Wanderlust on a budget: 15 budget-friendly destinations for thrifty travelers

Photo of author

| Updated:

From exotically wild locales to bustling cities, this compilation of pocket-friendly places to travel to cheap offers a wide range of options to fulfill your wanderlust, all while keeping your budget in check.

A woman standing on a green hillside.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Top tips for traveling on a budget

To get your journey started on the right foot, here’s a list of things to keep in mind when budget plays a factor in your travel plans.

  • Plan in advance and be flexible with dates.
  • Use budget airlines and compare prices.
  • Opt for alternative accommodations like hostels and guest houses.
  • Use public transportation, rent a bike or walk.
  • Try local street food and markets.
  • Seek out free or low-cost attractions.
  • Utilize travel apps for discounts.
  • Pack light to avoid baggage fees.
  • Explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and stay away from highly touristy areas.
  • Use free Wi-Fi and avoid roaming fees.
  • Exchange currency wisely.
  • Utilize travel rewards and credit card points.
  • Track your expenses and stay within budget.
Subscription Form

Save this article and we'll send it to your inbox. Plus we'll send you more great article links every week.

Best places to travel to cheap

Indulge your wanderlust without breaking the bank at these budget-friendly travel destinations. Explore captivating cultural sites, breathtaking natural landscapes, vibrant cities and hidden gems that won’t strain your finances.

1. Turkey

Turkey boasts an enchanting mix of European and Asian influences, making it a must-experience destination. Luckily, exploring Cappadocia’s otherworldly landscapes and Istanbul’s bustling bazaars can be done very affordably. Many cultural sites in Turkey offer free or very low-cost entry fees, and street food options such as kebabs and pastries are not only delicious but seldom cost more than the equivalent of a few U.S. dollars.

2. Vietnam

Vietnam is a beautiful country in Southeast Asia known worldwide for its rich culture. It offers incredibly affordable accommodations and transportation options whether you explore water-side destinations like Ha Long Bay or the busy streets of Hanoi.

3. Colombia

Colombia offers a unique blend of beauty and culture in one budget-friendly destination. The warm-heartedness is likely to make its mark, as well as the delicious local cuisine, aromatic coffee and accommodations that won’t break the bank.

“When it comes to traveling on a budget, I love setting a limit on what I’m spending. This helps me figure out what I’m willing to splurge on and when I need to be more conservative. We love sharing breakfast or lunch and then splitting a meal and appetizer at a restaurant. That way we still get to go to the exciting place, but aren’t breaking the bank once we get there.”

— Kita Roberts, Romantic Weekend Getaways
Green mountains framed by green trees in Northern Colombia.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Photo credit: The Wander Bucket.

4. Indonesia

Indonesia has lush rainforests, stunning beaches and ancient temples, making it a budget traveler’s dream. Local street food stalls serve inexpensive dishes, and budget-friendly accommodations rarely exceed $15 U.S. a night.

5. Czech Republic

This European gem is home to one of the most charming cities in the world, Prague. Prague offers the vibrant architecture, rich history, lively pubs, restaurants and happening nightlife you would expect from nearly any European city, but minus the hefty price tag. The inexpensive cuisine and cheap public transportation make it an excellent fit for any budget traveler.

6. Mexico

Whether you explore ancient ruins, pristine beaches or vibrant cities, Mexico has a budget-friendly option. Street food options such as elotes and quesadillas rarely cost more than $1 U.S.  And local transportation options are extensive, making it easy to get around without overspending.

“Before heading out on an adventure, our family spends as much time researching where we’re going to eat as we do what we’re going to see. To stretch our food budget to the max, we map out our can’t-miss food experiences and then fill in the meal calendar with breakfasts included at our hotel, picnic/packed lunches and grocery store visits.”

— Sage Scott, Everyday Wanderer

7. Thailand

Thailand is known for its green jungles and white sandy beaches, as well as being a favorite amongst budget travelers, and with good reason. Whether you visit mainland cities like Bangkok or one of the sunny islands off the coast, street food like pad Thai and green curry can be enjoyed for just $1 U.S. Budget accommodations rarely exceed $30 U.S. a night.

8. Ecuador

Ecuador is small but packs a beautiful punch, with breathtaking landscapes from the Andes to the Amazon and a warm and welcoming culture. Street food, such as pan de yuca, usually costs less than $1 U.S. a piece, and decent hotel rooms generally cost $30-40 U.S. a night. If you stay for an extended period, house rentals are a great way to go at usually only $400 U.S. per month.

Birds scatter in the city center of Quito, Ecuador.
Quito, Ecuador. Photo credit: The Wander Bucket.

9. Egypt

Home to the iconic Pyramids of Giza, Egypt offers an exciting glimpse into the treasures of the ancient past. It is also an extremely affordable destination, with entrance fees to historical sites rarely exceeding $12 U.S. Street food such as koshari and falafel can usually be purchased for less than $1 U.S. per serving, making it exceptionally wallet-friendly.

“I love to rent a campervan and travel like that whenever possible! It’s a great way to move around, and truly get to immerse yourself in your destination. And best of all, it’s very popular with kids!”

— Ksenia Prints, At the Immigrant’s Table

10. Cambodia

Cambodia is home to some of Asia’s most enchanting temples and villages. Affordable guesthouses and transportation options abound throughout the country, even in popular destinations such as Phnom Penh. Visit local markets to find the most inexpensive street food stalls.

 11. Georgia

Georgia is a hospitable locale nestled between Europe and Asia. You can visit the Caucasus mountains or the capital city of Tbilisi, indulging in traditional Georgian cuisine like khachapuri for less than $1 U.S. per serving. Guesthouses are affordable in Georgia and rarely exceed $30 U.S. a night.

12. India

India is an excellent destination for getting the most bang for your buck. From low-cost accommodations and inexpensive public transportation to the most unique and affordable street food and local markets, India is a rich and diverse country with no shortage of fun options for the budget traveler.

13. Morocco

Morocco has rich cultural and historical sites with free or minimal entry fees. Morocco is also known for its bargaining culture, so this is one destination where you can talk the price down on nearly anything if you are willing. Street foods, such as “harira,” or soup, and sweet pastries like msemen, can be found for only $1-2 U.S. per serving.

A double rainbow in the sky above green mountains in Costa Rica.
Santa Maria, Costa Rica. Photo credit: The Wander Bucket.

14. Costa Rica 

Only some parts of Costa Rica are considered affordable compared to neighboring countries. Still, if you plan your trip around the less touristy areas, you can visit this country on an extremely tight budget. Dishes like gallo pinto usually cost around $3 U.S., and budget accommodation can be found from $20-50 U.S. per night.

15. Portugal

Portugal is considered an affordable travel destination, unlike other Western European countries. One-way public transportation usually costs around $2 U.S. and budget hotels can range from $20 to $60 U.S. per night. Eating out is pricier than some other destinations on this list; however, groceries are considerably budget-friendly, and this makes a beautiful location to pack a picnic.

Final Thoughts

From the enchanting mix of influences in Turkey to the beautiful beaches of Thailand and the historical treasures of Egypt to the hospitable country of Georgia, there is something for every thrifty traveler. By following our top tips for traveling on a budget and being savvy with your expenses, you can embark on amazing adventures while keeping your budget in check. Happy travels!

Kristen Wood is a photographer, writer and creator of MOON and spoon and yum and Foodventures Abroad. She is also the author of Vegetarian Family Cookbook, Fermented Hot Sauce Cookbook, and Hot Sauce Cookbook for Beginners. Her work has been featured in various online and print publications, including Elle, Martha Stewart, Yoga Journal and more.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.