Top 10 Cheapest Countries to Travel

The splendor of expensive destinations has its appeal, but let’s face it — the more expensive a place is, the more you have to adjust the length of your trip and your activities there to stretch your dollar.

There’s something to be said for traveling to cheap countries, where an entire meal at a local restaurant costs the same as a movie ticket back home — or where you can sleep at a nice hotel for what would only get you a hostel bed in other places.

Check out our list of some of the cheaper countries in different destinations around the world and why you should consider going there.

1. Laos, $30/day

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 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 that would easily cost $100 in the US.

Meals: $3 – $9 per day. Some hostels provide a basic breakfast.
Accommodation: $5-$10 per night in a hostel
Transportation: $6 – $15 for a motorbike for the day (prices may vary depending on the bike condition and your haggling skills), or up to $25 for an intercity bus ticket
SIM card with data: $6 for 1.5GB with 30-day validity

2. Vietnam, $30/day

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. As far as transportation goes, 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! The 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.

3. Cambodia, $25/day

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.

Meals: $5 – $10 per day. Some hostels provide breakfast
Accommodation: $3-$10 per night in a hostel (here’s a guide to the best hostels in Cambodia)
Transportation: $6-$15 for a motorbike for the day (prices may vary depending on the bike condition and your haggling skills) or for an intercity bus ticket
SIM card with data: $2 for 1.5GB with 30-day validity. Yes, it is that cheap!

4. Northern Thailand, $30/day

The north of Thailand is easy on a tight budget. As one moves south, costs for accommodation start to double, triple, and even quadruple. If you are short on time and budget for your Thailand trip, stay up north! Even in popular places like Chiang Mai and Pai, you can easily find basic dorms for less than $5. 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 3 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

5. Indonesia, $30/day

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, so 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, 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.

Meals: $5 – $15 per day. Some hostels provide breakfast
Accommodation: $5-$10 per night in a hostel
Transportation: $8-$15 for a motorbike for the day (prices may vary depending on the bike condition and your haggling skills)
SIM card with data: $5 for 2GB with 30-day validity

6. Nepal, $28/day

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, the 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 look for accommodation from real local guesthouses when you’ve arrived.  

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.

Meals: $5 – $10 per day. Some hostels provide breakfast
Accommodation: $5-$10 per night in a local guesthouse
Transportation: $10-$15 per person for a private car and driver split between 4 people, or a local bus ride between cities
SIM card with data: $3 for 1.25GB with 30-day validity. Yes, it is that cheap!

7. India, $20/day

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 travels. 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.

Meals: $3 – $6 per day
Accommodation: $4 – $8 per night in a local guesthouse
Transportation: $1 – $3 for a full day of bus and train rides, or $8 – $30 for an intercity train ride (sometimes a domestic flight costs as little as $30, if you want to splurge without actually splurging!)
SIM card with data: $3 for 1.5GB with 30-day validity. Yes, it is that cheap!

8. Mexico, $40/day

Mexico is full of endless adventures. This vast country is rich with 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 $30 – $50 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.

Meals: $8 – $15 per day. Some hostels offer complimentary breakfast
Accommodation: $8 – $15 per night in a hostel.
Transportation: $3 – $5 for a full day of bus and train rides, or $30 – $50 for an intercity bus ride 
SIM card with data: $10 for 2GB with a 30-day validity

9. Colombia, $35/day

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! 

Meals: $10 – $15 per day. Some hostels offer complimentary breakfast
Accommodation: $8 – $12 per night in a hostel
Transportation: $1 – $3 for a full day of bus rides, or $10 – $50 for an intercity bus ride (be sure to check the domestic flights which can sometimes be cheaper than buses)
SIM card with data: $13 for 2GB with a 30-day validity

10. South Africa, $40/day

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.

Meals: $12 – $15 per day
Accommodation: $12 – $15 per night in a “backpackers”
Transportation: $9 per day for a camper van split between 4 people
SIM card with data: $35 for 1GB with a 30-day validity

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