The traveler vs. tourist debate has been raging for years, and I disagree with almost every other travel blogger who writes on the topic. Honestly? It’s about damn time for someone to stand up in defense of the tourist.
Traveling the world is a dream that many people have from a young age. However, they grow older and the realities of the world hit them. Bills. Time. Money. No matter what it is, traveling abroad becomes seemingly out of reach for many people.
However, it doesn’t have to be.
Although many people dream about visiting London, Paris, or Rome on their trips abroad, there are plenty of incredible countries and cheap travel destinations out there that are much more accessible for someone on a budget.
Over the last three years, we’ve had the opportunity to travel to some pretty amazing places while still watching costs. In fact, we paid off around $57,000 of student debt while traveling for the first two of those years. Of everywhere in the world that we visited so far, here are our five favorite cheap travel destinations that you shouldn’t miss.
Cheap Travel Destination #1: Thailand
The Land of a Thousand Smiles. Of the places that I’ve visited in the world, Thailand remains one of my favorites. Between the natural beauty, history, temples, food, markets, and low cost of living, there are few countries that can match it as a cheap travel destination.
Whether you’re a backpacker, a young professional, or an older couple looking for adventure, there is something for everyone.
For a couple traveling together, you can easily spend a month traveling around the country without worrying about too much for around $1,500 – $2,000 total. If you’re a backpacker willing to eat street food and stay in dorm rooms, you can cut that cost in half.
The number one activity in the country, getting PADI scuba certified with an open water diving course (including three days of diving and accommodation) cost less than $300 at Big Blue Diving on Koh Tao.
Cheap Travel Destination #2: Sri Lanka
Although not at the top of many people’s must-see destinations, Sri Lanka is prospering after decades of civil war and relatively recent tsunami damage. For those who are looking for an adventure on a budget, there is plenty to do in this cheap travel destination.
The highlight of the trip, for me, was hiking to the top of Adam’s Peak (which has no cost other than accommodation), a fairly intense 3-4 hour walk at 2 am to see one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life.
However, drinking beer on the beach in Hikkaduwa at noon wasn’t the worst thing either. You can get a room directly on the beach for anywhere from $5-$30 USD per night.
Cheap Travel Destination #3: Nepal
I mention Nepal with hesitation for a few reasons.
The first reason is that, while the country itself is very cheap, the things that you’ll likely want to do are going to be expensive. For example, most people want to trek in the Himalayan Mountains to see Mount Everest while in Nepal.
Between the gear that you’ll need, the flight to the start of the trek, the guide, the porter, your food, and the accommodation on the trek, the costs add up quickly. Our trek for seven days cost around $800-$1,000 in total per person.
If the trek is a bit out of your budget, there are still plenty of other things to see and do while in Nepal. It’s filled with rich history, old temples, the Buddhist religion, and amazing nature all throughout the country.
With that said, Nepal is not for the faint of heart. Kathmandu is one of the most hectic cities in the world, and you’ll likely see things in Nepal that you’ve never before seen anywhere else in the world.
Cheap Travel Destination #4: Peru
Although known primarily for Machu Picchu, Peru is so much more than just one tourist site. While you certainly shouldn’t miss Machu Picchu if possible (the price tag on it can be quite steep for someone on a budget), there is still plenty to see and do throughout the country that won’t break the bank.
For example, a ten-day boleto touristico (tourist ticket) costs just $45 USD and gets you entrance into 16 different ruins and museums throughout the Cusco region. Even a day trip to somewhere like the beautiful Rainbow Mountain will only set you back around $20 USD for an entire day that includes transportation, a 4-6 hour hike, breakfast, and lunch.
If you decide to travel long-term, you can cut costs even more. Check out our two-month budget in Cusco to see exactly what we spent in the city.
Cheap Travel Destination #5: Colombia
Ah, Colombia. One of the most dangerous countries in the entire world, right? Not anymore.
Tourism has expanded significantly over the last ten years, and it’s slowly becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations in South America. Even better, it’s also very cheap (check out our six-month budget to see for yourself).
No matter what type of traveler you are, there’s something for everyone in Colombia. It’s the second most biodiverse country in the entire world, and you can go from laying on beautiful beaches in Cartagena to touring coffee farms in Salento to wearing a jacket during a chilly weekend in Bogota all in one trip (round trip flights within the country start at around $40 USD).
With the rise of budget airlines, traveling abroad is no longer only for the wealthy. Compare flight prices on Skyscanner for these cheap destinations (or learn about the best places to get cheap flights and travel deals) and get going!
If you’re willing to put in the time to research and budget your money accordingly, there’s likely a country close to where you live that you can afford to visit. All that you need is some time off (and that’s a whole different story).
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