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 most magnificent sights and experiences.
Grab your bucket list and read on…
Laos is often terribly overlooked, wedged as it is between the ever-popular Thailand and Vietnam. But as a recent re-visit reminded me, it’s a perfect choice if you’re a budget traveler looking for a more authentic vibe. Improved infrastructure has made Laos more accessible, making it my new top pick for this list.
This landlocked country may not have any beaches or islands (save for its riverine archipelago of Si Phan Don), but that has also kept mass tourism at bay. Sparsely populated, mountainous, and with nearly 70% forest coverage, it’s a paradise for outdoor activities like trekking, climbing, kayaking, ziplining, and hot air ballooning — all at budget prices.
You can typically get a basic but comfortable bungalow for under $10. If you’re seeking a bit more luxury (but at relative bargains) you will find a wealth of charming boutique hotels in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang.more about laos »
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 small 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, Zihuatanejo, 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 »
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 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 trekking; 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 »
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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 travelers just 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…
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 »
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 argain prices. The 60 euro cent coffee is not a myth…more about portugal »
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 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 »
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 have a bit more budget, consider staying in some of the iconic riads—traditional hotels with garden courtyards offering 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.more about morocco »
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 welcoming 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 traveler 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 »
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.
Colombia gives a perfect taste of the South American continent, as you have both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the Amazon rainforest, and the start of the Andes—all within relatively easy reach. I 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 »
11. The Balkans
I’m shamelessly lumping together many countries here, but the Balkan region as a whole needs mentioning. 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 traveler.
Those on a tight budget might not want to stay for too long on the increasingly jet-settey 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 »
Many come to Cambodia just to see one thing: the vast 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 »
“See it before it changes,” is the familiar refrain with Cuba. 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 operate 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 »
Costa Rica and Nicaragua have a better reputation for security, but I can’t help but recommend Guatemala as a pure adventure travel paradise. It has a wow-factor that 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 traveler ends up spending under $25 a day in Guatemala.more about guatamala »
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 commercialized 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 »
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 »
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 fine. The coastal city of Odessa on the Black Sea is a traveler’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 about renting a modern apartment in Lviv for 200 Euros. No, not per night, but per month…
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!