This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]heap travel is REAL! And not all cheap travel is a poor experience. While it’s nearly impossible to travel to some countries with little money, there are plenty of countries where it is possible, and, in fact, you feel pretty comfortable doing it. And, no, you don’t necessarily have to go to Southeast Asia. There are some cool cheap travel destinations not that far away.
How to travel cheap? What to do if you want to travel while spending as little as possible because you just don’t have the means?
To travel somewhere on budget:
- Buy a cheap airline ticket (use flight search like Momondo, or online travel agents like JustFly or Kiwi);
- Use public transportation;
- Do not spend much on food, cook yourself when possible;
- Stay in cheap hostels and guesthouses;
- Visit free attractions or choose cheap attractions.
Ok, but what about destinations?
What are the best cheap destinations for backpackers and budget travelers?
Here is our pick!
Cheap destinations for backpackers
Thailand is our favorite cheap destination right now.
It’s one of the most tourist-friendly countries in Asia, and also one of the most popular holiday destinations. By the way Bangkok (the capital of Thailand) has been named the world’s most visited city for the past couple of years.
Reasons why we love Thailand:
- The weather is good all year round. And even during the monsoon season. The rains are not as heavy as you might expect them to be. So Thailand basically is a year round destination.
- The food is great. But if you get tired of eating local food, you’ll find plenty of other options (Mexican, Italian, Korean, Israeli, etc.)
- It’s really easy to travel in Thailand. Due to the fact that Thailand has been a popular holiday destination for decades. The transport system is great. Tours are widely available and inexpensive. And there’s a wide range of activities for all kinds of travelers, from the most broke of backpackers to the luxury travelers.
- Domestic flights are cheap. In fact, flying is only slightly more expensive than traveling around by bus.
Money saving tips:
- Eat at small local eateries and food stalls to save money. Also, the local Thai food there is better than it is at all the “touristy restaurants”.
- Withdraw money at a Bangkok Bank branch rather than from ATM. In every ATM you’ll be charged extra for withdrawal (around 200 – 250 Thai Baht). Banks don’t charge for withdrawing money. Don’t forget to take your passport. You’ll be asked to show it.
- Use local buses and songthaews when possible. Use Grab, a ride hailing app, just like Uber, rather than a regular taxi or tuktuk.
- Buy a reusable water bottle. And fill it up from public water dispensers which are often seen on the streets. A liter of water there costs less than 5 cents.
Cheap meal starts at 30 Thai Baht (1 USD), but more often around 50 baht (1.65 USD).
Cheap bed in a dorm starts at 120 Thai Baht (4 USD).
Cheap private room starts at 240 Thai Baht (8 USD).
We love Malaysia. It’s a country we have returned to countless times, spending a total of more than 6 months there.
Malaysia is one of the most modern countries in Southeast Asia, and the third richest country in the region (after Singapore and Brunei). But unfortunately Malaysia is an underrated destination. Most tourists visit only its capital, Kuala Lumpur, and only for a couple of days, en route to other destinations.
But there’s more to Malaysia than its modern capital.
In fact, Malaysia consists of two geographical regions divided by the South China Sea: the peninsular Malaysia (or West Malaysia) and Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia). Borneo is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and it is home to the largest flower in the world — Rafflesia Arnoldii.
Reasons why we love Malaysia:
- Malaysia has rich culture and heritage. Chinese and Indian influence make Malaysia even more special.
- The food is great. A wide choice of food is available.
- Cheap public transport and even taxi. Grab is available.
- Friendly people. We think that Malaysians have a good sense of humour.
- Malaysian language is easy to learn.
Money saving tips:
- Eat at local restaurants and eateries. Get used to local food. Even though Western food is not that expensive in Malaysia (by Western standards), you’ll still save a considerable amount of money if you’ll eat like a local.
- Use public water dispensers. Buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up from public water dispensers which are often seen on the streets. A liter of water there costs less than 5 cents.
Cheap meal starts at 4 MYR (1 USD).
Cheap bed in a dorm starts at 12 MYR (3 USD).
Cheap private room starts at 30 MYR (7.5 USD).
Yes, there’s so much more to Indonesia than just Bali.
But, to be honest, Bali is our favorite spot in Indonesia!
It has beautiful nature, and, surprisingly, it is cheap (yes, it is!), while being one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Balinese culture is amazing, and the people are extremely friendly.
But what about the rest of Indonesia? If you are feeling adventurous, think of going somewhere else, for example, to Sumatra or Java. Indonesia is home to more than 120 volcanoes, and many of them are accessible to tourists. Bromo and Ijen are among the most popular ones.
Reasons why we love Indonesia:
- Beautiful nature.
- It’s a huge country. There are many beautiful islands to choose from. Not just Bali.
- Accommodation is cheap and good. Much better than for example in India.
- Friendly people.
- Language is very similar to Malaysian language. So, if you know some Malaysian, you know some Indonesian as well!
Money saving tips:
- Travel just before the top season. Yes, it rains then, but it’s not that bad. Not bad at all. But, for example, accommodation is cheaper then, and there are way less tourists.
- Use public transportation in major cities.
- Use Grab. Get a Grab Bike, or if you are a couple or a group – Grab Car, instead of a regular taxis.
Cheap meal starts at 15 000 IDR (1 USD).
Cheap bed in a dorm starts at 30 000 IDR (2 USD).
Cheap private room starts at 100 000 IDR (7 USD).
Nepal is awesome, and it’s cheap.
I’m quite sure it will come as a surprise to you, but we find Nepal a quite suitable country for first time visitors to Asia. Yes, it is not as tourist friendly as Thailand, but it has a lot to offer and the people are very friendly.
There are less scams in Nepal than it is in India.
If we compare traveling in India to traveling in Nepal, the latter is way more relaxed. It’s something you hear from many travelers, who have been to both.
If you want to visit India in the near future but you are afraid to, start with Nepal to get used to the culture and food. Because in many ways Nepal is similar to India, but it’s different, you get less attention from locals, hence traveling there is much easier. So, it’s a good place to start.
Money saving tips:
- Use local buses. Travel between cities on a local bus instead of a taxi or a shared jeep.
- Shop in the biggest cities. If you are planning to go on a hike in the mountains, buy snacks in some larger town. Everything is more expensive in the mountains. Also, buy tea bags before the hike. So, later you can just order hot water and brew your own tea. It is way cheaper than ordering tea. The same stands for hiking gear. It’s cheaper in Kathmandu and Pokhara than in the mountains.
Cheap meal starts at 100 NPR (0.9 USD). Remember – food is way more expensive in the mountains!
Cheap bed in a dorm starts at 340 NPR (3 USD).
Cheap private room starts at 570 NPR (5 USD).
Food is more expensive in the mountains.
But accommodation, on the other hand, often is cheaper.
Morocco is a great destination both for experienced travelers and for beginners.
As it is so close to Europe, it’s a very popular holiday destination for Europeans. The tickets from major European cities are cheap, and it takes just a few hours to get there (flying). If you come from South Europe, it will take just a couple of hours on a plane.
Also Morocco is a fantastic surfing destination.
The weather in Morocco is nice and warm year long, but it can get really hot in July and August. A few places along the coast (Agadir, Taghazout and Essaouira) are year round destinations, and it doesn’t get too hot during the summer months.
Money saving tips:
- Eat at small local restaurants. Just like anywhere else.
- Do not accept invitations to “show around for free”. Because it’s not going to be for free!
- Avoid data roaming. Yeah, Morocco may be close to Europe, but data roaming still is expensive. Get a local SIM card if you want to use data outside your hotel / guesthouse.
Cheap meal starts at 30 MAD (3 USD).
Cheap bed in a dorm starts at 67 MAD (7 USD).
Cheap private room starts at 145 MAD (15 USD).
If you are looking for a cheap backpacking destination in Europe, Ukraine is the place to go.
It’s not a very popular destination (yet), but slowly it is starting to attract more and more tourists every year. Ukraine has a lot to offer —it has beautiful cities, beaches, mountains, plenty of historical monuments and cultural heritage sites. Chernobyl is in Ukraine, too. You can even go on a day trip from Kiev to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Money saving tips:
- When going to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, book a trip in advance. Better a week in advance. Last minute bookings are twice as expensive. We learned it the hard way.
- Cook your own food to save some money. Hostels usually have a kitchen where you can prepare your meals.
Cheap meal starts at 60 UAH (2.5 USD).
Cheap bed in a dorm starts at 125 UAH (5 USD).
Cheap private room starts at 500 UAH (20 USD).
What you would add to the list? What are your favorite cheap travel destinations?