That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your buck. From Greece to Guatemala, here are 20 of the cheapest places to travel. And if Greece is top of your list, knowing how to bag cheap ferry tickets for the Greek islands will bring your costs down even further. You're welcome!
This article is inspired by our Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget — your essential guide to making the most of this great region without breaking the bank. You might also want to discover how to explore the world's most expensive city without breaking the bank — find out how to visit Tel Aviv on a budget.
1. Thailand — for fantastic local food and more
There’s a reason why Thailand remains so popular with backpackers. It’s got idyllic islands, a rich culture, beach huts aplenty, tantalising local food and adventures galore, and all are available at often staggeringly low prices.
Despite the well-trodden routes through the country, it’s not hard to get away from the crowds. Check out Nakhon Si Thammarat for some of the very best food the country has to offer or hire a motorbike to make the 600km trip along the Mae Hong Son Loop through the forested northern mountains. See why Thailand made our list of the best places to travel alone.
2. South Africa for safari adventures at an incredible value
One of the great things about travelling in South Africa next to the beautiful landscapes is that it’s possible to have a safari experience here – complete with the Big Five – without encountering a budget-breaking bill. Head to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi to see a white rhino and avoid the crowds of Kruger.
3. Vietnam for an affordable country with a lot to offer
Vietnam is one of the best and cheapest places to travel. The country’s greatest attraction is its sublime countryside, from the limestone karsts of the north to the waterways and paddy fields of the Mekong Delta, with blissful beaches and frenetic cities crammed in between - see our reader's vote for the most beautiful places in Vietnam.
Then there’s the cuisine – pull up a stool at a pho stall and for just a few dollars you’ll eat some of the best food on offer, shoulder to shoulder with the locals. Check out our 9 tips for backpacking Vietnam and the best time to visit Vietnam, plus discover how to get off the tourist trail before you go.
4. Uruguay — for a budget destination with beaches
If you’ve already visited Brazil and Argentina, or are just looking for a better value destination in South America, head instead to neighbouring Uruguay. You’ll be relieved to hear you can still find excellent steak here and some amazing restaurants.
Plus, there are plenty of lovely beaches to choose from – head to Cabo Polonio for quieter sands and abundant wildlife – and the gorgeous old capital of Montevideo. Want to learn more? You'll find all the information you need to plan a budget trip in our Rough Guide to South America on a Budget.
5. Cuba: a cheap destination with very few tourists
Since relations between Cuba and the US started rapidly warming up, there's never been a better time to visit this Caribbean island. Go now before it changes beyond recognition – and before the prices start to go up and up even more.
Hit the salsa clubs of Havana, get caught up in the heady July carnival of Santiago, or dip your toes in the warm Caribbean at one of the picture-perfect beaches in Cuba – whatever you do, you’ll find it hard not to leave utterly intoxicated.
6. Prague, Czech Republic — one of Europe's most affordable destinations
Despite being firmly on the tourist – not to mention bachelor party – trail these days, Prague still remains one of Europe’s cheapest capital cities to visit. For just a few Czech Crowns you can enjoy a hearty meal of Czech food, washed down with decent local Czech beer (of course).
The city itself is a beauty, crammed full of history and perfect for leisurely explorations by foot - check here to see how to avoid the crowds in Prague, and a great train travel itinerary starting in Prague. Want to explore more of Europe on the cheap? Check out The Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget.
- For Baroque touches with a view: Questenberk
- For gardens and views: Golden Well Hotel
- For budget stays: Adeba Hotel
Where to stay in Prague
7. Greece for popular tourist destinations on a budget
Greece has been having a tough time economically in the past few years. It finally started trading on financial markets in mid-2018 after years of bailouts, but for many, making ends meet day-to-day is still hard.
If anything, the financial situation is all the more reason to travel here and to support the local people. Prices are still cheaper than they once were, so you might be able to squeeze an extra Greek island or one of the beautiful beaches into your itinerary.
Pay by credit card for whatever you can in advance, but take enough cash with you for your travels, and you’re pretty much guaranteed an amazing trip. Read our indispensable travel tips for Greece by Nick Edwards, co-author of The Rough Guide to Greece, before you go - and of course, the best Greek food you need to try,
8. Guatemala: one of the cheapest countries to learn Spanish
It’s hard not to fall under the spell of Guatemala and its compelling mix of natural beauty, Mayan traditions and colonial legacies. Rock-bottom prices make this one of the best places to study Spanish.
Once your linguistic skills are up to scratch, jump onto one of the country’s famous camionetas or “chicken buses” to explore. Soak up the sights of graceful Antigua in the south of the country, explore Guatemala City or be wowed by the monumental Maya temples of Tikal.
For planning your trip, check out the best time to travel to Guatemala. It's also easy to extend your trip to see more of Central America, too.
9. Bulgaria for an underrated tourist destination
Often unfairly overlooked, Bulgaria has a lot to offer budget travellers – not least some of the most deserted beaches in Europe, at bargain prices. In addition to its appealing coastline, there are also lots of lovely old towns.
One of the best and cheapest places to travel is Varna on the coast. Or the ancient Plovdiv — which made our Rough Guide list of the Best Places to Travel this year. Bulgaria also boasts a number of dramatic mountain ranges that are perfect for exploration on foot or by bike.
10. India: an all-time favourite for budget travellers
India is such a vast country and remains one of the ultimate destinations among the cheapest places to travel. There are few countries where you can still travel so extensively and eat so well for so little.
If you’re after a beach break, eschew Goa for the gorgeous beaches of the temple town of Gokarna. For amazing food, it’s hard to beat the puris and kebabs of Mumbai’s street stalls or head to the Golden City of Jaisalmer from where you can explore the seemingly endless sands of the Thar Desert. Need more inspiration? Check out our favourite places off the tourist trail.
11. Portugal for a cheap country in Western Europe
Portugal remains one of the best bargains in Western Europe and is especially worth considering if you want to avoid the more crowded resorts and cities of Spain. Skip the Algarve for the ruggedly beautiful Alentejo coast (with its cheap, fresh seafood) and vibrant, uber-cool Lisbon. If you're not sure where to start, read our top tips for travelling in Portugal and discover the best of Lisbon's food scene.
12. Bolivia for natural beauty on a budget
One of the cheapest places to travel in South America, Bolivia is also one of its most misunderstood. Travelling here may be a little uncomfortable at times, but it’s more than worth it for the wealth of amazing sights on offer.
Top of the list is undoubtedly the astounding Salar de Uyuni salt flats, a two or three-day tour of which will usually set you back less than £100/$150. Plan your trip with The Rough Guide to South America on a Budget, and be sure to try at least some of these best things to do in Bolivia.
13. Mexico: one of the cheapest places to travel
Your budget will definitely stretch to tacos and tequila aplenty in Mexico – which is great news as there’s a lot of ground to cover in this vibrant country.
Whether you want to string your hammock up along dazzling white sands, sample some of the country’s best street food in Oaxaca or cool off in a crystal-clear cenote (sunken swimming hole), the country will leave you eager to come back for more. To kick-start your wanderlust, these are 12 of our favourite places to visit in Mexico.
14. New Orleans — one of the cheapest major cities in the USA
You can’t escape from music in New Orleans – and with buskers on what often seems like every corner, and music in every courtyard and bar, it’s not hard to experience the city’s musical heritage without spending much more than the price of a beer.
The city is best experienced slowly, and on foot; it’s hard to beat people-watching over a cup of coffee and a plate of sugar-dusted beignets at the Café du Monde. Find out where to sample the city's top cocktails with our best bar guide.
- For a budget-conscious alternative: Hotel Provincial
- For classic New Orleans charm: Wyndham New Orleans French Quarter
Where to stay in New Orleans
15. Laos for national parks and more
Even in a region of the cheapest places to travel, Laos stands out. It’s hard not to be captivated by the slow pace of the country.
Head just north of elegant Luang Prabang to riverside Nong Khiaw, where for a small change you can bag a waterside bungalow and watch the boats travel up and down the karst-surrounded river over a cold bottle of Beer Lao. Get the full lowdown on this enchanting and unspoiled corner of Southeast Asia with The Rough Guide to Laos.
16. The Gambia for a cheap destination with nature
Africa’s smallest country is already known for its beautiful beaches, but it’s well worth venturing beyond them to experience its other delights. Top of the list has to be the Chimp Rehabilitation Centre in the River Gambia National Park, where you can watch the primates in their natural habitat.
For birdlife, Baobolong Wetland Reserve is arguably the best place for ornithology on the continent and is at its most atmospheric at sunset. Read on for 8 off-the-beaten-track experiences in the Gambia.
17. Shanghai, China for delicious street food
The biggest appeal for budget – if not all travellers – to Shanghai is undoubtedly the abundance of amazing street food on offer, from xiao long bao soup dumplings to scallion pancakes and sticky rice parcels (zongzi).
It’s still possible to find an accommodation bargain at the lower end of the scale, and much of the city’s appeal lies in exploring its busy streets on foot and experiencing for yourself the juxtaposition between old and new China. You'll find recommendations for where to find the city's best street eats and budget sleeps in The Rough Guide to Shanghai.
18. Save money in Istanbul, Turkey
With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul is undeniably alluring. Though seeing all the major sights – the Aya Sofya, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace to name but a few – can quickly eat into your lira, the city can still be great for tighter budgets.
Arguably the best ways to really soak up the city are from a Bosphorus ferry, wandering the streets of the Grand Bazaar or on a streetside terrace with a freshly-cooked kebab - read up our Turkish food guide before you go.
- For views: Hotel Poem
- For B&B: Mest Hotel Istanbul Sirkeci
- For location: Boutique Saint Sophia
Where to stay in Istanbul
19. London — for free things to do in a capital city
First things first – we know London is not cheap. There’s no denying that even staying in hostels, using public transport and eating in cafés is going to massively eat into your budget.
But – and it’s a big but – there are few places in the world that can rival the capital city for its plethora of free sights, where you can see the Rosetta Stone and the Lindow Man, works by Monet and Dalí, not to mention dinosaur and blue whale skeletons, for absolutely nothing. Get off on the right foot by choosing the right area to stay.
20. Egypt for one of the most memorable cheap travel destinations
Considering the abundance of mind-blowing ancient sights, you’d expect travel to Egypt to cost a lot more than it does. Sure, if you tick off all the major attractions – including the Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings and Abu Simbel – then costs are going to creep up, but tempered with cheap (and excellent) food and decent budget accommodation, it’s not hard to feel like you’re almost able to live like a Pharaoh.
Note, that due to safety concerns some governments currently advise against travel to certain parts of the country; check the latest advice before you go.
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