If you want to travel but have no money, don’t settle for a staycation or a half-assed trip to some Florida beach town. You can travel the world with very little money—you just have to be smart about where you go and how you travel. Hitting up Paris over fashion week or staying in a luxe Japanese ryokan will ensure you come home broke, but a week of lodging, food, and entertainment in Guatemala can cost less than $175.
“When it comes to traveling cheap, where you go will make all the difference,” says budget travel pro Matthew Kepnes, better known as Nomadic Matt. “A budget traveler in Switzerland could get by on maybe $70 to 100 per day. However, hop over to Vietnam and you can drop that down to $20 per day—maybe even less! If you stick to the best budget destinations you'll be able to stretch your dollar much, much further than if you traveled to more expensive countries.”
While it’s true that the plane ticket to Vietnam will almost certainly be more expensive than a ticket to Switzerland, the longer you stay, the more Vietnam’s low cost of living evens things out. According to Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's, “If a traveler can amortize the cost of an airfare with a long stay in one of the places where the dollar is strong, and the cost of living low, they might end up spending less than what they would at home, on a per diem basis.”
If travel is your 2019 goal, consider countries in Southeast Asia, Central America, and Eastern Europe, where the cost of living is low and the dollar is strong. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of destinations where you can live off of $25 a day or less. The cost of getting there isn’t included, but once your plane ticket is booked, the cost of lodging, food, and activities will be noticeably cheaper than what you pay at home.
Lodging: $11 a night
Activities: free, assuming you walk
Food: $2 for breakfast and lunch provisions, $5 for wine and dinner
If you’re looking for a European-like city without European prices, Buenos Aires is the spot. Stay in the trendy Palermo district and spend your morning walking the area, looking at street art, and loading up on breakfast and lunch provisions at Hausbrot. Take the metro (learn how here) or walk the 40 minutes to El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a giant bookstore in an old theatre. Continue by foot to the Obelisk and end your day eating a $1 choripan (chorizo sandwich) from Nuestra Parrilla and drinking a local Malbec while watching tango dancers in Plaza Dorrego.
Lodging: $7.50 a night assuming you share the bungalow with a friend
Activities: $4 tuk-tuk fare, $2.50 waterfall park entrance fee, $7 massage
Food: $4 dinner
Sandwiched between the better-known (read: overtraveled) countries of Thailand and Vietnam, sits quiet, landlocked Laos. Drop your bags at your bamboo bungalow, pack a swimsuit and snacks, and hail a tuk-tuk to the Kunag Si Waterfall. You can visit the bear sanctuary and swim in one of the three cascading pools fed by the waterfall before getting a tuk-tuk back to town. Before grabbing a $4 Laoatian meal at Bouang, treat yourself to a $7 sauna and massage at Lemongrass.
Lodging: $8 a night for a bed in a mixed dorm room, includes breakfast
Activities: $15 for a volcano hike
Food: $2 for market finds
. The tour leaves at 2 p.m. and you’ll catch the sunset on your descent. Bonus: They provide marshmallows to roast on the molten rocks.
Czech Republic: $25
Lodging: $7 a night assuming you share the apartment with a friend
Activities: $8 to tip your tour guide
Food: $10 for dinner and a beer
Europe is typically too expensive to do on a budget, but in Eastern Europe the prices are lower, and in Prague, the beer is cheaper than water. Stay a short six-minute walk from Wenceslas Square, pack a lunch, and start your trip with a free Sandemans walking tour to see the major sights and get a brief history of the city. Once the tour ends, walk across the Charles Bridge to the Malá Strana neighborhood for window shopping, continuing on to the Prague Castle for photos and views of Old Town.
“A visit to a real local Czech pub outside of the centre is a must for people who want to eat real hearty Czech food and hang out with locals who have been meeting their friends there since Communism. Our favorite is U Veverky in Bubenec,” says Eliza Stine an American expat who’s lived in Prague for over 10 years. From the castle, the restaurant is a 20-minute walk, and you’ll be rewarded with a beer, beef goulash, and dumplings for $10.
Lodging: $12 a night
Activities: $2.50 for two happy hour cocktails
Food: $3.50 for breakfast, $2 for market, $2 for momo dinner
Book an apartment near Thamel, the center of Kathmandu. In the morning, shop your way through the streets of Thamel, ending up at Himalayan Java for coffee and an egg breakfast. Continue to Asan Tole, the busy outdoor produce market where you’ll shop alongside locals for lunch fixings. Another 10 minutes on foot will bring you to Durbar Square, where kings once ruled and 17th century buildings still stand. From there, head to the holy Buddhist Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the “Monkey Temple.” Explore the stupa, make an offering, take photos of the monkeys, and settle in for a picnic with a view.
Walk toward home and swing by Newa Momo Restaurant for what some claim are the best momos–steamed dumplings–ever. Cap off your night at Sam’s Bar, where you can get a local cocktail for $1.25 until happy hour ends at 7 p.m.
Lodging: $9 a night assuming you split the apartment with three friends
Activities: $6 surfboard rental
Food: $8 for tacos and beer
Pack a snorkel (or goggles) and stay within walking distance of the beach in Sayulita, a small Mexican surf village north of Puerto Vallarta. When you’re sick of eating tacos, swimming, and laying in the sun, stop by WildMex for a one-hour surfboard rental. In the evening, cruise around town eating $1 tacos and drinking cheap beer.
“The late night street tacos are not to be missed. Best tacos al pastor I've ever had. There are bars that surround the town square where beers and tequila are cheap and many have free or cheap live music,” says Ashley Story who traveled with friends to Sayulita in 2016.
Lodging: $7 a night if you share your room with a friend
Activities: $3.50 scooter rental, $8 massage
Food: $3 lunch at Bali Buda, $3.50 dinner at Fair Warung Bale
Bali sounds exotic and expensive, but $1 goes a long way. You can cut costs even more by booking a homestay—this one in Ubud has free breakfast and a spa. In the morning, rent a scooter and cruise to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace for what will easily be photo op of the year. When hunger hits, head back to Ubud for a veggie sandwich at Bali Buda and cap off the day with a massage at your home spa and dinner at Fair Warung Bale (we recommend Nasi Goreng).
“Ryan and I always joke that as long as we stay in Bali for at least two weeks, it feels like we are being paid to be there! The cost of living in Bali is significantly cheaper than the US,” explains Danielle Visco who travels to Bali with her boyfriend, Ryan, annually. “Bali is a beautiful place, which means a lot of your activities can simply be taking in the scenery.”
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