12 Cheapest Countries To Backpack in 2018

exotic destinations

Did you know it’s possible to travel on as little as $10 a day in some parts of the world? Well, if you get creative with your travel destinations, it most certainly is. Most people know that India and Eastern Europe are cheap places to travel but most of the world’s best budget backpacking destinations are a little off the beaten track and you won’t find most of these countries on other ‘budget travel destinations’ lists… This is some real adventure gold right here folks.

I’ve been travelling the world broke for nearly nine years now, I normally travel on a budget of around $10 – $15 a day but this becomes a lot more fun when you pick a cheap place to travel as suddenly you can afford beer!

This is a list for adventurous backpackers, for those who want to explore the world without breaking the bank, this is the ultimate list of cheap places to travel…

Cheap places to travel

The Ultimate List of Cheap Places to Travel…

1. Iran

Cheap places to travel

Nasir Ol-Mosk Mosque in Shiraz

One of the most overlooked cheap places to travel, backpacking Iran is a truly incredible experience. Iran is probably the easiest country worldwide to hitch a ride and you will often be invited into homes so you rarely even have to pay for a place to sleep.

Iran is an often misunderstood country and is frequently slated in the media, something which continues to make me angry. I’ve spent nearly six months in Iran now, visiting four times across 2016, 2017 and 2018. My wife is Iranian, I speak some Farsi and I feel strongly connected to this amazing country. Iran is one of the cheapest countries to visit in the world and is a broke backpacker haven…

With gorgeous Islamic architecture, legendary hospitality, beautiful women and the stunning island of Hormuz, this is a country which will take your breath away at every turn. Backpacking across Iran is a truly amazing experience and it’s one of my favourite budget travel destinations in the world. If you’re happy to hitch and to Couchsurf, you can travel here for under $10 a day.

I’ve camped out all over Iran, Couchsurfed with dozens of hosts, hitchhiked thousands of kilometers – the legendary Iranian hospitality means it’s totally possible to travel on a tight budget and Iran is actually a very safe country to visit. If you’re into hitchhiking, this country is a mecca…

For more information: Check out my Backpacking Iran Travel Guide.

2. Venezuela

Cheap places to travel

$100 changed into local currency on the black market

I first visited Venezuela in 2015 and I fell in love with this vibrant intoxicating country pretty damn fast. Burning cars, riot police and protestors were my first view of the country but I was quickly made welcome by my Couchsurfing host and I managed to ninja my way around the country without being robbed – an impressive feat.

With sixty beers for a dollar (yep, that’s not a typo!), Venezuela is officially the cheapest place to travel in the world. You need to conceal your money and carry your dollars in cash to take advantage of the black market exchange rates but assuming you do… Venezuela is such a cheap country for travelers that you can stay in five star hotels for just $2 a night, take taxis for 25 cents, go on multi-day all-inclusive mountain treks for under $100 and party hard for under $5 a night.

Venezuela has a deservedly bad reputation as the rough part of South America but I couchsurfed my way across this amazing country with ease and had a truly incredible time. If you’re in search of real adventure and keen to travel on the cheap; You can have an absolute blast in Venezuela for under $50 a week. Truth be told though, you should only travel to Venezuela if you’re an experienced backpacker.

For more information: Check out my Backpacking Venezuela Travel Guide.

3. Nicaragua

Cheap places to travel

Volcano boarding in Nicaragua

An easy introduction for backpackers… Nicaragua is the cheapest place to travel in Central America and makes an excellent quick vacation spot for those on a budget. Nicaragua is a wonderland of volcanic peaks, crazy parties, jungle treks and Mayan sites.

I spent nearly three months exploring Nicaragua and it’s hands down my favourite budget travel destination in Central America. It’s safe, easy to get around and has something for everyone.

You can score a room for just a couple of dollars a night and expect to eat street food for under a dollar. Alcohol is cheap and the beaches are free! If you’re a first time budget backpacker, Nicaragua is a solid choice.

For more information: Check out my Backpacking Nicaragua Travel Guide.

4. Cambodia

Cheap places to travel

The legendary ruins of Angor Wat

A popular stop on the backpacker trail, Cambodia is not as cheap a place to travel as it used to be but you can still score beers for 25 cents and budget dorm rooms in hostels for just a couple of dollars.

Many backpackers in South East Asia save Cambodia for the last part of their trip as this is the place you can make your money stretch the furthest in this part of the world. Cambodia used to be the cheapest country to visit in SEA but today, that is probably Laos. 

At a fraction of the price of neighbouring Thailand and with plenty of gorgeous beaches, steamy jungles and fascinating history, Cambodia is another solid choice for a first time budget traveler as it’s safe, easy and fun. If you only have a couple of weeks holiday and you want to live it up, Cambodia is a good place to travel for a cheap vacation extravaganza.

For more information: Check out my Backpacking Cambodia Travel Guide.

5. Pakistan

Cheap places to travel

Truck-art, just one of Pakistan’s thousands of unique attractions…

Pakistan might not be the first budget travel destination to spring to mind when planning out your round the world trip but think again; backpacking across Pakistan is a simply awesome experience!

The mountains in Pakistan are hands down the best in the world and the hospitality you will experience here is truly very special. I Couchsurfed my way across Pakistan with no problems and have spent over three months in this amazing part of the world.

Whilst transportation costs can add up, it’s possible to hitchhike and once you have made some local friends you will rarely have to pay for much; you can expect numerous offers of a place to crash. Food will rarely set you back more than a couple of dollars and you can camp for free in The Himalayan mountains.

Pakistan is a wonderland of stunning treks, friendly people, underground parties and ancient traditions. Best of all, Pakistan is the cheapest place to travel if you want to explore one of the ‘stans.

For more information: Check out my Backpacking Pakistan Travel Guide. Here are ten reasons you should travel to Pakistan.

6. Eastern Europe

Cheap places to travel

Buzludzha, a historical peak in the Central Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria

With epic soviet ruins, friendly locals, frozen cities and colourful traditions, Eastern Europe is a great place to explore if you are on a tight budget. It’s extremely easy to hitchhike across Eastern Europe and beer is almost always cheap.

Albania is probably the cheapest place to travel in Europe, followed closely by Bulgaria and Romania. For kick-ass parties and beautiful people, head on up to Ukraine or Russia. Check out this post for a full list of the cheapest places to go backpacking in Europe.

For more adventure inspiration: Check out my buddy Jazza’s account of us breaking into Bulgaria’s UFO.

7. India

Cheap places to travel

Driving a Tuk-Tuk across Rajasthan, India

An oldie but a goodie, broke backpackers have been travelling to India for decades now. When I was nineteen, I spent a year backpacking around India and spent under $3000. It’s possible to survive here comfortably on $10 a day and you can even do it for less.

India is one of the most popular budget travel destinations but that’s largely because so many people know about it… For a taste of real adventure, and to avoid the hippie-wannabe hordes, cross the Wagah border and explore Pakistan instead.

India is definitely one of the cheapest countries to visit in Asia and is cheaper than neighbouring Nepal and Pakistan, but the hassle here can get on one’s nerves after a while.

In total, I’ve spent nearly two years backpacking across India now and have probably seen only about half of what this amazing country has to offer. Like many India veterans, I both love and hate the country.

For more information: Check out my Backpacking India Travel Guide.

8. Bolivia

Cheap places to travel

Is anybody else seeing double?

The cheap South American country that people DO know about, Bolivia is a good budget choice if you want to check out South America and don’t feel quite ready for Venezuela. With the famous salt flats, stunning architecture, dirt cheap parties and world-renowned hiking, Bolivia is an epic cheap budget travel destination.

For more information: Check out Flora’s Guide to Bolivia.

9. Turkey

Cheap places to travel

Cappadocia, Turkey

In 2016, I hitchhiked across Europe and then from Istanbul up to Georgia; hitchhiking in Turkey is very easy indeed which makes this a good budget travel destination. It’s worth travelling with a tent in Turkey and there are also lots of caves, especially around the Cappadocia region, where you can survive with just a sleeping bag. I returned to Cappadocia, one of my favourite places to visit for a digital detox and some time beneath the stars, in 2017.

Turkey is an often overlooked destination but if you are off in search of a cheap place to go on an adventure, Turkey offers fantastic bang for your buck and is an epic way to travel overland from Europe to Asia.

Go and find my Geocache in Cappadocia!

10. The Philippines

Cheap places to travel

Stunning jungle-clad islands in The Philippines…

One of my favourite countries in South East Asia and one of the cheapest island countries to visit in Asia, The Philippines is a place of gorgeous beaches, swaying palm trees, pounding parties, friendly locals and living legends.

For an adventure with a difference, trek into the jungles in search of Whang Od; the last Kalinga tattoo master. Manila is a damn expensive city and should be avoided by travelers on a budget, get yourself straight out to Sagada or Palawan and travel slow to keep costs down.

For more information: Check out my Backpacking Philippines Travel Guide.

Cheap places to travel

I believe most destinations in the world can be explored on pretty much any budget – I backpacked across Japan on a budget of just $30 a day. Budget travel is simply the best way to test your metal, to explore a new culture and to interact with local people, I wouldn’t trade in my years of totally broke backpacking for all the five star hotels in the world. That said, it helps when you visit a country which is already cheap and the list above are my top choices for dirt cheap places to travel around the world. Happy adventuring amigos!

Hitting the road for the first time?

Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on $10 a day! 

If you’re a first time backpacker about to embark on a round the world adventure, you’re in for a rollercoaster of a ride… Check out the ditch your desk section of the site to learn how to quit your job and earn money whilst travelling around the world.

It may seem daunting, but there are so many different ways to become a nomad these days that if you really want to go travelling, if you really want to experience everything the world has to offer, all you have to do is make the commitment to travel – no matter how little money you have.

Be sure to check out my backpacking packing list to get some decent gear sorted for your new life of vagabonding…   In particular; you are going to want a backpacking tent  or a camping hammock, it’ll save you a bunch on accommodation!

It’s also well worth packing a camping stove so you can cook your own food and save money on meals.

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cheap places to travel

34 Comments

  • This might be my favorite budget travel list, thanks for all the great advice Will! I’m gonna be traveling in Eastern Europe, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and India in the next coming months so I’m really happy to read this 😀

  • Great resource for budget travelers everywhere – thanks Will! WOW to that stack of cash from Venezuela! While it’s fantastic to travel so cheaply through countries such as this I always enjoy spending a little extra … it’s nice to know that I’m able to help local businesses without too much of a financial burden to myself 🙂

  • Will I love this post. I didn’t realize Venzuela and Bolivia were that cheap. I know it may be weird to say this but I have been recommending beginning backpackers that want to travel cheap to walk the Camino de Santiago.
    It was a bit more than $10 a day but to break people in, its a good way to experience a month long travel if you do the entire Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain and you tend to only spend about 25Euros/day (10 for Albergues + 10 for Dinner + 5 for lunch/Breakfast)
    I figure lets ease some of these people in to it

    • Will Hatton says:

      I’ve heard a lot about the Camino De Santiago and it’s been on my radar for a while… I would love to check it out.

      • I’m sure you would have a great time Will because no I don’t know you you seem to have that personality but no worries but for your experiences and skill level I often wonder if going a little bit mainstream is a let down? Don’t get me wrong, the Camino de Santiago for about 85% of the human population is pretty crazy and out there.

  • Flora Baker says:

    Cheers for the Bolivia mention, Will! You’ve been instrumental in fuelling my desire to get to both Iran and Pakistan in the near future so I’ll keep your cheap advice in mind :p

  • I love hitting the road in countries such as India and Cambodia. I’m yet to travel to Iran but it’s on my radar and Nicaragua also makes my wish list. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  • Great article. We were surprised how cheap Eastern Europe was. I love your Iran photo. That mosque looks incredible. Iran has been very high on our list for a very long time. I think it is time we get there. Cheers for sharing.

  • Amazing photos.I am planning for my first time road trip.And this post helps me a lot. I think these places are so good,can’t wait to try in Turkey. Thanks a lot.

  • Such a good list, Will! I’ve been to many, but the Philippines has been my fav so far and I’m about to check out some of Eastern Europe soon! Wooo! Thanks for sharing <3

  • Loved the post – nice photographs and useful information for budget travellers everywhere. Cambodia has been on my list for some time now, hopefully will be there sometime soon.

  • Tine says:

    Some of these places sounds really cool! Hopefully I will be able to visit Nicaragua and the rest of Central America next year 🙂

  • This is a great list. Just found your site and it is exactly what I’m looking for as I’m planning a nomadic year in 2018.

  • Daria says:

    Iran and Cambodia are on my wish list, can’t wait to go there, especially after seeing these pictures.
    And it’s true, Eastern Europe is really cheap!

  • Terry Conner says:

    What an amazing compilation of destinations. Instead of spending a large amount on a single trip this would be amazing. I will let you know once I travel some of these places.

  • Anja Skrba says:

    Cambodia <3

  • Mary says:

    Hi Will. This is a beautiful and very correct post. My favourite place in the world is the Philippines. Sooooo cheap, and the people are the absolute sweetest. Nicaragua is stunning so I had to go twice…lol. Pakistan is on my radar and so is Iran. I must get the ten dollar a day book. Sahadeo and I are budget people, and he is really really good at it. And he is not pretentious. He took me to a beautiful little resort in Tobago, that was not all inclusive. A romantic gesture on his part. We were about to order dinner, and he decided we should order one entre to share. I thought that was a great idea, and it turned out to be plenty. I was so glad he thought of it, because it is that kind of thinking that keeps money in your pocket for the next day’s beers on the beach. Keep up the good work, Will. Very well done.

  • Evan says:

    Awesome list! This makes me want to just grab my bag and head out the door

  • What an article! Thanks so much for the tips! I heard about the tattoo master in the Philippines, Whang Od, the last Kalinga tattoo master. Her style is so traditional and I love it! I also love to visit the ruins of Angor Wat in Cambodia! So beautiful… So majestic.

  • Monica says:

    Thanks for the fun list! I’d already considered some places but not all of them. I must say that I’m surprised about Venezuela… I have some Venezuelan friends who are terrified of the place and I have heard a lot of horror stories about fun times and parties ending in someone being murdered. I think it’s off my list for now, but it may get added again when I’m wandering round South America!

  • Micah bowen says:

    We are actually in the Philippines at the moment, and it is definitely not cheap at all.. most of the stuff here on Palowan costs more then it does back home in the states! And the locals are not friendly at all! They stare, and don’t smile at you and it seams all that they want is your $$$! I’m sorry but the Philippines as of 2018 is not a budget friendly country if it ever was once, it’s not anymore!
    We are leaving as soon as our 3 weeks is up, and won’t be back..

  • Emily Brown says:

    Great list! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Have you been to Central Asia as well? Just curious whether you could include any countries from that region on your list…
    Another question came to my mind: besides price, how do you pick your next destination? Do you also consider the best time to visit destinations (like here https://rove.me/ or here https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2017/04/19/map-find-best-time-to-visit/)? Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hey Emily! So I usually just pick where I want to go based on where I am and where is nearby that looks interesting. I haven’t been to Central Asia but it ain’t cheap from what I’ve heard…

  • Eoghan says:

    Interesting list, thanks for putting it together. I wouldn’t be able to comment on the South American or European countries as I’ve spent the last 4 years travelling in Asia, but I’ve confirmed for myself through detailed recording of my expenses over the past 4 years of travel that the following countries can all be comfortably travelled on $5-7 per day without couchsurfing and hitchhiking seldomly(paying for all expenses):

    1. India
    2. Nepal
    3. Thailand
    4. Indonesia
    5. Malaysia
    6. Laos
    7. Cambodia
    8. Vietnam
    9. Sri Lanka

    I found Myanmar more difficult to do on this budget as the minimum cost for accommodation per person was normally $4-5. There I averaged $8-9 per day.

    So my conclusion from this 4 year experiment is that all of these 9 countries can be considered more or less on a par with each other in terms of cheapness to travel – they can all be done comfortably on a budget of $5-7 per day.

    Anyway, hope that the data I’ve gathered is useful to some people.

    • Will Hatton says:

      Those sound like some epic adventures through super awesome, super cheap countries! Nice one dude 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Hi Eoghan. If this is accurate than you just made my day. I am retiring soon and I want to do it just on my pension and not have to touch my savings. And I just happen to love Asia. WOW! Anything under ten bucks a day is fantastic. The food is outstanding in Asia. I was there a few years ago for a six week trip through the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. Best food ever. All local and very cheap. I stayed in a variety of places and comfort levels from five dollars a night to the Crown Plaza on Manila Bay. What kinds of places did you stay? I need to do it on a budget because of what will be my fixed income.

  • Eoghan says:

    Hi Mary, it’s accurate but it wasn’t always easy to travel on this budget and it took a lot of careful planning, plenty of hard work surveying destinations for the best value rooms, a lot of hard bargaining and sometimes required slipping into overpriced attractions unnoticed. Another factor that made this possible was travelling with my partner, which enabled us to split many expenses literally in half. It’s very difficult to maintain this budget as a solo traveller. It’s still possible, but requires even more innovation. I’m writing up a detailed 8,000 + word post at the moment that summarizes exactly how I played the travel game to maintain this budget across all these countries. I hope it’ll be useful to many people and will elucidate exactly what’s involved when travelling on this kind of ultra-low budget. I really love Asia too, and I’ve only scratched the surface of it in 4 years of uninterrupted travel, even India alone is just massive and offers endless new places to explore. The food is wonderful in Asia for sure, my favourite would probably be Indian food. I stayed in mostly double rooms with my partner with fan, Wi-Fi and usually attached bathroom, sometimes with a balcony. The odd time I stayed in a hostel dormitory, but mainly during phases where I was travelling alone.

  • Eoghan says:

    Thanks Will, I would recommend you visit Sumatra and northeast India if you get a chance, these were two places I really loved. They both have spectacular nature, jungle, waterfalls and amazing tribes.

  • Great list! I did backpacking in Eastern Europe and I can confirm that there are numerous hidden gems there at really affordable prices.

  • Lydia says:

    These are some exceptional travel destinations which everyone can visit without breaking the bank. I am currently exploring Turkey and I couldn’t agree more with you. It is an excellent budget travel destination.

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