Having been to all seven continents and kept our spending low enough to keep traveling for almost three years we have sought out budget destinations. We each share our favorite low cost stops in the world.
Give me a plane ticket and $1000 and I know where I’d be heading: China or Sri Lanka. There is nowhere where you get more for your money, be it high-quality lodging, delicious foods, or comfortable transport for less. Not only that, but these countries have substantially less of the tourist hassle and gringo invasion of popular “low-cost” destinations such as Thailand and India. Here’s why budget travelers should go to China or Sri Lanka above all else.
China. Being a massive country there is something for everyone. That said, it may take people a while to find their part of the country where the food, people and activities match their interests, but once you do…watch out wallet, you just won’t get the attention you’re used to. We traveled over 10,000 miles in the world-class trains, ate to our hearts content and finished off each evening with at least half a dozen beers before retiring to comfortable beds for under $50/day for the both of us. In places such as Shanghai we lived first world luxury, in Southern China we explored the villages, and in the North we took in some of the world’s best Buddhist art. Click here to read why to travel China over India.
Sri Lanka is the cheapest country we’ve visited. Spending a whopping $33/day for two people. We weren’t even scrimping…we lived it up, eating the best foods we could find, and splurging for fancy private rooms with fantastic views. We still don’t understand why, but Sri Lanka was cheap, yet clean, safe, and friendly. From it’s beautiful beaches to it’s must-eats, it surpassed all our expectations.
These were two favorites for me, but if you want to see head-to-head comparasions of budget destinations, see our 2011 cost summary for a year in Asia or our 2012 summary for costs from Australia through the Middle East.
When we set out on this adventure our goal was to do the “hard travel” that we might not be as keen to do later in life. We wanted to visit developing countries and off the beaten track travel destinations. This criteria made most of our stops pretty affordable, third world travel is what we were seeking and the price point in these locations has kept us on the road for years. But, if you don’t have years to explore these countries here are my favorite budget destinations:
India tops the list for me and while thinkCHUA claims he will never return I can’t think of a better place to visit on a tight budget. You can eat lunch for free in Amritsar, you can enjoy the Buddhist highlights in Leh without paying the high costs of a tour to Tibet and you can live on less than $10 a day if you choose. I will say that Indian travel, especially on a budget is not for the faint of heart, but it will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
The reflection of the Himalayas in a tea house window in Nepal
Nepal, if neighboring India offers more difficult travel than you are looking for I would recommend laid back Nepal to the North. And if you are into hiking at all this is the best budget destination for you. The people are friendly, the scenery is incredible and tea house trekking through the Himalayas can be done for less than $10 a day per person.
Bolivia is the budget destination in South America that seemingly has it all. The food is cheap, you can visit the jungle, climb mountains or explore colonial cities for half the price you could in any of the neighboring countries.
While budget is not always the determining factor for picking your next travel destinations, the above recommendations are sure to give you more bang for your buck.
Share your favorite budget destination is in the comments.