Traveling to exotic locales and fascinating destinations is in the blueprint of our DNA. It’s just something that every single person on this planet can relate to. We all want to see the world and explore every hidden nook and cranny, to experience all there is to be experienced. We want to explore other cultures and expose ourselves to other ideas, to adventure, to relaxation and tranquility.
But sometimes that can be expensive. In fact, unless you’re one of the rare blessed enough to retire rich or work while traveling, most of us have to save up. We put pennies away each month, take a little here and a little there, and we have to budget for that day when we can finally get out of the daily routine and out into the world. We’re not all rich, so how should those of us who aren’t millionaires travel? Well, the world is a big place and there’s so much to see that odds are there’s a place just for you that is well within your budget.
Whether you’re timing your trip to avoid peak tourist season or simply traveling to the lesser known, untapped beauty of a less-developed travel destination, there are plenty of options for people out there who are traveling on a budget. Sometimes it’s as easy as going from hotels to hostels, street cart food over restaurants, but no matter what your tactics are or your financial restraints, we've got you covered.
So skip that lunch special and throw those pennies in the jar because this is our list of the 20 Travel Destinations Perfect For People Who Want To Travel On The Cheap Side (Or For Penny-Pinchers).
20 Kos, Greece - Have Your Gyro And Eat It Too
Because of the sheer amount of islands in Greece, it’s easy to find one that would be perfect for traveling on a budget. In fact, of the dozens and dozens of islands you can travel to in Greece, you’re probably more likely to find an affordable one than not. Still, there’re some heavily traveled islands like Rhodes and Santorini, or islands like Crete that could be an entire country on its own. Anyway, we decided to go with Kos when it comes to a budget-friendly Greek island to travel.
We think it has everything you could want from Greece. It’s a large enough island to feature some of the beauty we come to expect from Greece, the whitewashed walls and red doors, the gorgeous beaches. But you can also wander off the beaten path and find some small jewels to enjoy. Like having your gyro and eating it too. There’re plenty of small villages along the island that you can explore. Of course the major ones suffer from significant tourist traffic, but the island is large enough to venture out and find some quaint towns where you’ll feel welcome and perfectly at peace.
The food there is amazing, and of course, like all Greek islands, the beaches are beautiful. Lambi beach is probably the most well-known one and therefore the most visited, but it’s large enough that you can find a stretch all to yourself. Kos also features some of the lovely ancient Greek historic sites that are so fun to visit.
19 Warsaw, Poland - Rich In Culture, Cheap in Cost
Warsaw has a lot of historical significance and because of that, has its own reputation on the international stage, but in recent years it has been gaining traction with millennials traveling on a budget. Poland has become a hot destination for people looking to visit Europe without breaking their bank. Delectable restaurants and delicious beer can be had in Poland’s capital and at completely reasonable prices.
If you’re looking for a rich-in-culture European trip without having to spend too much, then Warsaw has what you’re looking for. Its Old Town is especially beautiful, steeped in beautiful buildings of all sorts of styles and in vibrant colors. You can’t go to Warsaw without exploring these cobblestone streets and checking out the city squares where crowds love to flock.
For some scenic beauty, the Saxon Garden is one of the oldest in the city and features gorgeous statues and a man-made lake, ideal for afternoon strolls. Another great park to visit would be the Royal Łazienki Park, where you will feel like royalty. There’s a small palace island and the park hosts musical events when the weather is nice. The presidential palace and royal palace also showcase some of Warsaw’s most beautiful structures.
18 Zanzibar, Tanzania - It’s All About Timing And Location
Zanzibar has a reputation for being an exotic getaway for honeymooners because of its breathtakingly blue beaches and white sand and because of its label as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The small island chain off the eastern coast of Africa does have its reputation and because of it, travelers on a budget might hesitate to pull the trigger on visiting, but if you can snag some reasonably prices tickets to the island, you definitely need to come here.
It’s all about timing and location. Prices go up for areas along the beach where the crowds tend to flock, but if you can find a place to stay in the historic Stone Town, then you’ll have the perfect hub for traveling back and forth between the small islands and staying where prices are reasonable. Stone Town is situated on the western coast of the main island known as Unguja and it’s a gorgeous city to explore and reflects a diverse melting pot of cultures which shaped the area. There you can find dirt cheap hostels and great street food for a couple of bucks.
Of course, the beaches here are beautiful and lounging around on them won’t cost you a cent. So pack some swimming suits and a towel for this one.
17 Vancouver, Canada - Nature Is Free, And This Place Has Plenty Of It
Americans seem to enjoy traveling to Canada, typically for a weekend for a quick getaway. For them, it's since Canada offers something different while still being close enough to home to feel like you aren’t breaking the bank. Another plus about traveling to Canada is how clean and well run the cities seem to be.
We find that many people hesitate to visit Montreal or Vancouver just because they're major cities and therefore carry the stereotype of high costs. Thankfully, hotel rates are relatively cheap for such a big metropolitan area. Vancouver has so many free activities that you could spend an entire vacation there without spending much at all.
One of the advantages of traveling to Vancouver is the lovely scenery. With beautiful mountain ranges just behind it and a coastline along the Salish Sea, there’s plenty of beautiful nature to soak in. We recommend Lynn Canyon for hiking, but Stanley Park is so beautiful and scenic as well. It provides gorgeous meadows for visitors who want to lie out and have a picnic.
There are also famous bike trails along the north shore that we think work perfectly as a low budget activity. And while Granville Island has an amazing marketplace atmosphere, it has so many options that you can still shop on a low budget.
16 Udaipur, India - Move Inland For Hidden Beauty
India is a destination of exotic beauty and the country on a whole is typically a reasonably priced place to visit by our standards. Even still, many visitors tend to get stuck in the obvious destinations like Mumbai on the coast that they forget how much more beauty lies inland. Udaipur is the perfect crossroads of old, Indian beauty and seriously reasonable prices for getting a taste of it.
Situated north of Mumbai inland, this city is known for housing royalty - the King of Mewar, to be exact. A beautiful white palace hugs the coastline of the prominent Lake Pichola. Both at day and night, this sight is otherworldly. In the dark, the palace comes ablaze in a golden glow that shimmers on the rippling water and in the day, the sun bounces off the rich blue. Hotels in the area can be found relatively cheap, especially if you aren’t staying at the ones on the upscale waterfront.
There are a number of dazzling temples you can visit while in Udaipur as well as yoga classes on the water and even boat rides around the lake. For a little splurge, we recommend guided tours of the palace which will give you a ton of information that makes exploring the inside so breathtaking. A famous staple of Udaipur are the puppet shows. We aren’t kidding. Be sure to check one out during your stay.
15 Memphis, Tennessee - Heaven For Music Enthusiasts
Memphis offers a unique American flavor that can be had relatively cheap. There’re plenty of places to travel around the country, places that are iconic in international circles like New York, Los Angeles, of San Francisco, but Memphis is the kind of city that gets overlooked. In reality, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Tennessee. Between Nashville and Memphis, you have plenty of options, especially when it comes to music. The fact that both are so entertaining is not a knock on either one. We chose Memphis because it has been growing in popularity recently, yet still has so much to offer at little to no cost. Flying out and staying in Memphis is relatively cheap.
One of the activities that is a must for any visitor is the world famous Graceland. The thirteen acre estate was the home of Elvis Presley and now stands as a museum that celebrates the American icon. Admission is free with an experience worth so much more.
Another unique feature in Memphis is the Mud Island Riverwalk, a scaled down replication of the great Mississippi River in its entirety from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. The Riverwalk spans nearly 5 city blocks and hosts a number of scenic spots to explore free of cost.
14 Dakar, Senegal - Float Away In Pink Water For Pennies
Dakar lies on a small peninsula on the western coast of Africa and is, in fact, the westernmost city on the continent’s mainland. Like much of West Africa, you can travel to Senegal’s capital and largest city for a relatively cheap price. If you avoid the most expensive, luxury hotels, you can find some great deals along the side streets near the coast. The city has a strong relationship with the African Slave Trade and because of this, there is much here to be learned of its history.
Off the coast on the small island of Gore, you can find the House of Slaves, a famous museum dedicated to the dark history. The pink buildings where slaves were formerly housed is now a humbling reminder of this dark time, but worth a trip for historical enrichment.
Elsewhere in Dakar, you’ll find the mesmerizing Lake Retba which famously has a saline level higher than even the Dead Sea. You can float out here and experience the surreal feeling of being unable to sink and if you go when the algae is in bloom, the entire lake comes ablaze in the color of a cream pink. Dakar also lives and breaths for music, so you’ll find some unique fusions of different genres and cultures as you walk the streets and eat at local restaurants.
13 Gaziantep, Turkey - You Had Me At Baklava
One major under-the-radar destination on this list has to be Gaziantep in the southeast of Turkey. Really, Turkey in general flies under the radar when it comes to travel, so we thought we’d include this old city not just because it’s an amazing place to visit on a budget but because it’s a very unique place that most people never even consider visiting when planning out their next vacation.
Staying in a hotel in Gaziantep will cost you about as much as a fancy steak dinner might cost you in the United States, or maybe even less. Because most of the city’s allure comes from its history, much of what you can enjoy about Gaziantep comes to you for free.
The Seljuk and Ottoman building styles make the city such a unique place to explore on foot, and while you’ll enjoy all of the beauty Gaziantep has to offer, we think you should at least spend a little cash. That’s because Gaziantep has earned quite a reputation for its culinary arts. It’s one of the most famous culinary cities in the world, so much so that it has been named a UNESCO site solely based on its culinary history. Their most famous dish would be the delectable baklava.
12 Lisbon, Portugal - Cultural Abundance And Beauty Not To Be Overshadowed By Big Brother Spain
Portugal is always a great place to travel and one that’s far more affordable than people think, considering how nice of a country it is. It neighbors to Spain, one of the top travel destinations in the world, which can leave Portugal overlooked.
But we say good! Portugal is a wonderful place to travel and the gorgeous city of Libson is the perfect place to visit on a budget. On the coast of the River Tagus, Libson is Portugal’s capital city, but don’t let that convince you that you can’t afford a trip there. Hotels are reasonably priced and if you can get a hostel, it’s even cheaper. Since it’s a capital city, there are so many free activities to enjoy.
For a stunning combination of hiking and history, we recommend traveling to the ruins of Convento do Carmo high above the city and exploring the old architecture. The city also has a museum dedicated to resistance, intwined with Portugal’s compelling history of brutal dictatorship. Because of its importance to the Portuguese people, admission is free.
Portugal also has some delicious pastries and foods to snack on, but one very fun activity to participate in would have to be the Thief’s Market. The English translation doesn’t sit well, but this is one of the world’s oldest flea markets and an enjoyable time.
11 San Antonio, Texas - Bet You Didn't Think Of That One, Did You?
No city has been flying under the radar for travelers quite like San Antonio, Texas. In fact, most Americans who try to stay within the states when going on vacation hardly ever consider Texas at all, but when we talk about great travel destinations for people on a budget, San Antonio has to be on that list at some point. Situated south of Austin, near the border with Mexico, San Antonio has much of the Texas charm that makes visiting the state so fun. Of course, no trip to San Antonio is complete without visiting the Alamo, which is perfect for including on this since admission is free.
There are also museums like the McNay Art Museum and San Antonio Museum of Art which feature many famous and gorgeous art pieces while also providing special days for free entrance. For McNay, which features works by artists like Van Gogh, O’Keefe, and Picasso, you can go for free on Thursday nights and the first Sunday of the month.
What is even more iconic and perhaps the more modern allure of San Antonio is the famous Riverwalk. This beautiful strip is perfect for nights and days and features some of the best food and shops in the city, but walking along it is free and enjoyable.
10 Sihanoukville, Cambodia - So Cheap It's Almost Free
With Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east, much of Cambodia’s land is locked between the two countries. Thailand and Vietnam both have gorgeous beaches and both are notoriously cheap travel destinations consider how pristine and beautiful both are, but because of their reputations, Cambodia tends to get overlooked.
Cambodia does, however, have a small but completely gorgeous and relatively untouched coastline with promising beaches. Sihanoukville is a little, coastal fishing village at the very south of Cambodia and is perfect for penny pinchers traveling to the lovely southeast of Asia. Not only are the major attractions here free, but even the things that cost money are so cheap that you won’t feel bad splurging on yourself. The beaches are stunning and venturing to the Kbal Chhay Waterfalls is a great chance to bask in the country’s natural beauty.
Cooking classes are well worth the money here as Cambodia food is delectable, while shopping by the beach can get you some great handmade items at street market prices. For a bonus, thanks to the cheap Cambodian economy, you can spend a little extra cash to stay in luxury. Many beachside hotels and resorts, though not dirt cheap, come in well under the prices you’d be paying in well-traveled counterparts.
9 Caye Caulker, Belize - Probably The Most Laid-Back Island There Is
This one might be one of the most laid-back entries we’ve done. Who knows, maybe one day another destination will take the crown, but for now the small island of Caye Caulker in Belize is the winner. Located in the Caribbean Sea just south of Belize’s more famous Caye Ambergris, lies the small, 5-mile island of Caye Caulker. Their unofficial motto here is “Go Slow” and that’s basically what you’ll find here.
The most excitement you’ll get from this island is from the water. With scuba diving, snorkeling, and boating, you can have all of your water activities for a fair price. But if you go to Caye Caulker, you’re going for an escape from the real world. Transportation doesn’t get any faster than the golf carts or bicycles you see from time to time. Most travel by foot.
You’ll find some small, intimate events like a local basketball game or perhaps an outdoor movie night. The Split is the best bet for being on the shore and here you’ll find the Sip’n’Dip bar which is in the beach. Sounds like heaven, right? The chairs and tables are actually in the water, designed for ultimate relaxation. You’ll also find that lobster and seafood are staples of the local diet and it doesn’t get fresher or more affordable than here.
8 Bologna, Italy - Italian Life Without Breaking The Bank
Italy is the kind of destination that everybody wants to check out. No matter what kind of traveler you are, there’s no one who doesn’t want to visit this place. Naples, Milan, Florence, Sienna, Venicy Rome and Sicily, there’s just so many great places to see. So does that mean that it’s an expensive place to travel? Well, it depends on who you’re asking.
The short answer is that Italy’s popularity as a travel destination doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to go on a budget. In fact, you should never let price deter you from seeing this country. That’s what makes the city of Bologna, to the north, the perfect place for this list.
Bologna has the perfect atmosphere for those who want to have fun on a budget. Though one of Italy’s largest cities, Bologna has many down-to-earth activities such as movie screenings in the famous Piazza Maggiore square. Crowds gather in the summer months to see all kinds of classics and children’s movies here. You can also go exploring in the beauty green hills and countryside of Villa Ghigi. The famous San Luca Basilica church is a massive building you can explore in its entirety and see much of Italy’s old world beauty.
7 Kathmandu, Nepal - A Mesh Of Hindu, Buddhist And Beauty
Kathmandu may be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and while it probably can’t compare with Tokyo or London because those cities are international hubs where history and modernity collide in spectacular ways, Kathmandu is a relic and a thing of beauty.
Nestled in the heart of Nepal, Kathmandu is full of old buildings and architecture which were inspired by Hindu and Buddhist cultures melting and mixing in the region. Durbar Square epitomizes the Kathmandu aesthetic and is a world heritage site. Although it does cost money for tourists to enter the market place, the price is relatively cheap at 200 Rupees (less than $2 USD) and what can be had within the square well outweighs the cost.
Exploring the iconic Thamel district can be done for free and these are the narrow roads full of shop carts that many people associate with Kathmandu. It’s a classic watering hole for travelers to congregate. Many of the lovely and mesmerizing temples in Kathmandu have entry fees, but like Durbar Square, the price is relatively cheap for travelers and well worth the 200-1,000 Rupees ($2-$10) it would cost. Of course, trekking is free and many people travel to Kathmandu just for that, as the city acts as a starting point for some of Nepal’s most beautiful trails.
6 Tamarindo, Costa Rica - Did Someone Say Turtles?
Beaches and more beaches. There’s nothing like traveling to Costa Rica for the beautiful, white sand, warm blue-water beaches and it doesn’t get much better than Tamarindo,.This place has become so famous because of its beaches.
What is typically a quiet village on the far eastern coast, can see populations spikes in the fall and early winter when surfing season comes to town. Tamarindo Beach is famous for its waves which cane get up to 12 feet during peak surf season and because of this, the town can get quite crowded with people. Fortunately, there’s plenty of beach and if you aren’t into surfing, the weather remains fairly consistent year-round, hovering near the 70 – 80’s.
If you time and plan wrong, you could end up spending a fair amount to travel to this town, but if you play it right, you’ll be visiting a famous surf beach and beautiful Central American coastline for chump change. The beaches are the reason for traveling, but Tamarindo isn’t the only one worth your while.
Flamingo Beach is a nearby coastline that is gorgeous, a scene so beautiful you won’t believe it’s real. Langosta Beach also serves as the younger sibling to Tamarindo and generally has less crowds and smaller waves. And with everyone so occupied with the beach, much of the other fun activities can be had relatively cheap such as zip-lining or visiting the monkey sanctuary. If you time it right, you can see the endangered Leatherback Turtle lay her eggs.
5 Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Intercity Travel For Fifteen Cents, Now That's Budget-Friendly!
This port town makes our list as one of the more challenging travel destinations. Haiti at large has garnered some negative media in the international world because of the devastating earthquake that struck in 2010. Since then, the recovery has been slow for the Caribbean country. There remains a lot of poverty and much of the earthquake’s damage still remains, so why, you’re wondering, are we including such a place on this list? Well, for one thing, traveling to Haiti is cheap.
For all of the luxuries of living like a traveler in a capital city like Port-au-Prince, you’ll only end up spending around sixty dollars a day, which isn’t too bad considering you’re in a port city in the Caribbean. People may not think of Haiti as a viable travel destination, but the truth is that if you’re willing to be a little adventurous then there’s a lot to love about Haiti. True, it won’t be as easy going as a trip to the Bahamas, but sometimes traveling is about the adventures, the struggles and appreciating what we have while we’re away from home. You’ll find beauty in Haiti. Hiking trails like Pic La Salle or the waterfalls of Saut-d'Eau will captivate you.
4 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - South-East Asian Hub That Will Have Your Wallet Saying Thanks
Just to avoid any confusion coming right out of the gate. Many readers may recognize Ho Chi Minh by its former name of Saigon. Saigon, Vietnam is the largest city in the country by population and one of the most well-known destinations for travelers in the region. Ho Chi Minh has a storied past and a vibrant culture ripe for exploring.
Vietnam at large is consistently viewed as one of the more cheap places to travel in the world. It’s a hub for Southeast Asia and perfect for those who want to travel to this part of the world. The prices are hard to beat here.
For somewhere between $20-$50 a night, you can find some cozy Airbnb’s in the center of the city, or some further out if you really want to get a great deal on pricing. As for activities, Vietnam’s culture is rich and one of the country’s policies for sharing that culture with the rest of the world is free access to its temples. Every temple in Vietnam is free to explore, and each one is beautifully stunning in its own right.
Pham Ngu Lao Street is a famous section of the city where many backpacking travelers tend to congregate, so your best bet for finding hidden adventures for cheap would be to go there and see what the other penny pinchers are doing.
3 Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka - Lover's Leap Awaits
Sri Lanka is one of those places that is so great to visit because it’s not only beautiful and exotic, but because it’s so cheap to stay. The small island south of India has a lot to offer in way of beaches and gorgeous coastal towns, but you can actually find one of its most hidden gems inland in the small town of Nuwara Eliya.
Often referred to as “Little England”, this village was a favorite destination for many in the United Kingdom at the height of its tea trading. In fact, Nuwara Eliya is world famous for its tea fields. Because it’s in the highlands of Sri Lanka, the village has a tropical climate that remains fairly consistent throughout the year with cloudy overcast and tolerable temperatures, so it’s a great place to cool off. The tea estates and the botanical gardens of Nuwara Eliya are the best places to catch the beautiful scenery, but the Lover’s Leap Waterfalls and the Moon Plains are also great spots to visit.
The village also has some great strawberry fields and dairy farms. The highlands feature some top notch hiking and there’s none better than Horton Plains National Park where you’ll find the famous World’s End. The dollar goes far here, so much can be had on a cheap budget, especially if you settle for cheap lodging and food.
2 Seville, Spain - The Largest Historic Quarter In Europe
Seville, in the south of Spain, is one of those cities you don’t normally consider when planning a trip to Spain. It’s not that it’s an unheard of city. Quite the opposite, Seville is one of the most prominent cities in the country. Perhaps it’s because Madrid at the heart of the country and Barcelona on the coast of the Mediterranean are such international hubs, that Seville falls behind. More importantly, it might fall under your radar because of Seville’s history.
It’s hard to imagine a place as beautiful and well-liked as Seville being reasonably priced, but it is. With places like the beautifully breathtaking Plaza de Espana that make Seville so iconic when it comes to Spanish style, it’s hard to think you can afford the trip, but most of the best activities in Seville come in relatively cheap. The city is littered with stunning gardens full of great sites. Roaming the old town can be delightful as well when you’re on a budget. It’s so vast and considered one of the largest historic districts in Europe.
One unique activity any visitor to Seville should be a part of is a famous flamenco show. Because Seville is so famous for its flamenco, you can find many free shows around the city to enjoy.
1 San Blas Islands, Panama - Too Many Islands To Count
Traveling to the San Blas Islands on a budget can be a little tricky to pull off, but if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can explore the nearly 350 islands off of Panama’s coast in the Caribbean Sea. The experience is paradise in every sense of the word: turquoise waters, pristine white sand, palm trees blowing in the gentle breeze. What makes traveling tricky is the fact that these islands are technically under sovereign rule within Panama and belong to the indigenous population known as the Guna. Panama uses the American dollar as well, so really expensive excursions to the island can be a fair whack, but with a little research and some due diligence you can slash those prices.
We recommend staying in a hostel in Panama as a starting point. Many hostels will know of ways for you to reach the islands and back at much cheaper prices than major vacation packages can get you. Many of the islands have families associated with them and it’s those families that you deal with when staying on the islands. Therefore, hostels will recommend the best islands to stay on depending on your budget and desires. Then once you reach the islands, it’s nothing but tropical bliss.