If you are budgeting out your next trip and want to discover the cheapest countries to visit in the world then this post is for you.
We are firm believers in affordable and sustainable travel. Too many people look at international travel as an unaffordable, budget-breaking expense. Or worse, that low-cost travel can only happen when visiting obscure and uninteresting destinations. Over the past 10 years of travel, I have found that to simply not be true.
The costs referenced in this list are only estimates and could vary greatly based on the travel season and booking window. For sim cards, we have looked at standard prices for 7-day SIM cards and divided the cost to get a daily average. If you are in the country longer you will often be able to find an even better deal than what we have listed. Finally, for food and transport, we are making estimations based on the cost of local options.
Splurging on some high-end dining is certainly worth it on certain occasions. However, traveling on a budget typically requires a certain amount of dedication to living like a local which we have aimed to reflect in our budget estimations.
We haven’t included any miscellaneous expenses as those are highly discretionary and will largely depend on your spending habits. We aren’t big drinkers so that helps keep the budget down. However, we do spend a bit on postcards from each city we visit. Some are sent back to friends and family, and some we have kept as we eventually plan on making a scrapbook with memories from our travels.
Flights and Hotels will generally be cheaper when booked in advance as prices tend to peak closer to the travel date. There are some exceptions that we cover in our guide to saving money when you travel. If you haven’t taken a look at this free information I’d recommend doing so before planning your next trip. A lot of the tips came from trial and error and we wish we had heard of these tips before taking off on our year-long honeymoon.
Why Look For The Cheapest Places To Visit
Travel tends to be expensive and, for most of us, money is limited. A major reason for our travel is to dig deeper into the culture of the countries we visit. This means meeting locals, going off the beaten path, and trying to understand what life is like for the average person. When traveling we try to stay 1-4 weeks in each city we visit. We have made a number of friends during our travels and believe our slow and steady approach to travel is largely responsible.
Another positive that comes with this slow and steady approach is that it makes our travel far more sustainable. Travel is incredibly wasteful and has a large impact on the local environment and economy. Look no further than Bali for an example of how tourism can negatively affect an area.
By blending in with locals as much as possible, food, accommodation, and transport choices, we are able to limit the impact of our travel while also paying into the local economy. I’d love to hear from other travelers about your motivations for budget travel. Please leave a comment and let me know if you share my ideas on the topic, or disagree completely – either way I’d love to hear from you!
Hopefully, this list of budget-friendly travel destinations will be useful for those planning to travel internationally in 2020. It’s all about using your money wisely and traveling longer!
Note that these recommendations are sorted according to the continent and not on affordability. The order of these cheap travel destinations is as follows:
- The Middle East
- The Americas
Let us know what cities you’re interested in visiting!
Lisbon, Portugal is really a great city all around. Great food, a heavy dose of art and culture, and plenty of fascinating architecture and historical sights. When you add in the pleasant weather and nearby beaches it’s hard to think of a better vacation spot! That’s no exaggeration either, Lisbon is home to some of the best coastline in the world.
Everything from food to accommodation in Lisbon is naturally cheaper due to the situation of the economy in Portugal. Expect to find dorm rooms for as low as $10-$15 and meals for as little as $5.
When in Lisbon, consider taking a day trip to the fabulous town of Sintra. It has long been favored by royalty who built mansions and palaces here. There are many palaces to choose from but the Pena National Palace is easily one of the most spectacular. Entry to the palace is $7.50 so be sure to budget it into your trip!
Back in Lisbon spend some time looking at the extensive street art that lines many of the lanes and alleys. This extensive list of street art in Lisbon gives an idea of the size and importance of many of these pieces of artwork. The Alfama District and Mouraria District are two popular areas of the city with a high density of street art.
Cost to travel to Lisbon, Portugal on a budget: $60 per day
Like Portugal, Spain is a common budget travel destination in Europe. The price of travel should remain cheap in 2020 which makes it the perfect time to take a trip to Spain! Seville is a good choice for budget travelers as some of the best food and culture in the country can be found here.
The capital of Andalusia and the birthplace of Flamenco is home to 700,000 residents who call the city home. Many more visit to see the various historical sights, and to chow down on late-night tapas.
Perhaps the largest attraction in Seville is the Plaza de España. This historic town square is surrounded by stunning renaissance revival architecture that is complemented with touches of the city’s Moorish heritage. If you only have one day in Seville this is the best place to start. The plaza is situated in Maria Luisa Park which holds a lot of hidden sights and attractions on its own. After, take a short walk north to the Royal Alcázar of Seville. This Moorish royal palace dates back to the middle ages and has been built upon and expanded over the centuries. Much of its splendor has been preserved and serves as an awesome reminder of Seville’s history.
Seville offers budget-friendly prices on food and accommodation that help travel budgets stretch further than in Madrid or Barcelona. If you have money left over and are looking to splurge on some activities I’d highly recommend looking into some cooking classes in Seville. For 60€ you will be able to visit a local market to purchase supplies before cooking your own Spanish meal. Corina and I love this type of culinary tourism and never pass on the chance to learn more about the local dishes and flavors.
Cost to travel to Seville, Spain on a budget: $50 per day
Western Europe is not exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think of the cheapest countries to visit. That just means that travelers need to get creative when planning trips through this part of the globe. Europe can be seen for much less than you might think!
Some cities, like Bruges, are very friendly to budget travelers. If you choose to visit Bruges you will be in the heart of Belgium and a short train or bus ride from Brussels, Amsterdam, and Northern France. Even Paris can be reached in a relatively short 3-hours. Hostels in Bruges can be found for $20 to $30 per night – much less than the typical prices one sees in Europe!
The low cost of travel is just an added bonus when you consider the history of the city.
Bruges was built in the 13th century and has been remarkably well preserved. This means that nearly any street you walk down will have a rich history and stunning architecture to soak in. This is great for Instagramers as the number of photogenic historical buildings is truly mind-boggling!
When in Belgium, also consider heading to the capital and taking a look at our guide on Brussels.
Cost to travel to Bruges, Belgium on a budget: $60 per day
Athens, an eclectic mix of old and new, is certainly one of the cheapest countries to visit in the EU. We have talked a lot about Athens and have a deep love for the city. There really is something for everyone here, be it the food, architecture, or history.
Most choose to visit Athens for its culture and rich history. Unfortunately heading to all the top sites like the Acropolis will eat up your travel budget pretty fast. The good news for budget travelers is that there are a great number of free archeological ruins scattered throughout the city. If you are lucky you may be able to score free admission to Athens’ museums and archeological sites. There are a number of free admission days every year – mostly on holidays. This is great if you have a trip scheduled around one of these holidays!
The Greek islands will quickly put most travelers over budget. Thankfully, Athens is affordable and offers visitors great weather and amazing food. Speaking of food, Zisis Fish in a Cone is a budget-friendly seafood restaurant that everyone should visit. I bet you never expected seafood and budget-friendly to be used in the same sentence, did you? Well, Athens has a great many surprising details.
Perhaps the most surprising is that dorm rooms can be found for as low as $10 per night – even during peak travel season! Don’t believe me? Take a look at hostel prices in Athens.
Cost to travel to Athens, Greece on a budget: $40 per day
- Best Budget Hostel: Crafoord Place Hostel $10
- Best Budget Homestay: Cozy Central rooms in Apartment $25
Most people are surprised to hear that I actually prefer Bratislava over nearby Vienna. After visiting both of these capital cities I was struck by the gritty charm of Bratislava and its people. The communist-era housing blocks are a sharp contrast to the classical architecture found in Western Europe. Looking past the bleak design of modern architecture, there actually is a lot to see in Bratislava.
Visitors should always start with a walk around the old town – be sure to check out the 13th century Michael’s Gate while you’re here. The streets are wide and relatively quiet (we visited in the fall and expected larger crowds). After getting a feel for the city it’s time to check out some of the impressive sights such as the Bratislava Castle and St. Martin’s Cathedral.
Schloss Hof, the Habsburg Palace, is a bit out of the city but is well worth the trip.
One thing that visitors will notice is the cost of things in the city. Food is especially affordable here. Whether that’s $1 ice cream or coffee, or $5 meals – Slovakia is definitely a cheap country to visit in 2020.
During our trip, we encountered a significant number of remote workers in Bratislava. This is presumably due to the cheaper cost of living, and labor, in Slovakia. It was interesting to see this side of the culture and chat with them about their life here. It also means that the city is fairly digital nomad-friendly! Just remember that places listed as a Cafe Bar are a Bar first, and a Cafe second. The local cafe bar was the only place open near us on Sunday so we went to partake in the morning ritual. When we looked at the menu, which included cigarettes listed individually or in packs, it was clear that coffee was not the house specialty.
There are many trains and buses that run to Vienna each day. The trip is about an hour each way meaning that you could easily schedule a day trip or two to Vienna while enjoying life in Bratislava.
Cost to travel to Bratislava, Slovakia on a budget: $40 per day
Budapest is another Eastern European city that can be seen on the cheap. The sprawling, ancient city has enough history and attractions to keep even the most impatient travelers entertained. First-time visitors should never underestimate Budapest!
The first thing visitors will likely notice is how stunningly beautiful the city is. In fact, Budapest is frequently listed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The beauty is not limited to the castles, palaces, and other historic buildings. Even average residential buildings have an ornate and stately look to them. The most remarkable part is that this grand style of architecture extended throughout the city – even to areas that would be considered bad areas to stay. Conde Nast backs this up by saying that Budapest “has no bad angles”.
Budapest is easily visited before or after Bratislava. Adding in Vienna completes the trifecta of stunning Eastern European cities to visit this year.
Cost to travel to Budapest, Hungary on a budget: $45 per day
Montenegro is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. And Kotor was one of the highlights of our trip around the country. Not only does Montenegro have spectacular mountain ranges, but it also shares the same coastline with neighboring Croatia. Meaning that you can experience the same stunning views of the Adriatic sea at a fraction of the price you’d pay in Croatia.
Kotor is a small city with a population of only 13,000 which means that accommodation can sometimes be in short supply. This was the case when we visited this past October. We ended up finding a studio for $23 per night which was more than we paid in other Balkan countries, but still acceptable for a budget travel destination.
The price you pay for accommodation will be more than made up for in the food department. Plates of Cevapi can be found for as little as $3 and pizzas for $5. Budget travel tip: get food out of the old town. As always you pay for the location, and Kotor is no exception. Expect to pay double or triple for the same meal if you want to sit inside the walls of the historic old city.
One can’t-miss sight is the historic Kotor Fortress. There is a free hiking trail that leads to the top which has some nice views of the ocean. If you take this path up the hill you will see some small houses that are still occupied. Several of these residents offer affordable tea and coffee to hikers. Take some time to sit down at one of these home cafes for a truly unique experience!
Cost to travel to Kotor, Montenegro on a budget: $40 per day
Serbia as a whole is an incredibly cheap country to visit and has amazing food – as long as you like meat and cheese. I probably gained 10-pounds during our week in Nis. And while we loved the more remote parts of Serbia, we know it will be boring for most travelers. Belgrade, on the other hand, has a long history and ancient buildings plus all the fun and excitement you could want from a modern metropolis. And all this comes at a very low cost.
The Belgrade Fortress is one of the highlights for those interested in history and architecture. The 2,200-year-old fortress overlooks the Danube river and offers great views both day and night. Budget travelers will be happy to hear that it is possible to plan your own tour around the Belgrade Fortress. Note that the fortress is massive in size and you will need to spend a few hours here to take it all in. One nice thing is professional walking tours of the fortress can be found for as little as $10-15. Great news for those who don’t want to miss any part of the history!
Accommodation in Belgrade, Serbia is among the cheapest in the world. Backpackers will be happy to find highly rated dorm rooms for as little as $5 per night! Even during peak season beds in the City Break Hostel can be found for under $10. If that doesn’t make Belgrade one of the best and cheapest travel places, I don’t know what does! Seriously, you rarely see this kind of quality from $5 dorm rooms.
Cost to travel to Belgrade, Serbia on a budget: $30 per day
We absolutely fell in love with Ljubljana during our stay in Slovenia! One of the saddest things to see is how often it is overlooked by travelers. Not only does Ljubljana have the charm of a historic European town, but it is also budget-friendly as well!
The first thing that visitors will notice about the city is the castle perched on a hill overlooking the city. Castle entry and round-trip funicular ride cost a mere $9 – something that we noted was one of the best values for a European attraction. If you are really on a shoestring budget It’s possible to hike up the hill and take a look around the castle – for free! Part of the Ljubljana Castle is limited to paying guests, but there is a surprising amount that can be seen for free.
For those who speak Chinese: Corina has a video introducing some things to see in Ljubljana.
There are actually a lot of free things to do in Ljubljana, Slovenia as well. Some of the top attractions in Ljubljana are the bridges, markets, and parks which means you can spend your day out of the hotel and enjoy the city without spending much money!
Cost to travel to Ljubljana, Slovenia on a budget: $45 per day
Krakow is a well-known destination for budget travel lovers. Affordability doesn’t always equate to lackluster vacation spots. The city’s mix of historic and cultural sights combine to make it an amazing value!
The most striking thing to see in Krakow is undoubtedly its historic city center. The buildings date back to medieval times and are some of the oldest and best-preserved in Europe. Another cant-miss sight is the Wawel Royal Castle. The 1300’s castle, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, now functions as the city’s art museum. You could easily spend a day here observing the palatial architecture and rooms stuffed with European art.
Winters are cold, but you’re in for a real treat if you can brave the weather. Krakow has an amazing Christmas market that runs from late November to early January. You can’t miss it as the market is held in the center of the city’s historic old town. The wooden stalls sell all manner of food, drinks, and Christmas souvenirs. Krakow makes a great addition to the 2020 travel calendar!
Cost to travel to Krakow, Poland on a budget: $30 per day
Tbilisi is a city that I have mixed emotions over. In 2013 when I decided to move overseas I had to choose between moving to Taiwan or Georgia – and ultimately came to Taiwan. The big issue now is that Georgia does not recognize Taiwan and refuses to issue visas to Taiwanese citizens. They are actually the only country in the world that doesn’t allow Taiwanese entry. So until things change, our dream of traveling to Georgia as a couple is on hold.
While we likely won’t be visiting soon it is undoubted that Tbilisi, Georgia is a great place to visit on a budget. Hostel dorms start at a shocking $2 per night, and no that isn’t a typo. Private rooms in apartments or hostels start at $10 for those looking to splurge.
Food and transportation are equally cheap in Tbilisi. This means you can explore the city and taste delicious samplings of food while holding true to the spirit of budget travel. Trips on the subway cost around $0.33 per trip. Let that sink in for a minute!
And why not take advantage of the cheap transport costs in Georgia and explore other parts of the country? Georgia has a landscape that would fit on the cover of any travel book or magazine. It would be a shame to visit Georgia and miss out on some of the more photogenic parts.
Cost to travel to Tbilisi, Georgia on a budget: $30 per day
Iran has been near the top of my travel wish list for several years now. The recent tension and threat of war with the USA are concerning and we can only hope that the situation quiets down.
The capital of Tehran should be on everyone’s travel list. Not only is it a city of good food and friendly people, but it’s also a place that can be seen on a budget. By budget, we are talking somewhere in the range of $30 per day to experience one of the oldest cultural centers in the world. Hostels can be found for under $10 per night, leaving plenty of money for copious amounts of Iranian food!
Any Tehran travel itinerary will be full of stops at Palaces and museums. There is certainly no shortage of the two in Tehran! Just remember to schedule some time to see the authentic side of Iran in addition to the glamorous sights.
There is probably no better way to experience Iranian culture than at a traditional bazaar. The Grand Market is the largest in Tehran and is often the first stop for travelers. The miles of walkways and corridors offer an overwhelming array of goods for sale. If you’re wanting to observe Iranian shopping culture, or partake in some bargaining of your own, there is no place better than the Grand Market in Tehran!
Cost to travel to Tehran, Iran on a budget: $35 per day
Traveling to Istanbul, the Jewel of the Mediterranean is cheaper than you might expect. Budget flights fly frequently between Istanbul and nearly all major European destinations which makes getting here really easy.
It might be surprising, but Turkey is actually one of the cheapest countries to visit in the world! Istanbul is a glamorous city but there are plenty of things to do on a budget.
The main attraction is the 1500-year-old Hagia Sofia. The building, which was built long before Ottoman times, has served as both a church and a mosque during its long history. It is now a museum and is a must-visit for any traveler.
For a free, and truly Turkish, experience head to the Grand Bazaar. You could spend days walking up and down the network of streets containing over 5,000 stores. It can be overwhelming at first so come prepared. Once you’re used to the flow of people and the noise you can begin to appreciate the experience. Be sure to wrap up the trip to the bazaar with some delicious Turkish food and a cup of hot tea.
Cost to travel to Istanbul, Turkey on a budget: $40 per day
Cairo, the exotic destination that sits at the top of nearly every bucket list!
Sure, Cairo won’t be the cheapest travel place if your holiday must-haves include river cruises or camel rides around the desert. But those willing to forgo these excursions will find Cairo to be decidedly budget-friendly.
If you’re in Egypt is likely due to the history and ancient culture found throughout the country. The Egyptian Museum is located in the center of Cairo and should be a priority for any traveler. It is the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world and offers a great look at life in ancient Egypt. Entry to the museum costs $10 which is very reasonable considering the scope of the exhibits.
One of the fascinating things about travel in Cairo is how cheap regular day tours around the city are. TripAdvisor has a long list of tour guides offering their services at rates below $10 for a half-day tour. Organized tours are typically off the menu for backpackers and budget travelers but in Cairo, it is definitely an option.
Some popular activities, like walking around the bazaar, won’t cost you a dime. Unless, of course, you plan on filling up on souvenirs. The Khan El Khan Bazaar is a massive souk in Cairo and is a highly recommended stop on any itinerary. While you’re here be sure to check out the fabulous metalwork on display!
If Cairo isn’t of interest, there are many other Egyptian cities that are affordable for budget travelers. Some cities to consider are Alexandria and Luxor.
Cost to travel to Cairo, Egypt on a budget: $40 per day
Marrakesh is one of the largest cities in Morocco and is one of the most affordable places to visit in the country. Marrakesh was once the capital of Morocco and the city holds a lot of historical importance due to this.
It is impossible to visit Marrakesh without paying a visit to one of the many Souks that dot the city. These vibrant markets may seem chaotic at first, but they are sure to spice up any trip to the city. Feel free to spend some time browsing the goods for sale and bargaining before making a purchase of some Morrocan gifts or souvenirs.
The towering Koutoubia Mosque soars above the city with a minaret that can be seen for miles. Constructed in the 1100s, this Moorish mosque is one of the highlights of Marrakesh. Note that non-muslims are not allowed inside, tourists will need to be content with photos from the beautiful exterior.
Head to Djeema el Fna for a totally free experience in Marrakesh. This is the town’s central square and is quite different from other town squares you’ve seen. The whole experience plays out like a bit of a carnival with snake-charmers, acrobats, and musicians entertaining all the passers-by.
Cost to travel to Marrakesh, Morocco on a budget: $35 per day
Mombasa is the second-largest city in Kenya and serves as a popular seaside getaway. The beaches in Mombasa are the top draw and no visit to the city would be complete without spending a day (or two, or three) soaking up the sun. The hands-down best beach in Mombasa is Diani Beach. Diani is a nice stretch of clean white sand and clear water. Diani Beach is lined with five-star hotels with staff who constantly make sure the beach is free of any trash.
Although Diani Beach is located in a ritzy part of Mombasa it is still open to the public. Diani is definitely backpacker-friendly and you can enjoy your time here while sticking to a budget. This guide to traveling to Mombasa will help with travel planning and sticking to a budget.
Most visitors come to spend time relaxing at Mombasa’s pristine beaches and for snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. However, Mombasa has some of Kenya’s best national parks and game reserves within a short drive. The closest and most accessible are the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary and the Shimba Hills National Reserve. Consider taking a trip to either of these nearby reserves for a chance at spotting some of Kenya’s awesome wildlife.
Getting into Mombasa is fairly simple due to its location near Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Flights are fairly short and last only 1 hour in the air with return tickets costing as little as $100. If you would rather go by land, yes it’s much cheaper, know that it will take up the better part of the day. Tickets from Nairobi to Mombasa cost $10 for regular seats and $20+ for VIP seats.
Cost to travel to Mombasa, Kenya on a budget: $35 per day
Nepal is a budget traveler’s dream as it is one of the cheapest, yet most beautiful countries in the world. The capital, Kathmandu, is an easy choice for anyone looking to start their journey through this country which is often called the roof of the world.
It’s easy to see why Nepal is called the roof of the world. Practically the entire country rests at a high elevation in the Himalayan mountain range. In fact, 8 of the world’s10 highest mountain peaks are located in Nepal! What’s more, Nepal has 90 mountains sitting at a height of 7,000 meters or more!
It’s hard to believe how affordable multi-day hikes are when considering Nepal’s status as a world-class trekking destination. In fact, all-inclusive treks often come in at less than $100 per day!
You are in for a real treat if you plan on spending time in Kathmandu. The entire Kathmandu Valley has actually been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. Nepal’s capital has a wealth of cultural and historical appeal that can be seen when visiting its religious buildings. The Pashupatinath Temple, which was built in the 5th century, is the largest in Nepal and is a place of active worship. Next up is the Swayambhunath Temple which is recognizable due to its gilded dome. A staggering 20kg of gold was used to complete the dome’s finishing touches.
Cost to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal on a budget: $30 per day
Galle, Sri Lanka
This entry holds a special place in my heart. Sri Lanka was my first true backpacking experience and marked a shift in my mentality as a traveler. The people of Sri Lanka are exceptionally friendly, and the island is filled with natural beauty and rich history.
The whole island is worth visiting, especially Sigiriya and Pidurangala. But those looking for the cheapest travel place should head to Galle.
Why? Simply for the beaches and weather.
Galle is a 500-year-old Portuguese city in southern Sri Lanka that makes a great entry on the list of cheapest travel places. If you’re looking for a seaside town with a quiet place of life, this is it. The Dutch Fort and Lighthouse are top sights to see in the city and many excursions depart to nearby sights around the island.
Cost to travel to Galle, Sri Lanka on a budget: $30 per day
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Generally speaking, Northern Thailand tends to be cheaper than the south. It might be hard to leave the sunny beaches, but budget travelers will see their dollars stretch farther once they head north. There are many fascinating places to visit in this part of Thailand. The first destination, and a common base camp for those in Thailand, is Chiang Mai.
Staying in the city of Chiang Mai is an easy way for travelers to ease into the Thai lifestyle. The diverse range of food means long-term visitors will have some comfort food to fall back on should they start feeling homesick.
Don’t plan on spending all your time in the city, however. There are loads of fun and exciting day trips to nearby attractions. Here are a few sights near Chiang Mai that you should consider.
- Chiang Rai
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
- Mae Sa Waterfalls
- Huay Tung Tao Lake
- Elephant Nature Park
If you’re looking for an ethical elephant experience, the Elephant Nature Park is one of the few that stand out. A great many Elephant Sanctuaries advertise ethical experiences but are ethical in name only. Read more about Elephant Nature Park here.
When everything is totaled up, Chiang Mai is an affordable place to be. This, of course, assumes that you are eating primarily local food and staying in affordable accommodation. Perhaps the biggest budget factor to consider is how many bottles of Chang you plan on having while in Thailand.
Cost to travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand on a budget: $30 per day
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
If you want to find the cheapest places to visit with good food and outdoor activities, look no further than Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the Sabah region of Borneo and offers guests amazing ocean views and unforgettable island getaways.
This is a paradise for any adventure-lover or digital nomad. There is a lot for visitors to do, from snorkeling and scuba diving to climbing the tallest mountain in South East Asia. Climbing Mt. Kinabalu will set you back a bit, but most other activities and day trips are priced very reasonably.
Our island-hopping day trip around Kota Kinabalu only costs $35 per person. A pretty good deal considering that it also included a buffet lunch on Palau Sapi. This is actually the same price we paid for a whitewater rafting trip on the Kinubantan River.
Food in Kota Kinabalu is very affordable and I could not recommend it any higher. I seriously still get cravings for the delicious Bah Kut Teh we had in Sabah. I know our next trip back will focus heavily on food! This guide to the best food in Kota Kinabalu should be enough to get any foodie excited to visit!
Cost to travel to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia on a budget: $30 per day
Overall Vietnam was an underwhelming experience for us. The popular stops in the north and south of the country are a bit overrated if we are being honest. Reflecting on our month in Vietnam, Danang stands out as an amazing, and cheap, place that we are looking forward to visiting again in the near future.
What makes Danang such a great place to visit? For one, the weather is much more pleasant in this region of the country. The warm weather made our daily trips to the beach just perfect. And since we’re talking about the beaches let’s just say you will be hard-pressed to find better beaches anywhere in South East Asia!
Another positive is that Danang, Vietnam has a very chill and laid-back pace of life. Perfect for those wanting to kick back a bit.
Once you’re done with your time at the beach, take the short trip south to the historic city of Hoi An. This UNESCO World Heritage City is a must on any trip through Vietnam. Be sure to take the public bus to Hoi An which only costs $1 each way. Once you’re in the city chow down on a less than $2 bowl of Pho while sipping a glass of 50-cent beer.
Who said day trips need to be expensive?
If you’re looking to mildly splurge while in Danang I highly recommend visiting Nan N Kebab for some amazing Pakistani/Indian food. When I say amazing, I mean amazing. After trying it once we were hooked and ended up eating here nearly every day! The Butter Chicken with Roghini Nan is something that I still dream about on a daily basis. If you’re in Danang I cannot recommend this shop enough.
Cost to travel to Danang, Vietnam on a budget: $30 per day
Samosir Island, Indonesia
Indonesia has a massive number of exciting and affordable islands scattered across both sides of the equator. Some of these islands are quite remote and require a lot of effort to reach. The good news is that getting to Samosir is relatively easy – and cheap, assuming you fly with Air Asia or another budget airline!
A crazy fact about Samosir Island is that the sits on a lake which is located on an even larger island, Sumatra.
The reason you want to visit Samosir is to experience time at Lake Toba. This large lake was created by a massive volcanic eruption that formed the caldera that the lake rests on. It is estimated that this eruption would have been the loudest sound ever in human history.
Samosir is an incredibly relaxing place to be and is enjoyable for those with a few days, or even a few weeks, to spend in the Indonesian jungle. Samosir is not a common destination for tourists so don’t expect highly developed infrastructure. Instead, enjoy the natural beauty of the area and cheap prices on food and guesthouses. This is the place to go if you want to clear your agenda and completely relax during your trip.
Tip: Book a stay in a traditional Batuk house for an authentic look at life in the area.
Cost to travel to Samosir, Indonesia on a budget: $30 per day
Puerto Princesa, Philippines
The Philippines have consistently been one of the cheapest places to visit in Asia. And as a budget destination, there is a lot of flexibility to decide where in the Philippines you actually want to go. Most first-time visitors will opt for the capital Manila, or the famed beaches of Boracay. Those are both fine choices and can certainly be done on a budget. However, I believe the beachside town of Puerto Princesa is of far greater interest.
The first thing you will appreciate about Puerto Princesa is how clean it is. The island of Palawan is still a natural paradise and this is reflected in the cleanliness of the air, water, and beaches. This is sure to be appreciated after a trip to Manila!
Multiple budget flights run to and from the major cities in the Philipines so Puerto Princesa is an easy addition to trips around the region.
The highlight of a trip to Puerto Princesa will likely center around two things. First, is the amazing beaches. Some of the best beaches in Palawan are located here. If you are looking to go beach hopping in Palawan your first stop should be at the nearby Honda Bay. Honda Bay has good snorkeling opportunities and frequent boats departing for various islands in the area which makes for a great day trip.
Next up would be Nagtabon Beach on the west coast of Palawan. The beach is a 30km drive from the city but is absolutely worth it. There isn’t a more picturesque beach in all of the Philippines. The remote-ish location is also perfect for those looking for the cheapest travel places. Simple beach huts can be found for as low as $3 per night!
The second major draw is the Puerto Princesa underground river. This is said to be the longest underground river in the world at roughly 8km in length. Unpowered boat tours run the length of the cave and this UNESCO-designated wonder should not be missed.
Cost to travel to Puerto Princesa, Philippines on a budget: $30 per day
It is incredibly hard to narrow down on a single budget-friendly destination when you have a country as large as China. There are a great many bucket-list destinations that could be potential candidates on this list of cheapest travel places. However, when it comes down to making a choice, Xi’an stands out as a clear winner.
For one, Xi’an is easily visited from the capital of Beijing. Expect to pay around $70 for a flight or high-speed rail trip from Beijing to Xi’an. Sleeper trains will be even cheaper but I’d only recommend this if you’re able to handle the 12-hour journey on the regular train to Xi’an.
Once you’re in Xi’an prepare for a historical tour of one of China’s oldest and most historic cities. For centuries Xi’an served as China’s capital and marked the end of the Silk Road. This led to the development of a truly unique and historic city!
The location of Xi’an, and perhaps its time as China’s capital, has resulted in an exquisite and diverse food scene. Here you will find everything from northern staples to spicy southern dishes. It’s best to come hungry and try a bit of everything before leaving Xi’an. These dishes are a good example of what you can expect to dine on in the city. The best part is that most of these meals cost less than $5!
If you’re in the mood for a day trip take a look at the Hukou Waterfall. The waterfall is located on the Yellow River a few hours drive from Xi’an and is one of the most beautiful in China. The best time to visit the Hukou Waterfall is in the summer when you can both see the waterfall and take a ride on the rapids. However, visiting in the winter when the falls are frozen over is a spectacular and underappreciated sight!
Cost to travel to Xi’an, China on a budget: $40 per day
Those who follow this blog know I am a big fan of Taiwan. Although I love Taipei, it is not exactly the most budget-friendly place on the island.
If I was to make a singular recommendation for an exciting and cheap place to visit, it would have to be Tainan. Remember to buy your Taiwanese SIM card at the airport rather than in the city!
Tainan is located in the far south of Taiwan and enjoys great weather year-round. Rain is less frequent than elsewhere on the island (although it can get heavy rain in the summer) and there are many things to do out in the sun.
The city has a rich history and many of the best things to do in Tainan revolve around this history. One of the first things you should see is the Anping Fort. This fort, which is also called Fort Zeelandia, was built by the Dutch roughly 500 years ago. It has been well-preserved through the years and serves as a museum and historical attraction today. Plan on spending some time exploring the many buildings and learning about the history of Southern Taiwan.
Once you finish exploring the fort it’s time to head to Anping old street. Here visitors can overdose on the wide variety of street food on display near the fort.
Food is one of Tainan’s major draws and the city draws in foodies from around the region. Food in Tainan has developed a distinct sweet taste that can only be found here. Plan on spending around $10 on food and drinks if you are eating local food and not splurging on western restaurants.
The Flower Night Market is among the largest in Taiwan and is a must-visit for any guest to Tainan. There are hundreds of stalls that sell all sorts of food, clothes, and souvenirs – and of course, everyone’s favorite Bubble Milk Tea.
Cost to travel to Tainan, Taiwan on a budget: $40 per day
Mexico City, Mexico
Most Mexico-bound tourists head for sun fun in the sun at beachside resorts like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. But let’s face it these touristy destinations are often overcrowded and overpriced. Mexico City is a destination that I expect to see grow in popularity as more people start to recognize the potential that Mexico’s capital holds.
There is no place better than Mexico City if your travel plans include pigging out on the local delicacies. And I see no better reason to visit Mexico than for the food! Like many other capitals, Mexico City is a convergence point for dishes originating from all corners of Mexico. You can find amazingly delicious food ranging from authentic Tacos and Quesadillas to traditional Pozole and Pambazo. And of course, no trip to Mexico would be complete without trying some crazy, wild, and sometimes colorful Elote! If you have never had the chance to experience Elote you are missing out on one of Mexico’s greatest pleasures!
When you aren’t busy eating, Mexico City has numerous interesting and worthwhile tourist attractions. The city’s heart is undoubtedly located in Zócalo Square. Zócalo is one of the largest plazas in the world and is a place of great historical importance. It also holds a number of Mexico City’s top attractions. You could easily spend a day here visiting the National Palace, the Templo Mayor, and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
If you’re the museum type you might never leave Mexico City. It holds an incredible number of museums that showcase Mexico’s intriguing history from ancient times to the present day.
Mexico’s capital is massive and can be overwhelming at times. You should head to Chapultepec Park if you’re feeling like some fresh air is in order. This is the largest park in Mexico City and was once an Aztec summer residence. It’s a great chance to get some exercise while taking in the surrounding view. And, of course, there are numerous attractions located throughout the park.
Cost to travel to Mexico City, Mexico on a budget: $40 per day
San Jose, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is widely viewed as the jewel of Central America. It’s hard to argue with once you’ve seen its lush rainforests, unspoiled beaches, and pristine water. A good place to start any Costa Rican adventure is in the sprawling capital of San Jose.
There are plenty of adventures to be found in Costa Rica, depending on the level of thrill that you’re looking for. Some bucket list offerings include ziplining far above the forest floor, scuba diving and surfing on both sides of the country, or hiking to the top of one of Costa Rica’s 5 active volcanos!
A jungle trek might be in order if you’re more into exploring more of Costa Rica’s stunning biodiversity. It is worth saving money on food and accommodation to take a day trip or two out of the city. There are a number of reasonably priced treks that will give you the opportunity to see a wide range of birds, monkeys, and other animals that are native to the region.
Another reason to visit Costa Rica is for the delicious food that is loaded with regional flavor. You should start with a dish of Gallo Pinto if you want to experience the best Costa Rican cuisine. This is considered to be the country’s national dish and is a combination of flavorful rice and beans. Gallo Pinto makes a great breakfast when served with eggs. Other dishes that can be found throughout Costa Rica are Tamales, Ceviche, and Casado – all with their own local twist of course.
If you’re here for the deserts you won’t be disappointed. Costa Rica has some of the most delectable Tres Leches Cakes that you will ever find!
The only downside to visiting San Jose is the rain. Heavy rain is seen between May and November so it’s best to pack an umbrella during the rainy season. For the rest of the year, however, Costa Rica stays nice and dry which makes traveling pleasant.
Cost to travel to San Jose, Costa Rica on a budget: $35 per day
Santa Ana, El Salvador
Skip the crowds hanging around the city of San Salvador – Santa Ana is the place to be when visiting El Salvador on a budget!
Santa Ana is a charming city of just under 300,000 residents that sits nestled among the hills in Northern El Salvador. The first thing you will notice about Santa Ana is its architecture. Many of the buildings are from the colonial era when El Salvador was occupied by the Spanish. The city has been fairly well kept and has many pristine examples of classic architecture. The historic city center is of particular note for architecture lovers as many of its buildings have been preserved in pristine condition. One of the most notable landmarks in the city center is the Cathedral de Santa Ana which was originally built from 1575 to 1576.
One reason for Santa Ana’s fabulous architecture is its prosperity and strategic location as a Spanish colony. Today, the city’s claim to fame is as a coffee producer. The surrounding region leads the nation’s coffee production and ships fine coffee around the world. El Salvador has focused heavily on coffee exports for over 100 years and was, pre-civil war, the world’s 4th leading producer. So, when in El Salvador, be sure to stop by a local cafe and try some rich, fruity coffee brewed fresh at the source.
Cost to travel Santa Ana, El Salvador on a budget: $30 per day
Quito is often viewed as a stopping point for those heading off to the Galapagos Islands. It definitely deserves more attention as a budget-friendly travel destination worth visiting on its own.
Prices for food and accommodation are generally cheaper than in other South American capitals so you can expect your money to stretch further here. Another positive is Ecuador uses the US Dollar as a standard currency. This is good news for travelers coming from the USA as it means that you won’t lose out when exchanging money at the airport or dodgy money changer.
Quito is a stunning city that holds tons of beautiful colonial buildings. In fact, the entire old town has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re a fan of colonial architecture you will love it here. Once you’ve had your fill of the architecture be sure to take a trip to the Intiñan Solar Museum. This museum sits at 0° latitude and longitude – this really is the middle of the earth! At the museum, you can see exhibits related to life at the equator and perform experiments that cannot be replicated anywhere else!
If you want the best views in the city head to TelefériQo for a ride on the highest cable car in the world. The cable car rises to a height of nearly 4,000m above sea level to the hills above Quito. As you might imagine this is the place to be if you want amazing views hiking opportunities. The cost for the ride is $8 although you can purchase an express pass for $11 if needed. A fairly reasonable price to pay for once-in-a-lifetime views like this!
Cost to travel to Quito, Ecuador on a budget: $35 per day
Panama City, Panama
Panama City is one of the hippest travel destinations in Central America but has largely flown under the radar until recent years. There has been a lot of development and the city is quickly growing into a world-class destination. Prices are a bit higher than other budget destinations in Central America, but the city is still an amazing value!
There is a lot more to see in Panama than just the canal. For starters, check out some of the fantastic architecture in Casco Viejo, the historic old town of Panama City. It is encircled by a large pathway that loops over the ocean. This is a great place to go for a walk or bike ride! The old town was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997 so it has been well preserved and has been saved from the development that the rest of the city has experienced.
If you’re an adventure seeker, Panama has a great deal to offer. Typical adventure activities include scuba diving and snorkeling at the various beaches and islands near Panama City. Also, high-fliers should consider taking a zipline through the highlands just outside of the city.
Cost to travel to Panama City, Panama on a budget: $40 per day
One of the best places to visit in Bolivia is Copacabana, the Bolivian town – not the Brazilian beach.
Copacabana sits on Lake Titicaca near the Peruvian border and is a great location to visit for several reasons. The first is for the fantastic views of the lake. It is beautiful and peaceful here year-round and visitors will be able to enjoy the sweeping blue views. Another reason to visit is for the culture and history connected to the region. Lake Titicaca is believed to be the birthplace of the Incan empire and was central to the growth of the empire.
Two islands located on Lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol, and Isla del Luna, are particularly important as they hold numerous Incan ruins and artifacts that are still being studied today. Boat trips can be taken to the island where you can explore the ruins and learn about the origin of this great civilization. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can stay in a hostel on either of the islands and get an idea of what life might have been like.
Hotels in Copacabana, Bolivia are a welcome surprise for travelers as they can be found for under $10 for a private room. Numerous unique hostels and hotels operate in the area and can be had with a slightly higher budget.
What makes Copacabana even better for budget travelers is its location near the capital of La Paz. The 4-hour bus ride from La Paz to Copacabana costs a mere $4! If you want to take some photos along the way there is a tourist bus that stops at some of the more scenic viewpoints. This could be a good option for photographers although it does cost a premium. Most budget travelers would be better off going with the cheaper direct bus to Copacabana.
While boat trips around the lake are common, one thing you won’t see much of is swimmers. Lake Titicaca sits at an impressive 12,000 feet (3,800 meters) so the water stays cold year-round. When staying in Copacabana, Bolivia you will definitely need to pack some sweaters and warm clothing. Don’t let the lack of swimming opportunities put you off though. The scenic one-of-a-kind views of the lake make it worth the visit.
Cost to travel to Copacabana, Bolivia on a budget: $30 per day
Cartagena is often referred to as the jewel of the Caribbean. And, if you’re looking for a Caribbean experience I can imagine no better place than this charming Colombian town.
One thing to note is that Cartagena is a beach resort – and a popular one at that. If you are looking for a budget travel experience you will need to avoid the busy seasons. The worst time to visit Cartagena is from December to February which is when most South Americans take their summer holidays. Prices for travel and hotels will skyrocket during this period which makes the city an expensive choice.
Cartagena is a historic city with a great number of attractions to appeal to all types of tourists. The main draw is undoubtedly the world-class beaches. Playa Blanca is perhaps the most well-known beach in Cartagena due to its perfect white sand and clear water. The beach is a 40-minute boat ride away from the city but is absolutely worth visiting while in Colombia.
Once you’re thoroughly beached out take a trip to the Mercado de Bazurto. Visiting this authentic market is a great chance to experience real Colombia. The vendors here sell all manner of fruits, vegetables, and meat, as well as a vast array of general goods and items. You can easily spend the best part of the morning walking the market and checking out interesting stalls. Do note that Mercado de Bazurto is dirty and crowded so it is best to leave any valuables at home.
For more sightseeing check out the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This massive Spanish fortress was built in the 1600s and remains largely intact today. The fort is actually the largest colonial fort ever built by the Spanish and shows the strategic importance of Cartegena. Entry to the fort costs 25,000 pesos, roughly $7 based on current exchange rates. If you are wondering what made Cartagena so important to the Spanish you should head to Cartagena’s Gold Museum for a look at some locally mined riches.
Cost to travel to Cartagena, Colombia on a budget: $35 per day
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is perhaps the most exciting and colorful South American destination on the list.
Buenos Aires, Argentina is a particularly great choice if you’re traveling from the colder regions of the United States. The weather in Argentina’s pleasant capital is the exact opposite of the weather up north. That means that you will be able to experience perfectly warm weather on days when it’s snowing back home. The best time to visit Buenos Aires is between September and November. This is when the trees are in full bloom and the city truly blooms with it.
The best place to see the Jacaranda trees is at the Parque Tres de Febrero. This fabulous park is a must-visit for any itinerary of the city and gives great views of the vibrant purple blossoms. Many of Buenos Aires Instagram-worthy photo locations are here at this park.
If you’re looking to soak up the culture and vibe of the city look no further than the San Telmo Sunday Market. This open-air market happens every Sunday so it’s best to plan your trip to Buenos Aires accordingly. At San Telmos you can mingle with locals and shop for clothes, souvenirs, and local snacks.
The San Telmo district is arguably the best place to stay in Buenos Aires. It is an older part of the city and houses some special sights such as the Plaza Dorrego. If you are unsure about where to stay consider searching for accommodation around this area.
Cost to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina on a budget: $40 per day
Budget Travel Tips
One thing to note is that all of the costs in this article are estimations based on the amount that a budget traveler would expect to spend. They might seem impossibly low at first glance but I have actually undershot these price points on many of my trips.
I’ve tried to pad the minimum budget for each of the cheapest countries to visit that are listed here. This is important since there will be plenty of excursions to go on or nice restaurants that must be visited.
So how can we afford to have these bucket list experiences on a budget?
Book flights and accommodation in advance.
Planning ahead should be a big priority if you’re trying to travel on a budget. Flight prices tend to rise as seats fill up. And once the cheap hostels or hotels are booked up your only option may be to splurge for a more expensive room.
As a general rule, I try to book my flights and hotels roughly two months ahead of time. This is especially true if an airline carrier has a sudden sale on flight tickets. There isn’t much point in waiting when you can save money by booking today. Flight promotions have allowed me to fly nonstop from Asia to Europe for $250, and Asia to California for as low as $180!
Find creative solutions if needed.
Accommodation is often the biggest expense we have when traveling. This is especially true in places like western Europe where budget accommodation is close to nonexistent. If you’re on a tight budget it could be a good idea to consider options like Couchsurfing or Workaway. These are two of the more popular sites that provide travelers with a way to lower their travel expenses.
Eat like a local.
This is one of the most important things, but one of the hardest if you are a picky eater. Consider this, in Taipei a standard burger in a restaurant is around $10 while local meals can be had for less than $3. This adds up fast over the course of a trip and will certainly affect your travel budget.
Travel with a friend.
This one is certainly debatable, but I’ve found it to be true. Traveling with Corina has helped keep the cost of our travel down quite a lot. The main factor would be hotels. A hotel room costs the same regardless of whether it’s one or two people in the room. This is something that holds true in the cheapest countries to visit as well as the most expensive.
Another thing we found is that we share a lot of drinks and snacks rather than ordering one for each of us. This lets us try a variety of local food and drinks but at half the cost.
Pay attention to exchange rates.
This one is tough to prepare for as we often won’t know where to go for the best exchange rates. I typically exchange a day’s worth of cash for each country I’ll visit before traveling. That means I’m never forced to exchange money at the airport or shady exchange booth out of desperation. On my last trip to London, I ran the numbers on one of the ‘no fee’ exchange shops and it came out to a 16% difference from the current rate. No thank you.
Also, to get the best exchange rate it’s important to bring crisp new bills. A lot of places will give you a lower rate when trading in old bills or small denominations.
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