Following a cautious recovery in 2021, it’s likely we’ll have more travel opportunities in 2022, as vaccination rates increase around the world and more borders reopen. (Then again, a new variant emerged just days before publishing this, so uncertainty remains. Fingers crossed.)

If you’re looking for some affordable destinations to put on your travel list, I’ve got some great suggestions for you. All of them are based on my own past 10 years of traveling (this is now the 9th year I’ve refreshed this list). All of these wonderful countries I’m about to mention are now accepting visitors again or plan to do so soon.

Laos

If you want to travel more while spending less, your most important decision is where to go. Realizing just how far your Dollars, Euros, or Pounds can go in cheaper countries can be eye-opening!

 

For the price of a single restaurant meal in, say, London or New York, you could be covering a whole day’s worth of traveling in cheap countries like Indonesia, Argentina, Vietnam, Mexico, or Turkey — to name just a few. In many cheap travel destinations, it’s very doable to spend around $30 to $50 on all your travel expenses per person per day.

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Of course, not every cheap country is also equally great to visit. I’ve chosen the countries here based on my own travel experiences not only because they’re good bargains, but also because they’re amazing destinations regardless of cost. They’re safe and offer a wealth of attractions and culture that will make traveling there especially rewarding.

 

Cheap countries to travel

Cheap countries in and near Europe:
Baltic States, Romania, GeorgiaAlbania, Bosnia, Turkey, Armenia

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

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

Cheap countries in Africa:
Morocco, Cape Verde

 


Travel Restrictions sections last updated December 2021. Check covid-19 regulations before travelling as they can change often. Keep in mind some countries require filling out a health form before flight departure.

 

1. Albania

Having recently visited Albania for the first time, I’m excited to tell you about this underrated country in Southeast Europe! Albania is still developing, though its improving infrastructure and fledgling tourism industry make it an ideal time to go — before it becomes the next Croatia!

 

Its unspoiled coastline, quirky capital, well-preserved Ottoman-era towns, and impressive Alps offer so many reasons to go. While you travel around Albania, you can also learn about the fascinating history of this once-isolated country, which was known during the Cold War as the ‘North Korea’ of Europe. Hundreds of thousands of abandoned bunkers across Albania still testify of this bizarre era.

Oh, and did I mention Albania is ridiculously cheap? You can easily find hostel dorms for $10 or budget hotel rooms for around $25. Food often costs around $2 per dish.

Get inspired with my travel guide to Albania to consider this unique destination for your next trip.

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated, or with negative test

 

 

2. Mexico

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

Mexico is typically best known for its beach resorts like Cancun, Cabo, or Tulum. They’re great, though 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 other places in Mexico.

 

Whether it’s for a beach holiday or to dive into the local culture, there is so much to discover in this huge country. One classic (and safe) 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 in Mexico.

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $65 a day
Entry Restrictions: None 

 

3. Bosnia-Herzegovina

Most people still associate Bosnia mainly with the war that took place there — checks calendar — an entire twenty-seven years ago. But this Balkan country has gotten back on its feet and has so much to show you if you give it a chance.

 

The Medieval town of Mostar is a real highlight, its iconic bridge once connecting trade routes going as far as Venice and Constantinople. I was also impressed by the capital Sarajevo, which remains undertouristed despite its genuine warmth, interesting architecture, and a wonderful historic quarter. I’ve gone ahead and called Sarajevo one of the most underrated capitals in Europe.

Unlike neighbouring Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina remains delightfully budget-friendly, making it all the easier to decide to visit it.

Backpacker Budget: $30 a day
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated, or with negative test

 

4. Colombia

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

Within Colombia you will find a little bit of everything representing South America, including both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the epic Amazon rainforest, and the start of the Andes mountain range. Add to this the buzzing cities of Medellín and Bogota, and the warmth of Colombians and their vibrant culture, and you’ve got one of the best budget-friendly travel destinations in the Americas.

 

Exchange rates between the Colombian peso and USD or EUR remain very favorable: I remember when I traveled in Colombia some years ago I got about 2,000 pesos for a dollar, while now it’s around 4,000.

Backpacker Budget: $30 a day
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to travelers (minor restrictions only)

 

 

5. Republic of Georgia

Georgia (the country) is a fascinating destination that’s right on the edge of Asia and Europe. It’s super cheap, sometimes even rivalling the low costs of countries in South or Southeast Asia.

 

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 even built inside caves).

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
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated only; test results also needed if arriving by land or sea (but not air)

 

 

6. 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
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated with negative PCR test, 10 days quarantine if unvaccinated

 

 

7. Thailand

Thailand may be saying it wants to focus on high-spending tourists in its post-pandemic tourism recovery, yet it remains inescapably known as one of the best budget destinations in Asia.

The southern islands and beaches are more developed and can be pricey, though you can equally find luxury accommodation for great value there. If you’re more of a budget traveler, know that the travel costs in Thailand get much lower as you go inland.

 

Make your way to the northern Chiang Mai region and you’ll even be in budget travel heaven. 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 or expats looking for super low cost of living with high quality of life.

Backpacker Budget: $30 a day (* inland)
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated travelers from 63 countries; two negative PCR tests also needed

 

 

8. Cape Verde

Can an entire country be labelled a ‘hidden gem’? If so, then Cape Verde is definitely one. This small archipelago off the coast of Africa is not on everyone’s radar, but its location and warm climate make it such a wonderful winter escape.

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

 

Cape Verde offers good value for money, while also being safe and fairly well 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
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated travelers or with PCR test

 

 

9. Vietnam

Vietnam is among the cheapest Asian countries — not to mention among the most underrated! Visiting Vietnam more than once has shown me it is a country of contrasts, home to big tourist hotspots but equally some of the most authentic places around.

The typical Vietnam itineraries don’t quite tell the full story. Take the northern province of Ha Giang for instance, which is as pure and authentic as it gets. The limestone landscapes at Tam Coc are also not to miss. The town of Phong Nha meanwhile is a fantastic adventure tourism hotspot, home to the world’s largest caves.

 

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
Travel Restrictions: Limited access to vaccinated travelers via specific organized tours. Broader reopening planned in phases from January until June 2022.

 

 

10. Romania

Romania is, oddly, a country that some people seem to have preconceptions about. Only when they visit does the penny drop that this country is just incredible — and no, Romania has nothing to do with ‘gipsies’, who are entirely unrelated to Romanians.

Consider the spectacular Transylvania region with its cute medieval towns, ancient fortified churches, and mighty Carpathian mountain range. Just like the Dracula it inspired, Transylvania has a whole lot for you to sink your teeth in. I went on a road trip for 10 days but would have happily made it 20!

 

You can easily get by on a backpacker budget of about $30 – $40 a day in Romania. If you’re on more of a holiday, you can find cute B&Bs starting at $30/night. Don’t miss out on this European travel secret.

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $60 a day
Travel Restrictions: Dependent on list of green/yellow/red countries

 

 

11. 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 is much more to Cambodia, from the gentle town of Kratie along the Mekong River, to the unspoiled jungles of the Cardamom Mountains and the laidback island of Koh Rong Sanloem.

Cambodia currently has the highest vaccination rate in Southeast Asia and has reopened its borders to international tourists once again with the fewest restrictions in the region.

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $45 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to all vaccinated travelers with negative test

 

12. The Baltic states

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

Why go? Just 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, 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 Tallinn’s small tourist center can be a bit pricier, the country as a whole is very inexpensive. 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
Travel Restrictions: Mostly open, but testing or quarantine may be required depending on your country

 

 

13. Laos

4000 Islands, Mekong River

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

 

Thanks to improved infrastructure Laos has become more accessible in recent years while retaining its low-key rural vibe. That makes now the perfect time to go. 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: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $45 a day
Travel Restrictions: Closed but with plans for reopening

 

 

14. 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.

 

While Brazil has had a fairly bad time with the pandemic, the situation has improved and its borders opened once again. A favorable exchange rate with currencies like the Dollar or Euro continues to make Brazil a cheaper destination than it has been in years past. 

Backpacker Budget: $40 a day
Mid-range Budget: $70 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open. Negative PCR test result needed
 

15. Indonesia

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

Indonesia’s best known destination is of course the resort island of Bali. But in this massive archipelago — that is wider than the United States — there is so much more 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. While many consider Bali cheap, Indonesia’s other islands are even more so.

 

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: $30 a day (* outside Bali)
Mid-range Budget: $50 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated travelers with negative PCR test and 3-day quarantine. Advance visa needed.

 

16. Armenia

Geghard monestary in Armenia
Geghard monetary

Something incredible happened in Armenia in 2018: the people peacefully protested its dictator, who eventually issued a polite mea culpa and promptly resigned. Ever since there’s been a sense of positivity in Armenia and increased interest in tourism there.

 

It’s still a poor country; its landscapes dotted with Soviet-era relics and ladas still drive the streets. Neighbouring Georgia might have more mainstream appeal for now, 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, an annual event in which 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: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $40 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated, or with negative test

 

 

17. Bolivia

Salt flats of Uyuni

Anyone looking for 5-star luxury should maybe give Bolivia a pass. Life is simple in these parts and travel can be slow and at times a bit uncomfortable. But… it’s also South America’s ultimate budget destination, where you could easily get by on about $20 a day.

 

Not only that, Bolivia has some of the continent’s most amazing sights, such as the world’s highest lake Titicaca and the jaw-dropping and otherworldly salt flats of Salar de Uyuni. With its remote feel and sense of adventure, it’s one of my favorite backpacker destinations in South America.

Not many airlines fly directly to Bolivia, but the country combines well with neighboring Peru, where the capital Lima is well connected internationally.

Backpacker Budget: $25 a day
Mid-range Budget: $45 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated with PCR test, or 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated

 

 

18. Philippines

Batad rice terraces

The best beaches in Southeast Asia? If you ask me, with over 7,000 tropical islands, Philippines is the place to go. Besiding having oodles 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 incredible nature.

 

Consider the island of Palawan, the diverse central Visayas islands or Batanes province, among many other destinations.

Backpacker Budget: $35 a day
Mid-range Budget: $60 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated international tourists from ‘green list’ of countries

 

19. Cuba

Havana

“See it before it changes,” is the familiar refrain when it comes to Cuba. Those who’ve been will often trade stories on how it already has, and yet Cuba remains quite the time capsule.

Before I visited I had always heard Cuba of as an expensive country, but this seems to be based on its state-run luxury hotels focused on high-spending tourists. Travel in Cuba can actually be quite a nice 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
Travel Restrictions: Open for vaccinated, or with PCR test if unvaccinated

 

20. Guatemala

In Central America, Costa Rica tends to get the most attention as a tourist destination thanks to its bundant wildlife and highly developed eco-tourism. But if you ask me, Guatemala deserves strong consideration as well. It may not be quite as developed, 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
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated, or with PCR test if unvaccinated

 

21. Turkey

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

Turkey is a fascinating travel destination. While its economy has suffered in recent years, you can get several times as much lira for your Dollar or Euro now than just a few years ago. I revisited Turkey before the pandemic 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: $35 a day
Mid-range Budget: $55 a day
Travel Restrictions: Open to vaccinated or with negative test
 

 

22. 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 only go on organized tours, you may find Morocco to be quite averagely priced, but expenses drop considerably when traveling independently.

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
Travel Restrictions: open to vaccinated without test, access only by air

 


 

P.S. I wrote an inspirational book that’s all about how you can travel more and travel cheaply. If you want to the world but not sure where to start or how to do it on a budget, my book will give you the answers!

P.P.S. Keep in mind the budgets listed here are only suggestions and 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.


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