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Budget Travel: The Best Cheap Vacation Spots

Ask anyone why they don't travel more and 9 times out of 10, their answer is:

"I don't have the time"

or

"I don't have the money".

Or both.

That post on travelling while working full-time can help you deal with the first excuse.

Budget travel is your solution to the second. That's what we're going to cover in this post.

(Check out these budget travel tips for students if you're still studying, or keep reading for amazing travel inspiration)

While the idea that "being broke is the reason to travel" is higly debatable, I do believe that you have have an amazing time abroad while travelling on a budget.

Here's the table of content if you want to jump straight to a specific section:

Let's start at the beginning:

What is Budget Travel?

Budget travel is travel that is budget-conscious. It's cheap either because the place one travels to is affordable, or because one adopts an economical, unwasteful, frugal travel style.

Budget travel usually (but not always) involves saving money on accommodation and on flights by booking cheap flights and staying at hostels or other low-cost lodgings.

What are Some Cheap Countries to Travel?

We've organized a complete list of cheap vacation spots by continent to make it easy for you to compare budget destinations that are geographically close.

Cheap countries in Europe

Europe isn't generally the first destination that comes to mind when planning a vacation on a budget.

Yet, the Old Continent has plenty to offer, even for budget-minded travellers. Especially if you consider the eastern part of the continent.

Bulgaria

Estimated budget: $30-40/day

Many travellers have long spread the idea that Bulgaria has little more to offer than cheap drinks and a touristic seaside.

That could not be more wrong.

For starters, Bulgaria is among the cheapest countries to visit in Europe. You can expect prices in Sofia, the capital city, to be about half of what you would pay in Western Europe. Outside Sofia, it's even less than that (sometimes much less).

In addition to the low cost of living that makes Bulgaria a perfect affordable vacation spot, the country has amazing sights to offer. The mountains are particularly beautiful and are increasing in popularity among hikers in Europe. They are also what makes Bulgaria a great budget holiday destination in the winter: you can go skiing there for half the price you would pay in Western Europe.

The country's culture is also extremely rich, offering travellers a mix of Soviet-era buildings, ancient Thracian ruins, and Ottoman influence. If you're heading to Eastern Europe, you should consider visiting Bulgaria.

Croatia

Estimated budget: $40-50/day

Croatia is on the "not-that-cheap" spectrum of this list of budget friendly vacation destinations. That being said, for someone living in the USA or in Western Europe, the beautiful country from Central Europe can certainly be regarded as at least an affordable place to visit. Travel to Croatia during the shoulder season for a truly budget-friendly trip.

Travellers looking for some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe should start by taking a look at Croatia, which has grown synonymous with epic summer holidays. That is largely due to its turquoise waters and sunshine. Croatia is a formidable alternative to Greece for island-hopping, with a multitude of them surrounding the mainland.

While the country has become renown for its beaches, stopping there would be a mistake: there are plenty of small villages located inland that are worth your while. They will let you enjoy a much more authentic lifestyle than what you can find on the seaside, with everything from food to accommodation coming with a much cheaper price tag.

Romania

Estimated budget: $30-50/day

It's not so uncommon to find people who believe that Transylvania doesn't actually exist, that it's only the stuff of legends.

Well, no, it's real. And so are its beautiful castles, including that of Dracula, the most popular touristic destination in the area. The region truly is a beauty, with its pines-covered Carpathian mountains, medieval towns, and the remarkable hospitality of the locals. Stop in Brașov to taste the local flavors.

However, while it is arguably the country's most beautiful region, Transylvania isn't all Romania has to offer. Like Bulgaria, Romania is also gaining popularity for travellers interested in winter sports and looking for budget alternatives to Western Europe.

Despite what narrow-minded travellers may claim, Romania isn't a dangerous place to visit. No more than most other places. It's a great budget holiday destination in Europe.

Hungary

Estimated budget: $25-40

As a rule of thumb, in Europe, the further east you go, the cheaper the price tag gets. Located in Central Europe, Hungary fits the rule, with a cost of living lower than in Western Europe, but still not as low as in Bulgaria or Romania, for example.

With a plethora of medieval villages and hilly countrysides, Hungary is sure to please nature-loving travellers. For those who have the soul of city-dwellers, Budapest is one of the best cheap vacation spot in the region.

The capital city has an active, student vibe; the river and green areas make it breathable; and the local cuisine is both delicious and very affordable. Try the famous goulash and the aesthetically pleasing chimney cake. Budapest is also a great place to be at the end of the year, with its Christmas markets that rival the German and Austrian ones.  

Georgia

Estimated budget: $20-40/day

Georgia is the first country on this list which presence in the "Europe" category to be controversial. Georgia is in between Europe and Asia - but not just geographically.

It's extremely cheap to live in Georgia. And you can actually live there, for a year, without a visa. That makes it more than just a budget-friendly vacation destination: digital nomads should seriously consider the idea of spending some time there.

But it won't take that long for budget-minded travellers to acknowledge the charm of Georgia. If you enjoy mountains and/or skiing, you have to go there for the Caucasus mountain range. If you're more of a beach kind of traveller, head west, where the country is bordered by the Black Sea. For the city, Tbilisi is a must, with its delightful mix of wooden houses and buildings that show signs of the Soviet era.

It's gaining in popularity very fast, so you might want to go there before prices catch up... although that shouldn't happen tomorrow.

Ukraine

Estimated budget: $20-40/day

With the overwhelming success of the HBO series Chernobyl, Ukraine has gained in popularity recently - for better and for worse. Because Ukraine is so much more than the host country of humankind's worst nuclear disaster.

It's also incredibly cheap, by European standard - perhaps the country with the lowest cost of living for foreigners, mainly due to its devalued currency.

While the language barrier may be an obstacle, if you manage to get by, you'll come to greatly enjoy the country. Because of the conflicts in the eastern region, you'd better avoid this area and head south instead: Ukraine is one of the best cheap holiday destinations to go to the seaside in Europe.

Turkey

Estimated budget: $30-50/day

Turkey has it all. It really does. And while the devaluation of the country's currency (the Turkish lira) is detrimental to the locals, it has also made the country at the crossroad of Europe and Asia more affordable than before.

No city is a better illustration of this location in-between continent than Istanbul, the old Constantinople, just like no city is more deserving of being qualified as "vibrant". Turkey's capital is almost literally buzzing with energy and life. It's relatively inexpensive and culturally rich, which makes it one of the best budget trip for history enthusiasts.

And as is the case for most countries, you shouldn't stop at the capital city. Because no matter how great it is, it doesn't represent the whole country. So if you're heading to Turkey, go inland and marvel at the beauty of Cappadocia. Of the seaside, with its untouched islands. Of the mountainous north of the country, with its lakes that freeze in the winter. Wonder at the hospitality of the Turkish people and the delicious food they will put in your mouth.

Armenia

Estimated budget: $20-40/day

Let's end with Armenia. Like Turkey, listing it among the cheap places to go to in Europe is controversial, since it is debatable whether Armenia is in Europe or in Asia. That's why it makes for a perfect transition with our next section.

However, Armenia is so much more than a good transition for this post. Its location in between Europe and Asia made it a trade center of high importance between Europe and Asia. This position at a crossroad was the main reason why the country was invaded by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, and the Ottomans along its historical journey.

While this has caused Armenia to lose parts of its territory along the years, it also made it a cultural jewel praised by budget travellers. The Silk Road passed though the country, leading to a mix of European, Asia, and Middle-Eastern influences.

Located in the awe-inspiring Caucasus mountains, Armenia offers a variety of ancient monasteries and impressive landscapes. People who travel for food will appreciate the Middle-Eastern influence on the cuisine; wine-lovers will get a chance to try out some made from pomegranate, Armenia's national symbol.

Armenia recently ousted its dictator, after a series of peaceful protests which led him to resign. Combined with the fact that it hasn't become mainstream yet and its low cost of living, this makes Armenia one of the most budget-friendly destinations to visit safely in Europe at the moment.

Cheap countries in Asia

Many countries in Asia are budget-friendly, past the initial cost of the flight. That's why many travellers want to make the most of their trip there and live in Asia for a little while, rather than just visiting for the holidays.

Laos

Estimated budget: $20-40/day

If you're wondering where to go on holiday for cheap in Asia, take a look at what Laos has to offer. This beautiful country is the only landlocked one in Southeast Asia. Don't be disappointed by the lack of access to the sea, though: the rivers that flow between the forests and mountains make for wonderful sights.

Adventure travellers will have a blast visiting Laos, with its mountainous landscape mostly covered with forests. You can try kayaking, climbing, trekking, zip-lining, for a much lower price than you would back home.

It's popular to rent a motorbike to visit the smaller town - which is what you want to do, not only to experience the most traditional aspect of Laos, but also because everything is cheaper there. Laos is a superb alternative to the overcrowded and overtouristic Thailand.

Vietnam

Estimated budget: $25-50/day

Vietnam is undoubtedly more popular than Laos as a cheap vacation destination. But this overly touristic side of Vietnam doesn't apply to the whole country: crowds gather around the country's most iconic spots, like Ha Long Bay.

Marek from Indie Traveller created a fantastic travel guide for Vietnam. Now, while Ha Long Bay is probably a must-see despite the crowds, he recommends Tam Coc as a beautiful alternative. You should also check out some of the world's largest caves, true natural wonders.

What's more, Vietnam still offers amazing value for money in all regards: cheap accommodation, delicious affordable food, extremely low-cost transportation... It's still time to go, before cost of life gets on par with several European destinations.

The Philippines

Estimated budget: $35-60/day

A budget trip to the Philippines is not as easy to plan as with other destinations in Asia. But with some organization, travellers can still have budget-friendly vacations in the gorgeous archipelago.

Travel writer Kach Howe originates from there and often recommends the Philippines as a place to visit. As an alternative to the popular beaches of Palawan or Cebu, she recommends the province of Laguna, with its hot springs and beautiful lakes that are easily accessible by car or public transportation.

The Philippines's history is also sure to delight travellers interested in the culture of the country that they visit. The archipelago indeed has more to offer than its more than 7,000 islands; the Asian roots mixed with the Spanish and US influence blend into a unique culture. Major plus, if you consider language as a barrier to travel, fear not: English is a national language alongside Tagalog.

Nepal

Estimated budget: $20-40/day

Trekkers should be quick to add Nepal to the top of their bucket list. It's one of the cheapest destinations in the world to do so - provided that you avoid Mt. Everest itself, of course.

You'll find the locals extraordinarily welcoming. Budget travellers generally recommend staying at local guest houses to enjoy a warm bed and the local delicacies.

Accommodation, food, and transportation rarely cost more than a few dollars when you go local. To reach that $40 mark, you'll really need to indulge yourself: Nepal really is one of the top budget destinations in Asia.

India

Estimated budget: $20-30/day

India is maybe the cheap vacation spot most often listed for budget travel. It's genuinely hard to spend over $30 if you're at least a bit mindful of your budget. Rest assured, this affordability doesn't come at the expense of the quality.

This low cost of life makes India a perfect destination for a long-term stay that would allow you to explore more areas of the country and better experience its diversity. Each regions differs from the others, contributing to the cultural wealth of the country.

The country is often praised for its delicious food and  the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal, famously built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife. Keep in mind that the later, local in Agra, is likely to be the largest expense of your trip.

Cheap countries in Latin America

Most destinations in Latin America are budget-friendly. Here are a few that are even more so than the rest, while also being amazing vacation spots.

Ecuador

Estimated budget: $25-40/day

The small country in the northeastern part of South America is home to many hidden gems, in addition to the Galápagos Islands. Before its colonization by Spain, Ecuador was part of the Inca Empire. This resulted in a culturally diverse country where a large portion of the population is composed of mestizos, and where Spanish, the national language, is spoken alongside a plurality of Amerindian languages.

With the Andes and its volcanoes, a portion of the Amazon rainforest, and its access to the ocean, Ecuador is a nature-lover paradise, one of the few megadiverse countries in the world, as well as one of the cheapest places to visit in the Americas. The Galápagos are the most expensive destination you will find in Ecuador but even there, you will have trouble spending a fortune easily if you go local.

Bolivia

Estimated budget: $20-45/day

Bolivia is another wonder for the beauty of its diverse landscapes. While it doesn't have access to the sea, it is home to the highest lake in the world and the largest one in South America, Lake Titicaca. It's also a favored destination by travel instagrammers due to the beauty of the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni that seem to be from another planet.

The most expensive part of your trip is likely to be your plane ticket, because Bolivia isn't easily accessible. But once you're there, you quickly realize how cheap a vacation spot it is. A full meal can be as cheap a $2. Accommodation and transportation won't cost you much more than that either, which makes it rather easily to live on $20 a day in Bolivia.

Nicaragua

Estimated budget: $25-45/day

Located in Central America, Nicaragua is another paradise where adventure travellers will be thrilled to go surfing, diving, or volcano hiking. It has been dubbed the second Costa Rica for its landscapes, its biodiversity, and increasing popularity among travellers in search of an affordable place to spend their vacations, but also because prices are increasing.

While it ranks among the poorest countries in the Americas, Nicaragua has seen its tourism industry booming in recent years, leading many a traveller to believe that the country won't remain as cheap as it is for long.

Like many countries in Latin America, it is home to a diverse culture, be it in cuisine, music, or literature.  

Guatemala

Estimated budget: $25-50/day

Guatemala is another fantastic budget alternative to Costa Rica in Central America. Prices are about twice as cheap there, with no impact on quality. There again, the landscapes are otherworldly, with jungles hiding Mayan temples, lakes surrounded by volcanoes, and perhaps most astonishingly, river caves.

Villages are perfect to take a break from the heart of nature and discover the locals' slow-paced lifestyle. The colonial cities will also delight with their atypical architecture. Even there, you can get by with $25 a day.

Colombia

Estimated budget: $35-50/day

You may have a bad opinion of Colombia if you've been watching Narcos. While gangs are still present, life in Colombia is far from as dangerous as depicted in the Netflix show. It's now a much safer destination.

And a cheap one too! Exchange rates are favorable to the USD and EUR, letting you enjoy the charm of its cities like Medellin at an affordable cost.

Colombia is another one of these countries where nature leaves you breathless. The country's location lets travellers enjoy both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. It also has access to the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. Think of Colombia as a concentrate of what Latin America has to offer.

Argentina

Estimated budget: $35-50/day

Buenos Aires is the city in Latin America that seems the closest to a European city... without the price tag. The country's economy is a mess that impacted negatively the lives of many inhabitants, but the country remains an affordable vacation spot for Westerners.

Argentina is quite big: you'll probably need to take domestic flights if you're planning on visiting both the north and the south of the country. And there is much that you don't want to miss, between the glaciers of Patagonia in the south and the Iguazu Falls that mark the border with Brazil in the north, some of the most impressive waterfalls in the world.

Note that from Ushuaia, you can go on a cruise to Antarctica. But while this is one of the cheapest places to leave from, we're not talking budget travel anymore here.

Cheap countries in Africa

Like Asia and Latin America, almost every country in Africa could be regarded as a budget travel destination by European and North American standards. Nevertheless, we've listed some that budget travellers should check out to discover the continent that is regarded as the cradle of humankind.

Malawi

Estimated budget: $25-50/day

The small landlocked country may be deprived from an access to the ocean, but Lake Malawi still offers pristine sandy beaches to travellers. You can also go snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, or sailing on the lake.

Nature is perhaps Malawi's main advantage for the tourism industry, as the country notably offers some of the most affordable safaris while giving tourists a chance to see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, cape buffalo and elephant).

Dubbed the "warm heart of Africa" for a reason, Malawi is a wonderful cheap destination for cheap vacations that are sure to make you fall in love with the country and want to discover more of Africa.

Ethiopia

Estimated budget: $25-50/day

Not only is Ethiopia worth the trip only for its landscapes, it is also a paradise for travel foodies, especially vegan ones. The cuisine in Ethiopia is famous for being among the most delicious in the world - and you don't need to be vegan to appreciate it.

It may not be the cheapest place to visit in Africa, but it remains largely affordable by Westerners' standards. Make sure to visit Addis Ababa, the continent's 4th largest city, along with the city of Gondar in the north, where you'll find a hidden castle of Portuguese and Indian influence. It will give you a taste for Ethiopia's rich culture.

Rwanda

Estimated budget: $25-60/day

Tourists usually visit Rwanda for the gorilla treks organized in the country, which are by no means cheap. You still have plenty of reasons to go to Rwanda though, and make it a budget trip. Starting with Volcanoes National Park.

Rwanda is infamous for its tragic past: history buffs will undoubtedly appreciate a trip to Kigali, with its genocide memorials and the art scene that thrives in this affordable city. As with any other destination, as long as you avoid international restaurants and overly touristic areas, it's rather simple to spend cheap vacations there.

South Africa

Estimated budget: $30-60/day

South Africa doesn't only have one of the best airlines in the world; they also boast wonderful landscapes that allow travellers to go hiking one day and swimming the next.

The largest country in the southern half of Africa, it also boast a particularly diverse population, with several ethnic groups of Bantu ancestry, but also rather large communities of Asians and Europeans. Johannesburg and Cape Town in particular attract most visitors.

Moving around the country isn't always easy and in comparison to other countries on this list, South Africa may not seem like a budget destination. It is however still very affordable thanks to the exchange rate, very favorable to the euro and the dollar.

Morocco

Estimated budget: $40-60/day

Morocco is a perfect place to discover North Africa on a budget when coming from Europe: you can find very cheap flights from Spain and a few other European countries. Life there is relatively affordable, especially if you manage to haggle a little.

Many cities in Morocco deserved to be explored; get lost in the streets to discover the hidden gems and the cheapest places where the locals hang out. There, stay at one of the riads, the traditional hotels iconic for their garden courtyard, which provide an escape from the buzz.

It'd be a shame, however, to go to Morocco to stick to the cities, when a large portion of the country is covered by the Sahara, the largest hot desert in the world. It won't be easy to find a cheap trip there, but it's still affordable. Plus, a night under the Milky Way doesn't have a price, does it?

Why You Should Travel

We've talked about the benefits of travelling several times already, but here's why you should travel in a few words.

Travelling abroad can be the beginning of a cure for depression and anxiety. A change of scene disconnects you from your daily life and undoubtedly makes you smarter: not only does travelling broadens your mind, it is usually an eye-opener as to how other people in the rest of the world live, especially if you're coming from Western Europe or North America.

It also makes you a more interesting person: talking about your travels, what you've seen abroad, usually makes for captivating conversations - much more so than small talk. Travelling is also guaranteed to leave you with lifetime memories, not only because of the places you will see, but also thanks to the people you will meet.

Don't forget that being able to travel, especially internationally, is a privilege. Try to travel responsibly as much as you can and be respectful of the places you go to, as well as the people you meet.

Tips to Save Money on Flights and Accommodation

Flights and accommodation are often the largest expenses of a trip. You want to lower those costs as much as possible, especially when you're travelling on a budget. It's not about being cheap, it's about saving your budget to actually experience your destination.

It'd be a shame to spend all your money on the way to get there or while sleeping, wouldn't it?

We already have a guide on how to find cheap flights, but here's the gist of it: be flexible. Avoid high season, don't fly on weekends, book your tickets early, and use a flight comparator to look at prices from different airlines at once. Just by doing this, you should be able to save a lot of money on your flight ticket for your budget trip.

To save money on accommodation, try to book on your own as much as you can, rather than using a travel agent. Look at hostels and guest-houses instead of hotels, and you're sure to not only have a more authentic experience, but also save a lot of money.

Final Words on Budget Travel

Some of the cheapest vacation spots are on that list. But remember that every destination has the potential to be cheap if you're mindful of how you spend your money. The general rule is to act closely to how the locals do: avoid the touristic areas and don't eat at the restaurant for every meals, that should already make your vacations much more affordable, wherever you go.

Needless to say, there are tons of other countries that could have been added. These are only some of the best examples and source of inspiration for your next budget trip!

Thomas Busson

Thomas Busson

Thomas is the SEO and Content Strategist at ClaimCompass. Frequent traveller, he loves sharing tips and news about the industry in a simple way.

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Budget Travel: The Best Cheap Vacation Spots
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