Cheap countries to travel. We have been circumventing the globe backpacking for most of the last 5 years. Our aim is always doing as many cool things as possible while spending the bare minimum. This article is not about the countries where we spent the least money. Even expensive countries can be travelled without spending money if you hitchhike, camp, couchsurfing and live on bread and water. These were our cheapest countries traveling as frugal backpackers. Traveling independent using local transport, shopping at local markets, do most of our own cooking and staying in hostel dormitories. Some optional activities completely change the budget required to travel a country. These are listed as an expensive activity and were omitted from the avg budget. Want to see what we carry in our backpacks on longterm travels?
Without further ado these were our 10 favorite budget backpacking countries:
VENEZUELA – $5.31 per day
For a budget backpacking destination Venezuela can not be beaten. Living of $5 a day while staying in a private room and eating restaurant food 3 meals a day. It is a country with big economic problems. Inflation is 1600% and the minimum wage is $12 per month.
We spent VEF 107 999 ($155) in 29 days, thus VEF 30723 ($5.31) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses.
We had some great experiences backpacking in Venezuela. The people are very friendly and it really is a beautiful country, but traveling here is frustrating at times. The main annoyances being standing in line, the police, bad service, empty shops and crime.
THE CURRENCY ISSUE
When we were here, September 2015, the official exchange rate was $1=B6, on the black market you could however buy B700 with $1! This means that a Coke will only cost 27c at the black market rate, but you will pay $33 for the same Coke at the official exchange rate! If you bring cash it is an unbelievably cheap country to travel. If however you draw money at an ATM or pay by credit card at the official rate it is maybe the most expensive country in the world.
BUDGET AND PRICES
Our average budget was $5.31 a day each all inclusive.
Some prices: 10 hour bus ride B1300 ($2), 600ml Coke B200 ($0.27), beer B35 ($0.05), Lunch (big meal, chicken, rice, salad, vegetables) B700 ($1), budget hotel double room B1700 ($2.40), fancy guesthouse on the beach B3000 ($4.20)
Most things, try not to get robbed.
Angel Falls, best deal we could find: B120 000 ($170) for the 3 day tour including flights, canoe rides, accommodation and all meals
INDIA – $13 per day
India is an amazing country to backpack on a budget, everything you need; cheap transport, cheap food and cheap accommodation. There are some amazing things to see and do, think The Taj Mahal, tigers, sleeping next to your camel in the desert and Holi the festivals of colors. We loved India!
We spent about ₹850 ($13) per day
BUDGET AND PRICES
Guesthouse for 2 ₹700 ($10.50), Streetfood ₹100 ($1.50), Restaurant Meal ₹150 ($2.40), Bottle of Water ₹20 ($0.35), 12h train (sleeper class) ₹500 ($7.50), attractions ₹500 ($7.50)
Travel India by train! it is not only cheap, but a great way to experience the local culture. Long trips in sleeper class couches is the real way to go.
Eat the streetfood, super cheap and I still drool thinking about fried dahl, masala dosa and drinking cups of real chai.
COOL BUDGET ACTIVITY
Amritsar, The Golden Temple. Backpackers can stay for free in the dormitory for tourists, free meals. A unique cultural experience living with the Sikh pilgrims in their holiest place for a couple of days. Go and see the Wagah Border Ceromony between India and Pakistan. See our ‘Backpacking Amritsar. The Golden temple and Wagah border Guide‘.
Sunderban Tiger Safari by boat INR4500 ($75) 3 days/2 nights all inclusive
All details and tips on packing for a backpacking trip you’ll find in this post. ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓
GUATEMALA – $13.13 per day
Exploring volcanoes, jungles, lakes and colonial cities made this an excellent travel destination. Cheap transport and food made a low budget possible We loved getting around using the colorful chicken buses. Living on cheap and delicious tropical fruit, tortillas and amazing local coffee made this country a favorite.
Total: GTQ 1619/$210 in 16 days, $13.13 per day
Dorm bed GTQ 50/$7.60, Double Room GTQ145/$20
We shopped at the local markets and spent about $3 per day each on food
We travelled around using the local ‘chicken buses’, transport worked out about $3 per day each.
Go to Semuc Champey it is awesome, take your own food they don’t sell anything there, only a restaurant. Don’t let the hostel see your food.
Hike up Mount Tajumulco. You can do a 2 day hike through an agency , prices are around GTO 400/$50, including transport (chicken buses), food, water, gear rental and guide.
BOLIVIA – $ 13.90 per day
We spent BOB 1164 ($167) in 12 days thus BOB 384 ($ 13.90) each per day
Bolivia is known as the cheapest country in South America. Here are some awesome attractions. The Uyuni Salt flats is a photographer’s paradise and was one of our highlights in South America. We were discouraged from hiking and camping on our own, due to muggings and robberies. Activities and tours were expensive like in all other countries. If you travel by bus and stay in hostels during your travels Bolivia will probably be your cheapest country in South America.
BOB 25 to 35 ($10-$12) for a double room per night. Hostel bed $7 per night.
A set menu “menu del dia” at a local restaurants is good value for money at around BOB 6-10 ($2-4). It is normally a main course, a drink and sometimes a small desert. We often bought food at the market and cooked for ourselves.
A 11 hour bus from La Paz to Sucre (700km) cost BOB 80 ($11.50), 7 hour bus from Sucre to Uyuni (370km) cost BOB 70 ($10).
Uyuni Salt Flats Tour. Driving around the world’s biggest salt flats for three days was an awesome experience. This is a great way to cross to the north of Chili. The tour cost b$650/$94 per person for 3 days/2 nights including food, transport and accommodation.
ARMENIA-$14 per day
Where is that? it’s OK, many people asked me that. It is a mountainous country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia, where Western Asia and Eastern Europe meet. So next to Turkey. The country is beautiful, safe, it is easy to travel here, has cheap transport and delicious street food. It was the world’s first Christian country and you can see mount Ararat, where Noah stranded The Ark from here.
Our budget was about AMD7000 ($14) per day each.
A bed in a dormitory with an excellent rating is AMD2000 ($4.3) a double room AMD10 000 ($20)
We liked the budget food in Armenia and lived on beef schwarmas (about $1.50) and flat bread with cheese for less than a $1. Brewed Turkish coffee in Armenia was good, strong and cheap 250 AMD ($0.60), make sure you ask for a Turkish coffee and the price, Americano is much more expensive at about 800 AMD ($2.40).
You can easily go to all sites independent using marshutkas, the local public transport. These mini buses are cheap to use costing about 400 AMD (1$) for a half an hour shared ride. We hitchhiked often in the Caucasus area and the friendly people in Armenia made hitchhiking here a joy.
PERU-$15.50 per day
A cheap country to travel with some amazing attractions e.g. Lake Titicaca, the Amazon and Machu Picchu. Unreal hikes that can be done on a super low budget. We did some awesome multi-day hikes here. Hiking made Peru cheaper not more expensive! During hikes accommodation was free and food was very cheap.
We spent PEN 2008 ($ 592) in 37 days, thus PEN 54.20 ($15.50) each per day
Double room in a hostal PEN 52 ($15) per night. Dormitory Bed PEN 17 ($5) per night.
Breakfast (some bread and tea) included at most hostels. The best place for lunch is a menu at one of the local restaurants. A Peruvian menú is a set meal including a starter (normally soup or a small salad), a main course, a drink and sometimes a small dessert. The price is PEN 5 – 10 ($1.5-3), we usually paid about $1.80 for lunch.
We often used buses, the prices varied, we paid about PEN 15 ($4.50) for a longer bus ride of 6 hours (380km). Shorter rides of around 2 and a half hours were about PEN 10 ($3).
Buy trekking gear in Cuzco, it is cheap! We bought a National Geographic Tent in Cuzco for $38, we saw an identical tent in Argentina for over $200! (definitely not a fake)
Machu Picchu entrance is $40 including Machu Picchu Mountain. Machu Picchu is amazing despite the 4000 tourists a day, a must see.
The Inca Trail -Prices for the 4 day group service Inca trail trek generally range between USD $560 to 1600 per person.
I recommend skipping the Inca Trail, hike a different route. There are many amazing hikes around Cuzco and several options to hike to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is the most famous and most touristy, this does not make it the best.
For more about our travels in Peru
CAMBODIA – $16 per day
Everywhere on the South East Asia backpacker’s trail is cheap to travel, Cambodia might just be the leader of the pack. Ticking all the boxes for a great budget backpacking country; sites, cheap food, accommodation and transport.
Budget about KHR 68 ($16) per day
BUDGET AND PRICES
Food in local restaurants is cheap, I loved the Lok Lak (stir fry beef and veg with lemon sauce) Amok (curry with coconut milk) fish or chicken for about 10KHR(2.50$) per meal.Transport was cheap, paying roughly $1 per hour of bus travel. A local beer is about 4KHR ($1).
Accommodation here is a bargain, paying about 12KHR ($3) for a bed in a dormitory and $8 for a double room.
Phnom Pen is a cheap city with a lot to see. Sihanoukville is the beach party capital of Cambodia, cheap drinks and big boat parties, I did not really enjoy the crazy party scene here.
Entrance to Angkor Wat is expensive at KHR80 ($20) entrance, but close your eyes and pay, it is a must see.
NICARAGUA – $17 per day
Great surf spots on the pacific side, good Caribbean diving, beautiful volcanic islands and amazing biodiversity. Combine this with cheap accommodation and food to make a great budget backpacker’s spot!
Our budget was NIO 500 ($17) each per day
Double room in a hostal NIO 445 ($15) per night. Dormitory Bed NIO 207 ($7) per night.
Transport with local buses was about $1 per hour.
Shopping at local markets and supermarkets is cheap. We cooked for ourselves most of the time. The most popular dish to buy at local restaurants is gallo pinto (rice, beans, plantain and meat) about NIO100 ($3.40).
We loved Little Corn Island! We stayed for 10 days on this great little Caribbean island, diving, snorkeling, running and drinking rum out coconuts that we picked on the beach!
Volcano boarding Leon C814 ($30), Night Dive Little Corn Islands C1124 ($38)
For more about our travels in Nicaragua
VIETNAM – $17 per day
Buying a motorbike on a backpacker’s budget. Travelling around a beautiful country, with emerald waters and towering limestone islands topped by rain forests, oh yes and lots of rain. Drinking liters of great coffee and living of beef soup for lunch. Good diving and great adventures, I loved Vietnam.
We traveled around Vietnam for 2 months on a budget of about $17 per day each
A place to sleep is a bargain in Vietnam starting with dormitory beds at about VND68 000 ($3) and a double room for VND182 000 ($8). For about $15 you can get a double room with AC, flatscreen TV, Spa Bath, etc.
We lived of Pho Bo (Beef soup) for about 20,000 dong ($1) per bowl, for 35000 dong ($1.65) you can have a plate of rice, any kind of meat and some salad. We drank a lot of coffee in Vietnam, Ca Phe Den (black coffee) for about 10.000 dong ($0.50).
This is a great country to travel by motorbike. You can buy a bike for $200 and a month later sell it for the same. Even if you break down in the middle of nowhere, in a little while someone will appear with a tool box that can fix any problem you can imagine, even replace your engine for not to much.
Ha Long Bay boat trip 3 day 2 nights $70 , Hike Sapa Valley 3 day 2 nights $60.
Africa is not a great continent to travel on a budget. Activities and sites are very expensive and if you make use of overland trucks or shuttles transport costs a lot. Lake Malawi is beautiful, with tons of amazing things to do around the lake. I spent 9 months in Malawi and it is the cheapest country that I have traveled to on the continent.
Travel budget for Malawi $19 per day.
Dormitory beds in a good hostel start at about MK5800 (8$) and a double room for MK18 120 ($25). Camping around the lake varies between $5-10 per tent.
Shopping at the local markets is very cheap. A meal at a local market is about MK870 ($1.20) for a piece of chicken and nsima. Nsima is made from ground corn and the starch served with most meals. Local restaurants charge about MK2175 ($3) for rice with chicken/beef stew. At a hostel or western restaurant a burger and chips goes for about MK3630 ($5).
Transport with a local minibus taxi is about $2 per hour. A local bus from Lilongwe to Mzuzu (354km) 6 to 10 hours is about MK7250 ($10).
Malawi is very cheap if you travel independent, shop at local markets and cook yourself.
Scuba dive in the lake, warm water, good visibility and see thousands of colorful cichlids – MK32 670 ($45).
Go for a horse ride at Kande Beach, ride through bushes on the beach and take your horse for a swim! – MK32 670 ($45).
CHILE -$11.95 per day
Chile is the odd one out in the list, it is an expensive country. It was however possible to travel cheap.
We spent CLP 653 600 ($ 979,50) in 82 days, thus CLP 11 970 ($ 11.95) each per day including all food, transport and other expenses.
Our secret for traveling so cheap was camping, hitchhiking and couchsurfing. We never used public transport in Chile hitchhiking thousands of kilometers from the Atacama desert in the north to Punta Arenas in the south. We did many multi-day hikes in Chile and because we did it on our own it was very cheap.
About Author – Campbell
The strong half of Stingy Nomads, a nomadic aquaman that would be happy to spend all his life in the water diving, surfing and spearfishing but often has to compromise with Alya and go hiking instead. Campbell is responsible for all our marine adventures and following them with write-ups. He loves traveling, braai (BBQ in South Africa), red wine and spending the day in a wetsuit.
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