Best Countries for Traveling on a Budget, Ranked
At these destinations, you can travel well for less than $60 per day — and in some places, for less than $20.
Traveling is exciting. Traveling is enlightening. And travel is, well, expensive. Happily, there are a handful of world-class destinations around the world that won't break the bank.
Using data from Price of Travel and TripAdvisor, we looked at the cheapest destinations that offer the most bang — superlative scenery, food, history and things to do — for the American buck. In each, travelers can eat local food, visit a few museums and stay in clean, comfortable accommodations for less than $60 per day.
Here are 15 penny-pinching countries to add to your bucket list — plus information on their best budget-friendly city — ranked from most expensive to cheapest. (Spoiler alert: You can enjoy the #1 spot for about 18 bucks a day. Seriously.)
Best budget city: Lisbon, $58 per day*
Portugal rivals its attention-grabbing neighbor of Spain when it comes to historic monuments, rich cultural traditions and stunning coastline. But there's one major difference: It’s cheaper. In major cities like Lisbon, hostels cost around $15 per night, with four-star hotels starting at about $50.
A ride on Lisbon’s Tram 28, which loops through the city’s main tourist areas, will only set you back $3, and the cost of a dinner entree is surprisingly economical. The gut-busting Franchesina sandwich — stuffed with sausage, covered with melted cheese and tomato sauce, and served with french fries — is around $8. A more refined meal paired with entertainment in the form of traditional Fado music starts at just $20.
*Includes a dorm bed at a good and cheap hostel, 3 meals, 2 public transit rides, 1 paid cultural attraction and 3 cheap beers
Portugal: Insider Tip
Another steal? The coastal town of Porto, where prices rival Lisbon. At the Port Wine Institute, you can sample from hundreds of varieties of the country’s signature fortified wine for as little as $1 per glass.
Best budget city: Buenos Aires, $48 per day
While Argentina doesn’t have the rock-bottom prices it did in the early 2000s, it’s still an amazing bargain. From the vineyards of Mendoza to the chic streets of Buenos Aires, food, drink, and accommodations are very affordable so you can enjoy the country’s diverse landscapes, famously delicious beef, and high-quality wine for much less than you might expect. All in, backpackers can expect to get by on as little as $48 per day.
In Buenos Aires, the capital city and one of the most expensive places to travel in the country, a four-star hotel starts at around $41, while a dorm bed in a hostel costs $8-20 per night. Admission to attractions like the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires costs under $5.
A budget dinner — yes, even some of the country’s coveted homegrown beef — can be had for less than $10 and you can easily snag a bottle of quality wine for around $5.
Argentina: Insider Tip
In Buenos Aires, you can see a tango show with dinner for around $25 (or even better, watch street performers for free).
Best budget island: Santorini, $45 per day
Compared to pocketbook-busting Western Europe, Greece is a steal. Even on Santorini, where luxury hotels and sunset-view restaurants abound, it’s possible to find basic $15 hostels and $3 gyros. If you can survive without stunning caldera views, you can even enjoy hotels for $40 per night.
In the country’s capital of Athens, you'll need to bring a bit more cash...but not much. Your biggest expense may be admission to the ancient Acropolis, the 2,500-year-old citadel that looms over the city — but $20 is a small price to pay to walk in the footsteps of philosophers like Socrates and Plato.
While four-star hotels are about $50 per night, there are still deals to be found, and most importantly, eating and drinking come cheap. A liter of house wine in Athens costs about $8 at a casual restaurant, while a plate of souvlaki (grilled skewered meat) with a fresh Greek salad is just a few dollars more.
Greece: Insider Tip
As you travel away from the big cities and main tourist draws, expect prices to dip even lower.
Best budget city: Amman, $38 per day
Bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Palestine, Jordan is a peaceful oasis in the Middle East, and a great bargain for adventurous travelers looking to explore places like the ancient city of Petra and the desert valley of Wadi Rum. While a guided tour to either can be pricey (a full-day at Petra costs about $70), other travel cost including food and accommodations are relatively low.
For example, in Amman, the capital, a four-star hotel costs around $76, while hostel beds range from $8-12 per night. A budget dinner ranges from $5-10. For shoestring travelers eating local food and staying in shared dorm accommodations, just $38 per day is enough to travel in style in this under-appreciated desert country.
Jordan: Insider Tip
Transport to the ancient city of Petra from Amman by minibus costs around $14.
Best budget city: Cesky Krumlov, $38 per day
The town of Cesky Krumlov isn't as well-known as some other parts of the Czech Republic, but for budget-minded travelers, it's a must-visit. It costs just about $10 to visit the city's majestic, eponymous castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and accommodations and food are among the nation's least expensive.
Prague, the country’s capital and largest city, is a bit pricier, but still extremely reasonable. Hostels start at around $8 per night, while those who want a bit more luxury can find a four-star hotel for around $40. A ride on the city’s metro or tram costs a cool $1.50 or less, and a $15 "splurge" on the sprawling 9th-century Prague Castle complex is well worth it.
Throughout the Czech Republic, you'll find some of the cheapest beer in Europe, with a 16-ounce glass costing around $1.50. Food is also dirt cheap, with a hearty plate of goulash and dumplings generally costing less than $9, and a hot dog from a street stand rarely topping $2.
Czech Republic: Insider Tip
For beer-lovers, take a day and visit the old town of Ceske Budejovicein South Bohemia. This is the home of the famed Budvar Brewery.
Best budget city: Antigua, $36 per day
Guatemala often gets overlooked in favor of other Central American destinations like Costa Rica, but it boasts plenty of attractions, from volcanoes and rainforests to ancient Mayan ruins and the charming colonial capital city of Antigua.
There and around the country, shoestring travelers can get by on about $36 per day. While four-star hotels cost upwards of $73 per night, a dorm bed in a hostel can be found for just $5-10 per night.
Food tends to be relatively cheap, with a local dinner of chicken, beans, and rice clocking in at $5-10. And lots of competition for tours keeps excursion prices low, too.
Guatemala: Insider Tip
Coffee is a big part of Guatemalan culture and the economy, so be sure to tour to a nearby coffee farm, which will cost around $25.
Best budget city: Zagreb, $36 per day
Once best known for its bloody war for independence from the former Yugoslavia in the early ‘90s, Croatia is now beloved for its stunning islands and beaches — not to mention its low rates.
In Croatia's capital of Zagreb, hostels cost around $7 per night, and admission to cultural attractions like the Museum of Contemporary Art is generally less than $5.
The coastal town of Split is another sound choice. Hostels cost around $17 per night, and many sites, like the 4th-century Diocletian's Palace in Split, are free.
Croatia: Insider Tip
Note that Dubrovnik, which skyrocketed to fame after serving as the onscreen setting for King’s Landing in “Game of Thrones," is much more expensive and crowded than other Croatian toewns. But for die-hard fans of the mega-hit HBO show, that may not matter much.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Best budget city: Sarajevo, $33 per day
Overshadowed by its celebrity sister to the west, Croatia, the small Balkan country of Bosnia and Herzegovina has long since recovered from the wars of the 1990s, yet it remains relatively off the beaten path of mass tourism. From medieval villages and beautiful rivers and lakes to the rugged Dinaric Alps and the cosmopolitan capital, Sarajevo, it offers a wealth of attractions for some of the lowest prices in Europe.
Frugal travelers who stay at hostels and eat street food and cheap local food can get by on as little as $33 per day. Hostels cost $8-14 per night, many museums charge less than $7 for admission, and the local Sarajevsko lager beer costs less than two bucks.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Insider Tip
Those looking for a bit of luxury will also go well here, especially in off season when prices are lower. Even in summer, though, a bit of luxury costs a lot less than other places in Europe, as prices at four-star hotels start at a mere $43 per night.
Best budget city: Budapest, $32 per day
Another under-appreciated Eastern European gem, Hungary is increasing in popularity — and price — but you can still explore this landlocked country in style for relatively little money.
In the capital city, Budapest, frugal travelers can spend as little as $32 per day. While hostels are on the pricier side compared to some other destinations on this list (rates typically range from $13-23 per night), mid-range luxury is a bargain, with four-star hotels starting at around $38 per night.
A day pass on the city’s metro is just two bucks (a single ride is 60 cents), a bottle of beer is about a dollar, and a budget dinner, such a large plate of goulash (a traditional hearty meat stew) costs just $5-8. Even a full-day’s admission to the luxurious and ornately designed Széchenyi thermal baths is about $18.
Hungary: Insider Tip
A full-day’s admission to Budapest's luxurious and ornately designed Széchenyi thermal baths is about $18.
Best budget city: Cartagena, $32 per day
While Colombia is still associated with the bloody reign of drug lord Pablo Escobar and his cartel, the country has made incredible strides in cleaning up its streets and improving safety. Today, it’s a beautiful place that offers plenty for travelers, including in the old walled town of Cartagena.
Best of all? Throughout the country, a bottle of beer can often be had for a buck.
Columbia: Insider Tip
Other affordable destinations in Colombia include the modern metropolis of Medellin, the mountaintop city of Bogota and the island paradise of Providencia.
Best budget city: Cairo, $30 per day
Prices in Cairo can fluctuate with the seasons (peak time is December to April, and temps are higher but prices are lower from June to August), but it’s still a great bargain destination any time of year.
The best part: just about everything else, from organized tours and private drivers to market shopping is negotiable.
In Cairo, frugal travelers only need about $30 per day. While a four-star hotel will set you back at least $57 per night, a dorm bed in a hostel can easily be found for $6-10 per night, and dinner costs just $5-10. Street food dishes like fuul, cooked fava beans served in a pita, are even less.
Egypt: Insider Tip
Entrance to the country’s most famous site, the Pyramids of Giza, costs about three bucks.
Best budget city: Marrakesh, $30 per day
In the bustling hub of Marrakesh, a low-budget dinner of local food will cost less than $10, while a visit to a hammam — a traditional Arabic bath — ranges from just a dollar for a no-frills visit to about $12 for a more deluxe spa-like experience. Four-star accommodation costs about $36.
The entire Kingdom of Morocco is a good bet for penny-pinchers, who needn't break the bank to enjoy the blue buildings of Chefchaouen, the blowing sands of the Sahara desert and the towering peaks of the Atlas mountains.
Sitting on the north coast of Africa, just 14 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain, Morocco is also easily accessible for Americans touring Europe.
Morocco: Insider Tip
This is one of the most affordable (and best) places in the world to take a sunset camel ride. You can even don a cheich headscarf for sun protection.
Best budget city: San Jose, $29 per day
A Central American gem, Costa Rica offers the best of all worlds: a lively city, beautiful beaches, and fascinating rainforests (plus bonus volcanoes). While it’s easy to splurge on a fancy eso-resort or beach getaway, it’s also easy to explore on a small budget.
In the capital city, San Jose, backpackers can get by on about $29 per day staying in $6-15 per night hostels, drinking the local Imperial lager for $1-2 per bottle, or sipping shots of guaro, the local sugar-cane liquor for less than a buck. Even a budget dinner tops out at under $10.
Costa Rica: Insider Tip
On the more luxurious end, even four-star hotels start at around $125 per night and you can snag a day pass to the Baldi Hot Springs, a complex of several spring-fed pools near the town of La Fortuna, for just $40.
Best budget city: Cusco, $29 per day
Like much of South America, Peru is on the lower end of the budget spectrum. With the exception of visiting Machu Picchu, which will set you back at least $200, most of the food, activities, and accommodation in the country are very budget friendly.
In Cusco, in the Peruvian Andes, was once capital of the Inca Empire and known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. There, backpackers can spend as little as $29 per day, while in the capital city, Lima, $32 affords shoestring travelers a decent budget. Food in both areas is equally quite cheap, with a budget dinner costing around $3-6.
Peru: Insider Tip
In Cusco, prices are actually higher than in Lima for accommodations, with hostels starting around $6-15 per night (averaging $5-12 in Lima) and four-star hotel prices starting at $83 per night (vs $59 in Lima).
Best budget city: Mexico City, $28 per day
Though you can easily live large in Mexico City — there’s no shortage of high-end luxury hotels and celebrity chef restaurants — it’s also possible to enjoy the country’s culture and cuisine for under $30 per day. Even on a more robust budget, you can snag a room in a four-star hotel for only $30 per night.
Beachy tourist centers like Cancun and Los Cabos are pricier, costing about $70 per night, but far from expensive. And authentic Mexican food throughout the country provides superb bang for the buck; you can eat your fill of tacos al pastor or fresh tamales for about 30-50 cents.
Mexico: Insider Tip
Want to get around on the cheap? A ride on the Mexico City metro costs a little more than a quarter, and a 15-minute Uber ride generally won’t set you back more than $5-6. Don't bother to rent a car!
Best budget city: Bucharest, $27 per day
Set in Southeastern Europe, Romania is another budget-friendly country that remains far off the beaten tourist path. With plenty of Soviet-era history, beautiful mountains, and the forested area of Transylvania, it offers plenty to see and do for a small price.
Budget travelers can live well on about $28 per day in Bucharest, the capital city, and even less in smaller towns and villages. A night in a hostel ranges from $5-14, while prices at a four-star hotel start at around $40 per night.
Food and drinks is equally reasonable, with a beer costing about a buck and a sit-down dinner starting at around $5-8. A ride on the city’s metro system costs only about 60 cents per ride.
Romania: Insider Tip
One of the more expensive outings in Romania is a visit to Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s castle, for its resemblance to Bram Stoker’s description of the famous bloodsucker’s home) costs around $10. The town of Bran is about a three hours drive from Bucharest.
Best budget city: Istanbul, $27 per day
In Istanbul, a ride on the metro or a ferry across the Bosphorus costs less than a dollar, and a small glass of raki, the local anise-flavored liquor, is around $3. You can grab a doner kebab (shaved meat served in a pita) for a few bucks, or spend about $10 on a moderate sit-down dinner in a casual restaurant.
One note of cuation, though: Throughout Turkey, while you can find a hostel for around $20 and a four-star hotel for around $80 in the off season, prices can as much as double during high season (May - September).
Turkey: Insider Tip
For something outside the big-city experience, consider a modest destination like Antalya, where you can cut your budget in half and still afford a clean, comfortable place to stay and several satisfying meals.
Best budget city: La Paz, $27 per day
The Bolivian city of La Paz is the highest capital in the world, at nearly 12,000 feet above sea level. But its sky-high setting doesn't translate to sky-high prices. Though hotels can be pricey (a four-star hotel will cost at least $70 per night), low-maintenance travelers can snooze in cheap hostels. Street food — like salteñas, the local version of empanadas — costs as little as $1, and museums including the historical Museum of San Francisco, cocaine-focused Coca Museum and modern Museum of Contemporary Art can be explored for under $3.
Guided tours outside the city are bit more expensive; for example, a day trip to Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, costs about $30 with transport and lunch.
Bolivia: Insider Tip
A guided bike ride on the “Death Road,” a vertigo-inducing road perched on the edge of a mountain 15,260 ft above sea level, will set you back $80-100 — but when taking a ride on a road known for its high death rate, you probably don’t want to skimp on the quality of your tour.
Best budget city: Krakow, $27 per day
Eastern Europe remains a bargain compared to countries on the western half of the continent, and Poland is no exception. Decent hostels can be found for about $6 per night even in major cities like Krakow and Warsaw, while those looking for a bit more luxury can find four-star hotels for around $50 per night.
Food and activities are cheap, too. A plate of perogies will set you back about 5 bucks, and a half liter of beer is generally under $2.
Poland: Insider Tip
Poland's museums are extremely affordable. In Warsaw, entrance to the Chopin Museum, dedicated to the city’s most famous son, is just $5. Krakow's excellent National Museum is even cheaper — less than $3.
Best budget city: Belgrade, $27 per day
The Balkan countries, in general, offer a great value, and the Republic of Serbia, part of the former Yugoslavia, is no exception. Yet with fascinating Soviet history, charming riverfront towns like Novi Sad, and even ski resorts, it offers so much to do and see on a small budget.
In Belgrade, the capital city, frugal travelers can suffice on $27 per day, as hostels cost $3-17 depending on the season (winter is, of course, cheaper) and comfort level desired, a local beer costs about two bucks, and a budget dinner is about ten dollars. On the more moderate end, a four-star hotel can be had for as little as $45 per night.
Serbia: Insider Tip
Belgrade's Nikola Tesla Museum, dedicated to the inventor — and perhaps the world’s most famous Serbian — costs just $5.
Best budget city: Kiev, $25 per day
Set on the edge of Eastern Europe between Hungary and Russia, Ukraine remains mostly off the European backpacker circuit, despite being chock-full of history and culture, all offered up at a low price.
Backpackers can get by on about $25 per day in Kiev, the capital city, and prices are even lower in more rural areas and small towns.
In Kiev, a four-star hotel can cost as low as $18 per day, with hostels going for a mere $2-5 per night. A ride on the city’s metro costs 20 cents, admission to the Kievo-Pecherska Lavra monastery, one of the city’s main attractions, is less a dollar.
Ukraine: Insider Tip
In Kiev, a dinner of local specialities like borscht or dumplings will set you back less than ten dollars.
Best budget city: Pokhara, $23 per day
While climbing Mt. Everest costs a whopping $25,000-$45,000, other activities in Nepal cost only a few bucks, so if scaling the world’s highest mountain isn’t on your to-do list, you can actually visit this landlocked South Asian country on a very small budget.
Shoestring travelers can get by on about $23 per day in places like Kathmandu (the capital city and the entry point for most travelers) and picturesque Pokhara, a popular stopover enroute to treks like the Annapurna Circuit.
In Pokhara, you can snag a four-star hotel for as low as $65 and a hostel room for $3-6 per night. Costs are similar in Kathmandu, though prices at four-star hotels are even lower, starting at around $52 per night.
Nepal: Insider Tip
In Pokhara, bike rentals cost just $1-3 per day, and you can score a filling dinner for less than $5.
Best budget city: Phnom Penh, $22 per day
With hostels costing just a few dollars, and a glass of draft beer clocking in at less than 50 cents, budget travelers can get by on pocket change in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s bustling modern capital. Want to upgrade? A stay at a four-star hotel will set you back just $40-$50 per night.
Elsewhere, entrance to the 12th-century temple complex of Angkor costs around $40 — not nothing, but also not prohibitive for such an iconic sight.
Most other activities, for instance sailing down the Tonle Sap River, rarely top $20. Even a private driver for the day typically costs around $15.
Cambodia: Insider Tip
Take a day and try snorkeling off the beach at Sihanoukville. Day trips are quite affordable (you don't need any prior experience).
Best budget city: Jakarta, $22 per day
Made up on thousands of volcanic islands including Bali, Lombok, Java, and Sumatra, Indonesia has long been known as a backpacker paradise for its stunning beaches, verdant rice paddies, and ornate temples.
Budget travelers can get by on about $27 per day in places like Kuta on Bali, a popular surf destination, and just $22 in Jakarta, the capital city. In Kuta, a four-star hotel can be had for as low as $32, with hostels averaging around $8-12 per night. Travelers can hire a private driver for ten hours for just $50, and simple and delicious meals start around a dollar each. A three-hour surf lesson may be the biggest expense here, with prices ranging from $24-46.
Indonesia: Insider Tip
In Jakarta, a night at a four-star hotel can be had for as little as $47, admission to attractions like the Museum Nasional costs less than a dollar, a beer costs $2, and you can fill your belly with local dishes for about $5.
Best budget city: Delhi, $21 per day
India is notable for the sheer volume of cheap destinations in its midst. In addition to the sprawling, historic metropolis of Delhi, you can find tremendous deals throughout the state of Goa and in Mumbai.
Throughout the country, even luxuries like a private car and driver are attainable to budget travelers, at a cost of just $20-30 per day. A dorm bed in a hostel can often be had for $8-10, and while four-star hotels are of course steeper — costing about $30 per night in Delhi and twice as much in Mumbai — they're hardly bank-busting. The biggest expense might be entrance to the Taj Mahal in Agra, and even that’s a fairly reasonable $15.
India: Insider Tip
The best part of traveling through India is undoubtedly its affordable cuisine. Many savory street food options, such as steamed dumplings, dosa and biryani rice, cost about 30 cents each.
Best budget city: Chiang Mai, $20 per day
Chiang Mai is a particular steal, but deals abound throughout the “Land of Smiles,” known for its sacred temples and photogenic beaches. Hostel accommodations can be as low as $5 per night in places like not only Chiang Mai, but Bangkok, and an abundance of street food — among the best in the world — costs a dollar or less in many places.
Even swanky seaside destinations are cheap. In the beach resort town of Pattaya, a room at a four-star hotel starts at around $40, and a plate of hearty traditional Pad Thai is less than 4 bucks. On the island of Phuket, which is home to some of the country’s most beautiful white-sand beaches and high-end resorts, a full-day snorkeling tour can be had for just $30 per person.
Thailand: Insider Tip
Have you ever wanted to try rock climbing? The lovely town of Chiang Mai offers a stunning backdrop and very affordable one-day lessons.
Best budget city: Manila, $20 per day
The 7,000-island nation of the Philippines is a beach lover’s paradise, and an affordable one, too. Budget travelers who stay in hostels and eat like the locals can get by on about $20 per day in Manila and $30 per day on the small island of Boracay, which is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches and chic resorts.
In Manila, the country’s bustiling capital, and Cebu, which was settled in the 16th-century and is still filled with Spanish colonial architecture, a four-star hotel starts at around $57, and a hostel room in a shared dorm goes for $9-17 per night. A ride on a city bus is only about a quarter, and dinner can be had for $3-6. On Boracay, four-star hotels cost a bit more, with prices starting at around $60 per night.
Philippines: Insider Tip
On Boracay, you can live the high life for a low price: a one-hour massage on the beach costs less than ten bucks, and you can indulge in cocktails made with the local liquor for about $2 each.
Best budget city: Quito, $20 per day
Set on the northwest coast of South America, Ecuador is known for its diverse landscapes, which range from Amazonian jungles, to Andean highlands to the remote and wild Galápagos Islands. Quito, the capital, is the second-highest capital at 2,850 feet above sea level, but its sky-high altitude isn’t matched by sky-high prices.
In fact, in Quito and around the country, backpackers can spend as little as $20 per day, staying in $8-12 per night hostels and eating chicken-and-rice plates for lunch for less than five bucks. While those looking for a four-star hotel will shell out at least $46 per night, they’ll save on activities, as many attractions and sights are free or very cheap.
Ecuador: Insider Tip
In Quito, the Museo del Banco Central, the city’s most popular museum, charges just $2 for admission.
Best budget city: Vientiane, $19 per day
Backpackers and budget travelers can live large on a small amount of money in Laos, a former French territory sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand. In the capital city of Ventiane, dine on baguette sandwiches or crepes — remnants of the country’s French heritage — for less than $2, and enjoy clean hostel accommodations for around $5.
Laos: Insider Tip
Activities throughout the country are equally wallet friendly. A three-day cruise down the mighty Mekong river costs around $30, while entrance to places like the Wat Xieng Thong Buddhist temple or the three-tiered Kuang Si Falls will set you back less than $3.
Best budget city: Hanoi, $18 per day
In Hanoi, it’s easy to find a room at a four-star hotel for around $30 per night, and a meal in a casual restaurant costs around $3. If you're really pinching pennies, go for a hostel (around $5 per night) and street food (a bowl of pho or a Bahn Mi sandwich costs about a dollar).
All of Vietnam, in fact, can be enjoyed for next to nothing, from the karst mountains of Ha Long Bay to the hilly green-rice terraces of Sa Pa to the idyllic beaches of Nha Trang.
Vietnam: Insider Tip
Don't miss at least one of Vietnam's 'floating markets'. Check out Nga Nam, Cai Rang, Long Xuyen, or one of the many local favorites in the Mekong Delta waterway.