Traveling the World on a Budget

Traveling the world is the ultimate way to experience new things. You can take in different landscapes, interact with people from other cultural backgrounds, and discover different cuisines. And you get to take a break from your day-to-day responsibilities while doing it.

But how to do all that without simultaneously running out of money? The first step is to choose a few destinations that won’t completely drain your bank account. And the second is to do some planning ahead of time. We’re here to help with that. Here are some amazing destinations for traveling the world on a budget.

Central America (Panama and Costa Rica)

Looking for a place where you can experience incredible beaches, luscious rainforests, and a welcoming atmosphere? Central America is a great spot, particularly the countries of Panama and Costa Rica.

Panama’s Bocas del Toro region is made up of three islands (Colon, Bastimentos, and Carenero) that boast secluded beaches, surfing and snorkeling opportunities, and water taxis to ferry you around. Hostels in the area boast reasonable accommodations for around $20 a night. If you’re looking for something a little higher-end, you can find boutique hotels and bungalows for under $100 a night. Food and activities are affordable as well, and you might even get to see some sea turtles.

Costa Rica, land of pura vida, is another spectacular spot for affordable travel. Aside from friendly and welcoming locals, the country boasts amazing scenery, from pink sand beaches to lush, mountainous forests. Ziplining through the cloud forest of Monteverde is an experience you’ll never forget. And relaxing at a waterfront tiki bar in Puerto Viejo will have you questioning whether you ever want to go home. If you’re into wildlife, there’s a fair chance you’ll run across a sloth or a monkey in the wild in Puerto Viejo (or you could just visit and tour the Jaguar Rescue Center).

The Mediterranean (Turkey and Greece)

You’re probably thinking that going to the Mediterranean doesn’t exactly sound like an affordable place to visit. But a visit to one of the cradles of Western civilization doesn’t have to wreck your budget if planned right. Both Turkey and Greece offer a plethora of opportunities to visit ancient ruins, eat amazing food, and enjoy the clear blue water of the Mediterranean.

Accommodations and food in Athens can be on the pricier side. Still, you can find hostels within walking distance of the ancient Acropolis for under $50 a night. And you can get a ticket for a tour of the Acropolis, Roman Agora, and five other archaeological sites for right around $40. From there, don’t miss out on a day trip to the unforgettable rock monasteries at Meteora.

Of course, no trip to Greece would be complete without exploring the Greek islands. Budget travelers should probably plan to skip the more famous islands of Santorini or Mykonos. You can find beautiful beaches and serene beauty on Milos or car-free Hydra for a fraction of the price.

Turkey is known as the gateway between the east and the west. It’s a fascinating cultural mix, and you can experience it on a budget. Istanbul is a bustling metropolis where you can visit the Hagia Sophia (architectural marvel of the Byzantine Empire, constructed in 537), shop at the Grand Bazaar (a bustling marketplace where haggling over prices is an art form), and check out the ornate decorations and stunning views from Topkapi Palace.

Outside of Istanbul, you’ll find that accommodations and food are incredibly inexpensive for a European country. Pamukkale, which sits below the ancient town of Hierapolos, is home to the “cotton castle.” These white terraces of rock filled with pools of thermal water are an otherworldly experience. And you can find lodging in the area for under $20 a night. From there, you can check out Ephesus and its ancient ruins. You’re also close to Izmir, a laid-back beach city with a vibrant nightlife.

Southeast Asia (Cambodia and Thailand)

Traveling on a budget in Southeast Asia has been a time-honored tradition of backpackers for decades. The mix of affordability, natural beauty, ancient culture, excellent food, and invigorating nightlife is hard to top. The good news? Despite its popularity as a destination, Southeast Asia remains a wonderful place to experience the world without breaking your budget.

It’s true that you can party anywhere, but a Full Moon Party is a unique experience. These all-night beach bashes on Ko Phangan are now a monthly occurrence and are worth trying at least once. Pro tip: skip taking a drink from a communal party bucket. But a trip to Thailand is a lot more than a one-night rager. Trek through dense jungles in Chiang Mai or Khao Sok National Park (with a guide!), tour The Grand Palace, and sample street food in Bangkok’s Chinatown.

If you’re looking to avoid the more developed tourist destinations, Cambodia could be the spot in Southeast Asia for you. The Angor Wat temple complex is the largest religious monument in the world. This Unesco World Heritage site has over 1,000 buildings, and every structure is filled with carvings and sculptures. You could spend an entire vacation pondering the mysteries and history of this cultural wonder. Actually, don’t, because there are plenty of other ruins and islands to explore in Cambodia. Take a boat to Rabbit Island and enjoy the feeling of being completely isolated from the wider world. Or visit Koh Kong for jungle trekking and white sand beaches.

Eastern Europe (Hungary and Croatia)

Southeastern Europe has a ton going for it — natural beauty, incredible hiking, and vibrant cities with picturesque cafes and underrated nightlife. Best of all, it’s one of the few regions in Europe where you can still travel on a budget.

The city of Budapest, Hungary, is perhaps the crown jewel of the region. Split in two by the Danube River, the city actually consists of a “Buda” side and a “Pest” side. The Buda side boasts a series of massive caves you can tour, as well as the Buda Castle. Rebuilt in the 1700s, the castle is home to a collection of museums and fascinating historical artifacts. You can also see the labyrinth where the real-life Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) was once imprisoned.

Meanwhile, the Pest side of the city is where the action happens. Check out one of the many “ruin bars” — establishments that look like abandoned buildings from the outside, only to reveal open-air inner courtyards filled with great vibes. Hostels and budget hotels are prevalent in Pest, and you can find nice rooms that include a hearty breakfast for $50-$75. A day trip to Margaret Island, a public park in the middle of the Danube, is well worth it.

Croatia’s Dalmatia Coast boasts a series of historic beachfront towns perfect for wandering around. Dubrovnik and Split are well-known (and a bit pricier), but you can still visit towns like Trogir on a budget. It features cobblestone streets, baroque architecture, and an “old town” section accessible only by bridge. While you’re in Croatia, be sure to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park, which features 16 lakes and more than 90 waterfalls.

Bon Voyage

Now you know a few of the best places for traveling the world on a budget. The sooner you start planning, the sooner you can make your travel dreams a reality. Bon voyage (or pura vida, if you’re booking that Costa Rica trip)!


  • David Francis

    Dave is a published author who has written about everything from travel to finance to pop culture trends. He also has years of experience in the nonprofit industry, authoring grant proposals, training manuals, and white papers. He’s had the privilege of calling multiple Midwestern states home.

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