The notion that expensive equals better is not always true, especially when it comes to travel. Though many developing countries are swiftly growing, there still exists destinations where your dollar will stretch further than most. So if you're looking for cheap places to travel, look no further. Here's 10 great budget destinations to add to your bucket list!
Taiwan is a bustling island country that is refreshingly built up, yet stuffed with sub-tropical rainforests, ocean-soaked coastline, and flashy neon cities. Its cheap transit, budget attractions, and delicious food make it a hit for those seeking a modern taste of Asia that won't break the bank.
Food: $1-$4 USD for street food (most major cities have great street and/or night markets with epic eats). Beer averages $1-$2 USD, and water is 50 cents to $1 USD. What to eat? Street noodles, steamed dumplings, bubble tea, braised pork on rice, milkfish (want more ideas? Here's a few!). Accommodation: ~$15-$25 USD hostel dorm, ~$14-$35 USD for private accommodation. AirBNB offers best value (get a $25 credit here), followed by HotelsCombined. Transportation: Public transit, cross-country trains, and planes.
Taipei City: MaoKong gondola for excellent skyline views & mountain-based teahouses. Night markets (Roahe Street Night Market, Tonghua Street Market and Shihlin Night Market) are great for fresh food and shopping. Yangmingshan National Park is a gorgeous day trip for a challenging hike with rewarding views. Jiufen: Admire twinkling temples perched along the ocean, speckled with swinging red lanterns galore – an absolutely dreamlike town. Taroko National Park: Feel like an ant amongst giant mist-soaked mountains, sprinkled with temples and waterfalls, best explored on foot.
Considering its world-class treks, clay-coloured colonial cities, and glistening beaches on offer, it's surprising Colombia isn't more popular with travellers. Likely tainted by its outdated reputation for rampant crime, Colombia is in fact a friendly, vibrant country that's well worth exploring.
Food: Street snacks range from 40 cents – $1 USD, a simple meal at Mom & Pop shop is ~$3+ USD. A fancier meal out runs from $6.50+ USD. Water is ~40 cents per bottle, while beer is 65 cents to $1 USD. What to eat? Crispy empanadas, platos tipicos (rice, meat, and salad), and fresh fruit smoothies. Accommodation: ~$6-$10 USD hostel dorms and $13-$18 USD hotels (HotelsCombined does a comprehensive search). AirBNB offers decent value, ($25 sign-up credit here) especially for those seeking apartments and/or if travelling as two or more. Transportation: Buses and planes are the main means of transport. Note: bus ticket prices are generally negotiable (especially outside tourist season), even at the bus station ticket counters.
Cartagena: Laze on condo-speckled beaches reminiscent of Miami, wander seaside colonial ruins, stroll the colourful city centre. Santa Marta: Surfing, beach bumming, and hiking ancient ruins of the Ciudad Perdida. Medellín: Enjoying the café culture and art galleries, Be sure to take the metro cable up to Arvi National Park Bogotá: Visit the Gold Museum and Museo Botera (a Colombian artist famed for his peculiar, largely painted people). Ipiales: A small town bordering Ecuador famous for its cathedral towering over a river thousands of feet below. A worthy pitstop if en route to Ecuador (e.g. Quito) via bus.
Want a taste of Europe at a fraction of its usual costs? Hungary satisfies its phonetic implication with belly-warming goulash, puffy pastries, and bubbly beers on a dime. Pastel-coloured buildings abound and the country's most famed destination, Budapest, is arguably one of Europe's most photogenic cities.
Food: $3.50-$5 USD for authentic, simple local lunch, beer ~$1-$2+ USD, water 80 cents – $1+ USD. What to eat? Goulash, dumpling noodles, Hungarian salads, chimney cake (MUST try!), Gelarto rosa (gelato scooped impressively into a flower shape) – here's a great list of more! Accommodation: $6-$10 USD hostel dorms and ~$20-$45 USD private rooms (HotelsCombined does a comprehensive search). AirBNB offers great value ($25 sign-up credit here), especially if 2 or more. Transportation: Buses, trains, and planes connect the country. Budget airlines exist, including Hungary's own Wizz Air.
Budapest: Explore both “Buda” and “Pest” on foot. Hang with the locals in the evening over a beer in the city park. Be sure to soak your tired bones in the famous Szechenyi Turkish Baths (avoid on weekends when it's quite packed. Tickets are discounted outside peak hours, check site for times). Take a free walking tour to understand the complex history here. Other must-sees: Buda Castle, St Stephen's Basilica, and the Hungarian Parliament building. Free events/concerts are frequent, check local sites like this and this for ideas.
From colourful homes stacked thousands of metres above sea level to the infinite whiteness of the world's largest salt flats, Bolivia is breathtaking. Being the poorest country in South America, Bolivia provides the greatest value on the continent. And believe us when we say, this teeny country has a lot to offer.
Food: A meal out at a basic restaurant ranges from $2-$4 USD, while a fancier meal will set you back $7+ USD. Beer is ~$1-$2 USD, and water is ~50-80 cents. What to eat? Salteñas (like an empanada, but with a stew-like filling), papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes), quinoa, and Bolivian chocolate. Accommodation: $7+ USD hostel dorms and $20+ USD private rooms (HotelsCombined does a comprehensive search). Hotels offer good value here, though hostels are still abundant. Transportation: Buses and planes are the main means. In cities, shared taxi vans offer great value (looks like a minivan but destinations are displayed on front windshield). There is an inter-country bus pass that can be good value for bus travel.
La Paz: Enjoy cheap shopping (e.g. leather goods, alpaca knitwear, handicrafts, etc.). The Mi Teleforico (gondola) offers incredible city views. Explore the Witches Market where you can buy a spell or a dead baby alpaca for good fortune. Uyuni Salt Flats: The world's largest salt flats which sprawl for miles and miles. This can be done as day trip from Uyuni but multi-day tour recommended for epic sightseeing. We had an amazing experience with Red Planet Expedition in both 2013 and 2015. Copacabana: Based at Lake Titicaca (the world's highest lake), this chilled out lakeside town offers many affordable boutique hotels and a quaint local's market. A day trip to Isla del Sol (Sun Island) can be done to admire the Incan ruins speckle the island.
Few places tickle the senses like Morocco. With its vibrant spice stalls and enough carpets to cover the world from one side to the next – the buzz here is unlike anywhere else. Exotic as it is, it can be seen, tasted, and extensively explored on even the smallest of budgets!
Food: Meal at a basic restaurant ~$3-$5 USD, fancier multi-course restaurant ~$10+ USD. Street food ~50 cents to $1.50 USD. Beer is ~$3 USD, water is ~40 cents to $1 USD. What to eat? Tagine (lemon chicken is great!), fresh-pressed orange juice, couscous, sweet mint tea, and pastilla. Accommodation: $8+ USD hostel dorm, $15-$30 USD for hotels (a.k.a. riads) (HotelsCombined does a comprehensive search). Hostels exist but hotels here offer excellent value, even for travellers used to staying in hostels. AirBNB is rather sparse ($25 sign-up credit here). Transportation: Buses, trains, and planes (getting here is cheap, as Ryanair flies here from Europe).
Marrakech: Jam-packed with incense-filled markets, rich curries, and aromatic spices – Marrakech offers the mother of all markets, plus some stunning ancient mosques to boot. Casablanca: Speckled art deco buildings and that centuries-old French je ne sais quois, Casablanca is a cool place. The enormous seaside Hassan II Mosque is an incredible site worth exploring. Fez: Its iconic blue gate is memorable but so too is its gorgeous clay-coloured town. The Chaouwara tannery is a sight (and smell) worth seeing, as is the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts (get mint tea at its rooftop cafe), and finally the Medersa Bou Inania. Sahara Desert & Atlas Mountains: Most tours to the mountains and/or desert depart from Marrakech and you should try and do a multi-night one if able. A longer tour ensures you will get far enough out to see actual sand dunes and oasis towns along the way.
Amazonian rainforests, Galapagos archipelagos, colonial cities – Ecuador packs a punch, and at a great price too. Though a relatively small country, you won't be bored in Ecuador, and you certainly won't be broke!
Note: planning on heading to Galapagos? Quito or Guayaquil are the two places to fly from to get there. For snagging cheap flights, check out our tips here.
Food: Local meals at a basic place range from $1.50-$3 USD, a fancier meal out is ~$3-$6 USD. Beer is roughly 50 cents – $1 USD, and water is ~40 cents. What to eat? Tortillas de papas or llapingachos (cheese potato patties), arroz con pollo a.k.a. chicken & rice (or con camerón – shrimp), ceviche (raw marinated seafood dish), and cuy (guinea pig!). Accommodation: ~$8+ USD hostel dorms and $20+ USD private rooms (HotelsCombined does a comprehensive search). Hotels offer good value here, especially if you're travelling as 2 or more. AirBNB has a small presence in major cities, with prices starting around $15+ USD/night ($25 sign-up credit here) Transportation: Bus or plane are your main means of transport around the country.
Loved by travellers for its tantalizingly cheap food, intricate temples, and friendly people, Thailand is a haven for all things budget. With endless white sand beaches, buzzing city centres, and all the $2 Pad Thai you can sink your teeth into, what's not to love?!
Food: Street food or basic mom & pop shop meals range from $1-$3 USD. A sit-down meal in a nicer restaurant is ~$3-$6 USD. Beer ranges from $1.30-$2 USD, and water is 30-70 cents. What to eat? Green curry, mango or papaya salad, pad thai, khao soi, fruit shakes – our advice: try everything! Accommodation: ~$4-$7 USD hostel dorms and $8USD+ private rooms can be found on HotelsCombined. AirBNB is great value, starting at ~$15/night ($25 sign-up credit here). Price varies with bigger, popular cities costing much more than small beachside towns. Hostels are plentiful but choose carefully as many places can be party central! Transportation: Planes, buses, and trains (sparse) connect the country. Abundant budget Asian airlines fly here – check our list Asian budget airlines here (see Point #4).
Chiang Mai: Temple hopping – Wat Chedi Luang (15th century temple), Wat Phra Singh (quite aesthetically pleasing), and Wat Phra That Doi Suthrep (golden temple) are all impressive. Market-hopping is a must (check out the Night Bazaar and Sunday Night Market). To see elephants up close and personal, visit Elephant Nature Park, a elephant rescue centre. (And please don't ride elephants when visiting Thailand – here's why!). Bangkok: The lively national capital with plenty of cheap delicious eats, gleaming temples, and affordable shopping in enormous, multi-level malls. Ko Tao: World-class diving in water clear as glass and on a dime, Ko Tao is an affordable haven for divers and snorkelers alike. The cheap, fresh eats aren't bad either!
Though not as cheap as one would expect given its notoriously budget exports (hello Dollar Store goods), China is still a great destination for budget travellers. While the culture can come as quite a shock to some, the ancient fortresses, steaming hot noodles, and electric mega-cities are sure to impress.
Food: A basic meal out will cost you ~$3+ USD, while a nicer restaurant is ~$6+ USD. Beer is ~90+ cents, and water is ~30+ cents. What to eat? Steamed dumplings, fried noodles, sweet and sour pork, wontons, chow mein – the list is endless, just follow your nose! Accommodation: $9-$15 USD hostel dorm, ~$15-$40 USD private/hotel, ranges hugely depending on the city. Hotels provide good value, though hostels and AirBNB do exist and can be better value in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. C-trip is the booking site that the locals use, and the prices are frequently much lower than the Western booking sites you may be used to. Transportation: Buses, trains, and planes connect the massive country. Warning: driving is particularly wild here so bus rides can be quite harrowing!
Shanghai: Arguably one of the most picturesque cities on earth, Shanghai offers plenty of intriguing neighbourhoods and sites to see. Check out Luwan (the French Concession), the antiques market, and be sure to take the ferry across the river for great skyline shots. Beijing: This ancient city is speckled with temples and museums, and also serves as a common base to seeing the Great Wall (check our how-to guide on the different sections of the wall plus how to dodge the crowds). The Forbidden City is a must, as is sampling a wide array of noodles! Xi'An: Home to the unfathomably massive Terracotta Army, Xi'An also offers a unique fusion of Middle Eastern influence. The Muslim Quarter is well worth seeing (and tasting!). Mount Huashan is a spectacular day trip – take the gondolas up and bring your camera!
Though quickly growing in popularity for its likeness to Costa Rica, this lesser-priced alternative has gorgeous coastline and rainforests on offer. The country is speckled with active volcanoes, which you can volcano-board down (because snowboarding is so passé).
Food: A basic meal will cost you ~$4-$5 USD, while a fancier meal is $10+ USD. Beer is ~$1-$2 USD, and water is ~50+ cents. What to eat? Galla pinto (rice and beans), fried plantains, fresh fruit smoothies, and your other typical Central American fare. Accommodation: $3-$8 USD hostel dorms and $18+ USD private rooms (HotelsCombined does a comprehensive search). Transportation: Buses and planes are your main means of transport here.
Granada: Photograph the Crayola-like assortment of colourful buildings that makes up the city. The main plaza (Plaza de Independencia) is a must-stroll. Granada is a good base for tours such as kayaking, climb volcanoes, and volcano-boarding. Masaya: Check out the main craft markets, including Mercado Municipal and the Mercado de Artesanias. Nearby you can peer into the huffing, puffing Masaya Volcano. San Juan del Sur: San Juan is a gorgeous, wallet-friendly destination for perfect for beach bumming, surfing, and finding affordable resorts.
Few countries on earth generate as much intrigue over its main attraction. Machu Picchu is certainly deserving of its praise, but don't miss Peru's other affordable attractions including ruin-laden cities, mountainous landscapes, and abundant alpaca-watching, too!
Food: A basic meal will cost you ~$4-$5 USD, while a fancier one is $8+ USD. Beer is ~$1-$2 USD, while water is ~50+ cents. What to eat? Cuy (guinea pig), empanadas, pisco sour (the national drink), cuy (guinea pig), alpaca meat, boiled corn (Peru has hundreds of varieties!), corn soup, and lots of coca tea. Accommodation: $7-$10+ USD hostel dorms and $15+ USD private rooms/hotels (HotelsCombined does a comprehensive search). Hotels can be good value if 2 or more, though hostels are plentiful. Transportation: Buses and planes are the main means of transport.
Cuzco: Ponder the Incan lifestyle while standing in their religious ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Wander the enormous cathedrals speckling the city, and stroll through the various mercados (markets). Machu Picchu: As breathtaking as the photos portray, these incredible ruins are well worth exploring. To do it on the cheap, follow our comprehensive guide here.
And, voilà – that's ten of our very favourite budget travel destinations. What others would you add to the list?