay in hostel dorms or share rooms in cheap guesthouses. You’ll eat mostly local food in cafes/eateries and use local transportation, and you avoid expensive private tours.

Mid-range budget: this assumes you’ll stay in nicer B&Bs, local guesthouses or budget hotels, regularly take day tours and other organized activities, and have sit-down meals in a nice restaurant at least once a day.


Some links may be affiliate links, meaning I may earn commission from products or services I recommend. For more, see site policies.