Remember when the dollar could take you anywhere? You could go to Canada, backpack around Europe, or head Down Under in search of kangaroos for next to nothing. Sadly, those times are long gone and the dollar’s value has declined greatly over the last 15 years. That means traveling around the world costs a lot more these days.
Luckily, there are still plenty of destinations around the globe that won’t break the bank. For less than $50 a day (sometimes a lot less), these countries offer the most bang for your vacation buck. Here are my top 12 places to eat, drink, and kick back (in style) on a budget.
We think of Fiji as expensive (thanks Fiji water!) but in reality, it’s a popular destination with many travelers because, unlike its expensive island neighbors, it’s actually cheap. Yes, there are many $1,000-a-night resorts, but there are also dorm rooms, hostels, and all-inclusive local guesthouses you can stay in for $25 a night. Transportation around the islands isn’t expensive and the beach is free. It’s easy to splurge here, but you can get pristine beaches, great diving, and tasty seafood while chatting with friendly locals — without having to mortgage your home. Bula!
While you could put most of Southeast Asia on the list, Cambodia is one of the best value countries in the region. Everything here is super cheap! You can get a private, air-conditioned room for $20. Local food is $2 and most western meals are $7. This country is very budget travel-friendly and, if you are spending close to $50 a day, you are living large. Cambodia is one of my favorite countries in the world with some of the nicest people, most beautiful beaches, ruins, and jungles out there. It’s rough, it’s raw, and it’s stunning.
Another cheap Eurozone country is Portugal. Here you’ll find beautiful beaches, wine country, stunning cliffs, and historic cities at bargain prices. Lisbon is also one of the most affordable cities to stay in a 5-star hotel. Throw in helpful, outgoing locals who serve up delicious food (especially seafood), and you have the making of a perfect place. I was blown away by Portugal and how little anybody ever talked about it. Everyone heads to Italy when they should be going to Portugal!
Most people come here attracted to the Inca trail, but there’s a lot more to the country than that. Here you can sail the Amazon, visit the deserted, white sand beaches of Mancora, and explore the ruins of other Inca destinations like Moray and Choquequirao. Meals are rarely more than $5, private guesthouse rooms are around $25, and you can go anywhere in the country for less than $30. Don’t let those jaw-dropping prices for the Inca trail you see online deter you from one of the funniest, happiest, and cheapest countries in South America. Pro tip: If you go to Cuzco, you can get last-minute deals to Machu Picchu for 50 percent off!
China has fascinated travelers ever since Marco Polo traversed the Silk Road. While the days of China being a super-cheap destination are long gone, the country remains a budget destination with many opportunities for savings, especially in the countryside. Rooms are less than $20 a day, food is $2-5 per meal, and local transportation in cities less than dollar. Those who travel in China are richly rewarded with friendly people, delicious food, a country in constant flux, and beautiful mountains, beaches, and valleys on a budget anyone can afford!
While India has always been a cheap country, the Indian rupee used to ride high at 39 rupees to the dollar. Now, you get 60 rupees to the dollar — that’s nearly 50 percent more money to travel with. Even if you splurge on mid-range accommodation and food, you’ll be hard-pressed to spend more than $50 per day, unless you book 5-star resorts. Flights to India are the most expensive part, but once you’re there, everything’s a bargain. That makes the long flight to see the historic Taj Mahal, the beaches of Goa, and metropolises of New Delhi and Mumbai much more appealing.
Bulgaria (or Romania, or Moldova, or…)
The eastern part of eastern Europe (Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, the Balkans) is the cheapest part of the continent, so pretty much anywhere’s affordable. I was living like a king for less than $40 per day, paying $8 a night for a room in Ukraine (obviously things are rough there now), $1.50 for a liter of beer in Bulgaria, and a few dollars for a local meal everywhere. When most people envision a European vacation, they think of Paris, Rome, or Prague, but you can get that same charm in Eastern Europe without the high prices or hordes of tourists. Most foreigners think of these countries as decrepit ex-Communist nations. However, make your next visit to Eastern Europe and you’ll find all sorts of old-world charm at a charming price point!