The World’s Cheapest Countries for Backpackers

May 20, 2013 by

Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

Backpacking around the world can be surprisingly cheap if you don’t mind roughing it at times and are willing to arrange your trip independently. For those on the tightest budget, look towards the developing world when creating your itinerary: Here you’ll find the potency of your experience in relation to the amount you spend will be far greater than any trip through expensive Western countries. If you’re tight on cash, here are some of the world’s cheapest (and best!) countries to travel in.

Note: The prices listed here are approximate and may fluctuate considerably during high seasons or festival times. The approximate daily travel budget is the lowest one can spend while eating modestly, staying in budget accommodation and rarely splurging on luxuries.

Ecuador

Quito

Quito

Besides being one of the cheapest countries to travel in Latin America, Ecuador’s stunning landscape and biodiversity more than compensate for its small size. Highlights include the Galapagos Islands, an impressive swathe of the Amazon rain forest, the Andean Sierra, culturally diverse towns and cities and the historic Colonial sector of Quito.

Accommodation:

Hostel dorm beds:  $4-$8

Hostel private rooms:  $10-$20

Budget hotel rooms: $20+

*Breakfast is often included with the room tariff, though what you get is dependent on what you’re paying for the room.

Transport:

City buses: $0.25

City taxi: $3-$4 for most trips around the city

Regional buses:  $1 per hour of travel time

Meals:

Argentine-style empanadas, skewers of chicken or carne, slices of pizza on street: $1-$2

Full street meal including meat (chicken or carne) with a small side: $2-$3

Typical restaurant set lunch with fresh juice: $2-$3

Dinner at touristy restaurant:  $5-$10+

Read about what to eat in Ecuador

Drinks:

*The cheapest way to enjoy Ecuador’s nightlife is to purchase beer or liquor from convenience stores before you hit the discotecas.

Domestic beer from convenience store: $1

Beer in bar or discoteca: $2-$3

Cocktails: $2.50-$5

Approximate daily travel budget: $20-$30

India

Indian food

Indian food can be very inexpensive

India has long been a crown jewel in the budget backpacker’s travel itinerary. The country is so incredibly large and diverse that there is truly something for everyone. You can travel as grandly or as cheaply as you wish, but for backpackers it is the amount of bang you get for your buck that keeps travelers coming back again and again.

Accommodation:

Budget hotel or hostel:  $3-$5

Mid-range hotel room: $7-$15

*Hotels are usually more expensive in big cities (especially Mumbai) and tourist hot spots, and may also be influenced by season and festivals. Prices are usually negotiable, so don’t forget to bargain.

Transport:

City buses: $0.25

City taxi: $1-$2 for most cross-city trips.

Regional buses: $0.25-$0.50 per hour for public buses, $1.30 per for deluxe air-conditioned Volvos.

Regional trains: $0.50-$4.50 per 100 miles in Sleeper Class (not air-conditioned);  $2.25-$6.50 for 2nd-tier air-conditioned sleeper; $1.95-$4.60 for First Class non-air-conditioned chair car.

*Within towns, public transport costs literally pennies, but they are often confusing and slow, so you’ll usually be hiring a taxi. Always book ahead for both regional trains and buses.

Read about train travel in India

Meals:

Street meal: $0.50-$1.50

Meal in a budget restaurant: $2-$5

Drinks:

Masala chai: $0.20 in the street, $0.60 in restaurants.

Cup of coffee: $1.00-$1.50.

Beer: $3.00 in a budget restaurant, $5-$7 in in a bar in Delhi or Mumbai.

Local wine: $12-$20.

Approximate daily travel budget: $15-$25

Thailand

Thailand boats

Thailand’s world-class beaches are surprisingly affordable to visit

The friendly culture, great cuisine, comely beaches, world-class dive destinations and rock-bottom prices have all made Thailand one of the world’s most visited nations. Though many of the most popular places are full of foreign tourists, there are still plenty of places to be explored that are completely off the common travel routes. Highlights include the temples and palaces of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and the impressive ruins of Sukhothai.

Accommodation:

Hostel dorm bed:  $3.50-$6.50

Budget double room:  $6.50-$9.50 with fan, $10-$16.50 with air-conditioning

Single room in midrange hotel: $20-$35.

Transport:

City buses: Less than $1 for most trips

City taxi: Fares begin at $1. A ride around a city such as Bangkok should cost no more than $5.

Regional buses:  $1.50-$2.25 per hour of travel

Motorbike Rental: $6.50 per day

1st Class Sleeper Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (12 hours): $40

Same ride in 3rd class: $8.50

Read about bus travel in Thailand

Meals:

Modest street meal:  $1-$1.50

Full street meal including meat/fish/chicken and veggies: $2-$6.62

Meal at air-conditioned Thai food restaurant: $3.50-$6.50

Drinks:

Big bottle of local beer from a convenient store: $1.50-$2

Beer in small local bar: $3.50

Beer in fancy Bangkok nightclub: $5

Cup of coffee in a cafe: $1.70

Approximate daily travel budget: $15-$30

Turkey

Istanbul market

You don’t have to spend a lot to have a good time in Turkey

Turkey is the melting pot of East and West. Astride two continents, bordered on three sides by seas and full of the ruins of ancient civilizations, one could spend a lifetime exploring this incredible country. Whether you’re a culture vulture come to admire the grandiose architecture of Istanbul or a trekker seeking to explore Anatolia’s ancient countryside, there’s something for everyone – and on a budget that won’t wreck you.

Accommodation:

Hostel dorm bed:  $9-$15

Budget room in pension:  $13.50-$25

*Breakfast is sometimes included with the room tariff, though what you get is dependent on what you’re paying for the room. Room prices in budget hotels are almost always negotiable.

Transport:

City buses/subway: $0.75 per journey

City taxi: $1.34 to start, $0.75 for each kilometer traveled

Regional bus sample fares: Istanbul-Adana (940km, 13 hours) $27-$38; Istanbul-Anakara (450km, 6 hours) $13.50-$30; Istanbul-Cappadocia (730km, 11 hours) $10-$15.50

Regional trains: Istanbul-Ankara $16.50/$45 daytime coach/ private compartment in sleeper train.

Read about train travel in Turkey

Meals:

Meat/chicken kebab wrap off street: $1.50-$2.75

Set meal in budget restaurant: $3.50

Typical restaurant kebab with pilav and veggies: $5.50-$8.25

Drinks:

Domestic beer from convenience store: $1

50cl Beer: $1.50 from Tekel, $2.75 in bar, $5-$7 in night club.

Glass of local raki in meyhane: $4.50-$6.50

Turkish coffee in cafe: $1.50

Approximate daily travel budget: $25-$40

Indonesia

Indonesia is an enormous archipelago of over 17,000 islands, each with its own distinct natural environment, culture, traditions and ethnic groups. It is a country where you can lounge for hours on a pristine island, see orangutans in the wild and climb a volcano all within a single day.

Accommodation:

Budget hotel room: $8-$15 in Jakarta, $2.50-$5.00 outside tourist-orientated islands like Bali.

Budget double room with air-conditioning: $10-$20

Transport:

Passenger Ferries: Gilimanuk (western Bali) to Ketapang (Java): $0.61

Padang Bai (East Bali) to Lembar Harbour (Southwest Lombok) $3.70

Economy class overnight train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta: $12.63

Domestic flights:  Many destinations under $100

Motorcycle rental:  $5-$8 a day.

Meals:

Modest plate / noodles (street): $0.50-$1.75

Large plate with side dishes (street): $1.75–$4

Sit-down restaurant:  ($2.50–$5.75)

Fancy restaurants: $5.75–$11.50)

Drinks:

1.5-liter bottle of mineral water: $0.50

Local beer at cheap convenience store: $1.15-$1.75

Cocktail/beer at bar/restaurant: $2.30-$5.75

Approximate daily travel budget: $15-$25

Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua

Granada

Nicaragua is in many respects the cheapest place to travel in the Americas. Bargains abound, and the crowds that drive up prices and pack the country’s best sites have yet to arrive en masse (as they have in other Central American countries) Highlights include the volcanic island of Ometepe and the colonial city of Granada.

Accommodation:

Hostel dorm bed (often including basic breakfast and internet): $3–$8

Double room: $6–$15 with shared bathroom, $10–$30 with private bath and A/C

Transport:

Local city bus: $0.15–$0.25

Express bus: $.060-$0.80 per hour of travel

Express minibus: $1-$2 between most cities

Taxi ride: $0.50-$4 within city limits

First-class air-conditioned overnight ferry from Granada to San Miguelito: $9

Meals:

Meal on the street: $1.50–$3

Basic lunch at a restaurant: $2.50–$7

All-you-can eat buffet: $4–$8

Fancy restaurant: $7–$15

Drinks:

Flor de Caña rum (7-year): $4–$9 per liter

Cheap local rum: $1-$2.50 per liter

Liter-sized beer in a bar: $1.50 – $2

Coffee: 50 cents to $1 a cup, from good local beans

Approximate daily travel budget: $15-$25

Costa Rica

Costa Rica zipline

Find activities for cheap in Costa Rica

With its generous offering of volcanoes, national parks, exotic wildlife, pristine rainforest and some of the world’s finest beaches, Costa Rica is one the best budget travel destinations in the world. The ease of travel and the wide range of activities on offer at affordable rates have made the country justifiably popular for both backpackers and luxury tourists alike.

Accommodation:

Hostel dorm bed: $10–$30

Hostel private rooms: $14–$50

Budget hotel rooms: $15+

Jungle cottage or treehouse: $45–$200

Transport:

Taxi within city limits: $3–$12

Regional bus: $0.50–$30

Rental car: Begin at $40 per day, including fees and insurances, plus gas ($5.66/gallon)

Domestic flights between major cities: $35+

Meals:

Empanada or pastelillo on the street: $1.20

Casado (typical Costa Rican dish) with fresh juice: $4–$5

Dinner at touristy restaurant: $25-$40)

Drinks:

Fresh fruit juice: $1.50

Domestic beer from convenience store: $1.20

Domestic beer in bar/club: $2–$4

Cocktails: $3–$7

*Most clubs charge of cover of $5-$15. The cheapest way to drink is to buy domestic or liquor from a convenience store and drink it on the beach. Drinking in public is legal in Costa Rica.

Approximate daily travel budget: $35+

Bolivia

Bolivia

Bolivia. Photo courtesy of David Jennings.

With its stunning mountainous scenery, rustic villages and the largest indigenous population in South America, Bolivia is truly a gem. Highlights include the hallucinatory Salar de Uyuni (Earth’s largest salt flat), the mining town of Potosi and La Paz – the highest capital city in the world.

Accommodation:

Hostel dorm bed: $6-$12

One-star hotel: $8

Two-star hotel: $15-25

*Breakfast is often included with the room tariff.

Transport:

Five-minute taxi ride: $1

Public city bus: $0.20 per ride

First class regional bus: $2 per hour

Meals:

Grilled Guinea Pig: $10

Set lunch at a local restaurant: $2-$3

Mid-level restaurant: $5-$10

Steak at a nice restaurant: $15

Drinks:

Cup of coffee: $0.50-$1

Six pack of Paceña from shop: $4

A bottle of Paceña beer at a restaurant/bar: $2

Approximate daily travel budget: $15-$30

Cambodia

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple in the Angkor Wat Temple Complex

Most travelers are drawn to Cambodia by the justifiably famous temple complex of Angkor Wat, but those able to spend more than a few days in the country will find that this small Southeast Asian Kingdom has much more to offer – and on a budget that is among the lowest in the world.

Accommodation:

Double room with fan: $4–$5

Double room with air-conditioning: $6–$8

Mid-range hotel: $10–$20

Transport:

3-8 mile ride on motorcycle taxi: $1

Tuk tuk: $1 for most rides around town

Regional Buses: $0.75-$1.50 per hour of travel

Meals:

Meal on street or in market: $0.75–$1.50

Sandwich on street: $0.50

Nicer sit-down restaurants: $2.50–$5

Drinks:

Liter of mineral water: $0.50

Local coffee: $0.50

Coffee at touristy cafe: $2

Big bottle of Angkor beer: $1-$1.25

Draft beer: $0.50-$0.75

Approximate daily travel budget: $15–$25

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka can be a bit more expensive than India and other Southeast Asian countries, but the costs are still reasonable and the country is a truly remarkable place to visit. Highlights include the bustling Colombo, the Cultural Triangle of Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Galle, and the natural beauty and diverse flora and fauna of Yala National Park.

Accommodation:

Bed in a dorm room: $3.50–$7.25

Double room (two people): $9–$14

*Prices close to tourist hotspots may be higher, but drops considerably out of season..

Transport:

Regional buses: $0.25-$0.75 per hour of travel.

Semi-Luxury overnight bus, Kandy to Jaffna (8 hours): $4.25

3rd-class train: $0.35 per hour of travel

Local city bus: $0.15-$0.30 per ride

Tuk tuk: $3 for a five-mile ride

Meals:

Veg curry and rice: $1

Fish curry and rice: $1.50

Plate of kottu: $1

Dinner at mid-range restaurant: $3-$5

Dinner at luxury restaurant: $17

Drinks:

One liter bottled mineral water: $0.55

Local coffee: $0.75

Local beer: $1.50

Approximate daily travel budget: $15-30

Laos

A relaxing and quiet respite from the bustling Southeast Asian countries that surround it, many travelers go to Laos to escape the crowds and chill out – but the country more to offer than relaxation! Mountainous, culturally diverse and historically fascinating, Laos has more than enough archaeological sites, traditional villages and natural beauty to merit an extended trip, especially for those on a budget.

Accommodation:

Double room with fan: $3.75-$7.50

Double room with air-conditioning: $7.50-$12

Transport:

Regional buses:  $1-$1.50 per hour of travel time

Songthaews: $1.25-$2.50 per hour of travel time

Rent a motorcycle for a day: $7.50-$10

Meals:

Average street meal: $1.25

Green papaya salad, sticky rice and grilled fish on street: $3.75

Baguette sandwich: $0.75

Fancy sit down restaurants in touristy area: $6.25–$12.50

Drinks:

640 ml bottle of Beerlao: $1–$1.25

1.5–liter bottle of mineral water: $0.65

Drink in a bar: $1.25–$2.50

Approximate daily travel budget: $10–$25+

- David Jennings

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2 Responses to “The World’s Cheapest Countries for Backpackers”

  1. AK Says:

    What about such a post for such European countries?

  2. Hive Says:

    wow its great!Lots of activities and adventure with affordable prices.

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