As a backpacker who has traveled for more than six years now, I’m always looking forward to the next destination, but also, I’m looking forward to visiting places where I can stretch my money.
Between booking flights, accommodation, and other forms of transportation; traveling can quickly become an expensive experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, almost every destination can be done with a small budget if you’re open to traveling like a local, eat like a local, and stay in budget accommodation.
Also, did you know that some of the world’s most beautiful destinations are also the cheapest ones? I’m going to share with you a few of the top destinations where you can stretch your budget and get more rewarding travel experiences for your money.
Nepal is home to half of Mount Everest and a strong, colorful Buddhist culture. Hiking Everest or reaching its basecamp is quite costly, but if you’re just interested in seeing the mountain from a distance and enjoy the best Nepal has to offer, then you’re in the right place.
Nepal has some of the cheapest cities for travelers. Among them are Kathmandu, its capital, and Pokhara, which is Nepal’s picturesque base town for world famous treks like the Annapurna Circuit and other budget-friendly hikes. If you go very local in your budget accommodation and eat Nepali cuisine, you could spend as little as $7 to $10 per day. Also, don’t miss immersing yourself in the culture by visiting the Hindu temples, like Pashupatinath, or the Buddhist monasteries in the mountains.
India is just as cheap as Nepal and even cheaper in some of its off-the-beaten-path towns. In my opinion, India offers the best of both worlds when it comes to travel: a culturally rich destination, but very affordable to all kinds of travelers, from luxury to shoestring backpackers.
As a backpacker, I managed to travel India for an average of $15 a day, visiting most major cities and attractions in the country. Food and drinks are very cheap in India, especially if you’re vegetarian and stick to Indian cuisine. Transportation is affordable since it is mostly priced for locals. I highly recommend going to the Himalayas, which will present a completely different India from what you probably expect. Also, don’t miss the famous golden triangle of Jaipur (where you can charm Cobras!), Delhi, and Agra (where you’ll see the stunning Taj Mahal).
Just know that India will be an intense experience, both positive and negative, so be ready for it!
While popular among backpackers, Laos doesn’t have the same high number of visitors as its neighboring countries, Thailand and Vietnam, do. Instead, Laos still keeps a relatively low profile, offering more rugged and laid-back experiences at affordable prices.
Luang Prabang, with its mixed colonial architecture and picturesque temples, is probably the most charming and famous place you can visit in Laos. Its well known laid-back and somewhat romantic vibe will make you not want to leave anytime soon. The city is slightly more expensive than Vang Vieng (famous for its river tubing and parties) and Vientiane (the capital), but you can still manage to do it for $35 or less per day in average.
Also, don’t miss waking up before sunrise to see the collection of alms – a procession made by monks across the city where they collect offerings (food and money) from locals.
One of the most appealing things about Thailand is its vast diversity in nature and sights –ranging from lush mountains on the north to pristine beaches on the south– and how every type of traveler, from budget to luxury, fit there comfortably as if each Thai destination was made for them.
Bangkok is quite cheap, but even cheaper is Chiang Mai – a popular cultural spot with hundreds of Buddhist temples, local tribe villages, and a plethora of delicious street food. I managed to live there for an average of $12 a day. Yes, that’s not a typo. But, living and traveling are two different things with two different budgets.
A budget trip through Thailand will range around $30 to $40 per day, but if you’re really laid back and are a shoestring traveler, you can do it for as low as $20 a day.
Vietnam is well known for its struggles throughout history, but that’s not all there is to Vietnam. This country is well known for its delicious street food, the vast arranges of budget accommodation, and its beautiful landscapes that range from desert dunes, to rice terraces, and gorgeous bays like Halong Bay. Don’t miss doing the overnight cruise on the bay. There you’ll see some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises in the country.
Cities like Hanoi, the capital, and Ho Chi Minh City are the perfect introduction to the chaotic Southeast Asian city experience. Sights and attractions are very affordable for western standards and food cost just a fraction from what you might be used to – going from $2 to $3, with beers costing as low as $1.
Vietnam has an excellent travel infrastructure, so getting almost anywhere in the country can be done cheaply and efficiently.
If you’re a history buff, then Poland is a country you should visit. Visiting Poland is like taking a condensed European history lesson that stretches centuries and covers both the highlights and lowlights of this country’s troubled past.
In Warsaw, for example, the oldest and most historic part of the city was almost completely destroyed during WWII, but today, after intense restoration efforts it stands as a living UNESCO site with several cafes, galleries, and restaurants. While they might be a bit pricey for Poland’s standards, they are still cheaper than western counterparts.
Add Krakow to this trip, and you will have one of the most emotive and culturally rich trips of your life.
Riga, the capital of Latvia, is considered a European capital of culture, yet it is still slightly under the radar. If you like architecture, the city center is full of Art Nouveau buildings, and Old Riga is full of impressive landmarks such as the medieval Riga Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church.
If architecture is not your thing, you can travel around the country and head to the Baltic Sea to enjoy the scenery and the white sandy beaches.
Even though you’re in an up and coming European country, prices are still low, and most things are very affordable even for shoestring backpackers.
Egypt has always been a bargain, but after the revolution, it became an even cheaper destination. Its ancient history, monuments, and culture have captivated travelers for centuries now, but what also makes Egypt interesting is that whether you’re a luxury or budget traveler, you will get a lot out of Egypt in comparison for what you pay.
Start your trip in Cairo, and head south to Luxor and Aswan to hit the major sights in the country. Plus, don’t miss traveling along the Nile River on a felucca – it is one of the most iconic experiences in the country.
Food can cost as low as $.30 cents and taking a taxi will generally cost less than $3. You can travel quite comfortably in Egypt with $50 a day, but you can easily do it for as low as $30 and less if you want to save money.
Central America, in general, is a budget-friendly destination, but Nicaragua is probably one of the most diverse and affordable countries in the region. Nicaragua offers volcanic landscapes, colonial architecture, spectacular beaches and pristine forests that will make you feel that you are in one of the most breathtaking countries in the world.
You’re trip there can have the perfect combination of adrenaline rush with volcano boarding and canoeing on alligator infested waters; followed by a relaxing time snorkeling in the crystal clear water in the Corn Islands.
You can have a well-rounded trip with a budget of $30 to $40 per day, assuming you’ll be staying in hostels or hospedajes, tasting traditional dishes at local restaurants, and using public transportation to move around the country.
Bolivia has the perfect combination or stunningly beautiful sights, good food, and a rich culture. And, all that can be appreciated with a tiny budget. Of my trip across all South America, Bolivia probably came as the cheapest destination in the continent, and still, I did every experience in my bucket list like visiting the Salar de Uyuni, going to the mines in Potosi, and biking down death road, among other adventures.
Transportation, accommodation, food, and activities in Bolivia are very affordable. I even remember “splurging” eating steak a few nights in a row because it was around $6 a meal.
Do not miss visiting the Salar de Uyuni and staying one or two nights in the National Park, which has some of the most stunning, almost surreal, landscapes you’ll see in all of South America.
Now, where would you like to go to stretch your budget? Is it on this list or do you have other recommendations?
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