Few people know the world better than travel bloggers, particularly when it comes to places that can be visited on the cheap. So, Cheapism tapped a half-dozen bloggers for their recommendations for destinations that can be experienced on $20 a day or less for food and accommodations. Here are some of their top suggestions, as well several destinations identified by combing through budget travel sites and hostel listings.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
Thailand is easily one of the most affordable destinations. No matter where you are in the country — Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket — it's possible to eat and sleep on a shoestring budget. "Delicious meals can be bought on the street for as little as 10 baht (29 cents) for a skewer of chicken or 60 baht ($1.75) for a heaping plate of fresh crab fried rice," said Kyle Stewart, travel editor for the blog Live and Let's Fly. "Youth hostels are available from just $2 a night and there are dozens and dozens of options." Stewart suggests the Barn and Bed Hostel in Bangkok, which is about $13 per night.
This is another stunning destination that won't bankrupt you. From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, there are fabulous cheap eats and remarkably affordable places to sleep in Vietnam. "Bowls of pho noodle soup with chicken, beef, or pork are widely available for just $2," says Stewart. Hostels, meanwhile, start at around $3 per night. The AZ HaNoi Hostel, which charges $7 per night, received a "fabulous" rating from users on Booking.com.
A sprawling nation made up of thousands of islands, Indonesia is yet another destination where it's possible to travel for very little. Rooms at the Kayun Hostel Downtown can start at just $7 per night, and that includes breakfast and free Wi-Fi. As for food, Stewart said noodles and rice dishes can be purchased in Bali for between $2 to $3 a plate. "Bintang beer is enjoyed by locals and foreigners alike for less than a buck," he adds. "And if you're short of things to do — head to the beach for some of the best surfing in the world."
Nate Hake, a globetrotter who visited 37 countries in nine months and creator of the site Travel Lemming, recommends Svaneti, Georgia, for those on the hunt for a memorable and affordable destination. "Svaneti is a gorgeous mountain region with its own culture," says Hake. "It evaded capture by the Mongols, Persians, or Ottomans thanks to its unique geography and the fierce Svan people. The stunning mountain landscapes are still dotted by medieval towers." Food can be as cheap as $1 for a meal at a local bakery, he adds. Accommodations at guesthouses that cost as little as $10 per night are listed on Airbnb.
CORON ISLAND, PHILIPPINES
When it comes to memorable beach destinations, it doesn't get much better than Coron Island in the Philippines, according to Katharine Cortes, creator of the blog Tara Lets Anywhere. "There are protected islands, green lagoons, and tons of beaches, plus clear lakes" said Cortes, adding that dormitory or single rooms can be found for between $10 to $12 per night and meals for just $1 to $2. She recommends Sea Horse Guest House, where dorm rooms can go for $10 per night.
Colombia is becoming an increasingly popular destination, according to traveler Joe Wareham. And one of his favorite places to visit is Cali, a region of the country known as the capital of salsa music. "Being in the south of the country, Cali is cheaper and less touristy than further north," Wareham said. "And watching and participating in salsa dancing is a primary, cheap form of entertainment." A dorm room bed in the El Viajero costs about $10, and includes the daily group salsa lesson in the evening.
An island nation south of India known for its beauty, Sri Lanka can also be a budget traveler's paradise, said Leslie Price, creator of My Adventure Bucket. "This is one of the absolute cheapest places I've ever visited," she said. "The staple foods here are cheap, spicy, and plentiful ... I paid 120 Sri Lankan rupees for a vegetable kottu, which is less than $1. And the serving was so big I had enough for a second meal." Steer clear of high-end hotels and instead stay at guesthouses, which are a Sri Lankan specialty, says Price. Dorm beds at the Marine Tourist Guest House at Negombo Beach are $8 a night.
Described by Hostelbookers as a land of $2 dorm beds and 50-cent beers, there are countless affordable hostels in Cambodia. The Hi Siem Reap Deluxe Hostel starts at around $5 per day, which leaves you with plenty of money to explore the country's famous sites, including the Angkor Wat Temples. Food is equally cheap in Cambodia, with cafes serving curry or char-fried noodles for as little as $1.
The land of pyramids and countless other fascinating antiquities, Egypt is a must-do on any serious traveler's bucket list, and you don't have to spend a fortune checking this one off. The Australian Hostel lists dorm beds at $12, and that includes breakfast. (Many hotels and hostels in Egypt serve breakfast.) Local street stands and cafes are another place to score a cheap meal, costing about $4 to $10. The main goal is to steer clear of the tourist restaurants, which charge much more.
Unlike countries such as France, Italy, and Spain, many Eastern European destinations remain quite inexpensive for travelers. Poland, rich in history and beautiful architecture around every turn, is a prime example. Rooms at two-star hostels such as the Art Hostel start at $4 a night. When it's time to eat, try a milk bar — not a candy bar but rather a Polish cafeteria. These restaurants are a remnant of the communist era and serve meals for about $3.
Many shoestring travelers have already visited Croatia as an up-and-coming destination. But Albania should also be on a budget traveler's radar. The Albanian Riviera, the charming interior region of Berat with its whitewashed Ottoman houses, and the capital of Tirana are all fascinating choices. Dorm rooms at the Milingona City Center in Tirana start at about $10 and include breakfast. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs about 650 lek, or less than $6.
A central South American country that includes the Andes Mountains, the Atacama Desert, and the Amazon Basin rainforest, Bolivia is a backpacker's paradise. For those starting in the city of La Paz, the Bunkie Hostel, well-rated on Hotels.com, is located in the city center, within walking distance of Plaza Murillo and includes free breakfast and Wi-Fi for as low as $5. Restaurants with set menus are your best bet for cheap eats, typically charging between $2 and $3.
A land of mind-boggling antiquities and the unforgettable islands, Greece also offers a plethora of bargain accommodations and dining. In Athens, one of the most historic cities in the world, the SmallFunnyWorld hostel charges $11 per night. The price includes free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Dinner at an inexpensive restaurant will cost about $17. Sandwich shops, where you can get a gyro for about $5, are another option.
Known for mountainous terrain, French colonial architecture, hill tribe settlements, and Buddhist monasteries, Laos is a Southeastern Asian country where it's possible to live quite comfortably on $20 a day. (It’s also an easy place to get a last-minute visa.) Rooms at the Chill Riverside Hostel & Bar, which received solid reviews from TripAdvisor users, start at $5 a night, and the property is near a royal palace, water falls, and a night market. As for dining, street food will cost just a few dollars.
An ocean and beach lover's paradise, Roatán is one of Honduras' Caribbean Bay islands, known for its dive sites and marine life. The Roatán Backpackers' Hostel, which received a rave reviews on Hostelworld thanks to its location, cleanliness and helpful staff, offers beds for $10 per night. The property includes a communal kitchen, allowing visitors to cook their own meals to save money.
Get out of Beijing and it's entirely possible to live on just $20 a day. In Chengdu for instance, the Chengdu Lazybones Hostel Templeside Poshpacker lists beds for less than $6 per night. A vintage, stylish property, it's just a 5-minute walk from a historic local monastery. For cheap eats, try the highly rated Mi Xun Teahouse, where the average price of a meal ranges from $4 to $15.
A central Himalayan country full of endless natural wonders (including eight of the world's 10 tallest mountains), Nepal is one of the least developed nations in the world. Dorm beds at the Shangrila Boutique Hotel in Kathmandu, which receives a “superb” rating from Hostelworld, start under $8, a price that includes breakfast and free Wi-Fi. There are many options for cheap eats including Fren's Kitchen Restaurant and Yangling Tibetan Restaurant.
A huge South Asian country with history dating back five millennia, India is one of the planet's cheapest places to travel. The possibilities here are limitless. In New Delhi, for example, there's also a long list of hostels for $10 or less. Cheap food is plentiful in India. TripSavvy recommends Karim's, which serves up inexpensive Mughlai-style food in a colorful neighborhood of Old Delhi. Meals are about 800 rupees or $12.
Ecuador encompasses Amazon jungle, Andean highlands and the Galápagos Islands. If you're using the capital of Quito as your starting point, try Hostel Revolution in the old center of the city. Dorm beds start at $9, which includes free Wi-Fi. The best food deals can be found in small restaurants catering to local workers on their lunch breaks, says TripAdvisor. Look for signs advertising comida corriente or comida ejecutivo, which mean the restaurant features set menus. For $3 or so, lunch is served.
A traveler can get by on less than $20 a day here, or live like a sheik for $40 a day. Visitors should consider bringing a little extra money to spend on camping in the Sahara Desert, an adventure no one will forget. It's cheapest to go between October and December. Rated highly for its location in Marrakech, the Hostel Dream Belko offers rooms starting at $5. Head to markets and eateries like the Corner Cafe for cheap eats.