This past year I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to so many amazing places around the world. My secret? I pick places that are SO inexpensive I probably spend less traveling than I would in my everyday life at home. So where are the cheapest travel destinations of 2015? I’ve personally been to every one of the destinations on the list and I can tell you these are the places to get the most bang for your buck.
1: MUMBAI, INDIA
I was always skeptical about going to India. I heard some crazy stories of the mayhem and chaos that goes on and I was a little weary. I finally decided I had to go and see what it was like for myself. In three short weeks, India stole my heart! I spent my time traveling around Mumbai and then to the southern beaches of Goa. Both destinations were so inexpensive and so much fun. In Mumbai the restaurants in particular were my favorite. Places like Lucky and Baghdadi serve traditional dishes of chicken biryani and butter chicken all for around $5. With $1 tuk tuk rides, it was easy and cheap to get a lift home after my daily food coma.
Hotel accommodation was also relatively inexpensive, especially compared to the rest of the world. You can stay at the #1 hotel in Mumbai, the Taj, for around $150/night. Budget accommodation is obviously much lower than that.
2: GOA, INDIA
Goa was a whole ‘nother beast. When you’re in Goa you’re in the laid back parts of the country now. With long stretches of beaches and tall palm trees swaying in the wind, there aren’t any traffic jams or crowds of people. Instead, there are numerous amounts of westerners practicing yoga and riding scooters off into the sunset. In Goa we stayed in a beachside villa for under $15/night.
India in general is probably one of the cheapest places I’ve ever traveled.
3: SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka, India’s close neighbor is becoming a hot destination. The beauty of Sri Lanka is that it has almost every type of landscape a tropical country could offer. There are cities, jungles, and beaches. You can have a cultural experience in Sri Lanka as well as a beach getaway. I managed to visit eight different cities in ten days, spending only $250. The cheapest night’s stay was actually right on the beach in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka for 1500 Rupees/night, around $12. Check out my Sri Lanka Travel Guide to learn more about how I traveled around Sri Lanka.
4: CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
Thailand is known for it’s pristine beaches, but northern Thailand should not be missed. With hundreds of temples, jungle brush, northern Thai food (yes there are differences) and an entirely distinctive culture, northern Thailand hits the nail on the head. I appreciated northern Thailand because it’s so different than the islands.
In the north you really get a feel for Thailand when beach bungalows and tourists aren’t surrounding you like schools of fish. My favorite part about Chiang Mai was our jungle trek. I had done this trek when I was six years old and when I came back in my twenties to do it again, I could recall certain moments from that trek so many years ago! The trek total cost for the day including activities, transportation and food was a whopping $25!
5: THAI ISLANDS
Koh Lanta, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Tao, Phuket…just to name a few, are some of my favorite places in the world. With daily ferries it’s easy to go back and forth between them. Although the ferries aren’t that inexpensive (around $20 each way as of 2015) the islands themselves are pretty reasonable. I never paid over $30/night for a private room with AC during my stay.
Koh Tao is the place to scuba dive. You can get a dive package, a certification course and accommodation included in the total price. For a week this usually runs you about $250-300. I wrote a complete Guide to Scuba Diving Koh Tao blog post if you want to learn more about it.
Koh Lanta is another one of my favorite islands. It’s known as the laid back island and that’s exactly what it is. During the high season you’ll find parties and people just like the other islands, but in the off-season (starting in April) there’s almost no one insight. The island offers amazing hiking and great deals all year round.
6: BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
If you want to go on European vacation but don’t have a huge budget, Eastern Europe offers some great destinations at truly affordable prices. Budapest is the capital of Hungary and offers stunning architecture, amazing bars, cafes and the world-famous Budapest thermal baths. Accommodation and food are all very reasonable. We CouchSurfed in Budapest, which is free accommodation, and with that we were able to get away with only spending $15/day each, most of that on beer.
Argentina is home to northern Patagonia, wine country and beautiful tropical jungle terrain. Argentina has so many different landscapes to offer. The dollar is extremely strong in Argentina at the moment, there’s really no better time to go. I booked an extravagant full-day wine tour visiting the most elegant and posh wineries for $150. The tour was through Mendoza Wine Camp – I would recommend it to everyone! In Napa Valley, CA that would probably run you $500-1500.
Bring US cash! They want US Bills. You also can’t get US money out of the ATM machines so bring the cash.
Peru…Oh Peru, land of the lamas and majestic Machu Picchu! Peru is the perfect place for a budget holiday while also getting some culture in your life. I did one of the 4-day, 3-night jungle treks to Machu Picchu from Cusco and the total cost including entrance into Machu Picchu was $310 through CondeTravel.
When I think about Vietnam I immediately get hungry. The food is enough to make me book a flight to Vietnam just thinking about. For egg rolls that go for $1 per serving and Pho for around $2 it’s safe to say I truly indulged in the Vietnamese cuisine without breaking the bank. My body on the other hand was not too happy with the oh so low prices of food.
Hotels are also extremely reasonable. With rooms around $20-30/night you can’t go wrong.
10: SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
Cambodia was a surprise to me. I didn’t expect to love Cambodia as much as I did. I had heard “everyone gets sick there” and people had complained about it being dirty. My thoughts after visiting were that they just didn’t do it right. We stayed at a squeaky clean hostel in Siem Reap just minutes from Angkor Wat for about $10/night, breakfast included.
The people of Cambodia were my favorite part of the trip. Our tuk tuk driver, Kao, made it his mission to put a smile on our faces and show us around the astounding temple complexes of Angkor Wat.
When you think of Turkey you may not think budget destination, but it is. It’s up and coming so I don’t expect these prices to stay low forever, but I traveled to Istanbul, Cappadocia and Oludeniz and ALL locations were inexpensive.
In Istanbul we managed to stay right in the heart of all the sites in Sultana met for $50/night, split between two that was $25/each.
In Cappadocia we stayed a 5-star luxury cave hotel for 70 Euros a night, about $80 USD. Now, I don’t know any 5-star hotels in the US where you can get away with paying only $80/night for that kind of upscale accommodation. Check out my complete Turkey Travel Guide to learn more about my trip.
The kicker was Oludeniz. Oludeniz is the most photographed beach in the Mediterranean. We got there just before high season and managed to find a room paying only $30/night. It was a five-minute walk to the beach from our perfectly quaint hotel.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Do the research! There are plenty of places in the world that may seem expensive because they look so extraordinary but in reality they’re not. I never imaged Turkey to be so reasonable. A country I was dying to go to for years, turned out to be one of the most affordable places I’ve ever traveled. If you stick to your budget and are smart with choosing accommodation, dining and activities in your price range, you can see almost any part of the world.