As an undergrad, then recent grad, and now grad student, I’ve been on the hunt for the cheapest travel destinations for what feels like forever. I’m sure you can understand why.
During my first ever experience abroad, in sunny, dreamy, southern France, I made mistake after mistake.
As you can imagine, France is not the cheapest destination to travel to (not even close), so the odds were already stacked against me.
To make matters worse, I would eat out for lunch every single day.
And I once (or twice…) incorrectly converted between euros and pounds, returning from a weekend in London with a negative balance in my bank account.
And I never NEVER seemed to choose the cheaper option when it compromised my comfort.
Long story short, I returned to the United States with a (much) fuller stomach and an almost empty wallet.
I was lucky that my next semester was to take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, the conversion rate worked out to be in my favor (guiltily so).
In 2016, 1 USD was equal to 12 or 13 Argentine pesos.
It was here that I not only learned how to reign in the spending, but also the importance of finding the cheapest destinations for travel.
For those of you who are also trying to see the world on a dime, I present to you my list of the 25 cheapest travel destinations.
May your dimes be stretched into dollars.
DISCLAIMER: This list is based on spending while you are in said country. It doesn’t factor in the cost of transportation to get there. To lower the cost of airfare, check out 12 Ways to Find the Cheapest Flight Possible.
25 Cheapest Travel Destinations for Budget Travelers
***All currency conversions and costs of living are accurate as of January 2019, according to Numbeo and XE Currency Converter, respectively.
While you won’t be seeing France or Spain on the list for cheapest travel destinations, there are actually a handful of European countries that won’t break the bank.
The first country on the list is arguably European.
(For all my fellow Americans, I repeat: country–not our good ‘ol southern state.)
At the intersection of Europe and Asia, BBC reports that most Georgians identify as European.
And who am I to argue with the locals?
Sandwiched between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and situated in the Caucasian mountain range, Georgia is a small country with big potential for all my fellow budget travelers.
According to the XE Currency Converter, 1 USD is equal to 2.67 GEL (Georgian lari).
This means that if you have 100 USD, it’s actually worth 267 GEL! Ah, the magic of math.
And while such a miraculous conversion may have you feeling skeptical, Numbeo reports that the cost of living in Georgia is actually 58.55% lower than in the United States.
If you’re already planning your itinerary to visit this former Soviet country, you can check out 15 Amazing Places to Visit in Georgia.
Like Georgia, Armenia is in the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia.
And also like Georgia, the majority of Armenians are more likely to identify as Europeans (according to World Atlas).
In 2018, Armenia’s dictator voluntarily resigned after a peaceful protest from the people, as reported by this Time article.
So yeah, now is a really good time to head over there.
While traveling to Armenia is not quite as mainstream as nearby Georgia, it is still among the cheapest travel destinations, and a worthy contender at that.
For some ideas on how you can spend your time in this peaceful country, check out the 15 Best Places to Visit in Armenia.
Yet another country in the Caucasus between Europe and Asia, Turkey is also (controversially?) going under the European section.
Yet this in-between country is even more complicated than its Georgian and Armenian neighbors when it comes to assigning a clear designation.
While 95% of Turkey is technically located in Asia, it is often perceived as belonging to the Middle East; still, Western countries have a clear influence on the country’s policies and customs.
So, again, I defer to the locals (with the help of World Atlas), and under Europe it goes.
Regardless of Turkey’s designation in the world, it’s certainly one of the cheapest travel destinations on the list.
And aside from all these monetary perks, Turkey’s not-so-clear category can provide travelers with a variety of sites and experiences, from Roman ruins to bustling bazaars.
For more ideas on what to see in this complex country, check out 25 Best Things to Do in Turkey.
Heading over to the western part of Europe, Portugal is another country where you get more bang for your buck.
Although the euro is queen (and consequently, the USD is nothing more than the court jester), this Mediterranean haven is much cheaper than its Western European neighbors.
And the cost of living is apparently 27.47% cheaper than the U.S.
Take it from someone who’s been there.
During my 3 days in Lisbon, I spent only $30 total on a hostel, stuck to cheap supermarket food, and was able to walk to most attractions instead of hailing a cab…or in Lisbon’s case…a vintage trolley.
There’s so much you can do in Lisbon that costs little to nothing, from exploring the winding streets of the Amalfa neighborhood to the sprawling castles of nearby Sintra.
And that’s not even counting the rest of the country.
If you’re not sold on Lisbon and/or want to consider the country as a whole, check out The 25 Best Things to do in Portugal.
Like Portugal, Greece is another euro-abiding country.
But, also like Portugal, you can enjoy it on a dime, as Greece earns a spot on the list for one of the best cheapest travel destinations.
The overall cost of living in Greece beats the United States by 18.68%, and the cost of rent is an insane 72.23% lower than the U.S.
With a rent payment of over $1000 a month (thanks NYC), I’m dreaming of accommodations in Greece…along with all that Greek food.
Of course, there are tons of ancient sites to check out, along with these 25 Best Things to Do in Greece.
A country with Western European vibes yet without the crowds of tourists, Bulgaria is one of several Eastern European countries to appear on this list.
Aka, you can make your money last much longer here.
Not to mention, as a cultural melting pot (think Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian), Bulgaria offers a unique mix of music and art that you can’t find anywhere else.
For more Bulgarian inspiration, check out Absolute Must-Do Things To Do in Bulgaria.
Like its Bulgarian counterpart, Romania is a rather underestimated country in terms of tourist potential.
With medieval architecture and close proximity to the Carpathian mountain range, Romania earns the right to be included among the best cheapest travel destinations.
Because it’s cheap. Like, really cheap.
1 USD is worth 4.08 RON (Romanian leu), according to the handy dandy XE converter.
And as you can imagine, the cost of living is also much lower than the United States (47.91%, to be exact).
At this point, I’m reevaluating all life decisions and looking up the next flight to Romania.
If you’re also trying to head over to this Eastern European gem, take a gander at the 12 Best Things to Do in Romania.
NOTE: There is some political unrest in the eastern region of Ukraine as a result of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. If you’re planning on traveling here, PLEASE do your research and avoid any potentially dangerous areas.
That being said, Ukraine is another destination where your money goes much farther than you–or at least I–can imagine.
The XE Currency Converter reports that 1 USD is the equivalent of 28.15 UAH (Ukrainian Hryvnia).
And the cost of living is a whopping 60.69% lower than the US.
Be smart, but not intimidated, when traveling to Ukraine. From coastal cities on the Black Sea to cities nearing the Polish border, this country is a destination you shouldn’t miss.
For more ideas on what you can find in this up-and-coming travel hotspot, check out Lonely Planet’s list of Top Things to Do in Ukraine.
Latin America includes countries from North America (think Mexico), Central America, and of course, South America.
And as you can imagine, TONS of the cheapest travel destinations come from this area.
Mexico’s got some stereotypes, whether they consist of certain drug war-ridden neighborhoods or the country’s Spring Break-worthy resorts.
Much less discussed, unfortunately, is Mexico as a cultural center perfect for budget travelers.
There are loads of places to visit other than Cancun (check out Mexico City, for example), that have more to offer than “darties” at the resort.
(Of course, you will want to check for any travel advisory warnings before heading over to Mexico, as there are certain regions that should NOT be visited.)
Once you step away from the likely overpriced beaches, you’ll find that the cost of living in Mexico becomes much more bearable (52.58% lower than the U.S.).
And with every USD amounting to 18.98 MXN (Mexican pesos), the currency conversion is even more of an incentive to head over to our southern neighbor.
If you want to find more on what you can do in this huge country, check out Top Attractions & Destinations in Mexico.
NOTE: In 2014, the Obama administration lifted restrictions on American travel to Cuba. In 2017, the Trump administration reinstated some of these restrictions, leading to a bit of confusion.
Let’s set the record straight.
If you are an American, you CAN still travel to Cuba…
Just under certain circumstances.
Check out this Forbes article for more details on legally traveling to Cuba.
For some ideas on what you can do in this once forbidden fruit, head over to 27 of the Best Things to Do in Cuba.
Heading farther down south, this Central American country is indeed one of the best cheapest travel destinations.
While Costa Rica may be more popular, Guatemala is much cheaper.
And along with these lovely numbers, Guatemala has much to offer budget travelers.
From the Mayan temples of Tikal to the river caves of Semuc Champey, Guatemala is a destination you don’t want to overlook.
Check out 21 Unforgettable & Fun Things to Do in Guatemala for some more inspiration.
Despite the bad rap given to Colombia (thanks Narcos), the country is now much safer and more welcoming for tourists to visit.
With both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Andes mountains, and the Amazon rainforest within reach, Colombia is a diverse country with lots to offer.
And with an exchange rate of 1 USD to 3,111.88 COP (Colombian pesos), it easily makes the cut for one of the cheapest travel destinations.
(To put this crazy conversion into perspective, the cost of living in Colombia is 56.27% lower than the U.S.)
If you’re itching to see this South American beauty, check out Best Things to Do in Colombia for help with your itinerary.
Stretching along the western coast of South America, Peru has long been a haven for budget backpackers who are just dying to see some ancient ruins (hello, Machu Piccu).
If hiking isn’t your thing, you can always explore Lima or Cusco, or try out a guinea pig (yes, as a meal).
If you want some more ideas, here are 9 Things You Must Do in Peru.
Moving farther down the South American continent, Bolivia is yet another contender for cheapest travel destinations.
You can see the incredible Lake Titicaca along with the Salar de Uyuni salt flats without selling an arm and a leg.
For more Inspo, check out the 7 Must-See Sights in Bolivia.
Pro Tip: Not many airlines fly directly to Bolivia. You will likely be better off flying from Peru to Bolivia, as there are more flight options from Lima.
Now you pretty much have an excuse to to travel to not only one, but two of the cheapest destinations on the list.
Ahhh, my home away from home.
While living in Buenos Aires for 5 months, I got a little too burnt on the beach in Mar del Plata, a little too tipsy off the wine in Mendoza, and a little too high (altitude-wise) in the mountains in Patagonia.
All of this, without actually breaking the bank.
As the second largest country in South America (second to Brazil), Argentina provides a diverse array of opportunities for nature lovers and city-goers alike.
And of course, it’s a hotspot for budget travelers.
Check out A Guide to the Greatest Things to Do in Argentina for…well…the the greatest things to do in Argentina.
The number one area in the world for English natives to teach abroad is, of course, in Asia.
This massive continent also happens to have quite a few of the cheapest travel destinations for budget-minded travelers–no teaching required.
(And if you are interested in being an educator abroad, check out these 12 Legitimate Programs that Pay You to Teach Abroad. They include more than just Asian countries!)
Starting in Western Asia, India is a gem you simply can’t miss.
Not to mention, you can explore the Himalayan mountains and the iconic Taj Mahal (which, for the record, may soon be closed to the public).
What’re you waiting for?!
Check out 13 Amazing Things to Do in India for more inspiration.
17. South Korea
Lots of people are turned off by the idea of South Korea because of its neighbor to the north.
But to be clear, North and South Korea are absolutely SEPARATE.
When most people say “Korea,” they’re talking about South Korea, which, again, is NOT AT ALL a part of North Korea.
Now let’s focus on the incredible nightlife and the famous Korean bbq (my vegetarian mouth is shamelessly watering at the thought).
And of course, let’s not forget its reputation as one of the cheapest travel destinations.
The currency conversion is 1 USD to a mind-blowing 1,123.37 KRW (South Korean won).
However, it’s important to note that, according to Numbeo, South Korea’s cost of living is actually 9.62% higher than the U.S.
Still, I highly recommend looking through the itemized comparison list on Numbeo.
Coming from NYC, the majority of EVERYTHING looks cheaper than what I’m used to.
(Seriously, a restaurant meal is $6.25.)
Head over to The Ultimate South Korea Bucket List if you’re itching to see this country for yourself!
While bigger cities in China will be more expensive, this massive country still made the cut as one of the cheapest destinations for budget travel.
Not to mention, there are loads of things to do in this huge country.
Into ancient ruins? Walk along the Great Wall or check out the Terracotta Army.
More of a nature seeker? Take a hike in Mutianyu or wander through the Yu Garden.
For more ideas, check out 25 Ultimate Things to Do in China.
Heading into Southeast Asia, Laos is snuggled between Vietnam and Thailand (more on these two later).
A country populated with mountains and covered with forests (seriously, 70% coverage), Laos is a nature-lover’s dream.
You can go trekking, kayaking, zip-lining, all on a budget traveler’s dime!
For help with your itinerary, check out The Best Things to Do in Laos.
Although certain areas of Thailand have recently become more touristy (and therefore more expensive), this country is still a worthy contender as one of the cheapest travel destinations.
If you stay away from the more commercialized beaches, you’re bound to find comfy hostels and yummy street food that won’t break the bank (not to mention all the Buddhist temples and rice fields).
For more ideas on how to spend your time (and not your money) in Thailand, head over to Top 10 Things to Do in Thailand.
With beaches, rivers, and Buddhist pagodas, you can’t go wrong with Vietnam.
The trick with this Southeast Asian country (like many other countries on the list) is to stay away from all the tourist traps.
Thinking like a local is key when it comes to traveling cheap in Vietnam (especially when it comes to the food).
If you’re already looking for the next flight to Vietnam, check out 10 of the Best Things to do in Vietnam.
Cambodia’s crowning glory is Angkor Wat (a huge temple complex that used to be at the core of the ancient Khmer empire).
But this Southeast Asian country has more to offer than its (incredible) temples.
Cambodia also boasts mountains and rainforests, along with quiet towns and non-touristy islands (at least for the moment).
For more ideas on what to do and see in Cambodia, take a look at Best Things to Do in Cambodia.
With over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is one of the cheapest travel destinations for any beach lover.
On top of the sand and sun, there is also an interesting mix of cultural influences (Asian, American, and Spanish) and sprawling rice terraces in the north.
I know. It sounds too good to be true.
If you want to experience these islands for yourself, make sure to check out Top 10 Things to Do in the Philippines.
Like the Philippines, Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands (and volcanic ones at that).
One of the cheapest travel destinations on the list, Indonesia offers beautiful beaches, ancient temples, and gorgeous waterfalls, all on a dime!
If you’re interested in Indonesia, head over to 50 Unbelievable Things You Can Only Do in Indonesia.
North Africa/Middle East
North Africa is often considered to be part of the Middle East, so now that all my bases are covered…
Last but not least, Morocco!
With the logistics out of the way, Morocco is a budget country you can’t afford to miss (see what I did there?).
This travel destination borders both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Saharan Desert.
Being rather close to countries like Spain and Portugal, and with a French colonial past, Morocco has a mix of cultural influences that make for a unique experience.
When I visited Marrakech for a long weekend, I experienced bustling souks, a relaxing hammam spa, and incredibly cheap cuisine, all without breaking the bank!
If you’re planning on going to Morocco, check out The Top 15 Things to See and Do in Morocco.
Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t see the world.
Here are the best cheapest travel destinations for all my fellow budget travelers. Pick one and go!
Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine
Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina
India, South Korea, China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Phillipines, Indonesia
Middle East/North Africa
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