Itching to get away… but your bank account says otherwise? Traveling can be expensive, but you’ll make memories to last a lifetime, and it can even make you a better person! And besides, not all destinations are created equal when it comes to traveling on a budget. Here are some of our affordable travel recommendations, to keep your wandering spirit fulfilled, and your wallet happy, too.
Affordable Travel Destinations Around the World
Depending on where you call home, plane tickets can be an inhibiting factor when considering a vacation in Asia, but once you arrive, your expenses will be minimal.
This is a bustling (some might use the word “crazy”) city with plenty to do and see, and Thailand is one of the cheapest countries in Asia. Street food will cost you about $5 a day. Check out this guide and eat your way through Bangkok’s different neighborhoods. Don’t miss the giant golden Buddha statue in the Wat Pho temple (just a $3 entry fee). The stunning – albeit slightly more expensive – Grand Palace is just across the street. There are plenty of free activities, too. Chatuchak Market has over 35 acres of stalls selling pretty much anything you could possibly want or need. Try your hand at bartering, or just window shop!
Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
This is another busy and affordable Asian city with lots to see and do (and eat). You can get delicacies like filling and flavorful bahn mi sandwiches, sweet Vietnamese coffee, and steaming bowls of pho for less than $1! Or, opt for an entire sit-down meal for less than $5. Accommodations are just as cheap: most hostels start at just 100,000 Vietnamese Dong (around $4.50 per night). Budget hotels are very affordable too, starting out at around $10 a night. For free activities during your stay, be sure to check out both Ben Thanh and Binh Tay markets, and the Starlight Bridge, which is beautifully lit up at night. For a unique and family-friendly activity in Saigon, go to a water puppet show, an art that was invented in Vietnam in the 11th century!
North American destinations tend to be more expensive than some other parts of the world, but you can still get away without breaking the bank.
Yellowstone National Park, United States
The United States is such a vast country that even most Americans haven’t explored this treasure. For outdoorsy travelers, especially families with older children, this is an ideal spot. The incredible landscapes will give you plenty to look at while you enjoy cheap or free activities. Yellowstone offers hiking and biking trails for visitors of all abilities, hot springs for natural relaxation, fishing, boating. You can even ski and snowmobile during the winter. Entry for a private vehicle is just $30 per week and campsites range from $15 to $50 per night. Beautiful and budget-friendly!
La Paz, Mexico
If you’re looking for a more authentic Mexican experience than you’ll find in most resort towns, La Paz is a great option for affordable travel. This quaint seaside town gets an average of 340 days of sunshine per year! Perfect weather for spending (time, not money) on La Paz’s beautiful beaches. 35% of the world’s marine mammals live in the surrounding waters. You may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the largest known fish species: the whale shark! This also means fresh, delicious, and cheap seafood on every corner. If you’re not careful, you may just fall under La Paz’s charm and end up staying! About 6,000 of the town’s 250,000 residents are expats.
Africa is a much-overlooked vacation destination – it offers some amazing things to see and do, for cheap!
For our European readers, Marrakech is an accessible and affordable travel destination, just a quick boat ride away from the Mediterranean coast. Avoid the pricey tourist-trap hotels and stay in an authentic and stylish riad. Check out the colorful souk marketplaces, like the one pictured here, for inexpensive Moroccan artwork, fragrant spices, and souvenirs. Moroccan bathhouses provide unique cultural experiences, and visiting a public hammam will only run you a few dollars, including tip. A few more dollars and you can even splurge for a massage while you’re there.
If music is your passion, Dakar is the affordable travel destination for you. From the time you arrive, you’ll be surrounded by West African vibes and various styles of music including hip-hop, reggae, jazz, and mbalax, a typically Senegalese rhythm. Another fun and inexpensive idea is to go to a soccer game. The atmosphere is electric, complete with live bands (of course), cheerleaders, and dancing. Tickets are very reasonably priced, ranging from $4 to $20. Just north of the city is quite a unique natural phenomenon. Lake Retba is a bright pink body of water, unlike anything you’ve seen before!
You can’t go wrong with South America in terms of affordable travel, but here are two cities that offer the best bang for your buck.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Inflation has made travel to Argentina slightly more expensive than it was in the past, but it is still an affordable and cultural destination. Tango originated in Argentina, so even if you have two left feet, get out on the dance floor for a fun and inexpensive good time! The Real Argentina blog has a great list of milongas for beginners and advanced dancers that goes beyond the tango tourist traps. And, unless you want formal lessons, all you have to do is pay for a drink whenever you get thirsty. You’ll be hungry after all that dancing, so check out these inexpensive and authentic restaurants. The site highlights places where you can eat for less than $6. Be sure to check out the colorful La Boca neighborhood before you go.
Especially for American and Canadian readers (because airfare won’t cost you much), Nicaragua is going to be one of your best options for affordable travel. If Spain is your dream destination, but outside of your budget, Granada is the next best thing! Wander the streets and admire the colorful colonial-style architecture. If you’re feeling adventurous, travel just ten miles south of the city and hike the active Mombacho volcano. Drinks here are especially cheap, so relax with a Happy Hour rum cocktail (generally between 50 cents and a buck) after a long day of sightseeing.
You don’t have to be wealthy to experience these European cities that are rich in culture!
This is one of my personal favorite cities in the world. It also happens to be on the cheaper end of the spectrum for Europe. Several budget airlines fly into Porto, making it easy to get to. Once you’re there, there are plenty of free or low-cost activities, too. All of Porto’s museums, including the Port wine, tram, and contemporary art museums, are free if you go before 2 p.m. on Sundays. Or for book lovers, get lost in the gorgeous ne0-gothic Livraria Lello bookstore. The small entrance fee – due to its popularity – is refunded if you make a purchase. Port wine tastings and cellar tours are also often good deals, and sometimes even free.
Ranked as the most affordable European capital, Sofia is a walkable city (read: low to no public transportation costs!) featuring many different styles of impressive architecture that tell the story of its interesting history. Pictured above is the Alexander Nevski cathedral, a must-see. Join a free English-speaking walking, biking, or hiking tour for an inside look at the city. As far as accommodations go, according to TripAdvisor, a 4-star hotel for two will run you less than $100. Lodging tends to be even cheaper during the summer months, so plan accordingly.
As you start planning your affordable trips, check out our travel tips to help you make the most of your experience abroad. Nomadic Matt also has some great travel guides and money-saving advice for tons of destinations. Last but not least, make sure to download MosaLingua’s travel-related phrasebooks. They’re available in six different languages and totally FREE. Happy trails!
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