Sri Lanka Is Asia's Cheapest Country
If you want a wonderful trip without going broke, set your eyes on Sri Lanka. This small island off the eastern coast of India is often overlooked by travelers, probably because of lingering images of its internal conflict in the 1990s and early 2000s.
But those who ignore the naysayers find a gem in the Indian Ocean that isn't yet overrun by tourists. Here, you won't find entire streets invaded by tacky T-shirts meant for drunk tourists. Instead, you'll be able to see Asian elephants, ride trains through the jungle, and see traditional stilt fishers waiting perched on long sticks over the water.
And you can do all of this for about $19 if you plan accordingly. Along with one other country, Sri Lanka is the cheapest country in all of Asia (countries in conflict notwithstanding). So save up for the long plane ride here, then be ready to see the wonders of this island comfortably on a shoestring budget.
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Where to Stay in Sri Lanka
Travelers on an extreme budget will be happy to find decent places for under $5, like Brother's Beach Home. You'll be steps away from Pitiwella Beach at this bed and breakfast.
But if you can spend a bit more, a little goes a long way in Sri Lanka. For less than $30 a night, you can enjoy an infinity pool with sweeping views of the mountain at Moi Ella By Dbi.
And for less than $170, you can indulge in a five-star treatment at Weligama Bay Marriott Resort & Spa, which has access to the beach and a luxury spa. Travelers in Colombo, the capital, can expect similar prices in the opulent Shangri-La Colombo.
Getting to Sri Lanka
Most international tourists come to Sri Lanka by flying into Bandaranaike International Airport. Though there are smaller regional airports, this is the country's main hub for air transit.
India and Sri Lanka plan to develop an inter-country ferry to bring people between Kankesanthurai Port in Sri Lanka and Pondicherry in India. But for now, flying is your best option.
Once you've landed, you can move around the country by bus or train. The scenic rides will keep you entertained.
Book a flight to Sri Lanka
Cheap Asian Country Alternative: Laos
Laos tied with Sri Lanka for the top affordability spot in Asia. Also costing an average of $19 a day per traveler, this country has been saved from the overtourism that plagues its neighbors, particularly Thailand.
But the landlocked nation has many of the things that make the famed backpacker circuit popular: intricately decorated temples, lush jungles that provide a home to elephants, the powerful Mekong River Basin and delicious food.
Where to Stay in Laos
Laos has more tourists than Sri Lanka. In 2019, Laos received 4.79 million people, while Sri Lanka received 1.9 million. So it is only natural that accommodations would be slightly more expensive.
If you want to stay under $5, you'll have to sleep in a bunk bed in a hostel. Still, it's possible to find a room with a private bathroom for under $10, like at Faraway Suites in Vang Vieng.
A comfortable four-star boutique hotel like Green Park Boutique Hotel in the capital, Vientiane, will set you back less than $85.
If you're willing to pay over $100 (but still under $200), you can access full luxury at hotels like the Riverside Boutique Resort in Vang Vieng, and the five-star Pullman Luang Prabang.