Travel doesn’t have to be expensive! Check out the best budget destinations.
You can have a life-changing, unforgettable trip to some of the globe’s top destinations for under $30 a day? Believe it or not, this kind of budget travel can certainly be done. Those willing to accept modest accommodations and take it easy on the partying might be astounded at how many cheap vacations they can find.
Thailand and Cambodia
Some of the standout attractions in Southeast Asia are found in Thailand and Cambodia. These perennial backpacker hotspots have remained popular throughout the years, and with good reason: The food is extraordinary, the scenery is breathtaking and the World Heritage Sites (think Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya) and temples soar skyward in gilded splendor, reflecting the deep faith of the hands which built them. It doesn’t get much more inexpensive than Cambodia, which has burgeoned in recent years from a backwater SEA outpost to a bonafide destination tour de force. Thailand brings the teeming 24/7 bustle of Bangkok, the walled city of Chiang Mai and the inimitable stew of the Night Market, all at prices that can’t be matched by any other destination of comparable interest and enjoyment. That's what makes it one of the best cheap vacations around. Best time to visit: November to February to avoid the heat and rain.
Pro tip: A small, bright bag keeps your essentials close at hand and is easy to track down when most needed. It's a must for any budget travel journey.
Economic troubles have taken their toll on Greece, driving the cost of living (or visiting) far below the average for Europe. Luckily, nobody thought to break the news to the sun-soaked beaches, glorious weather, or turquoise blue waters of the Aegean Sea. Snag a cheap hostel room and a huge streetside gyro, and luxuriate in beachcombing, sightseeing, and people watching. In Greece, as is the case everywhere, the best things in life are free. The cheap vacations stretch all the way south to the Greek islands, which could serve as anyone’s stand-in for paradise. It’s unlikely that Greece will stay on the budget travel list for very long, so now is a great time to make a trip happen! Best time to visit: May to July for moderate weather, less rain and fewer crowds.
Pro tip: Keep your laptop—your lifeline!—travel safe with a bag that goes far beyond merely locking things up.
Budapest is one of Europe’s great capitals, and, yet, it remains singularly affordable. History buffs will go crazy (in the best way!) traipsing the former heart of the Ottoman Empire, where culture feels embedded in the very pavers beneath your feet! At the same time, the easy pace of life and cool bohemian culture speak to the drifter in all of us. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some of the city’s famous cakes, imbibe generously of the native liquor, and relax in a geothermal sauna that's unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. It's a hidden treasure trove of Old World charm, located barely off the continent’s beaten path. For budget-minded wanderers, Hungary is a must-see! Best time to visit: Spring or fall, when temperatures aren't extreme and there are fewer tourists.
Pro tip: Budget travel need not equal misery. A travel pillow takes up mere inches in your bag, but ensures that you can catch forty (comfy!) winks on the bus or train.
Central America offers an oft-overlooked collection of budget travel destinations that surprise and delight. The lands between the two American continents are neither as developed or as crime-troubled as their neighbors above and below, making these the ideal getaways for those seeking simple beauty and ancient wonders alike. The diversity of potential experiences in this part of the world can be dizzying! You can sip cocktails on the underrated, gorgeous beaches of Nicaragua, stuff yourself at the sodas (diners) of Costa Rica or visit the Panama canal, all for mere dollars per day. See the rainforests, explore vast national parks or savor the kind of Caribbean views that would cost you an arm and a leg at an all-inclusive resort. Best time to visit: Spring or early summer, to avoid hurricane season.
Your turn, budget travelers! What corner of the world enflames your wanderlust while going easy on your wallet?
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Shannon O’Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008. She travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She published The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook and founded GrassrootsVolunteering.org to help travelers connect with ethical volunteering and travel opportunities.