After many years of traveling around the world I have come to the conclusion that I am a big fan of countries where you get a lot of bang for your buck! Every time I earn some money with my blog I calculate in 'months in Thailand'. As Thailand is one of the best places to backpack in the world I stranded there a lot of times and it never really cost me more than $800 a month. In this list I will give you the best backpack destinations that I have visited and some backpack destinations for beginners.
Backpack destinations for beginners
If you are looking for the best places to travel on a budget than you found the right list. I have traveled to all of the following budget friendly countries at least once and made amazing memories in each one of them. I am not saying these are the cheapest countries in the world to travel but this is a list of some of the best places to travel on a budget. The best backpack destinations for beginners are mostly clustered in South East Asia for the very simple reason that English is widely spoken, there are heaps of travelers from all over the world around, getting around is super easy and on top of that these are some of the most affordable countries to visit. Think about countries like: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia.
Best countries to travel on a budget
On my first trip around the world in 2008 I literally had no clue where I was going. I just knew that there were a lot of countries to explore in Central America and that they were one of the cheapest countries to travel to as well, so I decided to take a leap of faith and booked a ticket to Mexico. After 5 weeks traveling through Mexico and Belize and Guatemala I ended up in Nicaragua. Here I probably stayed in one of the cheapest hostels. I paid only about $1,5 for a bed. I admit there was no AC, but the fans did a great job too. Doing laundry was only $0,30 per KG but I a lost a couple pieces and was pissed I lost two expensive swimming pants in a week worth $80 a piece! It made me buy a new one, guess for how much? Exactly $1 and they were just as fine! LOL
There was one night I went out to a bar in Antigua and ran out of cash so I went to the ATM and took out $60 and got two notes worth $30. When I wanted to pay the guy said I couldn’t pay with a $30 note so he would star a tap for me as I was the only 'gringo' in the club anyway. When I wanted to pay my 8 rum-coke or so at the end of the night they were still asking for a smaller note as I only had to pay less than $10. Just like in the Philippines, the more rum, the cheaper the drink! Countries where alcohol is cheaper than water should definitely be rated as the best places to backpack in the world! Lol
2. Koh Tao, Thailand
It is no secret that scuba diving in Koh Tao is cheap. In fact it is competing with Roatan in Honduras as the cheapest place in the world to get your Scuba diving certificate. Getting your PADI as many people name it cost about $225 including 3 days accommodation. I have been living and diving on the island for a couple months and I can tell you that there is an amazing vibes and some great things to do in Koh Tao besides diving. The islandlife feeling is guaranteed and with daily sunset cocktails for about $3 that holiday feeling can’t get any better. If you want some adventure you should climb up to the spectacular viewpoints in Koh Tao for the best sunsets. Renting a studio for one month cost about $250 for a 2 bedroom villa and a private pool with a great view you won't pay more than $600. An tiny apartment in San Fransisco costs about $1,500 a month, that means you can live 6 months on an island in Thailand. Still think traveling is expensive?
Thailand itself is obviously a cheap country to travel with $1 beers in the supermarket and hostel beds for under $10. Some islands are more expensive than other find here which islands in Thailand are best for backpackers. I have lived in Bangkok for 1 month not spending more than $500. How cheap is traveling in Thailand? Click on the link and I break down the prices. The Country of Smiles is probably also one of the best backpacking destinations for beginners and definitely among the best places to backpack alone. If there is one country where you will find more travelers than locals at some places it is definitely Thailand. I wrote a ton of blogs about Thailand, also including its safety issues.
I have only been one time to Laos and that was already 9 years ago when I was backpacking around the world the first time. I remember that I woke up a sleeping tuk-tuk driver for a ride of 15min that was supposed to be around $0,50, the going rate! He was a little upset I woke him up, refused to give me a ride, closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Later I thought damn this guy was right if someone would wake me up for $0,50 I would be upset as well. LOL!
Life in Laos looked like it stood still and everywhere I went there was this super laid back vibe. I rented a scooter in the South of Laos to explore the region for a couple days. I paid only $9 for 4 days for a nice motorbike. It was actually the first time I rode a bike with gears. It was a roadtrip to remember! I stayed overnight at an old grandma somewhere in a village next to a waterfall that was mentioned in the Lonelyplanet South East Asia on a shoestring. I paid only $3 and that included the best pancake for breakfast I have ever eaten. A huge pancake (probably with a ton of sugar), a couple bananas and a complete pineapple on it! It was more like a fruit platter on a pancake! This lady told me a story that she found $1,000 under the mattress one day and saved the envelop for about 2 months until an Australian backpacker came back to pick it up. She didn’t want any reward for it and the Aussies hit the road. Half an hour later they came back she said. A truck stopped in front of her house and the Aussies came back with rice for a whole year. The lady had tears in her eyes telling me the story. Don’t only travel here because it is the cheapest country in the world to travel but also do it for the amazingly lovely people!
Although traveling from one island to another can be a pain in the ass and time consuming the price you pay for these ferry trips are a joke for Western travelers. Long distance ferries are only a couple bucks and are an experience. Choose one of the many bunk beds all clustered next to each other and sleep on an overnight ferry that brings you from one island to another. Street food will costs you as less as $1-$2, a haircut in Cebu city is $2, consulting a specialist for my ruptured eardrum was $30. Some travelers are moaning about the Philippines becoming more expensive, but I guess it are those travelers that get spoiled just like me. I admit I never take the ferries anymore and hop on a plane for island hopping in the Philippines. Although that said some islands you can only get by boat. What about camping on Kalanggaman Island? Such an amazing thing even if you are not travleing on a budget! Or travel to Siquijor an island off the tourist trail! We are getting spoiled people! There are ways to make it to Palawan by boat, check the internet and you will find them, but please don’t miss island hopping in El Nido. How can you deny that a country is cheap if the rum costs more than the coke, so a double shot rum coke is cheaper than a normal rum coke! Get it!? ;) With this fact it definitely has to be listed as one of the most affordable countries to visit. Let me help you create an itinerary for the best places to travel to in Cebu.
Island hopping in the Philippines is a little more off the beaten path as it is not part of the banana pancake trail anymore that draws everyone to the islands of Thailand and Cambodja. If you are debating to travel to Thailand or to Philippines than tak a look at the differences in transportation, cost of living, food and many other things in my article.
Hostel prices in Philippines are going to make you smile!
Of course Indonesia cannot be missed in this list. A place where a meal cost you less than a dollar if you eat with the locals. Most people forget that there is way more to Indonesia than Bali. Of course is the Holy Island one of the best backpack destinations for beginners, but it is getting way too crowded and prices are rising. In a lot of places in Java and Sumatra you will not even spend more than $5 dollar per day for food & drinks. Fruits on markets are incredibly affordable and it is hard to believe how renting a motorbike in Indonesia can sometimes only cost $3 per day. Some adventures can easily be done on a budget, read about my secret travel tip: Nusa Penida. Swim with manta rays, explore the rough coastline, chill on deserted beaches while driving from one amazing viewpoint to another on your motorbike. For the real adventures in us head to Lombok and do a Mount Rinjani trekking. And if you are looking for reasons why is Bali so popular I can give them to you as well.
I know it is another country in Central America and yes if you are traveling on a budget and looking for the cheapest country in the world to travel then definitely think about Central America as your destination.In Guatemala I decided to study Spanish in Panajachel, an absolutely stunning village on Lake Panajachel. For 30h one-on-one with a Spanish teacher I paid $105 and for $55 more I could opt to stay with a local family for one week, all meals included. Interested in learning a forreign language but don't have the time to travel? Check out Preply and find your tutor online.
I remember that for hostels around the country I paid as little as $5 and that was for the well-known places mentioned in the LonelyPlanet Central America on a shoestring. I did not take part in any tours and explored the country by myself and went on my own to Tikal, all by public transport. Central America is definitely among the best backpack destinations and Guatemala for sure is one of the best places to travel on a budget.
A cinema ticket in Antigua was only $3, but I remember a traveler saying that it was expensive. First I laughed but then I think he had a point as he told me he paid the same price for his hostel bed. ;)
In this list of cheap countries to travel Bolivia definitely deserves a spot. With busses that take 10 hours and only cost about $6 or pizzas for just $2 and a bar where cocaine is free. To be honest I am not sure if that last thing is still going on in the Coke Bar in La Paz. When traveling my first time in Bolivia this was a popular bar to go. I swear I refused, read more about it in 30 amazing things I experienced while traveling the world to get to know what I think about using drugs while traveling.
For me the Uyuni Salt Flats Tour that take you across the Bolivian Altiplano all the way to the Uyuni Saltflats in 3 days for just $130, everything included. The things you will see on your way are simply incredible and this is just one of the reasons why Bolivia deserves a prime spot in this list of best place to backpack in the world. Another amazing thing I did in Bolivia was my first encounter with serious mountaineering. I climbed up to the summit of a mountain over 6,000m (20,000ft.) and this 4-day expedition cost me only $110. Hostels around Bolivia wont cost you more than a couple bucks a night, which makes it the cheapest country to travel in South America. Street food is super cheap and alcohol is often so cheap that you will get drunk for just a couple bucks. I start to sound like an alcoholic now! Lol. The worlds most crazy tourist attraction is in La Paz and yeah I visited a prison and shaked hands with murders.
From South America we go back to Asia where Vietnam deserves a mention for its cheap transportation and damn it again cheap alcohol here. Lol. Did you know that some hostels in Vietnam give you free beer between certain times at night? Beer Hoi can be bought from street vendors for as much as $0,20 for a pint. No wonder that these hostels are rated as big party hostels. Look for them in the Old Quarter in Hanoi. The two most popular hostels are are: Hanoi Party Backpacker Hostel and Hanoi Backpackers Hostel - Downtown.
It is not only the beer that is cheap. There is also a thing called rice wine. It can be found on the menu for $1,5 for a 500ml. It comes in a random plastic bottle but don’t let that fool you. No one knows what's the percentage of alcohol. As it was so cheap we ordered a bottle. Locals fill the top of the plastic bottle and skull the rice wine. You can feel it go down your throat and I assume that tells you how strong it is, right? We ended up sharing with a Vietnamese family next to us and after a lot of laughter and handing over plenty of rice wine shots the drunk dad decide it was time to go. He jumped on his motorbike put his little kids and wife into place and drove off! :)
Another amazing and popular thing to do in Vietnam is to buy a motorbike and cross the country. This makes it one of the best places to backpack alone. You save transportation costs and you are free to go wherever you want. It is best to buy and sell your motorbikes through a Vietnam Facebook Pages as mostly fellow travelers can be trusted regarding the state of the motorbike rather than a Vietnamese guy. Although this is a fabulous way to see the country I understand that it is not everyone’s cup of tea but don’t worry. Hop-on-hop-off tourist class busses drive you across the complete country for just $50 only. This makes Vietnam one of the most affordable countries to visit regarding transportation. In the South you shoudl definitely take a tour to Mekong Delta after you saw the crazy motorbike city of Ho Chi Minh.
May be not directly a backpacking destination for beginners, but why not!? Traveling in Iran is a great experience and this is still an authentic destination if you compare it with the best backpack destinations in South East Asia. You don’t need to get off the beaten track in Iran you are already off the beaten track. Welcome to an undiscovered region of the world! Backpacking here really surprised and gave me an inside into a world we don’t see much of in our media and yes to me it is now considered as one of the best places to travel on a budget. How much do you think a 2-weeks itinerary for Iran going around the country ticking off all the cool places to see has cost me? read the article how I was possible to do that for a little more than $300 only.
On my travels I have come across people telling me China was not as cheap as they expected. What did you do mate? I traveled around China for exactly one month and crossed the whole country for so far that is possible in 1 month. I jumped two times on a bullet train, took a domestic flight, slept 3 times on a 24+ hour train ride, did a three day tour to a National Park, saw the biggest Buddha, met the Terracotta Warriors, explored the Chinese Wall, did a boat tour on the Yangtze River in Yongsue, explored Beijing, saw giant Pandas in Chengdu and that all for $900. I know China does not sound appealing, but hey have you been there? Prejudice? Yes we are all complaining about Chinese people, but what is it really like to be traveling in China? Go and find it out, you will be surprised, plus it is cheap and with all its amazing sights, culture, history, stunning nature and many more amazing things China is among the best places to backpack in the world.
One of my favorite countries is Nepal. Not only because it is probably the cheapest country in the world to travel and its magnificent nature but also for its captivating people. The lovely locals will make your trip worthwhile for sure. On top of that you will hear the mountains calling all the time. The majestic Himalaya peaks are hard to resist and although I thought I would not be the hiking type I totally fell in love with it. I am definitely not the hiking boot type so I conquered the Annapurna range on my Nikes and Havaianas. In total I stayed up in the mountains for 15 days and guess how much money I spent? The total amount of $180 USD! That comes down to $12 USD per day and in return I got one of the best travel memories ever. Hiking in Nepal is a life changing experience that everyone should try. These majestic mountains make you realize that we humans are not as cool as we think. Nature is a beast and it is so beautiful! Beds up in the mountains all cost $1, meals start from $1 at the bottom, and will cost you $4 at base camp. Trekking in the mountains unites travelers. You eat all at the same time at the same table, there is no internet, no electricity and all you do is interact with random strangers. For this fact I would definitely recommend Nepal as being one of those great places to backpack alone and if you are looking for a budget destination where you get the most for your money then please put Nepal high on your list. Trekking in de Himalaya? Dont skip the Poonhill Trek!
Another great budget destination is India. A lot of people start hesitating when they hear India as an amazing places for traveling. This crazy country has so much to offer but yes it also is a very intimidating destination. Above all it is probably the cheapest country in the world to travel. Traveling in India will not hurt your wallet at all and in return you get to try their amazing food, see spectacular landscapes and the most unbelievable street scenes. To me India is one of the best countries to travel for food. Everyone warns you to not eat on the streets and to be really cautious with food and drinks, but when people tell me things like that I do the contrary. I tried street food all the time, ate in local restaurants and totally loved their delicious juices. I never got sick or anything like that. India is a big adventure and trying out their amazing food should be part of it! Cost of street food: <$1. Restaurants: $2. Some cities can be overwhelming at first, but there are some places where you can escape the bustle a little bit. Indias capital was not really my favorite and therefore I think spending 24 hours in Delhi is enough, but please travel to Pushkar; you will love this holy Brahma town on the lake.
There is no need to sleep in hostels as nice mid range accommodation only cost around $8-$15 per room. I hiked around in the North of India where I slept for like $2 a night in a tent in the mountains. See here my YouTube video of my adventure. Cost of traveling like a local in India: not more than $20 per day. I don’t think I need to tell you that this is one of the best places to travel on a budget. Looking for India tips? Check them out here.
13. Sri Lanka
Sending people to Sri Lanka for their holiday to me personally is a bit tricky. I have been to this great country twice, but I describe it as a budget friendly destination and rather a place where I send travelers and not people on a holiday. Going around in Sri Lanka simply takes time and people on a holiday don’t want to waste time traveling around too much. A train from Ella back to Colombo will easily take about 10 hours, but might only be around 200 kilometers. In first class a ticket will cost you about $25. The same trip can be taken in tourist class with the windows and doors open for only a couple bucks. This train ride though is rated among the most scenic in the world but be carefule you might lose your iPhone trying to take a picture! Yes that happened to me. Cheap homestays can be found all around for as less as $10 per night for a double room. If you live like a local Sri Lanka is one of the best places to backpack in the world. It is may be not one of those backpacking destinations for beginners as traveling around can be an adventure and a hassle sometimes, but at least English is widely spoken which makes it a lot easier. Check out one of my first blogs ever: Traveling Through Sri Lanka In A Tuktuk.
How to travel on a budget
Now you know what the most affordable countries to visit are but that doesn’t mean that you know how to travel on a budget! Click on the link to read all my tips and tricks to safe money while traveling the world. Rather working while traveling? Then there are a bunch of options and you don’t always need a visa or a computer. Let me explain to you how!
Obviously Central America and Asia are the have the most affordable countries to visit, but there are also some unexpected places you would never think would be cheap to travel. In 2008 I went to Fiji, yes the honeymoon island in the Pacific and found out that budget travel was easy. Even some expensive countries can be done on the cheap but then you need to be a bit more creative and sacrifice a little more of your privacy. Seychelles on a budget? Yes possible too!
Some other tips on how to save money while traveling? Forget roaming cost and buy a local sim card, this way you will save a lot of money being connected to the internet. Dont think you are going to travel and you dont need your phone! Especially as a solo backpacker you are going to use it all the time. Nowadays this is one of the easiest ways to meet people. There are meet up apps, Facebook Groups and many more ways to reach out to other solo travelers. Buying a local sim card is a must do! To show you how easy it is check for example my articles about buying a prepaid sim card in Bali or find out what is the best sim card for Turkey.
I hope you enjoyed reading my article and you going to use the tips. If I missed a great backpacking destination for beginners let me know. Tell me what is for you the cheapest country in the world to travel? I am curious…
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