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The Best Budget Destinations to Add to your Bucket List

Dancers in La Paz Bolivia

Although travel is not possible at the moment, when everything has settled down a little, you might want to think about having a break!  I asked my fellow travel bloggers for their top tips for the best budget destinations around the world, and here is where they recommend for a cheap vacation so you can add them all to your bucket list!

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Budget Destinations in the Americas 

Antigua Guatemala

I loved everywhere I visited in Central America, but Antigua Guatemala has something special about it.  Some people feel that it is too touristy, that the large ex-pat community have changed the city beyond recognition, which I can certainly understand, but there is so much to see and do here that you can’t help but fall in love. 

In Antigua, you can have incredible adventures like hiking a live volcano, learn about the local cuisine in a Guatemalan cooking class, and you can even spend the night in a hobbit-hole, with mind-blowing views of the surrounding volcanoes.  And the city itself is stunning. 

Colourful colonial buildings line the streets, and the ruins of churches and cathedrals show the scars of the earthquakes which shook the city and often still do.

There is a wide variety of restaurants here, from local joints where you can get a full meal for next to nothing, and international places including Mexican, Japanese, American and basically anything you fancy.  The nightlife in Antigua is great fun too, there are lots of bars to choose from, including a Mezcal bar with a hidden room through a fridge door.

Guatemala is one of the cheapest countries in Central America but bear in mind that the indigenous people here are generally speaking very poor as well.  Try to contribute to the local economy as much as you can by shopping in the Women’s Co-operatives for gifts and choosing locally run tour operators.  

By Claire, Tales of a Backpacker

Antigua Guatemala
Antigua Guatemala

Merida, Mexico

Merida is quietly making waves as one of Mexico’s coolest cities and is definitely a cool budget destination you should be travelling to as soon as possible.   The capital of the Yucatan, that region famed for resort towns like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Merida shows a completely different side of Mexican culture and life. 

Instead of glitzy beaches and large-scale resort hotels, Merida captures your heart with buzzing street food markets, traditional shops and streets filled with brightly coloured houses – not to mention more than its fair share of cool cocktail bars. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that Merida would be just as expensive as other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, but that’s not the case.  It’s totally a budget-friendly destination – the street food is cheap, delicious and plentiful, and generally, the cost of activities is low. I’d recommend taking the free history tour of the centre run by the tourism board every day at 10am – it’s a great intro to Merida’s past. 

Food-wise, you should make a beeline for one of the branches of Wayan’e for some of the best tacos you can get your hands on in Mexico, all served with an eye-wateringly hot chilli sauce and at less than £1 a pop. 

Brimming with culture, the Museum of Mayan Culture is one of Merida’s must-visits. The distinctive architecture houses one of the most extensive collections of Mayan artefacts and provides a glimpse into pre-Hispanic life in the Yucatan region and beyond. 

Julianna, The Discoveries Of

Merida Mexico - The Best Budget Destinations
Merida Mexico – The Best Budget Destinations

The Maldives

Think of the Maldives and the first thing that comes to mind is an overwater villa and an extremely plush resort where you’ll probably spend an arm and a leg for a 3-day vacation. What most don’t know is that the Maldives are actually opening up to budget travel and that – if you plan it carefully – you can have a fantastic holiday on $50 USD a day – more or less, and depending on how much you actually do.

In the last 10 years guest houses run by local families – at times in cooperation with international budget-friendly operators – have opened in what are known as “local islands” – aka the islands where Maldivians actually live, as opposed to those that are privately owned by big resorts.

The experience on local islands is very different from that of resorts. The Maldives are a Muslim state, so no alcohol circulates on local islands and you can expect to have a dry holiday. Guesthouses are basic – no such thing as an overwater villa. But they have everything needed to make your stay comfortable, and they are usually spotless.

Food on local islands is probably not as fancy as that of resorts, but it’s earthy, genuine and by all means fresh and full of flavour – expect to eat lots of fish.

Most importantly, in local islands, you will have a dedicated beach – usually referred to as “bikini beach.” Guesthouses usually help you plan your activities, so you can expect to see a different place and do something different every day: a sandbank; an uninhabited island; a different coral reef every day; fishing expeditions; traditional dances which are the real thing and not just a show for tourists.

All in all, having experienced both sides of the Maldives, seeing them on a budget is actually a far more enriching and interesting experience where you get to see way more of the country and all that it has to offer.

Claudia from My Adventures Across the World

The Maldives - A Surprising Budget Destinatin
The Maldives – A Surprising Budget Destination

Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize is one of the best budget trips to take as soon as you can! It offers amazing water activities, great food and culture, and luxurious accommodation all for a low price. If you’re flying from the U.S., it’s incredibly cheap to reach Caye Caulker too – just fly to Belize City, the capital of Belize, then take a quick water taxi off the coast to Caye Caulker.

Belize is a convenient budget trip for American travellers, not just because it’s so close geographically. Belize was a former English colony so most locals can speak English, and the currency exchange is exactly $2 Belizean dollars to $1 USD, so many touristy locations will accept USD for payment.

The best budget activities to do in Caye Caulker centre around water activities. It’s free to chill at “the Split”, or a canal where the island splits in two. Many people spend all day here sunbathing, swimming, and drinking rum punches from the nearby bar & grill. Many hotels offer free or cheap snorkelling gear or kayaks to rent to explore the waters on your own.

One unmissable activity in Caye Caulker is going on a snorkelling tour to the Belize Barrier Reef. This Barrier Reef is the second largest in the world, and you’ll experience swimming with many colourful fish, even nurse sharks and string rays! Half-day tours start from $20 USD per person, and it’s $40+ USD for full-day tours – what a steal! 

If you’re looking to spend a little more money, it’s easy to take tours from Caye Caulker to mainland Belize, where you can explore old Mayan ruins, or go tubing through jungles and caves!

by Erika from Erika’s Travelventures

Caye Caulker Belize
Caye Caulker Belize

La Paz, Bolivia

Bolivia is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbour Peru, but the treasures here are just as captivating, and are considerably cheaper!  La Paz is home to Bolivia’s seat of government and is the de facto national capital, although smaller Sucre is the constitutional capital. 

The city is breathtakingly high in the Andes, at a staggering 3,640 m (11,942 ft) above sea level so you will certainly feel the effects of the altitude if you are not used to it!

La Paz is a heady blend of indigenous Quechua culture and Spanish influence, evident throughout the city, including in the walls of the cathedral which was built by indigenous workers when the Spanish were trying to convert them to Christianity.  In the Witches’ Market, the traditions hold fast, and you can find all sorts of fascinating objects including llama foetuses to offer to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). 

The indigenous women of La Paz, known as Cholitas dress in their traditional clothes, bushy skirts, shawls and top hats, and you will see them everywhere.  Something I didn’t do was to watch Cholita Wrestling, although I hear it is great fun!

I did, however, decide that a bike ride down the world’s most dangerous road was a good idea (it was not), although I much preferred a gentler pace of life at the beautiful Colibri Camping site just outside the city.  Here I took a Bolivian cooking class and had a much-needed rest from the madness in a hammock overlooking the Valley of the Flowers.  Heaven!

From La Paz you can easily arrange trips and tours to the Amazon jungle, the Uyuni Salt Flats and Lake Titicaca, among others, so is a great base for exploring a large part of Bolivia.

By Claire, Tales of a Backpacker

La Paz Bolivia
La Paz Bolivia

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires has become such a budget destination in the last couple of years! This city will have you dancing the Tango, sipping coffee and singing along with buskers in a heartbeat.

City slickers from all over the world head to Buenos Aires in Argentina to enjoy the ‘good life’ at an affordable price. With the dollar increasing its value year after year, the costs of touring Argentina’s capital have become more and more accessible over time.

You could stay at a perfectly located hostel for $7 (USD), or rent a room in a 5-star international hotel for $100. Public transport comes at $0,35 and getting your coffee-fix would cost just $1,60. Did you say beer? Well, finding craft beer is easier than saying ‘hola!’ You’d pay less than $3, and if you are feeling hungry you can sit and have a meal for $8-$20.

If there’s anything “Porteños” (people from Buenos Aires) love aside from Tango and ‘Fútbol,’ that is…cultural activities! From a night at the Milonga to Jazz Festivals, markets, concerts, museums, and culinary experiences, a LOT is going on in town, more so considering that many of these events are free or very accessible -plus, Buenos Aires is known as the “city that never sleeps” for a good reason!

Next time you plan a trip to Buenos Aires, avoid the tourist traps that would charge you a little fortune for anything and get down to the real thing.

By Martina, The Global Curious 

Buenos Aires Argentina
Buenos Aires Argentina

Colorado, USA

Adventures in the USA don’t need to break the bank. In fact, camping and road-tripping is one of the most affordable (and adventurous) ways to see the country. There’s no better place to visit in the USA than by taking a road trip through Colorado and camping as you go. Start from Denver (or wherever you’re driving from) and take a tour through the epic Rocky Mountains.

Colorado is home to an epic array of outdoor adventures that you simply can’t miss. With four different national parks, it’s one of the most accessible places to go hiking, camping, and even backpacking. Head to Great Sand Dunes National Park and climb the biggest sand dunes in North America or check out Rocky Mountain National Park for iconic Rocky Mountain beauty.

There’s plenty of world-class hiking, white water rafting, and rock climbing. If you’re looking for a low-octane adventure, hit the road on an Insta-worthy scenic drive through the mountains. You can even drive to the top of Pike’s Peak or Mount Evans, two famous mountains over 14,000 feet tall!

One fun way to relax after a day of hiking and adventures is to soak in one of Colorado’s many natural hot springs. As a state that supports small businesses, Colorado is littered with cute mountain towns that have boutique eateries, small coffee shops, and plenty of craft beer.

For lodging, you can camp virtually anywhere where it’s allowed in National Forests, or, for a small fee, reserve one of the many world-class campsites throughout the state. Just be sure to pick up after yourself, keep your food stored in your vehicle at all times, and leave it better than you found it.

Hit the road this year with a budget-friendly road trip through Colorado, USA

By Meg, Fox in the Forest

Colorado USA - Best Budget Trips
Colorado USA – Best Budget Trips

Medellín, Colombia

Medellín’s transformation over the past decade or so from a city plagued by drug-related violence to one of Latin America’s coolest destinations to visit is nothing short of remarkable.

There are lots of things to do in Medellin and so much for the budget traveller to enjoy. To begin with, take a tip-only downtown walking tour to understand how the transformation has taken place. Then take a further tip-only tour of one of the hillside barrios, such as Comuna 13, to see the transformation first-hand and to witness the incredible street art.

Elsewhere, the sobering Museo Casa de la Memoria traces the history of Colombia’s decades of conflict through personal stories, audio, video and art. Both upsetting and thought-provoking, it’s an essential visit for anyone wishing to understand Colombia’s past. And it’s free.

You could easily spend a day or two travelling the length and breadth of Medellín using its superb Metro system, which was built as a means to connect some of the poorer hillside communities with the rest of the city. And, for just 2650 Colombian pesos ($0.75 USD), your ticket includes a trip on any of the city’s four cable cars for fantastic views of the city below. 

But Medellín offers much more than just its transformative attractions. For a start, its nickname, the City of Eternal Spring, is a reflection of its year-round temperate weather. And, every summer, the 10-day Feria de la Flores, (or “Festival of the Flowers”) turns the city into a riot of colour, dance and celebration.

Alternatively, try to time your visit for when one of Medellín’s two football teams are playing at home (we’d recommend Atletico Nacional). Ticket prices start at 18,000 COP ($5 USD)  and we can guarantee that you won’t have experienced a sporting atmosphere quite like it before. 

It’s a budget traveller’s dream destination. 

By Nicky, Above Us Only Skies

Street Art in Medellin Colombia
Street Art in Medellin Colombia

Best Budget Destinations in Asia

Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Samarkand in Uzbekistan is one of the best budget destinations in the world. Lonely Planet has mentioned central Asia to be one of the top regions to visit this year. With its long silk road history and spectacular nature, this is no surprise. The good news is that since 2019 it is much easier to visit Uzbekistan as well with a visa-free regime for most nationalities.

Uzbekistan is famous for its silk road cities and Samarkand is one of the most beautiful ones. It was the capital of the Timurid Empire in the 14th century when lots of mosques, madrassah’s and mausoleums were built. All in delicate turquoise blue mosaic tilework. The Registan square has some of the finest examples, but you can find the signature majestic Islamic architecture all over the city.

In many ways, Samarkand can be compared to Rome in Italy as it has an equal number of historic sites. The difference is that Samarkand is not yet that touristic and prices are low. For example, entrance to the Registan is less than 5 us dollars and there are many free things to do in Samarkand such as exploring the bazaar.

Samarkand is also a great place to try traditional Uzbek food such as plov. This dish of rice with carrots and meat is Uzbekistan’s national dish and costs no more than 3 or 4 us dollars. There are some nice restaurants and cafes in the city where you can eat on a budget. The time to go to Uzbekistan is now, before more tourists come and prices increase. 

By Ellis from Backpack Adventures 

Samarkand Uzbekistan
Samarkand Uzbekistan

Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang is an underrated city when it comes to travel destinations as not only does it boast an incredible market, rich cultural heritage and some stunning architecture, but it is also budget-friendly too!

Luang Prabang, while not the capital of Laos, is arguably the country’s most popular attraction, with tourists coming from around the world to admire the city’s buildings, landscapes, culture and history. What makes Luang Prabang such a budget-friendly destination is that many of the sights and attractions are free, not to mention the food that is both delicious and cheap.

From the French colonial-style buildings that you can explore at your leisure, to the hike up Mount Phou Si and the giving of alms to the city’s monks in the mornings, there are plenty of things to see and do in Luang Prabang that won’t cost you a penny.

Even if you do decide to spend on traveller attractions such as a taxi to the Kuang Si waterfalls, a traditional cookery class or a boat ride down the Mekong, they still won’t set you back much.

When you’re not discovering the main sights, you can sit back with a coffee and a French patisserie, watch local life go by or cycle along the banks of the Mekong.

On average, a night in a charming guesthouse with a double bed and a private bathroom will cost around $15-25, a beer may set you back around $1.50 and a traditional Laotian meal out will cost approximately $2-5.

Chrysoula from Travel Passionate

Luang Prabang Laos
Luang Prabang Laos

Pondicherry, India

Pondicherry or Puducherry is a beachside Union Territory of India located at a 3-hour drive from the city of Chennai. Pondicherry is famous among travellers for two main reasons. Firstly, Pondicherry was under the French colonization for well over 200 years.

Due to this, French architecture is still quite prevalent in the White Town area of Pondicherry. This area in Pondicherry, where the French used to stay previously, is now lined with colourful houses, boutique stores, hotels, cafes with outdoor seating areas and all the bougainvillaea flowers that add a quaint charm to the White Town area.

The second reason why Pondicherry is a nice and cheap destination is because of Auroville.  Auroville is an experimental international community founded by The Mother where people from all over the world come together as a community to live in harmony. Visitors can take a tour of Auroville, visit the Martrimandir, a circular shaped structure which is an architectural marvel in itself and buy handmade as well as organic products at the Auroville store.

Apart from all this, Pondicherry also has a couple of beaches that are great for surfing, which is a rarity in India. This, coupled with cafes serving French baguettes and desserts, a lighthouse, a rock beach, and pretty streets along with all the places to visit in Pondicherry in 2 to 3 days make it one of the best budget destinations in the world.

Soujanya, The Spicy Journey

Pondicherry India
Pondicherry India

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Located in northwestern Cambodia, Siem Reap has been a favourite destination with its budget-friendly activities and attractions. Usually part of the Indochina itinerary, you will not regret spending more than a day here. From the scrumptious dishes you can feast on to the impressive architectures you can see, the place has something to offer for every traveller.

Start with an exciting temple run at the Angkor Archaeological Park. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it houses not only the famous Angkor Wat but other impressive structures as well like Bayon and Ta Prohm temples.

 Healthy and delectable at the same time, taste the traditional Khmer cuisine called fish amok, a slightly sweet curry dish that is sometimes served in a fresh coconut shell. Watch Phare, the Cambodian Circus, to appreciate more the country’s beautiful culture. The show encompasses contemporary and humorous storytelling, great musicality, and topnotch performance from the actors.

For a unique experience, ride a small canoe to discover a flooded mangrove forest and explore the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, the Tonle Sap Lake. Also, visit Kompong Phluk Floating Village to get a glimpse of how some locals live on stilts. A day tour with tuktuk ride for 4 persons will only cost around 20USD. Plus you can get a decent meal for just a dollar or two. Beat that!

By Arrianne, Travel Habeat

Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Depending on where you’re coming from in the world, flying to Thailand isn’t always cheap, but once you’re there you can live large for very little. While the Thai islands are postcard-perfect, prices tend to be inflated because of tourism. So, if you’re tight on cash, the north of the country makes for a much more budget-friendly trip. 

Chiang Mai is the perfect place to base yourself for all sorts of adventures in northern Thailand. This city has a captivating blend of culture, food, architecture, history, and nature. Best of all, there are tons of free and cheap things to do in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is full of temples, the most famous of which is Doi Suthep. And most temples are free to visit.  Outside the city, there are many hikes in the surrounding mountains, so if you’re into nature you’ll be a happy traveller in northern Thailand!

Be sure to try khao soi, a dish with chicken, curry broth, egg noodles, and pickled vegetables that is so delicious you’ll find yourself craving it for every meal. The great thing about this dish is you can get a bowl for less than $2 USD.   And of course, don’t forget to treat yourself to a massage which should cost no more than $10 (and you can often find them for quite a bit less). 

The really great thing about Chiang Mai is you won’t feel like you’re on a tight budget. You’ll find incredible nice hotel rooms for less than $50 USD, and a meal at a somewhat fancy restaurant isn’t going to come with an eye-watering bill. Plus, you can spoil yourself with yoga classes, fancy coffees, and spa treatments without going over your travel budget. There are few cities in the world where you’ll be able to experience so much on such a little budget!

By Katie from Two Wandering Soles

Chiang Mai Thailand - Best Budget Destinations
Chiang Mai Thailand – Best Budget Destinations

Pakistan

Pakistan might seem like the last place you should visit, but travelling Pakistan isn’t as crazy an idea as it sounds! The country is home to ancient cultures, green valleys, towering peaks, and some of the most hospitable people in the world. The food isn’t too bad, either. Is there anything else you could ask for?

Pakistan is easier than ever to visit now. An e-visa system was recently introduced, the security situation has drastically improved, and the current government is making a big push to encourage tourism. Pakistan is also a relatively cheap place to travel: $20-25 a day will cover all of your budget traveller needs.

When visiting Pakistan, make sure to check out the city of Lahore. Lahore is the cultural capital of the country, and one of my favourite cities in the world. People are insanely friendly, and its old city streets teem with historical buildings from the Mughal and Raj eras. Don’t miss Badshahi Mosque, Lahore Fort, and Mall Road… not that you can, with architecture so grand!

After getting your cultural dose in Lahore, head up north along the legendary Karakoram Highway. Pakistan’s most famous highway takes you through some of the highest mountains in the world as it works its way up to Khunjerab Pass, a border crossing with China and one of the highest border crossings in the world.

If you’re not sure where to start, Hunza Valley is perfect for first-time visitors to Pakistan and is guaranteed to make you come back time and time again.

Alex from Lost With Purpose

Hunza Valley Pakistan - Where to go for a Cheap Vacation
Hunza Valley Pakistan – Where to go for a Cheap Vacation

Hanoi, Vietnam

For anyone travelling on a budget, Vietnam is a must-visit destination and where better to start than its capital city. A dorm room in one of Hanoi’s hostels will set you back around £4, whilst a typical hotel room for 2 will be in the region of £25. If you’re prone to a beer then you’ll be in your element as they can be found for as low as £0.20 whilst street food is usually around £1-1.50.

You’ll likely spend most of your time in Hanoi immersing yourself in the culture-packed old quarter, where you can taste the eclectic food from the vendors lining the streets as you narrowly avoid being run over by the chaotic traffic. It’s essential that you try Pho (noodle soup) and Bánh mì (meat-filled baguette) when visiting Vietnam, Bánh mì 25 is a great spot in Hanoi for the latter.

One of the best museums to visit in Hanoi is Hoa Lo. During the Vietnam war, it was used to hold prisoners from the United States and its allies. But nowadays it provides information and an array of memorabilia from when the prison was in use, including informative videos and a large guillotine which is a little daunting.

In the middle of Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake, during the day this is a lovely viewpoint with a small pagoda that sits on an island in the middle of the lake, reflecting across the water. On weekends, this area comes alive with activity as the streets around the lake are closed off to allow market stalls and entertainment to take place in the evenings.

By Kieren from Got My Backpack

Hanoi Vietnam - Best Cheap Destinations
Hanoi Vietnam – Best Cheap Destinations

Palawan, Philippines

If you’re looking for a beautiful vacation destination, full of unsurpassed natural beauty and tropical beaches, we have the place for you. Palawan, Philippines is hailed by some as the “Best Island in the World.” The region of Palawan is located in the southwest Philippines full of green forests, waterfalls and amazing beaches. 

In recent years, this cluster of islands has gained popularity but still is a very affordable tropical getaway. Despite the luxury resorts, there are still tons of affordable accommodations to choose from. Along those same lines, there are fancy restaurants as well but stick to eating the street local food and you’ll save lots of money. 

Avoid taking expensive tours and do research beforehand. You can find appropriately priced island-hopping tours to see the beautiful islands. Palawan is also known for its diving and you can rent diving gear for cheap if you don’t have your own. 

One of the most popular destinations is Kayangan Lake, which is said to have the cleanest and clearest water in the Philippines. You can take a tour here as well – you won’t regret it! 

While you can take tours, you always can explore Palawan and sunbathe on the beaches for no cost at all. Palawan is a destination where you can really choose how much you want to spend, depending on your budget.

By Hannah & Adam from GettingStamped

Palawan Island Hopping - The Best Budget Travel Destinations
Palawan Island Hopping – The Best Budget Travel Destinations

Best Budget Destinations in the Middle East & Africa

Cairo, Egypt

A destination you must add to your budget bucket list is the capital of the land of the Pharaohs – Cairo! If you’re looking to feel as though you’ve been transported to another world (on a budget), there’s no place quite like it! Even Lonely Planet ranked Cairo as one of the top cities to see this year.

While Egypt has had its share of ups and down from political instability to currency devaluation, things are improving, and the tourists are coming back. Many sites are still not as busy as they once were, so imagine having the last remaining wonder of the world (almost) all to yourself, the Great Pyramids! 

A big anticipation in 2020 is the long-awaited opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum. It will be home to the largest Tutankhamun collection and there are artefacts being brought back to Egypt from all over the world. Cairo itself has so much to offer in terms of ancient monuments to see but also some incredible cultural sites, like the Citadel and the Khan El Khalili market.

Cairo is also a great jump-off point to visit other parts of Egypt. My favourite trip in particular to take would be a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan where you can continue the dream of sailing down the Nile as the ancient Egyptians once did. On your journey between the two cities, you’ll encounter iconic sites such as the Temple of Luxor or the Valley of the Kings.

Even though there was a recent devaluation of the Egyptian pound, Egypt as a whole for foreigners still remains a very budget-friendly destination where you can comfortably travel and make your money travel even further. With a delicious bowl of the national dish, koshary totalling about $1 USD or a sugar cane juice for just $0.50. 

By Monica from Ahlan Monica

Best Budget Travel Destinations - Cairo Egypt
Best Budget Travel Destinations – Cairo Egypt

Iran

Iran is a great destination if you are looking for an unforgettable budget trip. The country is huge and there is so much to do and see from mountains to desert, impressive, colourful architecture, and deep Persian culture. And the locals are unbelievably friendly! You can expect to be invited for dinner more than once.

If you choose budget accommodation and stay in shared dorms for 4-7 dollars a night while private rooms start at 10 dollars.

While you find plenty of things to see and do in cities like Isfahan, Yazd, Shiraz, and Tehran, one of the more ”expensive” things you can spend money on is the entrance ticket to the mosques and historical houses which really just cost 3-4 dollars for each. However, it is so worth it! Most of them are full of colourful details, mesmerizing, tile work, mirror rooms, carvings, and paintings.

Food, drinks and public transport is super cheap. If you want to get a private driver to stop by different historical places along the way, that won’t break the bank either!

Iran is known for more than its history, the highest mountain in the middle east is in Iran and several peaks above the 4000 meters limit. For any hiker, there are free hiking opportunities, especially from Tehran and the north of the country. You need to bring cash into Iran, as foreign bank cards and credit cards don’t work in the country.

I only spent half of the money I budgeted for. Including “expensive” desert tours I only spent 350 dollars in 2 weeks. While Iran is a really cheap destination, it’s also a country where you will connect with the locals which makes it unique!

By Linn, Brainy Backpackers

Sheik Lotfollah Mosque - Isfahan Iran
Sheik Lotfollah Mosque – Isfahan Iran

Mpumalanga, South Africa

Travelling to South Africa, and in particular, the province of Mpumalanga is guaranteed to encompass unique experiences, fine food, friendly locals, beautiful landscapes, and a good mix of culture and language. The region is filled with national parks, attractions, and things to do.

The best part is that all of this is easy on the pocket as the area is an affordable destination, particularly when visiting from a country with stronger currency exchange. Getting here will be the largest expense and even this is reasonable, based on the number of flight options, including a variety of budget airlines.   

Affordable accommodation is plentiful, attractions are well-priced, and food is dirt cheap. It is also pretty easy and cheap to get around using public transportation. As the gateway to the Kruger National Park, the area offers a multitude of safari and outdoor activities that are free or cost little to nothing including a number of well-maintained, affordable campsites.

As long as you avoid spending unnecessary money on a tour or staying in overpriced luxury resorts, your budget is going to be well spent in this part of the world.  Visiting during the shoulder season of March to May will ensure this stretches even further!

By Rai, A Rai of Light

Elephant in South Africa - Best Budget Destinations for your Bucket List
Elephant in South Africa – Best Budget Destinations for your Bucket List

The Best Budget Destinations in Europe

Belgrade, Serbia

One of the best budget travel destinations in Europe is Belgrade, Serbia. Serbia was one of the countries involved in the former Yugoslavia war in the 90s that shook the countries involved in many ways. The war really impacted the Serbian economy and even today you will find very low prices for accommodation, food, and attractions because of this.

The capital city of Serbia is Belgrade, and this is the city that has really come to shine in recent years and become a hot tourist destination because of its beauty and budget-friendly prices.

Belgrade is unlike any other city in Europe. It is full of historical sites, stunning architecture, and a past that is both interesting and chilling. There are a ton of things to do in Belgrade and most of them are free!

There is a huge fortress called the Belgrade fortress in the middle of the city that offers stunning views over the river and exploring the entire thing cost nothing at all. There also various monuments and sites to see like the largest and most important orthodox Serbian Church in Europe called The Church of Saint Sava.

Beyond all the amazing free things to do, Belgrade is also very budget-friendly in terms of accommodation and food. You can get a great meal for around €6 and you can stay at a luxury accommodation for under €40 a night. Belgrade is a hidden gem in Europe that is both budget-friendly and beautiful.

Samantha from Sam Sees World 

Belgrade Serbia
Belgrade Serbia

Sofia, Bulgaria

One of the most affordable countries in Europe is Bulgaria. It’s one of my favourite countries to visit and not just because it’s a budget destination. The capital Sofia might not strike as beautiful at first but do give it a chance and you’ll come to love it as much as I do.

For starters, take part in one of the free walking tours starting in front of the courthouse with the giant lions. This way, you’ll see the main sights of the city, plus get some really interesting historical insights. And mingle with other travellers.

Because right after, you should check out the many cute cafes and restaurants. There are hip coffee shops, where you can do some remote work with a good brew. Or hidden backyard cafes with amazing cake. My favourite is Villa Rosiche.

Along the main street, Vitosha Boulevard, you can have your pick among international restaurants, get some souvenir shopping done (rose products!) and stroll to the very Soviet-style Nationaler Kulturpalast.

For a getaway into nature, head up the Vitosha mountain for some skiing or to see the church and waterfall of Boyana. There are local buses taking you to the foot of the mountain to start your hike.

Sofia also has excellent connections to the rest of the country and you can plan excellent day trips from the train or coach station. Try Plovdiv for amazing sunsets from ancient ruins up on its many hills. Or visit the famous Rila Lakes and Monastery.

Annemarie from Travel on the Brain

Sofia Bulgaria - Budget Backpacking
Sofia Bulgaria – Budget Backpacking Destinations in Europe

Cluj Napoca, Romania

The unofficial capital of the Transylvanian region, Cluj Napoca in northwestern Romania, is probably one of the best budget trips in Europe. An area with good-value accommodation and food, your stay in Cluj Napoca will probably set you back 71USD per day.

A night at a hotel or hostel here costs around 42USD for one person and 84USD for a twin share. Meals for a day will set you back around 21USD and taking local transportation will cost you around 12USD, making it a location that you can enjoy without break your budget.

If you really are on a tight budget, indulge in breakfasts at restaurants and cafes and taste Romania’s delicious street foods for lunch and dinner.

One of the best things to do in Cluj Napoca is visiting the Hoia Forest, which is well-known for its ghost and UFO sighting. Possibly the creepiest forest in the world, a walk here will make you feel like you are in the set of a horror film. The guided night tour for just 20USD is well-recommended.

Take a walk through a medieval salt mine in Turda, where you can rent a boat to explore an underground lake and possibly ride a Ferris Wheel. It even has a spa that uses natural remedies. Just imagine getting a massage underground.

Karolina from Karolina Patryk

Cluj Napoca Romania
Cluj Napoca Romania

Lviv, Ukraine

One of my favourite trips in the past months was my time in Lviv. I was so blown away by the beauty of the place which I had not expected at all. Everything about that trip was amazing and that’s the reason why I’ve been recommending it to everyone that is willing to listen – or read about it.

Lviv has to be on everyone’s bucket list and is underrated because it’s located in Ukraine. I’ve overlooked it myself for too long, and I’m already planning another trip back.

Lviv is cheap and I had a hard time spending the money that I had exchanged over the course of four days.  The city is well connected by budget airlines, meaning this will most likely be one of your cheapest trips in all of Europe.

There are plenty of things to see and do in Lviv. Of course, you can visit the opera house and enjoy the views from High Castle hill, but make sure to visit random places like the Yard of Lost Toys and Lychakivskiy cemetery as well. 

Lviv has excellent cuisine for little money. Leave the main square behind and try some typical Ukrainian dished like dumplings in places like Three Little Piglets.

By Viki from Chronic Wanderlust

Lviv Ukraine
Lviv Ukraine

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia. Though it may seem expensive for visiting (as all big cities), actually there are so many things to do in St Petersburg without spending a fortune!

First of all, since October 2019 citizens of most European countries can apply for a FREE e-visa for visiting Saint Petersburg. This electronic visa allows you to spend 8 days in Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad Region (which is full of interesting places as well).

If you spend just a few days in Saint Petersburg, you don’t necessarily need to visit local museums. You can just wander in the centre of the city and enjoy picturesque views. Do you know why? The whole historical centre of the city is included in the UNESCO Heritage list. In fact, it’s a huge open-air museum! 

However, if you do go to museums, many of them offer free entrance (or big discounts) for kids (not depending on their citizenship). Not everyone knows that, so before purchasing tickets, check thoroughly the prices and discounts available.

Public transportation is a great way to explore Saint Petersburg. Many tourists appreciate the city’s metro: fast, cheap (~0.8 USD per ticket) and… beautiful! Some of the stations look like underground palaces.  The city also has plenty of cool cafes which offer good food at reasonable prices, and you can easily have lunch for 5-8 USD.

You should keep in mind that the peak tourist season in Saint Petersburg lasts from May to October. During this time, hotels may increase prices. But at the same time, this season is full of free events: concerts, sports events, festivals, etc. You can even listen to opera on open-air stages (for free, of course!)

By Anna from Travel Cultura

Saint Petersburg Russia
Saint Petersburg Russia

Puglia, Italy

Most visitors to Italy stick to the more well-known cities like Rome, Florence or Venice and are completely unaware of the country’s many hidden gems, such as the region of Puglia in the south. This is the place to come to escape the crowds, get off the beaten track and experience the real Italy.

And of course, since there aren’t so many tourists, prices are often significantly lower in this part of the country. In fact, Puglia has historically been a poor region of Italy, and to some extent, that’s still true today.

The local cuisine is very different from what you’ll find in the north and is made up mostly of dishes known as “cucina povera“, or “the poor people’s cuisine”. Featuring fresh vegetables, grains and legumes, Puglian cuisine is a very vegan-friendly form of Italian food.

As for budget-friendly activities, you can spend hours just roaming the streets and admiring the beautiful buildings in cities like Lecce and Bari. For a unique style of architecture that you won’t see anywhere else, head to Alberobello. This quaint town is filled with trulli, which are small, round houses with conical roofs made of stone.

And of course, lazing on one of Puglia’s sandy beaches is also quite tempting. Torre Lapillo Bay in Porto Cesareo, Baia Verde in Gallipoli, and Porto Badisco in Otranto are all great options.

by Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan

Alberobello in Puglia Italy
Alberobello in Puglia Italy

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is the perfect budget destination in Europe; it’s still very cheap compared to its more popular neighbours such as Prague, yet it has everything you could ask for on a cheap holiday.  

The city is beautiful and there are plenty of free things to do in Budapest including admiring the stunning Parliament Building and exploring Fisherman’s Bastion which has unbeatable views of the city.  There is some excellent street art around the city too, from colourful murals to tiny bronze sculptures dotted along the Danube River. 

The food in Budapest is cheap and delicious; a personal favourite of mine is langos, a deep-fried bread smothered in sour cream and grated cheese which costs no more than a couple of euros.  

Nightlife in Budapest is also world-renowned, the famous Ruin Bars are a unique experience where you can enjoy some of Budapest’s beer and wine surrounded by junk and second-hand tat.  

Don’t think that Budapest is the only destination worth visiting in Hungary; there are lots of hidden gems to discover outside the city too.

By Claire, Tales of a Backpacker

The Parliament Building in Budapest at Night
Beautiful Budapest – Best Budget Destinations in Europe

What do you think?  Where are you going to go for your next budget trip?  I’d love to hear your thoughts about the best budget destinations here, let me know in the comments below!

No matter where you travel, you should always get travel insurance to cover you in case something does happen. Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home.  It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

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25 Incredible Budget Destinations

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Last updated: April 18, 2020

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