18 Amazingly Cheap Places You Should Travel to in 2018

October 30, 2017

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 world’s greatest sights and experiences.

Grab your bucket list and read on…


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Laos is my top pick for budget travel destinations in 2018

Luang Prabang, northern Laos

1. Laos

I’m starting this list with Laos for entirely subjective reasons, as I’m about to travel there for a second time—and getting excited all over again.

Laos has an established tourist trail leading to the UNESCO world heritage city of Luang Prabang as well as the adventure travel hub of Vang Vieng. Nevertheless, Laos is a decidedly low-key place. Stay in small towns surrounded by rice fields and pokey karst mountains or simply unwind on an island in a Mekong riverine archipelago where you can spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins.

A room in a basic guesthouse costs just about ten dollars a night and the food is cheap and super yummy. To get to Laos you usually go to neighboring Thailand first, which has many budget flight connections from around the world.

more about laos »

 


 

Mexico is one of the cheapest places to travel in 2017 thanks to currency exchange fluctuations

The ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza

2. Mexico

The exchange rate between the Mexican peso and currencies like USD and EUR remains much more favorable now than it was just a few years ago, making it even easier to travel in Mexico on a budget.

Attractions include some gorgeous beaches, epic desert canyons, and Mayan ruins hidden in the jungle—not to mention the cultural and culinary treats of cities like Oaxaca, Merida, or Mexico City. A basic room costs as little as $20 a night, while seemingly every street corner has a little cart selling something cheap and delicious to eat.

Backpackers will love Mexico, but it’s also perfect for a bargain holiday. For best value, avoid resorts in Cabo or Cancun in favor of lower-key beach towns such as Tulum, Puerto Escondido, Zihuatenejo, or Mazatlan.

By the way, don’t brush Mexico aside based on safety concerns (especially based on US news). A few trouble spots aside, you’ll no doubt find the situation very different from what you imagine.

more about mexico »

 


 

Prayer flags and mountain peaks along the Annapurna trail

3. Nepal

Oh, Nepal. You had me at “namaste”.

The hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and the kind nature of the Nepalese had me instantly enchanted when I visited this year. It got even better when I went trekking through the mountains: seeing the sun come up over the Himalayas while surrounded on all sides by some of the tallest peaks in the world is an experience I won’t ever forget.

Tour companies provide guided treks which can be pricey, but it’s possible to trek independently for under $30 a day (if you sleep and eat in tea houses along the way).

But Nepal isn’t just about its accessible and affordable trekkking; other activities include jungle safaris, kayaking around Lake Phewa, and visiting the many temples of Kathmandu. With basic private rooms starting at $10, you won’t need to spend much.

more about nepal »

 


 

An excavated cave monastery in southern Georgia (photo credit)

4. Georgia

No, not the US state! I’m talking about the country in the Caucasus.

Georgia is high on my list to visit in 2018 as the buzz around this country from fellow travellers simply refuses to stop. While I have yet to visit, I wanted to include Georgia here as blog posts like these have persuaded me it’s now the place to go.

Situated at the edge of Europe along the Caucasian Mountain range, it’s clear that Georgia has so much to offer in both cultural and natural attractions. Accommodation is dirt cheap by international standards, with $5 dorms or $20 rooms not uncommon even in the capital of Tbilisi.

Don’t be surprised if I’ll be reporting from Georgia sometime this year…

 


 

The temples of Borobodur on Java

5. Indonesia

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 airport access. But consider exploring other regions as well: adjacent Lombok and Java are equally fantastic in their own ways. In 2015, I had a phenomenal time exploring the Komodo islands and Flores.

more about indonesia »

 


 

Typical southern European charm in Portugal

6. Portugal

Portugal is having its moment in the spotlight right now, as I’ve witnessed first-hand while living in Lisbon over the past year. Its tourism boom is fueling an incredible redevelopment (along with some inevitable issues), though it seems that at least for now Lisbon is maintaining its sunny charms.

Of course, there is so much to see beyond just the capital. Consider the up-and-coming second city of Porto, the karst cliff beaches of the Algarve, the old university town of Coimbra, or the adventurous Atlantic archipelago of the Azores.

Avoid the most touristy places and you can enjoy some very low travel costs. The 60 eurocent coffee is not a myth…

more about portugal »

 


 

The colonial old town of Granada

7. Nicaragua

Compared to neighboring Costa Rica, the tourism industry in Nicaragua is still in its primordial stages. While the former is busy trying to attract high-spending ecotourists from the US, Nicaragua isn’t yet quite on everyone’s radar—and that’s a great thing as it has kept prices low.

Nicaragua offers many similar experiences to Costa Rica at easily just a third of the cost. I loved the colonial town of Granada, the surfer hangouts along the coast, and the many nature- and adventure activities around the country (including climbing an active volcano). It’s a fantastic and arguably much underrated Central American destination.

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.

more about nicaragua »

 

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Aït Ben Haddou, a fortified town in Morocco along a former caravan route

8. Morocco

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 overpriced rugs!

If you’re a backpacker you’ll be happy to know Morocco has a small but growing network of backpacker hostels. If you are simply traveling on a budget, then consider staying in some of the iconic riads—traditional hotels with garden courtyards offering wonderful 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.

more about morocco »

 


The salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia. This little island made of petrified corals is home to cacti over 500 years old.

9. Bolivia

Traveling in Bolivia can be slow and uncomfortable, but it is also South America’s cheapest country by far—and one of its most exciting ones. Besides its wonderful people and traditional indigenous cultures it also has some of the continents’ most amazing sights, including the world’s highest lake Titicaca and the jaw-dropping and otherworldly salt flats of Salar de Uyuni.

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.

more about bolivia »

 


 

Cartagena, Colombia

10. Colombia

Exchange rates between the Colombian peso and USD or EUR remain highly favorable, making it 30% cheaper to travel there now than when I visited just a few 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 Colombian culture and its incredibly welcoming people. Forget about Narcos; today’s Colombia is a much more positive place.

Oh, and don’t miss seeing the world’s tallest palm trees!

more about colombia »

 


 

The quaint Croatian town of Šibenik is cheaper (and less crowded) than Split or Zadar

11. The Balkans

I’m shamelessly lumping together many countries here, but the Balkan region as a whole needs to be mentioned. Tourists in Europe usually head straight for the usual suspects (France, Italy, and so on), but the still-overlooked Balkans region has much to offer in particular to the budget-conscious traveller.

Those on a tight budget might not want to stay for too long on the increasingly jetsettey Croatian coast, as places like Dubrovnik can get very expensive especially in the July/August high season. For true bargain adventures, be sure to head into Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro or Albania.

more about croatia »

 


 

Ruined Khmer temples near Angkor Wat

12. Cambodia

Many come to Cambodia just to see one thing: the epic temple complex around Angkor Wat. This sprawling site was once the heart of the ancient Khmer empire and while it’s incredibly impressive, it’s a shame that many tourists skip over everything else. (Angkor Wat is often sold as an add-on to organized tours to Vietnam or Thailand.)

Take Cambodia’s beautiful beaches and islands, which have yet to become truly commercialized. And while scarcely developed, inland you’ll find many charming rural villages among the rice fields that invite you to slow down and relax. Just 3 hours from Angkor Wat the charming city of Battambang has well-preserved French Colonial architecture and a thriving art scene. All this while being one of the world’s cheapest countries to travel…

(I’m revisiting Cambodia in December 2017 – fresh impressions coming!)

more about cambodia »

 


 

Classic cars are still a common sight in Havana

13. Cuba

“See it before it changes”, is the common refrain. There is a pervading sense that one day Cuba may be overrun by mass tourism from the US, though that day seems a little more distant again now.

Cuba is a perfect destination for those who like to get a local experience. Before Airbnb was even a thing, Cuba built up a huge network of family-run Casas Particulares offering affordable and charming local accommodation. (Incidentally, Airbnb is now one of the few booking sites that operates in Cuba.)

With barely any internet access and 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.

more about cuba »

 


 

Guatemala’s stunning Lake Atitlan, surrounded by volcanoes

14. Guatemala

Costa Rica and Nicaragua have a better reputation for security, but I can’t help but recommend Guatemala as a true adventure travel paradise. It has a wow-factor that simply no other country in Central America can match.

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

more about guatamala »

 


 

A sea of signage in Bangkok’s Chinatown

15. Thailand

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 full of luxury resorts, for instance. But there are still plenty of budget-friendly places along the coast, and the further away you get from the most commercialised beaches, the better it gets.

Head all the way to northern Thailand 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 dorm bed (from $5) or a comfy hotel with swimming pool (from $30).

more about thailand »


 

Coffee Bay, along South Africa’s stunning Wild Coast

16. South Africa

It’s not necessarily the cheapest in absolute terms, but South Africa will give you superb value-for-money for a developed country. Compared to just five years ago, you’ll now get almost double the South African rand against many Western currencies.

Adventure activities such as safaris require proper budgeting, but your bay-to-day expenses such as lodging and food will be surprisingly low. Be sure to venture beyond Cape Town and Garden Route on to the stunning Wild Coast, where you can immerse yourself in traditional Xhosa culture.

Airlines based in Doha, Abu Dhabi or Dubai often have cheap flights connecting from Europe or North America to South Africa.

more about south africa »


 

Nowadays you can tour Pripyat, the abandoned site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (photo credit)

17. Ukraine

Like Georgia, I’ve put Ukraine on this list because of the positive buzz it’s getting in the travel community. This final frontier may not be for everyone, but it’s quite possibly the cheapest destination in Europe.

Yes, there is still a simmering conflict involving Russian-backed separatists in the easternmost region. But if you avoid this remote area you’ll find that everything in Ukraine is perfectly normal. The coastal city of Odessa on the Black Sea is a traveller’s favorite, while the city of Lviv (close to the Polish border) is hotly tipped as offering some of the best value in Europe.

Some digital nomads recently told me of renting a modern Airbnb in Lviv for 200 Euros. No, not per night, but per month


 

Colorful boats at the fishing village of Mui Ne

18. Vietnam

Vietnam admittedly has a way of feeling inauthentic at times–that is, if you only go for the cookie-cutter tours that herd tourists off to the karst islands of Ha Long Bay or the floating markets in the Mekong Delta. But… forge your own path and you may find it one of the most fascinating places in Asia.

From the beautiful chaos of Hanoi’s Old Quarter to the serene Hoi An riverfront adorned with multi-colored lanterns, it’s a country full of contrasts. Eat local and you’ll struggle to spend more than a few dollars per meal, with locally brewed beers costing as little as $0.20 a glass.

more about vietnam »

 

What countries are top of your list? Leave your comments below!

 

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32 comments

  1. Eva Maris Reply November 13, 2017 at 11:23 am

    I think it’s a brilliant idea for traveling to 2018 and hats off to your great work.

  2. TourGuideInSriLanka Reply November 10, 2017 at 5:30 am

    Great budget travel list mate.Thailand is my all time favorite as a budget destination. But I think most south Asian countries should be in this list. Most of them are home to great cultures,UNESCO heritages and wild life.By the way Great article mate thanks for sharing.

  3. Rose Reply November 5, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Marek! Great list! Thanks so much for mentioning me. I hope you get to visit Georgia soon, it’s definitely one of the best places I’ve been to. Let me know if you need some more information! 🙂

    Best,
    Rose

    • Marek Reply November 5, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks Rose for writing those nice posts about Georgia – I really need to go! 🙂

  4. Anny Reply November 1, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Georgia is my favorite and without doubt it would be really awesome If I were there !

  5. Dylan Reply November 1, 2017 at 1:37 am

    Thanks for the list Marek. A lot of these places are on my travel list. A few of them I will finally get to see after years of dreaming, in a few months time when I will be backpacking through central and South America for 6 months or so. I am mostly looking forward to seeing Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and Nicaragua. I can’t wait to go adventuring!

  6. Vijay Patel Reply October 31, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    Amazing List when you have a low budget yet you wanna travel to foreign lands, very helpful thanks for sharing.

  7. Angela Nelson Reply October 30, 2017 at 10:05 am

    I personally would love to visit Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia in 2018!

    • Marek Reply October 30, 2017 at 5:07 pm

      Those are three of my personal top favorites – hope you get the chance to see them all 🙂

  8. Dave Reply October 19, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Morocco & and Nicaragua are definitely on our list. Thanks for such an awesome bucket list 🙂

  9. shreya jain Reply September 15, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Amazing places. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article with us.

  10. Veidehi Reply September 5, 2017 at 7:06 am

    That’s pretty cool, I am planning a trip in this October with my family, it is a great guide for me to plan accordingly. I am thinking about Nepal this time as it is a good place to enjoy the nature and to visit temples, I got this idea after checking your article, thanks for that 🙂

  11. Allyson Reply July 20, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the list. I think you’ve inspired a trip to Indonesia!

  12. Sean Bracken Reply July 12, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for all the helpful advice, Marek. I’ve spent the last six months travelling around Europe. There were so many places I loved, including Athens, Palermo and Barcelona, to name a few, but Sofia in Bulgaria has stolen my heart. So much so that I’m returning for a full month in September. Prices are between a quarter and half of the prices found in most of Europe and the city is beautiful, laidback and friendly.

    After that I’m off to SE Asia for three months. By the way, I’m 64 years young and travel alone.

    Once again thanks for providing so much useful information.

    • Marek Reply July 13, 2017 at 11:29 am

      I love to hear that Sean, and it’s of course fantastic you’re doing these trips at your young age 😉 I want to be doing the same at 64! I must admit I’ve not yet been to Bulgaria but I’m very intrigued, and may end up there on an upcoming trip to the Balkans.

      Enjoy SE Asia and best of luck on your travels!

  13. Helena Reply June 17, 2017 at 8:25 am

    It’s not all about Dubrovnik. There are lot of places to visit in Croatia.

    • Marek Reply June 17, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Agreed!

  14. Archer Reply May 17, 2017 at 8:25 am

    I only visit 2 different countries in my life. Need to up my travel game. Thanks for sharing this post.

  15. Naomi Reply April 20, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    I can’t believe I’ve only been to 2 countries in your list! South Africa and Morocco. But I’m definitely placing the others in my bucket list. Thank you for the list.

  16. Marie Reply April 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Agree with your list of most affordable destinations in 2017. Thailand, Vietnam, and Morocco are going to be in any list of cheap travel destinations……I have been to these places and I can’t forget the wonderful experiences I had…..some countries with unique cultures, amazing nature and exceptional food (very cheap yet delicious)

  17. Campbell Reply March 21, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Marek, nice list. Any idea about your budget for South Africa? (would be interesting, I am a Saffa). My lowest budget travel destination is Venezuela at $5 per day all inclusive, definitely one to check out. India was also a great one! Welcome to look at what we spent in our favorite budget travel countries http://stingynomads.com/cheap-countries-to-travel/
    Safe Travels

  18. Agness of a TukTuk Reply February 12, 2017 at 6:12 am

    This gives me great options, Marek! Thanks! By the way, I also nominate the Philippines since we already have Indonesia and Vietnam!

  19. Jacob smith Reply January 26, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Is budapest still cheap in 2017? Does anyone know how much it would cost to stay for a month, relatively? 🙂

    • Sleebs Reply February 14, 2017 at 7:34 am

      Hey Jacob! Budapest is SUPER cheap! & also my favourite country. Holy crap I had fun there. Even if it wasn’t cheap, spend all your money! It’s worth it.

  20. Traveoport Reply January 18, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Perfect list, would love to follow every inch of it. I´m a wanderer myself and I could put quite a few check marks to some from these list and still willing t see more and more. So happy travelling to all of us!

  21. Sukhdham Yatri Bhavan Reply January 17, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for sharing the awesome places to visit in 2017. Mexico, Nepal and Portugal are the best places to visit.

  22. Laurel Santos Reply January 11, 2017 at 9:36 am

    This is an awesome list. Can’t wait to plan for my next travel adventure. I will surely consider taking one from this list. Thanks for this article. Hope you’d continue to inspire people to discover the beauty of the world.

  23. Kate Reply January 6, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Thailand – the tonsai in the image doesn’t exist anymore and hasn’t for nearly two years.

    Sadly, It got bought by developers who were replicating Railay.

    • Marek Reply January 6, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Wow, that went fast! I was there just two years ago. Thanks for mentioning this, I’ll have to update it.

  24. Kate Storm Reply January 2, 2017 at 5:07 am

    Love this list, Marek! Almost all of them are on either my “recently traveled” list of my “want to get there soon” list–except for Mexico, because I’m there now! Nothing like good value when you’re on the road.

  25. Q Reply January 1, 2017 at 8:34 am

    India, Pakistan, Central Asian countries, Caucasian countries, Ukraine and maybe Iran are inexpensive too
    but perhaps they’re more challenging to travel independently, except Ukraine

    • Marek Reply January 2, 2017 at 11:43 am

      Central Asia is definitely one of my blind spots! You’ve mentioned several places I would love to travel in the future 🙂

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