I’ve travelled to 45 countries and have been a bargain hunter since the first stamp graced my passport. I’ve compiled pages upon pages of detailed budget charts for my records, and from those charts, I’ve come up with a list of places that are the absolute cheapest destinations for budget travellers. Some of them you may already know, but some of them may just surprise you.
I’ve already written about The Most Affordable Travel Destinations For 2015, but the ones listed in this article are cheap today and they’ll likely still be cheap 10 years from now. Here are 5 places that you can always travel to with very little money.
A long time hippy and budget backpacker mecca, India is pretty much as affordable as it gets. Of course, if you’re a luxury traveller, India has everything you could ask for as well. You could spend $2,000 / night on a hotel room, or $2. But the great thing about India is that many of the most eye-opening experiences happen when you’re travelling here on a strict budget.
There are street meals that can be found for under a quarter in India. In Kolkatta, I once had a very filling meal of rice, 2 different curries and bread for 20 cents! You can find all-you-can-eat meals (thalis) for as little as $2 in many parts of the country, and there are still some (barely passable) rooms throughout the subcontinent that wont cost you more than $5. If you a nice room for free, consider volunteering and living a life of Yoga in an Indian ashram.
On top of cheap food and accommodation, you can cross the entire country by train for just $35 and that’s a long way (around 40 hours of transit).
The greatest thing about India isn’t that it’s cheap, it’s that it’s India. This is one of the most fascinating and rewarding places that an intrepid traveller can visit, and you can live here on as little as $10 / day or $300 / month!
White sand beaches, world-class surfing, volcanic landscapes and captivating culture, Indonesia is an exciting place to explore. I spent 2 months here in 2009 and I barely scratched the surface. I did however live off of very little.
In Indonesia, many guest house rooms and beach huts (particularly in Sumatra) can be found for less than $5. A meal rarely costs more than $4 outside of touristy towns and transport can be very affordable as well.
It’s worth noting that, while it’s important that you bargain for good prices in all of the places listed in this article, in Indonesia, bartering an absolute must. You’ll be overcharged for meals, rooms, transport and pretty much everything that you take out your wallet for. But if you’re a good bargainer, you can live here on as little as $12 / day.
If you decide to do some domestic flights (recommended to avoid long travel days), you’ll have to up this budget a bit, but a cheap seat on an Air Asia plane will only cost you about $50 for a 3 hour flight!
Cuba is a cheap and expensive destination all at once. If you only visit the resort town of Varadero and the money you spend is CUC rather than CUP (Click Here to read about Cuba’s dual currency), then you’re likely to spend upwards of $300 / day here, but outside of the resort, Cuba is much better!
If you understand the difference in currency and you learn where to spend your CUP, then you can get meals for under $1 all around the country!
Instead of staying in expensive, state-run hotels, consider spending time with local families in clean, comfortable and affordable casa particulars. These lovely homes rarely cost more than $20 / night and they often include a free breakfast and all of the cultural education that you could ask for.
Just like there are 2 currencies in Cuba, there are also 2 types of transport. The expensive Viazul bus will cost you around $5 / hour, while you can ride the super-cheap Astro bus that’s about 1/2 the price (although less comfortable and less reliable).
If you stay in casa particulars, eat peso food, take the peso bus and don’t take too many tours in Cuba, you could get by on as little as $25 / day. That’s just $750 / month!
Breathtaking mountain scenery, world-class trekking, wonderful people and a mix of Nepalese and Tibetan culture, Nepal is a place where you can find peace and harmony with nature and with the local people.
The best deals to be had in Nepal are found in the country’s strong-suits: Trekking & Mountaineering. Head on the 10 day Annapurna Circuit trail and you’ll be rewarded with some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, and it’s most affordable hiking opportunities.
Many of the tea houses where you’ll sleep during the trek are actually free. That’s right… FREE. All you have to do is buy breakfast and dinner while you’re there and you won’t have to pay for your private room at night.
The meals in Nepal are typically around $3 each, but as you get higher in altitude they get more basic and a bit more expensive (seldom over $5).
Transport is also very affordable in Nepal. You can take local buses to the trail heads and they typically cost around $1 / hour. You can easily get by in Nepal on around $30 / day and around $15 / day while on the hiking trails.
Right now Nepal is going through a very difficult time. They’ve recently been hit by a hard earthquake that has shattered many homes, and also the country’s tourism industry. By visiting now, you’ll not only be enjoying one of the best value-for-money destinations in the world, but you’ll also be helping a wonderful community that is currently struggling to move forward.
Unfortunately, a large part of the reason that Guatemala is so cheap is due to its struggling economy that is a direct result of years of civil war. Today, the tourism industry is improving and it’s helping many locals to find a new way to earn money and help the next generation of Guatemalans.
For travellers, Guatemala is still very affordable. Most budget hotel rooms are around $20 – $25 / night and meals can be found on the street for under $5. Chicken bus transport is very affordable at around $1 / hour, but we recommend opting for the slightly safer and infinitely more comfortable private shuttles for around $5 / hour.
If you were to travel on a bare-basic budget in Guatemala, you could get by on around $35 / day. Try exploring some of the off-the-beaten path places in the country and get to know the many indigenous cultures that make up this fascinating nation.
What’s the cheapest country that you’ve ever travelled to?
Please share with us in the comments below!