As we’ve said many times before: Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. There’s always a way to get someplace new without breaking the bank. Sometimes it’s bidding your time and shopping the flights. Sometimes it’s eating out of grocery stores instead of restaurants. Sometimes it’s couch-surfing your way from city to city. Often it’s a combination of all of the above. One surefire way to assure that you save money is to go to a place that’s already cheap.
Hitting up a city or country where prices (for basic amenities) are less expensive — allowing your tourist dollar goes that extra mile — makes far flung adventure that much more accessible. This isn’t so much about bartering prices down or trying to get a deal once you’re in-country. This is more about making choices before you leave that’ll allow you to travel within your means and make your money last.
With that in mind, we thought we’d cobble together a list of ten locations around the world that are crazy cheap, amazingly fun, and worth every one of your tourist dollars. The ten spots below are, of course, not the only inexpensive places to travel on this spinning rock of ours. There are hundreds of spots to choose from. Also, we’ve left some super affordable cities and destinations off the list because, well, they’re over-touristed already (think Bali, Phuket, Berlin, and Prague).
Quito is one of the most affordable cities to travel to in the Americas. The cost of a bed in a hostel in the city center go for as little as $6 per night (private rooms are less than $20/night). That’s a big advantage on the budget travel spectrum, right there.
Then there’s the whole eating and drinking thing. Quito is crazily affordable if you’re willing to eat on the streets and from markets. Imagine a piping hot, delicious meal for less than three bucks, plus 50 cents for a bottle of water. Beer or coffee will set you back a buck, maybe two if it’s upscale. And even if you don’t want to eat on the streets, a meal in a cafe or local joint will rarely cost more than a fiver (of course there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes to splash out in as well). Still, let’s say you’re spending $6 a night for a bed and another $10 on a couple meals and beer, that’s less than $20 a day to be in an awesome new city.
The biggest expense you’ll be looking at here is getting to Quito. Right now, prices for roundtrip tickets from Miami to Quito are running $361 this month. You can’t beat that price for the chance to visit a city that’ll challenge you and introduce you to a wholly new culture (unless you’re Ecuadorian and then… homecomings are dope, too!).
Granada is a pretty well-known tourist hot spot. The Nicaraguan town has a colonial throwback feel combined with a pretty hardcore beach-bum vibe. Even with a solid flow of woo-woo yoga seekers, the crystal-elite, and partiers, Granada has kept its edge and prices very low. You can still snag a bed for $4 through places like Hostelworld — though expect $6 per bed to be the average.
This is the sort of place where you’ll be hard-pressed to spend ten bucks a day on food and drink unless you’re really going for it party-wise. Beers are generally about $1. Water is half of that. Meals are going to range from $3 to $5. If you have access to a kitchen, you can save serious cash by shopping at local markets, butchers, and bakeries. This all means Granada squarely falls into the under-$20-a-day territory.
Flights are fairly cheap this time of year. That’s in part thanks to the shoulder season and in part thanks to Spirit Airways offering nonstop flights from Fort Lauderdale. If you can fly around the first of February, you can score roundtrips for under $400.
NEW ORLEANS, USA
Picking a place in the U.S. on a list of the cheapest places around the world to travel might seem a bit odd. Bear with us. New Orleans isn’t as cheap as say, Prague or Quito. We’re not pretending it is. It is however very affordable for an American city and that’s what this is about. You can still score a bed in a hostel in NOLA for $20. That a great price for any American city and NOLA is one of the nation’s coolest.
New Orleans has a long list of amazing drink specials and food deals across the French Quarter from bottomless Bloody Marys for $10-$12 to massive Po Boys for less than a tenner. You can grab ice cold beers on the street for a buck right alongside dollar bottles of water. This city is fucking cheap if you want to party. That’s why it’s a must for any traveler looking to rage and have parades without spending a crazy amount of cash.
New Orleans also has an advantage of being fairly easy to get to via budget airlines. Spirit and JetBlue have direct flights. And, if you set those alerts, you might get a great deal for $50 each way.
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Krakow rivals Prague when it comes to aesthetic beauty. The towering church steeples, winding cobbled lanes, multi-hued buildings, and massive squares make for one of the most picturesque cities in the world. You can still snag a bed in a hostel for as little as $5 a night in the heart of the city, making everything walking distance (another money-saver). Hell, you can even get whole Airbnbs for only $20.
Eating, drinking, and having a great time in Krakow is super easy and amazingly affordable. There are bars in the center of the city where shots of vodka and glasses of beer cost a buck, seriously. There’s a thriving local food scene with old-school markets still operating around the center as well, allowing you to eat on the cheap while also scoring great cuisine.
It’s never been cheaper to get to Europe and Krakow is no exception. Norwegian has flights (with a stop in Scandinavia) for around $400 roundtrip during Spring Break. You just can’t beat that price to get all the way central Europe from America.
Istanbul has been at the crossroads of humanity for millennia. That makes it one of the most interesting cities to live in for a wandering American. Good news, if that you’re aim, because Istanbul is super accessible and the prices are always low. Beds go for less than $10 at hostels across the city.
Once you’ve found a place to lay your head, finding amazing food and drinks for next-to-nothing won’t be hard. Istanbul is a fantastic eating city with food everywhere. You can get a huge kebab for a couple bucks without a problem and it’ll be big enough to fill you up for the day. The cafe culture of the city provides a great chance to dose yourself with intense caffeine for as little of 50 cents. If you do want to drink, expect to pay two or three bucks for a beer in a bar — which still isn’t that expensive in the grand scheme of things.
Getting to Istanbul is going to set you back around $600 roundtrip from the East Coast. That’s probably with a layover somewhere out of the way. Unfortunately, budget airlines from the U.S. haven’t quite reached Turkey yet. Though, with a little forward planning, you can grab a budget flight to Europe and then jump on an EasyJet or Ryanair flight to Turkey.
Dakar is a place where you find a little balance. You’re going to spend a little more flying in but spend a lot less being there. This is the sort of place where you can rent a whole apartment for about $250 a month (which pads out to about $8 per day). Even if you go the Airbnb route, you can still find a place to stay for as little as $15 a night.
It goes without saying that a place basically surrounded by water is going to have great food markets and general food options. Eating on $5 a day is doable and a beer is only going to set you back $1. A bottle of water will cost you half of that. If you’re frugal, you can live here on $10 a day for food and drinks.
The wash with Dakar is getting there. You’ll be hard pressed to find flights for less than $700 roundtrip. It’s not impossible to find flights for less around Black Friday or on other big sale dates, but it’s not easy either. Unfortunately, there are no budget airlines flying between the U.S. and Africa right now.
Morocco, in general, gets a fair amount of tourists every year. There’s good reason for it. It’s goddamn beautiful, for one. It’s also very inexpensive to travel and live there. If you are going to spend some time in one spot, Marrakesh is probably your best bet to live on the cheap. Beds in gorgeous riads (local guesthouses) will set you back about $4 per night. That’s $120 for a month.
It’ll be hard not to eat amazing food for every meal in Morocco. Street food around the city and in the markets will only set you back $1-$2 for a meal. If you want to pop into a cafe, you’ll maybe pay double that. Tea and water are amazingly cheap (think less than 50 cents cheap). This is the sort of place where you can legit get by on $5 a day for food and drink.
The best part is that you can get there fairly inexpensively. Iberia runs flights from Madrid which tend to be on sale a lot. And even with a connection there from New York, you’re still looking at less than $500 roundtrip on an airline where you won’t be charged extra for bags, drinks, and food.
A trip to Bishkek is for the thrill-seekers and the adventurers looking for something not on anyone’s Instagram feed. It’s a place for the mad ones. Bishkek is a fantastic spot to start your dive into Central Asia. The best part is the price. You can snag a bed in a hostel for around $8. Whole Airbnbs are about twice that — still a great deal.
You can expect to pay $2 to $5 for food from the street to cafes, and there’s a lot of great food in Bishkek. If you’re there in the warmer months, outdoor vendors will be on the corners selling huge skewers of shashlik (lamb, beef, or pork BBQ), zesty bowls of Lagman (noodle soup), and plenty of plov (lamb fried rice). If you’re looking to party, the beers and vodka are crazy cheap. You can walk out of a grocery store with two bottles of vodka for less than $5. Just make sure to buy plenty of water, which costs about 20 cents a bottle.
Flights to Bishkek aren’t as expensive as one might think. Right now, you can get a roundtrip in February or March for around $650. That’s a great price for a place so far away.
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Vietnam and Hanoi, in particular, should be on everyone’s list of must-see destinations. There’s an atmosphere to the place that grabs you and doesn’t let go. It’s the sort of spot that you may end up spending months in without really noticing. You can grab a bed in a hostel for $5 a night. Entire apartments go for as little as $15 a night on Airbnb. This all helps in that “spending a couple months here” attitude you’ll eventually adopt.
The food here is phenomenal. Streets are lined with little pop-up restaurants seemingly stacked on top of each other. A $1 bowl of noodles or pork with rice isn’t out of the question. This is the sort of place where $5 a day on food can truly last, maybe even with a little change left over. Of course, those prices trickle down to beer, water, and everything else food-related.
Getting to Vietnam is getting easier and cheaper. AirAsia and FlyScoot often have great deals from Honolulu that can theoretically get you there for as little as $250 each way. Even if you’re not in Hawai’i, flights from the East Coast run around $500 roundtrip, which is still a great deal.
2019 should be the year you see Indonesia beyond Bali. Medan, Sumatra’s largest city, has a low number of tourists and great prices all around. Hostel beds are going to run in the $5 range. Airbnbs are closer to $10-$12 a night. Whichever way you choose to stay, you’ll be saving cash by traveling to Medan.
Medan, like Hanoi, is a food lover’s paradise. Meals in roadside restaurants are rarely more than $1. Fruit carts roam the streets selling papaya, pineapple, melon, and watermelon for pennies a piece (it’s the perfect breakfast). Banana leaves full of nasi goreng (spicy fried rice) will set you back about 50 cents from street vendors. This is the place where it’s literally cheaper to just eat out than go to the grocery store.
Getting to Medan is a bit of a haul. First, you have to get to Hong Kong or Jakarta and then you have to get to Medan. So prices aren’t the cheapest. Still, you can find flights right now $706 roundtrip next month. That’s a bargain to get to the other side of the world where it’ll be very, very hard to spend that amount of money again in any given month.