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.
It’s also super affordable.
With a tourist trail going back decades, Thailand is the heart of backpacking in Southeast Asia, and you can get by on between $25-35 USD per day thanks to cheap guesthouses, budget street food (which can be found for as little as $1 USD!), local buses, and the many cheap and free attractions. If you spend all your time on the islands and inexpensive accommodation, expect to pay closer to $60 USD per day. However, even at the price, Thailand is still one of the most bargain-friendly destinations in the world and should not be skipped!
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 $15-30 USD per night, meals for under $5 USD, most bus journeys for the same price, and beer for as little as a dollar.
Belize, Panama, Costa Rica — these are expensive destinations by regional standards (yet they are still quite affordable). If you visit these central Central American countries, you can get by on $40-50 USD per day as a backpacker or splash out $100 a day and live large. Your money goes really far in this part of the world. And with no many coun tries to choose from, it’s easy to bounce around and see a lot without going broke.
While you could put all of Southeast Asia on this list, Cambodia is one of my favorite countries in the region — it’s affordable and beautiful, and the locals are incredibly hospitable. You can get a private, air-conditioned room for $25 USD, street food for $2-5 USD, and transportation across the entire country for $20-25 USD. If you are spending close to $50 USD per day, you are living large.
Cambodia is cheaper than popular Thailand but just as beautiful and filled with some of the nicest people in the world. Plus, it’s home to the incredible Angkor Wat (which, while expensive to visit, is worth the expense!).
4. The Balkans
Located in southeastern Europe, the Balkans is the cheapest region in Europe. Composed of a handful of countries — most of which see very few tourists — it’s an off-the-radar region that’s super affordable while also offering incredible value. While places like Dubrovnik have seen an influx of tourists (thanks to the cruise ships that dock there), the majority of the region is ripe for adventurous travel. There’s cheap wine, incredible hiking and nature, stunning coasts, hearty food, and wild nightlife. It’s Europe’s best-kept secret.
You can get by for as little as $30 USD per day — a fraction of what you’d pay in Western Europe. A week’s worth of groceries costs as little as $25 USD while beer costs around $2 USD.
And while the region was once known for being unsafe, things have greatly improved over the past decade. There’s a growing backpacking trail here and tourism is on the rise. It’s Europe’s least-explored region — but not for long so visit before you crowds arrive and the price skyrocket.
China has fascinated travelers ever since Marco Polo traversed the Silk Road in 1275. While the days of China being a dirt-cheap destination are 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 USD, food is $2-5 USD 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 and, with it’s massive size (it’s the 3rd largest country by landmass), there is a ton to see and do here!
While always a cheap country, the Indian rupee used to ride high at 39 rupees to the US dollar. Now, you get 78 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 USD a day here. You can get by on closer to $30 USD by staying in cheap guesthouses, taking second-class trains, and avoiding Western food. And if you want to splash out, you can live large for as little as $60 USD per day. Even iconic sights like the Taj Mahal — a Wonder of the World — are super affordable (it’s just $14 USD to enter).
India is a cheap backpacking destination with a rich cultural history, mouthwatering 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.
Georgia has everything I need in a destination: it’s cheap, has delicious food and wine, offers incredible hikes and mountain scenery, and is devoid of huge numbers of tourists. I loved it immediately and wish I had visited sooner (I actually extended my stay when I visited because I loved it so much!).
Tucked away in the Caucasus, Georgia has been at a cultural crossroad for centuries yet it’s not nearly as popular as it should be. Tbilisi is a city bursting with activity, while the rest of the country offers intrepid adventures a rugged, off-the-beaten-path feel.
You can get by on next to nothing here too, with budget travelers spending as little as $25 USD per day. Beer is around $2 USD, a week’s worth of groceries costs around $25-30 USD, and most museums and historic sites cost just $2-3 USD.
While it might feel out of the way, Georgia is one of the next big backpacking hubs. I’d go back in a heartbeat!
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, a rolling wine country, stunning seaside cliffs, delicious food, jovial locals, and historic cities all at bargain prices.
Portugal has become a lot more popular and crowded in recent years (it has a growing expat and digital nomad scene) and 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 to the rest of Western Europe — and you’ll see far fewer tourists too. Expect to get by on $45-60 USD per day if you’re a budget backpacker.
While is gorgeous in the summer, if you’re looking for a cheap place to spend the winter in Europe, Portugal is one of your best options.
While I’d been to Mexico before, it wasn’t until recently that I really spent a bunch of time there. And I was blown away. Mexico City is a foodie’s paradise, Oaxaca has copius amounts of charm (and a never-ending flow of mezcal to boot!), and the Yucatan is perfect for road trips and cenote exploring. And since it’s so close to the US, it’s not only cheap (beer is just $1-2 USD, groceries are around $25 USD per week, and you can get by on less than $50 USD per day here) but it’s cheap to get to — double win!
While there are some regions that aren’t that safe to explore, the majority of the country is yours to enjoy. No matter your interests — beaches, partying, food, history, nature — there’s a corner of the country that you can enjoy safely without breaking the bank.
Chaotic and colorful, Morocco is a popular bucketlist destination for travelers of all stripes. Offering rolling dunes of golden sand, winding markets and medinas, and towering mountains, Morocco is a photographer’s dream. While the hectic cities can be a tad overwhelming at times, the stunning silence of the desert and its postcard-perfect views makes the trek worthwhile.