While globetrotting can be costly, there are ways to make it affordable. Numerous budget-friendly destinations worldwide provide incredible experiences without straining your finances.
On that note, let’s explore the top inexpensive travel destinations for 2023, categorized by continents.
1. Laos: Tranquility in Southeast Asia
Price per day: $30
Laos is a picturesque landlocked country in Southeast Asia, renowned for its natural beauty, rich history, and Buddhist influence. The country’s mountainous terrain makes it one of Southeast Asia’s most scenic destinations.
While it doesn’t boast beaches like its neighbors, it offers a plethora of adventure activities such as zip-lining, kayaking, hiking, and cave tubing. Popular destinations include the bustling night markets and waterfalls of Luang Prabang, the mountainous Vang Vieng, and the mysterious Plain of Jars.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Laos:
- Visit Vang Vieng: Once known for its wild party scene, Vang Vieng has transformed into a hub for outdoor adventures and boasts boutique hotels and upscale restaurants.
- Explore the 4,000 Islands: A laid-back region with tiny islands in the Mekong River, perfect for relaxation and exploration.
- Relax in Luang Prabang: A city known for its sunsets over the Mekong River, colonial French architecture, and the Kuang Si Waterfalls.
- Trek to the Kuang Si Falls: A stunning waterfall near Luang Prabang with turquoise waters and limestone pools.
- See the Plain of Jars: A UNESCO site with thousands of stone jars believed to be from the Iron Age.
Other Notable Activities:
- Vieng Xai Cave City: A historical site that served as living quarters for Laotian soldiers during the 1960s.
- Gibbon Experience: A unique adventure with zip lines connecting the world’s highest treehouses in Bokeo Forest.
- Great Stupa (Pha That Luang): A significant gold-covered stupa in Vientiane.
- Elephant Conservation Center: A center dedicated to protecting the elephant population in Laos.
- Slow boat on the Mekong: A serene way to explore the country.
Laos is generally safe for travelers. However, pickpocketing can occur in busy areas. It’s essential to stay on marked trails, especially in areas like the Plain of Jars, due to unexploded landmines.
Avoid involvement with drugs or the sex industry, as Laos has strict punishments for such offenses.
Laos is home to the rare Irrawaddy dolphin, found in the Mekong River.
2. Cambodia: Ancient Wonders and Cultural Riches
Price per day: $30
Cambodia is described as an underrated travel destination with a rich history, friendly people, and numerous attractions. The author recounts his personal experiences traveling in Cambodia and highlights the country’s resilience despite its tumultuous past, particularly the genocide carried out by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime.
The guide provides insights into the top attractions, other notable places to visit, and general travel costs in Cambodia.
- Explore Angkor Wat: A vast temple complex that requires multiple days to fully explore.
- Sihanoukville: Known for its white sand beaches, islands, diving, seafood, and nightlife.
- Phnom Penh: The capital city with a mix of history and modernity.
- Tonle Sap: A significant waterway showcasing the close ties of Cambodian life to water.
- Battambang: The country’s second-largest city with temples, a bamboo train, and unique architecture.
Other Notable Places
- The Killing Fields: A somber reminder of Cambodia’s violent past.
- Kep: A quiet beach town famous for its pepper crab.
- Bokor National Park: A destination with French ruins and rainforest hikes.
- Prasat Preah Vihear: A mountain temple with historical significance.
- Floating Villages: Unique communities built on bamboo stilts.
- Accommodation: Dorm rooms start at $6-8 USD, while private rooms range from $10-20 USD.
- Food: Street food costs around $1-3 USD, while restaurant meals range from $3-5 USD.
- Activities: Entrance to Angkor Wat is $37 USD for a single day. Other activities vary in price.
While Cambodia is generally safe for travelers, it’s essential to be cautious of petty theft, especially in crowded areas. Always keep an eye on your belongings and be aware of common scams, such as the motorbike scam.
Cambodia’s national flag is the only one in the world to depict a building – the Angkor Wat.
3. Nepal: Himalayan Adventures and Spiritual Discoveries
Price per day: $30
Nepal, nestled between India and China, is a land of diverse landscapes, rich culture, and spiritual heritage. Known for its towering Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest, it offers a plethora of experiences for all types of travelers.
- Trip Planning: Planning your trip to Nepal can be both exciting and daunting. The best times to visit are during Spring (March-May) with the blooming rhododendrons and Autumn (September-November) with clear skies and post-monsoon greenery. Visas can be obtained on arrival, and it’s essential to consult with your doctor about recommended vaccinations.
- Transportation: Travelers have various options, including buses, taxis, rental cars, motorbikes, and domestic flights. Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport is the primary international gateway.
- Accommodation: From luxury hotels in major cities to budget hostels and trekking lodges, Nepal caters to every traveler’s needs.
- Food and Cuisine: The traditional Nepali meal is Dal Bhat, but there are many other delicacies like Momos and Chowmein. Vegetarian and vegan options are abundant.
- Main Attractions: Nepal boasts of attractions like Kathmandu Valley with its UNESCO World Heritage sites, the serene Pokhara, treks in the Himalayas, wildlife in Chitwan National Park, and Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
- Cultural Etiquette and Safety: Respect local customs, dress modestly, and be aware of potential scams. Always prioritize safety, especially in remote areas or while trekking.
- Responsible Travel: Use reusable water bottles, avoid single-use plastics, and respect local culture and environment. Hiring local guides and supporting local businesses is also encouraged.
Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, making it a pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide.
4. Türkiye: Where East Meets West in Harmony
Price per day: $35
Türkiye, a country that bridges Europe and Asia, is known for its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning landscapes. The official travel guide of Türkiye emphasizes sustainable tourism, showcasing various destinations, experiences, and initiatives that align with eco-friendly practices.
- Sustainable Destinations: Türkiye offers numerous sustainable destinations such as İznik, Halfeti, Güdül, and Göynük. These places have been recognized for their efforts in maintaining ecological balance and promoting sustainable tourism.
- Sustainable Experiences: Travelers can indulge in various sustainable experiences, including cycling, trekking, hiking routes, and exploring UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites.
- Outdoor & Nature: Türkiye invites travelers to explore its magnificent nature, from the mesmerizing Mediterranean beaches to the rugged terrains of the Anatolian plateau.
- Sustainable Routes: Discover hidden routes in Türkiye that prioritize sustainability, allowing travelers to experience the country’s beauty while minimizing their environmental footprint.
- Cultural & Historical: Dive deep into Türkiye’s timeless cultural heritage, from ancient ruins to modern-day marvels.
- Events & Festivals: Experience unforgettable events and festivals that showcase Türkiye’s vibrant culture and traditions.
- Boutique & Unique Experiences: Get inspired by the unique experiences Türkiye offers, from hot air balloon rides over Cappadocia to exploring ancient underground cities.
- Türkiye’s Environmentally Friendly Projects: Türkiye is committed to protecting the environment and has implemented numerous green projects to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism.
- Local Products & Gifts: Travelers can purchase locally made products and souvenirs, such as Bodrum’s mandarin, Erzurum’s molasses Baklava dessert, and Bartın’s wire-breaking handicrafts.
- Local Foods & Chefs: Savor the culinary masterpieces of Türkiye, a fusion of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Mediterranean flavors.
Turkey is home to the ancient city of Troy, famous for the legendary Trojan War.
5. Vietnam: Gastronomic Delights and Natural Beauty
Price per day: $35
Vietnam, one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing destinations, offers a diverse range of experiences due to its unique geographical characteristics. The country stretches from the northern capital city of Hanoi, known for its European architecture, to Da Nang in central Vietnam, a renowned resort area, and further south to Ho Chi Minh, the country’s largest commercial city.
Each region presents distinct opportunities for exploration. For instance, the northern region of Sapa is a haven for hikers, while Ha Long Bay is a paradise for scuba divers and photographers. If you’re in search of pristine beaches and a relaxed atmosphere for family, the southern island of Phu Quoc is a top recommendation.
While traveling in Vietnam, indulging in the local cuisine is a must. The country’s dishes, which are gaining global popularity, include the famous rice noodle soup (pho), crispy fried dumplings (cha gio), and banh mi sandwiches made with fresh baguettes.
Top Destinations in Vietnam
- Da Lat: Often referred to as ‘Le Petit Paris’, this hill town is known for its French colonial influence and is a popular getaway destination.
- Nha Trang, Da Nang, Ha Long Bay, Phu Quoc, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City: These are some of the other notable destinations in Vietnam, each offering unique experiences.
Vietnam is known for its Water Puppetry, a unique and ancient form of entertainment.
6. The Philippines: Tropical Bliss and Rich Culture
Price per day: $37
The Philippines, an archipelago in Southeast Asia, is a vibrant destination known for its emerald rice fields, bustling megacities, colorful jeepneys, active volcanoes, unique wildlife, and friendly locals. The country’s charm lies in its diverse landscapes and cultural heritage.
- Emerald Rice Fields: The Philippines is renowned for its picturesque rice terraces, especially in regions like Banaue.
- Megacities: Cities like Manila offer a blend of modernity and history, with colonial architecture juxtaposed against skyscrapers.
- Jeepneys: These are the Philippines’ iconic public transport vehicles, known for their vibrant graffiti designs.
- Volcanoes: The country has several active volcanoes, with Mayon and Taal being among the most famous.
- Wildlife: The Philippines is home to unique creatures like the tarsier, which can be seen in places like Bohol.
- Friendly Locals: Filipinos are known for their warm hospitality and cheerful demeanor.
- Coron Island: Located near Coron Town, this island boasts a dramatic landscape reminiscent of scenes from adventure movies.
- Nacpan Beach & Duli Beach in El Nido: These are beautiful beaches known for their golden sands and serene ambiance.
- Mestizo District in Vigan: This area reflects the Chinese influence in the Philippines, showcasing a blend of cultures.
- Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol: A dedicated space to observe the tiny, saucer-eyed tarsiers in their natural habitat.
- Fort Santiago in Manila: A historic fort that guards the entrance to the Pasig River and offers insights into the country’s colonial past.
- Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City: This church houses a revered statuette of the Christ child, linking back to the time of Magellan.
The Philippines has a lake within an island within a lake within an island – Taal Lake on Volcano Island in Lake Taal on Luzon Island.
7. Malaysia: Urban Charms and Natural Retreats
Price per day: $40
Malaysia is a Southeast Asian gem that often gets overshadowed by its more popular neighbors like Thailand and Vietnam. However, it offers a plethora of experiences for travelers.
- Urban Exploration: Kuala Lumpur, the capital, is a blend of modernity and tradition. The iconic Petronas Twin Towers dominate the skyline, but the city also boasts historical sites like the Sri Mahamariamman Temple and the Batu Caves. Kuala Lumpur is also a haven for food enthusiasts, with street food stalls offering a variety of delectable dishes.
- Natural Beauty: From the serene beaches of the Perhentian Islands to the lush tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia’s natural beauty is breathtaking. Adventurous travelers can trek through national parks like Gunung Mulu and Taman Negara, encountering wildlife such as tigers, elephants, and sun bears.
- Cultural Richness: George Town in Penang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing a mix of British colonial architecture, Chinese temples, and mosques. The city’s streets are alive with history, shops, and cafes.
- Mountain Adventures: Mount Kinabalu in Borneo is a popular trekking destination. Climbers navigate through dense jungles to reach its summit.
- Diverse Wildlife: Malaysia is home to a rich variety of wildlife. From orangutans in Borneo to the diverse marine life in Sipadan Island, wildlife enthusiasts have plenty to explore.
- Colonial History: Malaysia’s history is marked by its colonial past, with influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. Malacca offers insights into this history, with museums and historical sites.
- Affordability: Despite its rich offerings, Malaysia remains an affordable destination for travelers. Street food is both delicious and cheap, and there are various budget accommodation options available.
Malaysia is home to the world’s largest cave chamber – Sarawak Chamber in Gunung Mulu National Park.
8. Sri Lanka: Island Serenity and Cultural Marvels
Price per day: $35
Sri Lanka, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” is an island nation that offers a diverse range of experiences.
- Historical Significance: Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress, is often dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Its frescoes, gardens, and ruins are a testament to the island’s rich history.
- Spiritual Centers: Kandy, home to the Temple of the Tooth, is a significant pilgrimage site for Buddhists. The temple houses a relic believed to be the tooth of Lord Buddha.
- Natural Beauty: From the pristine beaches of Mirissa to the lush rainforests of Sinharaja, Sri Lanka’s landscapes are varied and breathtaking. The Horton Plains National Park offers stunning vistas and is home to the famous World’s End viewpoint.
- Wildlife Adventures: National parks like Yala and Udawalawe are teeming with wildlife, including leopards, elephants, and a variety of bird species.
- Tea Plantations: The central highlands, especially areas like Nuwara Eliya, are dotted with tea plantations. Visitors can take guided tours of tea factories and sample some of the world’s best teas.
- Culinary Delights: Sri Lankan cuisine is a flavorful blend of spices, with dishes like hoppers, kottu, and curry being popular among locals and tourists alike.
- Water Sports: The eastern and southern coasts are ideal for surfing, while the calm waters of Bentota are perfect for jet-skiing and windsurfing.
Sri Lanka is the world’s largest exporter of cinnamon.
9. Georgia: Hidden Gems in the Caucasus
Price per day: $40
Nestled between Europe and Asia, Georgia is a country of contrasts.
- Historical Cities: Tbilisi, the capital, is a blend of old-world charm and modernity. Its sulfur baths, ancient churches, and vibrant arts scene make it a must-visit.
- Natural Wonders: From the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus Mountains to the vineyards of Kakheti, Georgia’s landscapes are diverse. The Uplistsikhe cave town and the Prometheus Cave are other natural attractions.
- Black Sea Resorts: Batumi is a popular seaside destination, known for its modern architecture, beaches, and botanical garden.
- Cultural Heritage: The Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta and the Gelati Monastery are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, showcasing Georgia’s rich religious history.
- Culinary Adventures: Georgian cuisine is hearty and flavorful. Dishes like khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and khinkali (dumplings) are national favorites. The country is also renowned for its wine-making tradition.
- Adventure Activities: The Svaneti region offers trekking opportunities, while the Gudauri ski resort attracts winter sports enthusiasts.
- Warm Hospitality: Georgians are known for their hospitality. The local tradition of “supra” (feast) showcases this warmth, with guests treated to an array of dishes, wine, and traditional toasts.
Georgia is known as the birthplace of wine, with evidence of winemaking dating back over 8,000 years.
10. Portugal: European Elegance Within Budget’s Reach
Price per day: $45
Portugal, located on the Iberian Peninsula, is a blend of rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture.
- Historic Treasures: Lisbon, the capital, offers a mix of modernity and tradition. From the historic Alfama quarter to the iconic Belém Tower, the city is a treasure trove of architectural wonders.
- Wine and Gastronomy: Porto, the country’s second-largest city, is renowned for its wine, especially Port wine. The Douro Valley, with its terraced vineyards along the Douro River, is a must-visit for wine enthusiasts.
- Beach Destinations: The Algarve region, with its golden beaches and limestone caves, is a popular destination for sun-seekers. Places like Lagos and Faro offer a mix of natural beauty and historic charm.
- Island Escapes: The Azores, an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is known for its volcanic landscapes, geothermal springs, and lush greenery.
- Cultural Festivals: Portugal is home to various festivals, such as the Feast of Saint John the Baptist (Festa de São João) celebrated especially in Porto. The festival includes fireworks, concerts, and the unique tradition of playfully hitting each other with garlic or plastic hammers.
- Climate: The best time to visit Portugal is during spring (March-May) and fall (September-October) when the weather is pleasant, and the tourist crowds are fewer. Summer can get hot, especially in central regions, but it’s also when the beaches are most vibrant. Winters are milder compared to other European countries, making it a year-round destination.
- Affordability: Portugal offers a range of experiences that cater to both luxury travelers and those on a budget. From affordable local eateries to budget accommodations, travelers can experience the country’s richness without breaking the bank.
Portugal is home to the world’s oldest bookstore, Bertrand Bookstore, established in 1732.
Budget Travel Wisdom
- Plan Ahead: Book flights and accommodations early for better deals.
- Opt for Budget Stays: Choose hostels or guesthouses to maximize your budget.
- Cook and Dine Wisely: Save by preparing your own meals or enjoying local eateries.
- Embrace Public Transit: Navigate with public transportation for cost-effective exploration.
- Discover Free Activities: Museums, parks, and trails offer entertainment without fees.
- Local Insights: Engage locals for tips on affordable hidden gems.
How can I find the cheapest flights for my 2023 travels?
Consider using services like “Going” (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) for flight alerts based on your location. Additionally, flight search engines like Skyscanner or Momondo can help you find affordable flights.
Which Asian city offers a mix of cultural heritage and affordability?
Hoi An, Vietnam, while not the cheapest in Southeast Asia, offers a rich cultural experience with its UNESCO-listed Old Town and is still highly affordable on a global scale.
What is the best time of year to travel to these cheap destinations?
The best time of year to travel to these cheap destinations depends on the specific destination. However, in general, the shoulder seasons (the months before and after the peak season) are a good time to travel, as the prices are lower and the crowds are smaller.
Traveling is often perceived as a luxury that comes with a hefty price tag, but this isn’t always the case. With meticulous planning and thorough research, it’s entirely possible to embark on adventures to some of the world’s most breathtaking locales without straining your finances.
By prioritizing destinations known for their affordability, utilizing cost-saving resources, and being flexible with travel dates, anyone can experience the wonders of the globe on a budget. So, before you dismiss the idea of a getaway due to financial constraints, remember that with the right approach, the world is truly your oyster.