Updated: 02/08/20 | February 8th, 2020
The world is full of affordable destinations, and it doesn’t require much effort to find them. No matter what continent, there are always places you can visit on a budget — even countries we think of as expensive are quite budget-friendly if you know certain tips and tricks.
No destination is really ever “too expensive.”
After 12 years as a frugal budget traveler and, in light of the release of my new book, today I want to talk about my favorite budget travel destinations.
These destinations are my favorite countries and regions for getting the most value for your money, meeting friendly locals and travelers, eating well, and having fun.
If you’re looking to travel on a low budget and wondering where you should go, here are the 10 best and cheapest places to travel internationally:
Most of us imagine Pacific Island destinations as expensive destinations filled with high priced resorts, food, and services. However, that’s not always the case. Fiji, unlike its expensive island neighbors and sharp marketing by Fiji water, is actually relatively cheap to visit. While there are many $1,000-a-night resorts in the country, you can manage to enjoy pristine beaches, world-class diving, tasty seafood, and friendly locals without having to mortgage your home.
Since Fiji is a stopover on Fiji Airlines, you’ll find a lot of flight deals to the country. Many backpackers take advantage of that and a small backpacker community has emerged. That means cheap guesthouses, transportation, and activities, especially in the popular Yasawa Islands.
Even if you’re not a backpacker, you can take advantage of all these deals and save money. Fiji is one of the best budget destinations in the region and not to be missed.
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on Fiji.
2. Central America
Want to roam ancient ruins, trek through the jungle, surf, and eat delicious food with few tourists around? Visit the smaller countries in Central America — think El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Here you will find most budget hotels for around $15 per night, meals for $3, most bus journeys for the same price, and beer for less than a dollar.
Belize, Panama, Costa Rica – these are expensive destinations by regional standards. If you visit the central Central American countries, you can get by on $40 a day as a backpacker or splash up to $60 a day and live large. Your money goes really far in this part of the world.
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on Central America.
While you could put all of Southeast Asia on the list, Cambodia is one of my favorite countries in the region — it’s affordable, beautiful, and the locals are incredibly hospitable. You can get a private, air-conditioned room for $20 USD, street food for $2, and transportation across the country for $20. If you are spending close to $50 a day, you are living large. It’s way cheaper than all its neighbors, just as beautiful, and filled with some of the nicest people in the world. It’s one of the cheapest backpacking destinations in the world!
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on Cambodia.
China has fascinated travelers ever since Marco Polo traversed the Silk Road. While the days of China being a super-cheap destination are long gone, the country remains a budget destination – and one of the cheapest in Asia – but with a caveat. You need to get out of the big cities. Sure, the cities are still a bargain. Hostels cost less than $20 a day, food is $2-5 per meal, and local transportation in cities runs less than a dollar. But, the country becomes even cheaper, when you get off the beaten path and the interior. This is where you’ll find the best travel deals and bargains! China still remains one of the best value places in the world.
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on China.
5. South Korea
South Korea is a country not talked about enough. To me, South Korea is one of the greatest “undiscovered” travel destinations in the world — its prices rival that of Southeast Asia, it’s high tech, the food is mind blowing delicious and eclectic, the countryside is jaw-dropping beautiful, and the nightlife is out of this world. It is one of the most underrated travel destinations out there. With the South Korean currency at 1,100 won per $1 USD and most everything costing only a few thousand won, it’s hard to bust your budget here. My friend and I went out for Korean BBQ complete with drinks, and we each spent $8. You can pick up bottles of beer in 7-Eleven for less than a dollar. Trains are cheap. Everything here is cheap – plus it’s fun and different! If you’re looking for a budget trip to Asia, visit South Korea. There are lots of international flights to here!
While always a cheap country, the Indian rupee used to ride high at 39 rupees to the US dollar. Now, you get 73 rupees to the dollar — that’s nearly 50 percent more money to travel with. Unless you book five-star resorts and eat only Western meals, you’ll find it hard to spend $50 a day here. You can get by on closer to $30 by staying in cheap guest houses, taking second-class trains, and avoiding Western food. India a cheap backpacking destination – heck, just a cheap travel destination – with a rich cultural history, top class food, helpful and curious locals, incredible regional diversity, great tea, and a lot to do. It’s a gigantic place best either explored in either one large trip or a few smaller chunks. Either way, don’t miss India.
7. Eastern Europe
Far Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova) is the cheapest part of the continent. It’s a sin most people don’t visit this region more. I was living like a king for less than $40 per day, paying $8 a night for a room in Ukraine, $1.50 for a liter of beer in Bulgaria, and a few dollars for transportation. Eastern Europe has the charm and beauty of the West without the high prices or hordes of tourists you’ll find in Paris, Prague, or Barcelona. They are not the impoverished ex-Communist countries most people still think them to be. If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, come to this area of the world.
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on Europe.
Not all Euro countries are created equal, and Portugal is one of the bargain countries in the region — and one of my favorites. I fell in love with the country the first time I visited — how could I not, with beautiful beaches, wine country, stunning cliffs, delicious food, jovial locals, and historic cities all at bargain prices. Portugal has become a lot more popular and crowded in recent years. Lisbon has become especially expensive was people move there and drive up prices. It’s a great place after all! However, once you get outside of Lisbon, prices are still relatively cheap compared, even if the crowds are a bit larger these days!
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on Portugal.
While an unlikely candidate to be listed on a “cheap destinations” list because it’s known to be incredibly expensive, Australia can also be incredibly cheap – if you know a few tricks! Thanks to a lot of work exchange opportunities, a well-worn budget backpacker trail, lots of Couchsurfing hosts, and cheap groceries, you can visit Australia on a budget. Additionally, Australia has become cheaper thanks to the 20% drop in the Australian dollar has tempered that price increase and made Australia the most affordable it has been in years.
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on Australia.
On every list ever about budget travel, Thailand is where it all began for me so it holds a special place in my heart. It is where I decided to quit my job and travel the world. I lived there. I loved there. Thailand is incredible. With a tourist trail going back decades, Thailand is the heart of backpacking in Southeast Asia, and you can get by on between $25-30 a day thanks to cheap guesthouses, food, local buses, and attractions. If you spend all your time on the islands and in expensive accommodation, expect to pay closer to $50 USD a day. However, even at the price, Thailand is still one of the most bargain destinations in the world and should not be skipped!
For more information, check out this detailed planning guide on Thailand.
I believe most destinations in the world can be explored on a budget without sacrificing too much comfort (heck, I even traveled Iceland on $50 a day). If you’re a savvy traveler, you know how to maximize your money no matter where you go in the world. But your mission to find the cheapest places to travel in the world is a lot easier when the places you’re going to are already affordable.
So visit one of these spots and save! Leave a comment below and add in your budget travel destination suggestions too!
Read more and learn to travel cheap:
- How to Make Your Travel Money Last
- 61 Travel Tips
- 8 Great Alternative Budget Vacation Ideas
- The Ultimate Guide to Traveling When You Have No Money
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for nomads)
- World Nomads (most comprehensive)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.