Which countries in the world offer the most value? Where can you travel to in 2023 that will allow you to go for longer, enjoy a higher standard, and save more money? The following are 30 destinations around the world that offer the essentials – accommodation, transportation, and food – for less:
Watch our top picks for 2021 in this video:
Back in my budget backpacking days around Southeast Asia, Laos was one of the two destinations where I was able to keep my budget at $30/day, even though the accommodation was slightly more expensive than most places in Southeast Asia at that time. Many of the amazing activities you can do in Laos are cheap. I paid $2.50 to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world, $7 for a full-day tubing experience along the Vang Vieng river, and $6 for an awesome tiger balm massage. You can also rent a motorbike for cheap and venture off to the smaller towns, where everything is even cheaper! With more and more new hostels built to cater to the increasing number of backpackers, you can go for cheaper for longer. However, if you have a bit more to spend, you can get a gorgeous room for closer to $35 which would easily cost $100 in the US.
I probably had the healthiest and cheapest street food in Vietnam. Think a soup with rice noodles, cilantro, amazing broth, and a whole shank of pork for $1.50, or a cup of strong, aromatic coffee for $1. Regarding transportation, if you rent a motorbike, you are all set for the day. However, I understand that not everyone is comfortable riding a motorbike, especially in countries like Vietnam where the road traffic can be overwhelmingly chaotic. The good news is that GrabBike (similar to Uber but on bikes!) is widely available in all major cities, and the cost is as low as $0.50 for a 2km ride! Long-distance buses and trains are also affordable and reliable. Accommodation is similarly pleasant and easier to afford than almost anywhere else in the world.
I know for sure that if you choose to rough it, you can easily spend a month in Cambodia with just $1000. Dorms are very basic but can be dirt cheap, the same goes for food and alcohol. I also had my haggling skills to thank as I was almost always able to talk my way out of being charged unfairly by the Tuk Tuk drivers. There are some one-off expenses such as the 3-day pass to Angkor Wat, which is currently set at $62, and diving trips that add up, but there will also be days of riding bicycle in a small village and eating cheap and delicious meat skewers when just a dollar or two could stretch very far.
Another thing is to consider the gorgeous, mostly new boutique hotels on booking.com. They are obviously not as cheap as staying in hostels, but for the price, they are so worth it! I’d definitely splurge on a couple of nights and have some R&R time by the pool.
The north of Thailand is easy on a tight budget. As one moves south, costs for accommodation start to double, triple, and even quadruple. Stay up north if you are short on time and budget for your Thailand trip. Even in popular places like Chiang Mai and Pai, you can easily find basic dorms for less than $7. If you stick with eating street food (To each her own, but why eat pasta when you can have pad Thai, am I right?), not only will you save yourself some money, the experience will be much more authentic and delicious, too. As far as activities go, you really do not need a lot of money to enjoy your day as most activities such as visiting the White Temple, hiking, or gathering three other people from your hostel to rent a car and go on some day trips, are all affordable.
Meals: $5 – $15 per day. Some hostels provide breakfast
Accommodation: $5-$10 per night in a hostel
Transportation: $6-$10 for a motorbike for the day (prices may vary depending on the bike condition and your haggling skills) or a rental car split between 4 people
SIM card with data: $7 for 1.5GB with 30-day validity
The thing about Indonesia is that it can be really cheap, or it can be quite expensive, depending on one big thing – transportation. Intercity traveling can be very time-consuming and costly, as is traveling from one island to another with a private boat. To save costs, stick with a region or two! There’s a lot to do and see, and spending more time in one place will only allow you to travel deeper and have a more meaningful experience anyway. If you want to travel far and wide on a budget, my biggest tip is to take the local transportation! That’s what I did backpacking in Indonesia a few years back, and sure enough, I ended up with some funny stories.
On the flip side, food and drinks are cheap throughout the country, not to mention absolutely delicious too! Riding a scooter through the mountains costs very little, and so does hiking, chasing waterfalls, and slouching in a hammock by the beach all day long. Hostels are plentiful, social, and affordable, especially in places like the Gili Islands.
The Philippines’s archipelago can cost quite a lot of money and time to get around, and the hostel options aren’t nearly as abundant as in other Southeast Asia countries. While these two factors seem like a big turn-off for travelers trying to stretch their budget as far as possible, there are ways to keep your travel cost in the Philippines low. If you choose to travel during shoulder seasons, book your flights and plan your journey way in advance (it is not the country to always wing it!), and try to stick within 1-2 regions, the Philippines can still be affordable. On top of that, the country has some of the most gorgeous islands, beautiful dive sites, and hidden gems you’d have had to pay so much more to experience in other parts of the world. In that sense, the Philippines is worth every peso you spend.
Being one of the most economically developed Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia is often perceived as expensive. On top of that, when I visited Malaysia for the first time, a few people told me it wasn’t worth staying long. However, I ended up meeting lots of locals, more able to communicate and find more common ground with them than I had in Cambodia or Laos, and had so much fun exploring Cameron Highlands, the jungles of Borneo, and the gorgeous islands. The cherry on top? They were all affordable. An overnight bus from Kuala Lumpur to the Perhentian Islands costs as little as $15, there are so many interesting local neighborhoods and markets that are free to explore, and finally, the Malaysian cuisine is like no other – you can find food from just about any culture, and it’s so cheap and delicious – but not necessarily healthy. Malaysia is also one of the cheapest places in the world to get a PADI scuba diving certificate.
The one thing that could make Malaysia expensive to travel in is alcohol, which is highly taxed. However, if you don’t plan on drinking every night, that will not be an issue.
Like many countries, Sri Lanka can be seen on a backpacker budget, or one can spend a small fortune there. The biggest kicker was the price of activities, such as safaris, and admission into the UNESCO World Heritage sites. With each running about $40-$50 per ticket, this made Sri Lanka more expensive to fully explore. That said, Sri Lanka can be done on closer to $30 per day on the days that you don’t pay for expensive activities. Food, transport, accommodation, and Internet are relatively cheap. One thing to note about transportation is that in some cases, taking a taxi / uber (in major cities) can be cheaper than renting a bike. Hiring a driver for the day can be as low as $5 per person if you can find people in your hostel to split the cost. The cheapest transportation is the train, which is delightful and IMO, the best way to travel through Sri Lanka.
Disclaimer: 2022 saw a great amount of unrest in Sri Lanka. As of the publishing of this post, the country is still under a level 2 advisory (exercise increased caution) from the US State Department.
Nepal is a very cheap country to travel through, with most food, accommodation, and transport running at just a few dollars if you eat, sleep, and travel using local options. For food, while I never seem to get any stomach problems eating street food, street food in Nepal does not have the best reputation. You can get cheap and delicious home-cooked meals in local-run small cafes though. Be very mindful when you book your accommodation online, as big corporations have taken over local homestays and turned them into boutique hotels and resorts. The “local guesthouses” you’ve booked may very well be part of a big hotel chain. I suggest booking the first couple of nights online, and looking for accommodation from real local guesthouses when you arrive.
If you end up trekking, as long as you do so independently and avoid Mt. Everest itself, which costs tens of thousands of dollars, you can travel for as cheap as $10 per day on food and accommodation at the lower elevations, and closer to $20 USD at higher elevations on popular routes like the Annapurna Circuit.
Two words: street food. For less than $2, you can get a plate of fragrant rice with pork/chicken on top, a large deep-fried chicken chop, or a bowl of delicious vermicelli with oysters. Food in Taiwan is delicious and ridiculously cheap. If you are a foodie on a budget, you know where to go! In cities like Taipei and Tainan, you can register for their city bikes, which cost less than $0.50 per hour per ride and are free for the first 30 minutes. This means you can possibly get around the city all day without spending any money on transportation at all.
That said, high-end food and clothing prices in Taiwan can sometimes be at US-level. Intercity traveling is either expensive with the High-Speed Rail (HSR), or time-consuming with slightly cheaper options. Internet is also not as cheap as in the countries above.
India is perhaps the cheapest country to travel to, but if and only if you’re willing to haggle and hunt for deals. Keep in mind that cheap rooms that run in the $3 range will be very basic and it’s normal to shower with buckets of heated water. You will be hard-pressed to find cheap gems in the north, but the south with its gorgeous beaches may prove more fruitful when it comes to budget accommodation.
The best way to travel through India on a budget is to book things yourself. This means no agents and no online booking sites (except for some intercity travel. For that, check out 12Go Asia). Similar to Nepal, if you walk into local guesthouses, restaurants, and tour companies, you could easily get the same things in person for half the quoted price online.
Kyrgyzstan is the country of choice for most travelers interested in trying out Central Asia, and thus most well-suited to travelers of all budgets. Food is cheap and interesting, and so is getting around using the minibusses. Public transportation prices are fixed and are probably the cheapest aspect of traveling in Kyrgyzstan. As for accommodation, you can find hostels in major destinations and local homestays in more rural places for less than $10. If you are doing a multi-day hike like the Tian Shan Mountains, the tour price should include most things.
If you are planning a European trip that’s affordable and a little bit off the beaten path, Romania is perfect for you. While the country is known for Dracula, many charming towns and free activities remain unknown to most foreigners. Whether you’re taking a long stroll through the medieval villages, or people-watching in one of the beautiful parks, Romania is great for anyone after a European experience on a budget. You can also make use of the free walking tours to check out the numerous historical sites. Hostels run $10-$15 per night, and food is hearty and delicious (a money-saving tip: Have your breakfast at the hostel, have a big hearty meal for lunch, and cook your own meal for dinner. It’s easy and affordable to get fresh produce from the local market, make sure your hostel has a kitchen!), and public transportation is reliable and affordable.
Georgia is another underrated European destination that’s absolutely beautiful and affordable. Also, get this: most of you will be able to enter Georgia without a visa, and stay for one year. Say what?!
Quality hostels at a reasonable price range, a meal at a local restaurant for as low as $3, and a local minibus ride for less than $1 are just some of the great things Georgia can offer to its visitors. What’s more? Entrance fees to museums and historical sites are mostly less than $2. The locals are extremely warm and welcoming, and hitchhiking is totally possible for short and long-distance travel. There are many day trips, hikes, and monasteries in Georgia, where one can easily spend months and not get bored. It’s perfect if you have more time than money.
Timing is crucial if you want to travel in Greece on a budget. While prices of flights, accommodation and tours have been largely cut down since the country’s debt crisis in 2010, summer months still cost more than others. This means avoiding July and August, which are the hottest and busiest months in Greece. Instead, go a few weeks before or after summer, and you will be able to enjoy Greece with smaller crowds and a lower budget. You can also cut down on food costs by buying fresh produce from the market and making your own meals, since eating out in restaurants can be expensive in certain parts of Greece. A little picnic by the gorgeous beach can be as enjoyable as a lavish meal at a seafood restaurant!
As far as activities go, opt for the free walking tours available, and if you are planning to do some island hopping in Greece, plan well and stick with a group of islands to minimize transfers. Remember that sometimes a domestic flight can be cheaper than a bus ride for any long-distance travel.
As more and more tourists flock to the Czech Republic, or more specifically, Prague, for its rich history and cheaper-than-water beer, prices have inflated over the last few years. However, it is still easily one of the cheapest central European countries to travel in, especially if you go beyond Prague, such as Cesky Krumlov and Telc, to experience true Czech culture at a much lower cost. Local transportation is reliable and affordable, and if you plan to do a lot of traveling, consider getting a 3-day pass for $16.
Czech cuisine is very hearty and large in portion. While it’s not the healthiest (most meals consist of potato and meat), it will surely fill you up so to stretch your budget – eat out at a local restaurant for lunch, and have a light snack for dinner. Entrance fees to historical sites and museums can be quite expensive ($18 to enter the Prague Castle), but you don’t always have to actually enter – the hikes up are awesome, and you can always admire the architecture from outside, and pick the most intriguing ones to go in.
If you are a fan of heritage sites, Poland has 14 to offer. A country rich with culture and history, it’s a shame that Poland is often overlooked by tourists. It costs an average of $5 to enter museums and historical sites, which is fairly affordable by European standards. Food is delicious and has a bit more variety than its neighboring countries, though it’s still heavy on the calories. The trains are a bit dated but cost very little.
Poland is one of those countries where you can easily spend an entire day just wandering and people-watching. There will be days when you spend nothing else but on essentials. Make sure to eat at a “milk bar”, an affordable yet delicious option that’s popular with locals. Go beyond Krakow and Warsaw, and explore other smaller towns like Gdansk, Wroclaw, and Zakopane, which are all stunning and possibly even cheaper to travel in.
If you like turquoise waters, sunshine, and parties, look no further than Croatia to plan your next budget trip. There are thousands of islands surrounding its mainland, excellent weather from May – October, and beach and yacht parties year-round. The essential expenses including accommodation, transportation and food all come with a reasonable price tag. There is also beautiful architecture to marvel at, interesting sights such as the Museum of Broken Relationships, as well as cute small towns to explore.
To travel in Croatia on a budget, you need a similar approach to Greece – travel in the shoulder season. July & August are the country’s busiest months, so avoid them if possible. Also, keep your island hopping to a group of islands to minimize transfers. Since Croatia is gaining more popularity each year, expect prices to keep rising and aim to visit sooner than later if you want to snag a deal.
Turkey can be cheap or expensive, depending on what you want to do and how deeply you want to travel through the country. A hot air balloon ride costs around $400-$500, and intercity traveling can be really long and costly. However, the country has a bunch of other bucket list-worthy items that cost way less, and if you plan your route well, it is definitely possible, if not easy, to travel through Turkey on a budget.
The stunning Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the breathtaking white travertines in Pamukkale, and the hustling bazaars all over the country are relatively affordable to enter. While the long-distance buses are expensive, if you plan well and take the overnight buses, you get to save on accommodation. If you are short on time and money, stick with a city or two. Turkish food is delicious and cheap, so that’s one less thing to worry about!
Lithuania is a tiny country that most travelers skip or spend at most a night or two in just the capital city, Vilnius. However, this charming place is not only underrated but also very affordable to travel in! If you enjoy partying, the nightlife scene in Vilnius is vibrant and fun, and the alcohol is fairly affordable. If you’d like a quieter experience, check out the Old Town in Kaunas, Klaipeda, and Curonian Spit. Bear in mind that outside of the capital city, hostels can be hard to come by, so book in advance or even consider Couchsurfing!
Nature lovers will love Estonia – 53% of the country is forested. This also means that activities like hiking and exploring the national parks are plentiful and affordable (if not completely free). The small towns are also great for walking and cycling, so transportation costs can be minimized. On that note, affordable hostels can be hard to come by in these small towns, so consider basing yourself in the capital city, Tallinn, and make day trips to visit them.
Similar to Estonia, half of the country is covered in forests. There are also thousands of lakes and rivers in Latvia, perfect for canoeing lovers. The best time to go to Latvia is during fall or winter, when you can canoe down the rivers with the color-changing leaves accompanying you or when the Christmas vibe is on full display at the local Christmas markets. One can also easily spend an entire day wandering through the enchanting forests with castles hidden in them (okay, maybe not “hidden,” but this sounds dreamier, as castles should be). All of these activities are affordable/free, which is why traveling in Latvia can be done on a budget.
Mexico is full of endless adventures. This vast country is rich in culture, nature, and some of the best food in the world. Though the country does not have the best reputation as far as safety goes, most violence takes place in certain areas, and Mexico is a big country with plenty of safe places to explore. Now the good news? It’s easy to travel in Mexico on a budget. For less than $20, you will be able to explore at least 5 stunning cenotes, like the one in the picture above; for less than $3, you can devour delicious street food like tacos (I LOVE tacos), quesadillas and tortillas; the white sand beaches are essentially free, and the hospitality? Priceless.
While getting around within a city is cheap, intercity traveling in Mexico can be costly, mainly because of how big the country is. The best case scenario is to rent a car, which costs about $50 – $70 per day and split between 4 people. If you are backpacking Mexico solo, try to stay in the same place for a longer time to stretch the transportation costs out. That way, you are able to travel deeper and experience authentic Mexico, too.
Nicaragua is one of the cheapest Central American destinations to travel in, although it’s not likely to stay that way for much longer. The country is nicknamed as the next Costa Rica, and we all know what that means. For now, the country remains affordable, fun, and interesting so go before the prices go up and before mass tourism hits.
For outdoor lovers, Nicaragua is great for surfing, volcano hiking, and diving. For a more relaxing journey, the colonial cities are beautiful to take a stroll in, and there are plenty of gorgeous beaches to lie all day on. Food is cheap and delicious albeit repetitive. There are hostels all over the country so you don’t have to worry about finding cheap accommodation. One thing to note is that there is unfortunately safety concerns in the country, so check the official advisory site and be your own judge before going.
For an amazing Central American adventure on a budget, check out Guatemala. The country is covered in lush jungles, volcanos, and ruins. When you need a break from outdoor sports, colonial cities like Antigua will capture your heart with their stunning architecture and cobblestone streets. Local food is delicious and cheap at about $3 for a full meal (except in Antigua, where prices are actually close to US levels).
Local transportation can be very cheap but at times confusing and risky. The locals typically take the chicken buses, which are converted school buses from North America, and are the cheapest way to get around. The buses do not have specific stops, nor is there a board with prices on it. Instead, people simply wave the buses down, and pay the collector money. Watch how much the locals are paying and pay the same.
A colorful destination with a dark past, Colombia is fast becoming a popular affordable destination. If you are a history geek, you will love the museums and historical sites in Bogota, the Lost City, and beyond. If you are into nature, the Amazon awaits. As for diving enthusiasts, Colombia also boasts some of the world’s best diving sites and gorgeous beaches. With accommodation, transportation and food being so affordable, you will have room for some occasional splurges – consider booking a luxurious villa for a night or two, you won’t get a deal this great anywhere else in this part of the world!
While the US is generally not a super budget destination, if you are doing a road trip, you can definitely save in some areas and splurge in others to even out your overall budget. For my American Southwest road trip, I spent an average of $110/day, which included a camper van rental, food, gas, camping, plus little splurges here and there. Now, it was definitely more expensive because I was solo. If you had just one other person, you’d be able to split the costs almost perfectly in half. If you had two other people along, take it down to one third and so on. The more, the merrier (until you run out of room and start elbowing each other).
Some quick tips on saving money:
If you are traveling on USD or Euro, the exchange rate alone will do you a big favor. At this time of writing, 1 South African Rand is equal to 7 cents US. Any hostels/guesthouse/tourist accommodation in South Africa is called a “backpackers”, and they are typically in beautiful settings and each has a unique personality, not to mention affordable too. Food is where the big budget eater or saver can be, as it can get expensive in South Africa. To save money, cook your own food. Grocery stores are plentiful and have reasonable prices. By at least cooking your own breakfast and the occasional dinner, you can save a lot of money.
Unfortunately, public transportation outside of Johannesburg and Cape Town can be pretty limited. While there are a few private companies and trains that all provide transportation around the country, the best (and possibly) cheapest way to get around the country is to rent a car and share with 3 other people.
Namibia is home to some of the world’s most spectacular views including the gorgeous Sossusvlei, the hauntingly beautiful Deadvlei, and the massive Fish River Canyon, just to name a few. At first glance, Namibia may not seem like a budget destination, as most accommodations cater to the luxury category, and transportation availability from one place to another can be limited in such a vast country. However, you just need to do things a little bit differently to save a lot of money.
The most important thing is to choose to camp instead of staying in a lodge. The luxury lodges cost about $50 – $200 per night, but you can camp at their campsites for about $8 – $10 per night. Camping at the government campsites will set you back about $15 – $18 per night. As for transportation, ideally you would want to rent a 4×4 and share it with a few people to split the cost. If your accommodation comes with a communal kitchen, make full use of it as cooking your own meals will definitely save you money. Entrance fees are generally cheap!
The suggested budget above includes basic accommodation, transportation, and 3 meals with a mix of simple breakfasts, hearty lunches, and light dinners, as well as Internet and 1 paid activity for the day. You will need to add on the other costs like shopping, alcohol, little splurges here and there to understand how much exactly is needed.
Some may want to dive or ski, which are typically higher cost activities, and some just want to walk around and explore the local neighborhoods. If you are on a shoestring budget, the suggested budgets can be cut down further should you choose to couchsurf, hitchhike, and skip certain activities.
Are there any that you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
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